Fed up with the university life, I thought I would try to be a freelancer. I am familiar with coding.

How can I earn money online as a web designer? Is there any reliable way to earn money? I saw freelancing sites like Fiverr and oDesk are filled with people offering services for lower costs. Is it okay to offer services for such a low value?


7 Answers 7


You are asking graphic designers about this, and the general consensus is likely to be be:

How can i earn money through online as a web designer?

You can, in theory, but online only is extremely tricky. Only by working hard, creating and finding a client base, building a portfolio will you have a chance. And it is in fact extremely hard to do design and develop remotely. To get good, solid clients it is important to meet them, at least in the beginning. You need to understand your potential clients needs and tiny quirks. Though you could do this via video link, even that can be difficult to pull off. In addition, there will be time difference, cultural differences etc. I would strongly suggest you start with nearby people: local businesses etc. Spend a good deal of time doing a few good pieces, and then you might step into the purely online job market. But you need to have something that makes you different from every other person out there offering design work. I believe the only way of doing that, and being able to earn decently, is to show work that goes over and beyond the call of duty.

Can you earn reliable, good money through 99designs?

I would say not really. Most people here at GraphicDesign despise 99designs and the like, and though it seems some people pull it off, this, I suspect, is mainly because they have a bunch of templates they work from. Consider it assembly-line graphics.

  • o reilly thanks bro for the advice..so if you were in my situation what would you do now ... im asking the from because im new..
    – user24131
    May 23, 2014 at 16:11
  • 15
    Well, first, please refrain from "bro-ing". It is over-familiar, and besides, I am female. Not the language that will get you online work.. I have suggested above: find small-ish projects locally, and build up a portfolio. It will be tough, but is to my mind the most sustainable path.
    – benteh
    May 23, 2014 at 16:35
  • i know that,the language will not get me a job..thanks for remind it though.ok thanks for the advice :)
    – user24131
    May 24, 2014 at 3:33
  • 7
    @user24131 - Your poor English is going to be a real issue working online; you must communicate effectively. The one advantage 'we' have over the 'Indians' is that we are deeply familiar with English culture. If you've yet to even master the language, what do you have to offer over an Indian at half the price?
    – Carl Smith
    May 24, 2014 at 17:08

Is it okay to offer services for such a low value?

For who?

For the people hiring? It's more than OK. It's ideal. They're getting work for next to nothing.

For you? Can you live off of such a low wage? Likely not.

Note that sites like 99designs are even worse in that you aren't even guaranteed any money for the work you do.

General rule of thumb: the people using these sites to hire people are not people looking for quality by any definition. They are shopping purely by price and that's not a fun way to earn a living.


if you need to try to find work purely online, I'd suggest to go the portfolio route. Examples would be using sites such as Dribbble or Behance. These sites are where you post your best work and then people decide to hire you based on your skills, rather than your price. This is a way to get a much better quality of client, and therefore, typically a much better way to earn a living.

  • so what are your suggestions ?? since im a newbie web designer i would like to have advice from you guys..
    – user24131
    May 23, 2014 at 16:02
  • 2
    @user24131 my suggestion is to stay far away from spec-work sites suck as 99designs. More info: nospec.com Any site that pitches design as a 'contest' is typically a losing bet for the designer. As for freelance sites, they are marginally better, but as you've found, you're competing with 3rd world people that have a much lower standard of living (and potentially using pirated software and the like to further keep overhead down)
    – DA01
    May 23, 2014 at 16:05
  • It is NOT true that employers on oDesk and Elance are only searching for lower price. In fact, very low price most probably would scare an employer away. A good ratio of price vs feedback score is a key there. But it is true that the design field is crowded there very much and it is hard to get through. May 25, 2014 at 14:15

Can you make money doing this? Yes, but it will not be easy work. It will be tough to make a living wage from it. Don't expect to end up ahead of where you'd be with a college education (even counting your student loan debt load). You will be competing with people from low wage countries (unless you're already in one yourself), and everyone and his dog think they can do good website design (most people can't), even self-taught.

Since the main point here is that you feel your college is more interested in taking your tuition (from your parents) than in providing a good education, it's probably time to make a change.

  1. You can "stop out" for a year or two to work, travel, Peace Corp (US), military service, volunteer work, and otherwise get a fresh perspective. Just make sure you have a definite end point planned so that a one year break doesn't become two, three, four,... and you end up dropping out for good. If you're planning to return to this school, make sure they're on board as to why you're going to be MIA.
  2. You can change your major or field. It's time for an honest appraisal of what you're doing. You may simply have picked the wrong area to study in (or it was picked for you) and you'd be happier in another field.
  3. Transfer to another school that seems to be more interested in educating its students than collecting money. Keep in mind that your view of your current school may be colored by dissatisfaction with your chosen field, or just fatigue. In other words, you may have the same complaint at your new school.

Even though for some reason an answer was accepted within 17 hours, when most people would have waited for a few days to a week to hear from as many different people as possible, I will tell you what I know.

I work with freelancers who do graphics who depend on their freelance income and unless they got secret trust funds, its their only income. As with all other businesses, a good half fail within the first year. A lot more fail to last more than a few years. In my opinion, the skill level of the designer is not the benchmark to go by were you to bet who will still freelance full time in 12 months or who will not.

Freelancing is a business, and must be treated as such. You must have a capitalistic outlook that each one of your hours IS actually worth money, be able to easily say no when clients ask for freebies that make no business sense to give, be able to clearly separate business from personal spheres, be able to quickly evaluate how long a given task will take and what the maximum price that can can be set that gives the client value yet makes it worth your while. Freelancers must be able to manage time, and spend lots of that time marketing themselves and getting 'out there', and most of all they have to be very very organized.

You ever seen a big street intersection with three gas stations on three corners and a fourth gas station being built on the fourth corner? As a kid, I always wondered what kind of an idiot would invest in a fourth gas station when they could have built it a bit up the block. Turns out, as I learned in grad school, that being the 4th gas station on the same intersection is more profitable than building one down the block, though it seems to go against the grains of common sense.

So my advice, when there is no work to occupy your time, is to spend that time marketing yourself which includes participating in every single crowd sourcing 'competition' that you can find, and there are more than a couple of those daily. Today, graphics people who are competent using CSS/HTML/jQuery look sexier than their competitors (Photoshop/illustrator can no longer be your only tools if you are looking to improve your chances with freelancing).

This guy http://www.flyelanddesigns.com/ makes his living freelancing as a graphics designer, who is successful and made freelancing viable enough to live comfortably and support a family. So is freelancing viable? Of course, but far from guaranteed income.

  • yh i also like to compete...you mean the sites like fiver and odesk or 99desings?? can you be specific about the competetions? in 99designs they only allow to use photoshop..
    – user24131
    May 24, 2014 at 14:19
  • 1
    You say "each one of your hours IS actually worth money" and then "compete, participate in every single crowd sourcing 'competition' that you can find". These are diametrically opposed concepts.
    – DA01
    May 25, 2014 at 4:46
  • @DA01 When there are no clients, no projects, your time is still worth something. You can spend it watching youtube or reading news (0 ROI activities) or you can invest that time in activity to further your own business which includes a number of activities, and crowd sourcing is one of them since besides the possibility of winning and getting paid, you are also showcasing your work. So when there is no paid work available, you spend time marketing yourself to get new work (because your time is worth something) as opposed to wasting it on social media.
    – NickNo
    Jun 8, 2014 at 19:00
  • 1
    @NickNo You could also spend your time networking, doing pro-bono work for friends/family, volunteer opportunities, personal projects, writing, marketing, etc. All of which are ultimately more productive than wasting time on crowdsourcing contest sites. I'd argue they are a worse ROI than watching YouTube. At least the latter can be relaxing. :)
    – DA01
    Jun 8, 2014 at 19:03
  • Also, as for social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc...all valid ways to market your skills with likely better ROI than 99Designs.
    – DA01
    Jun 8, 2014 at 19:04

The most tricky part about such websites (I think all outsourcing platforms) is that without solid statistics and feedback, it will be hard to get working. I've seen it many times. So, start from a low rate and gain it accordingly. Hours, stars, feedback and skills, for sure, is the best strategy.

  • brother so can you give some websites to improve my future? are those sites i mentioned are really reliable?
    – user24131
    May 23, 2014 at 14:52
  • 5
    @user24131 "brother" university was to help improve your future..
    – SaturnsEye
    May 23, 2014 at 14:56
  • yh bro thats true..but some universities value money more than the service they provide..thats why i stoped my university life .. :(
    – user24131
    May 23, 2014 at 16:21
  • actually, if you do not have at least three years of hard experience, would be better to become a part of serious team who does nice work.. it is extremelly hard to grow freelancing career without industry experience.
    – Vnovak
    May 25, 2014 at 12:14

No offence intended to you, user24131, but if I were a potential client browsing through GDSE, I'd immediately dismiss you as a viable candidate. You've been criticized on your poor use of language, have acknowledged the criticism, and yet you continue to come off sounding like a 17 year old "punk".

Having said that, my suggestion to you is this: continue on with your studies, they can only further your career and will never be a hindrance. You'll likely find school considerably easier than what you're trying to accomplish unless you're a VERY talented individual, an excellent marketer, and a real "go getter". The fields of web and graphic design are saturated in the online world and it takes someone spectacular to make a go of it and succeed. Sure, you can do piece work here and there for a couple of bucks but don't expect to make a living out of it.

Go back to school, get your degree, improve upon your communication skills and then conquer!

Best of luck!

  • 1
    Based on an earlier comment by the OP, it sounds like the particular university that the OP is attending is perhaps not a reputable design school. Alas, there are a lot of graphic design diploma mills out there that actually will not improve one's chances significantly in this field (and only end up costing money). Rule of thumb: if the school advertises on TV, it's likely not a great design school.
    – DA01
    May 25, 2014 at 4:48

You can earn money from sites like 99designs, crowdspring etc. I did try it for some time and I won 1 out of 9. Which is not great at all but I did it wrong. I spent a lot of time on each design and this is not the way you will succeed.

I know a girl from my country (Bulgaria). She makes logos every day. This is her statistics. She participated in over 2000 contests in 3 years. She won over 200 of them. On average she makes $1000-$3000 every month. This is more than enough to live very good in Bulgaria.

What's interesting here is her strategy. She doesn't spend days to make a logo. She does it fast. It's not hard. It's just a different game. In fact I know she posts logos on other sites that sell logos. I guess she sells the designs that didn't win. Why not?! I guess she makes more money that way.

When you think about it ... it's a very good way to make money, if you are willing to do that. Make it a game! The "Make a logo in 10 minutes" game. 2 minutes for a concept, 4 minutes to sketch, 4 minutes to vectorize. Play it for 1 hour a day. That's 6 logos per day, 180 per month. If you win 10 contests you can make over $3000 with 1 hour of work. Win 20 - $6000.

Remember the motivational speech from "The Pursuit of Happiness":

You got a dream... ...you gotta protect it. People can't do something themselves... ...they wanna tell you you can't do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.

Good luck, bro.

  • thanks bro,u have my respect :). so now you dont using 99designs?
    – user24131
    May 24, 2014 at 8:14
  • @user24131 No, I don't but I think about trying it again.
    – Komental
    May 24, 2014 at 15:34
  • "participated in over 2000 contests in 3 years. She won over 200" = which means she worked for 1800 people for $0. In that light, I'd hope most designers would realize how ridiculous and damaging of a business model these sites are.
    – DA01
    May 25, 2014 at 4:43
  • @DA01 Indeed they are damaging. They lower the value of design work. From another point of view, they are a great opportunity for some people. Yes she did make 1800 logos for free but she won 1 out of 10. You can think of it as if the client wants 10 versions. Also I like some aspects of it. No boss, no client, no fixed work hours and freedom of ideas. I am sure I can make 10 logos faster, than working with a real client.
    – Komental
    May 25, 2014 at 11:57
  • doing a lot for less is a way to:
    – Vnovak
    May 25, 2014 at 12:10

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