Freelance designer marketplace
When a designer just sticks to an agency, that doesn’t say much.
An interesting new project recently migrated to our data centers: the freelance designer marketplace GoDesigner. Here, companies post jobs and prices, while designers compete to have the “winning” design. The founder, Maksim Fedchenko, told us about the most expensive and unusual projects to appear on the marketplace, how they safeguard themselves from plagiarism, and how much designers earn at GoDesigner. He also shared a case study for anyone wanting to promote their own business. As an added bonus, there’s a small gift from GoDesigner at the end of the article.
Tell us a bit about your service.
It’s the easiest way to get a design. You don’t need to hire a designer, sort through portfolios, or rely on a single person; you just pick one of multiple designs made specifically for you. If you don’t like what you see, you can just as easily turn down designs. In other words, you’ve got nothing to lose.
Also, you determine the price. Set the amount that makes sense to you and see what you get.
Where did the idea come from?
When I worked for tutdesign.ru, I was constantly having problems with freelancers. You want to somehow make life easier for the customers who get in touch: “Do you guys have any designers?” At first, of course, we’d give out contacts and share them, but these requests kept growing.
Are there any services similar to yours?
Of course not. 99designs takes up the entire English-language segment. We tried to make an English-language version, but understood it was way too early to compete. There are ideas on how we can enter the international market, but that’s for later.
Is Russia your market?
The target audience is Russian speaking, but clients come from all over the world: somebody launches a business in China or if there are Russian programmers in another country… Really it’s whoever finds it easier to work in Russian.
How is your site different from 99designs?
We use things that Russian market oriented: for example, we have a panel of professionals, experts who help judge the results—first, second, and third place. You can follow their advice or pick your own. No other site on the planet does that. In addition to designs, you can also order copy (copywriting) the same way.
And things like expert advice are only for the Russian market, or do you think others would want that?
Honestly, we haven’t looked at the demand on the American market. But people are more skeptical when a site is still relatively unknown. We got a base from the very start, because we had professionals who people trusted: Mikhail Chernyshev from DoDo and Volodya Pavlov from the Leo Burnett Group. For next to nothing, for 1500 rubles you can get the opinion of the former director of Leo Burnett or the marketing director of VKontakte. That’s almost unreal.
Are there any other differences compared to sites abroad?
Rubles are cheaper. In the West, the minimum amount for a logo is 300 dollars. Here, for something like 12-13 thousand rubles, you can start real competition. That’s like 30-40% cheaper.
In one interview, you said that you had ten designers on board before even getting started.
At tutudesign.ru we asked, “Who wants to work?” We got 200 resumes, picked 12, and brought them on. We said, “We’re launching now, you help out, do some work, offer up some options, and let’s see how it goes.” People were interested in the new competitive layout. Direct competition—it gets people going. It’s a wrestling match of designers and ideas. This really helped us out in the beginning.
These were just strangers.
In another interview, you said you’d issue a refund if someone didn’t like the options they were offered.
Right, and that offer still stands. It’s just that for the Russian market, this still needs some work, so we introduced a few conditions for making refunds. For example, a customer has to be active: log on everyday, rate the work, leave comments once or twice a day; this is all a given. If they do all of this and still don’t like any of the options, then yes, we’ll issue a refund.
Does this happen a lot?
No, just for 2-3% of our customers.
Are there any patterns you see to this?
Sometimes customers underestimate the price. Like, they might want a 3D model for 10,000, but that’s unrealistic. Those kinds of refunds happen.
Who mainly uses Go.Designer?
Viral marketing is what works best for us. People recommend us to one another. Our first customers were people who had already fumbled with freelancers and marketing agencies. They scoured the Internet looking for a solution. Our clients include Qiwi, Game Insight, Dodo Pizza, Miratorg, there are a whole lot of developers, and every new microdistrict, the district and buildings need a logo and style.
Do people, not just companies, ever order?
Of course. We see a lot of young entrepreneurs. About 70% of all our payments are made with personal bank cards. And more often than not these are small project.
There’s a case study from our first clients—one of the first logos we did was for Zuckerberg Calls (now vc.ru — editor): a hand with the thumb and pinky sticking out, both a “like” and call gesture. We paid the designer ourselves, and Andrei Zagoryko, the owner, wrote an article about it. Our first clients came from there.
And how did they find you?
They were looking for channels that could take off. They already had a popular site, and I wrote them saying that their problem was the logo; it was just some kind of weird squiggle.
So how does your marketplace work?
These are freelancers who aren’t afraid of competing. People typically think you can’t make anything from competitions, but we’ve got a few designers who’ve already won 50-60 orders. If you’re talented, you can earn a fairly serious salary. A salary of 50-60 thousand, and you just spare an hour or two of your day. People who put their trust in us, they might not be sitting on a Moscow salary, but they’re from somewhere on the periphery, 25-35 years old with a family, maybe, and they can’t drop everything to chase their dream. But they’re no less talented! There aren’t thousands of them, maybe only thirty people
You promise at least ten options for each request.
For logos, you get about 86 options on average.
But only one person gets paid?
Yes, but here you have to understand that designers can send multiple options. For each project, you see how many designers there are, how many submissions; you can see it all, it’s all transparent.
And if a client likes one of your designers? They could “poach” them.
Names and contact information are hidden. But this is something unavoidable. When a designer and customer exchange files, we’re not there checking the contents. And… No, here there’s nothing we can do. But we sponsor the deal; the designer doesn’t get anything until they submit. And the company… They can make a deal with whomever they want, of course, but you won’t get that many ideas from just one designer.
How do customers explain what they want?
We try to work with design briefs, so they fill those out in as much detail as they can. This sometimes happens over the phone, then the art director tries to get out of them exactly what they want. They say, “We want a pretty logo.” Well, everyone understands that for someone living on the French Riviera, “pretty” may be something completely different than what someone living at the Black Sea considers “pretty”. So we try to find those undertones that become different design features, identities or even copy.
So personally, whose side are you more on, the designers’ or clients’?
I’ve been able to be stay right in the middle. Clients go missing, we close projects without them, accept new ones. There have been times when customers promote fake designers and copywriters. They have some kind of agreement and just transfer the money. In this case, we run a full investigation.
And what happens if you fall for it?
We delete the design and ban the designer.
There’s a screening method for that kind of designer. For example, you can’t take part in a bid if you registered less than 10 days before. This is to avoid something where like, usually on the last day, you just send me some doodle and I choose you.
And if it’s not just a doodle?
We have an interesting tool—anti-plagiarism. You won’t get that anywhere else. We end up with the cleanest product because designers keep an eye on one another due to the competitiveness. And we remove them and take actions. We’re not the Investigative Committee. It’s all upfront; designers write, “There’s no way someone could have chosen that.” Again, it’s important that the designer has already taken part in other projects. Still, there have been cases where someone comes to us for the first time and wins fair and square. But either way, there should be a discussion, corrections, negotiations, otherwise it’s a setup.
Do you run into a lot plagiarists?
Plagiarism is a fairly fuzzy term. Even great artists like Picasso copied ideas, but here we have to see if there’s enough of a mix. And we get complaints every day.
How much did the most expensive logo on your site go for?
76 thousand rubles, also for a hosting provider, by the way.
Have there ever been posts that nobody responds to?
This has happened maybe once or twice. When somebody wants a brandbook for 10 thousand. Here the issue is strictly monetary. We try to filter and explain this to customers, but things sometimes make their way through.
And the most responses?
This is usually for copy. We see this when someone has to come up with a name or slogan; we don’t take on large texts. The maximum was 2,342 responses; this was to come up with a name for a family theme park. And for logos, the record so far is 722.
And how do you pick one logo out of 722 options? The customer just has to sit down and looks at all 722?
So all of the other designers basically wasted their time?
Every job, even if it’s not chosen, is a base. You can redo it and offer it to another client who might like it. Nothing is a waste of time. They can look and see what level they’re at. Yes, one on one with the client, you’re good. But you don’t actually know your level. The people who constantly win, that’s the top 10; they’re not that easy to find. They’re ready to win competitions, but when you stick to an agency, that doesn’t say much.
So your service is a starting off point for “big design”?
Well, no. People from the top ten absolutely earn enough for themselves and say a family of two.
How much can you earn?
Roughly 70-80 thousand. On average, people probably earn around 20 thousand with us.
What’s the strangest order you’ve hosted?
Someone recently ordered a design for a CD stand shaped like a guitar. I don’t know who still uses CDs, but the task was there, and we offered a good design.
Why did you decide to switch to Selectel?
We used to be with Hetzner, but the personal data laws had us move from Germany to keep our client information in Russia. The first thing we heard when we asked about stability was Selectel. An easy-to-use site, we quickly found the configuration we needed. Truth be told, Germany was cheaper, but it’s a double-edged sword. We’re satisfied with everything so far.
Anything in particular you already like?
We’re happy with the fast response times for tickets, how quickly our questions are addressed. It’d be better as a chat, but as it stands, it’s not bad.
What service do you use?
Dedicated Servers. We store all of our data on them. The whole platform, all of the designs and ideas… 200 thousand logos migrated to Selectel (laughs).
In closing our conversation, Maksim donated small gift for all of our readers: the source files for some clever logos: logos for Russian tourists, atheists, iodine, unemployment tax, a ducky (!), and the words “Angry dog”. If you see something you like, feel free to take it. They’re free to use and distribute.