You can read our individual reviews to help you make an informed decision:
Or if you continue reading, you will learn the pros and cons of hiring design freelancers on Toptal and 99Designs.
99Designs has two options for any project:
Because 99Designs is one of the largest freelance marketplaces, you could get over 100 bids on a single contest. This is a fantastic choice if you have no idea how to explain your concept to a graphic designer.
The nature of a design contest gives you many options at a fixed price. That means you’ll never pay more than what you set upfront.
Additionally, 99Designs will give you an estimate of the expected number of submissions based on your budget.
Before starting your design contest, you’ll present your vision to the designers with their simple onboarding process.
First, you’ll select a few logos you like to give designers an idea what you have in mind:
Second, give the designers a flavor of your brand’s style:
Third, you’ll select up to three colors to communicate your brand values:
Fourth, 99Designs will give a project brief to let designers know more about your company:
Finally, you’ll select your pricing plan along with any other promotional upgrades:
After most contests, you’ll get 20-50 submissions, depending on what price you pay.
Toptal’s claim to screen 3% of the talent may or may not be entirely accurate (I’ll discuss Toptal’s vetting process in a moment).
What matters is Toptal saves you time spending hours filtering through freelancers for their performance. After all, if Toptal didn’t have hoops for freelancers to jump through, then their available talent would dilute. As a result, their market differentiation would be… the same as almost any other freelance marketplace.
Many entrepreneurs hiring on Toptal note their support staff is very hands-on. Toptal also has a fantastic UI and billing process.
Toptal has a fast placement process. According to Toptal, “In a typical engagement, we’ll introduce you to candidates within 24 hours. And 90% of our clients hire the first candidate we introduce.”
Toptal sets high standards for freelancers. Freelancers must maintain high customer satisfaction ratings. Otherwise, Toptal will remove them from the platform.
A no-risk test project. The first time you work with your freelancer, you get a two-week test period with your new hire. If you’re not satisfied, Toptal will take the loss and won’t charge you for the freelancer’s work. (Please note: this is not a “free trial” in that if you accept the project, you will pay for the hours billed).
Toptal’s screening process 3% will weed out some quality workers. But it’s better to miss out on a potential A player than to waste precious time on a borderline freelancer who turns out to be a B or C player.
Toptal doesn’t have nearly the total number of freelancers for you compared to 99Designs. But do you really need 12 million freelancers, or just a handful of freelancers to consider to get the job done? More than 100,000 people apply to join Toptal every year, but they accept only 3%. In simple numbers, that means they add roughly 3,000 freelancers every year.
That means rather than spending your time and energy vetting freelancers, Toptal does the heavy lifting for you.
Toptal is a good place to start if you’re serious about growing your business and are ready to invest in top talent at a reasonable rate.
As of this writing, Toptal has several vetted designers, including:
The difficulty of using Toptal to source freelancers is if you are looking for someone to help with a small, one-off project. Toptal asks for a $500 commitment for the first project, which is fully refundable if you’re freelancer is not a fit.
99Designers has a wide range of designers, with over 1,000,000 designers on their website.
Some of the more popular design categories include:
Toptal uses a 5-step screening process to source the top 3% of freelancers:
Even with this level of screening, Toptal has a wide pool filled with a specific talent set. Instead of hiring any brand designer, Toptal can help you find a “brand designer who has in-depth knowledge of typography, color, and composition and is a master using design tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, and Figma...” and any other needs you may have.
The dollar per hour will often increase when you need a specific skill set. But you’ll also know the freelancer better fits your needs than finding a freelancer for yourself on 99Designs.
99designs curates their designer community based on the following criteria:
Hiring normally takes a long time, as anything worth doing should take time. But because Toptal screens their candidates, they can place you with a candidate in 48 hours:
If there are no candidates available in Toptal’s network, it typically takes 1-3 weeks for Toptal to locate, screen, and work with every expert.
With 99Designs, typically you’ll submit your specifications with a design contest and you’ll receive a handful of submissions.
That said, 99Designs is not transparent about the time it takes to finish a design contest. You may want to expect the hiring process to go something like this:
That said, you can pay to finish the contest faster in 3 days ($39), 2 days ($59), or 24 hours ($79).
Toptal does not charge a fee above their regular pricing. Instead, they add a profit margin above the freelancer’s rates.
Most rates you’ll pay are what you’d expect to pay outside their platform.
Toptal offers this pricing chart:
What you pay your freelancer depends on:
The price you’ll pay for each design project on 99Designs depends on the work you want done. Most projects range between $299-$2,500.
Here is a sample of five design contest prices:
Each design project comes in four base price plans: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. In addition to getting more designs, gold and platinum packages will attract top designers.
Here’s a sample of the four price plans for blog design:
99Designs offers several add-ons, including:
Toptal requires a $500 deposit which applies to your first bill. If you get a freelancer you are not satisfied with, you are not required to make any payment. You can choose to either part ways with Toptal or restart the hiring process.
The first time you work with your freelancer, you get a two-week test period with your new hire. If you’re not satisfied, Toptal will take the loss and won’t charge you for the freelancer’s work. (Please note: this is not a “free trial” in that if you accept the project, you will pay for the hours billed).
Toptal does not mention any information on their website how they handle disputes. However, every Toptal client receives an account manager who can help resolve your issues.
99Designs offers a 60-day, 100% money-back guarantee.
There are three exceptions to the money-back guarantee:
Designers typically provide minimal revisions for free and will be happy to do more detailed revisions for a reasonable price.
99Designs and Toptal are both beneficial for different hiring needs.
Toptal is an excellent freelance platform for hiring quality talent. Because of the time they invest in curating the best talent, you’ll spend less time to find the right freelancer.
99Designs is great if you’re looking for a simple one-and-done project, like a business logo or infographic because you get several submissions.
That said, it can be challenging going through each submission to find the one you want.