Back in 2008, the idea of a crowdsourced design agency was new and experimental. Over a decade later, crowdsourcing design work has proven itself a success with many new contenders cropping up, making it difficult to choose between all of them. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between two of these design options: Hatchwise vs 99designs by Vistaprint.
Choosing between 99designs and Hatchwise, there’s plenty to consider: pricing, quality, the design process, the stable of freelance designers each hosts and more. If you’re having trouble deciding—or can’t even tell the difference—this guide presents a head-to-head comparison with everything you need to know to make the best choice.
Hatchwise vs. 99designs: at a glance
Let’s start with some introductions. In case this is your first experience with crowdsourced design agencies, here’s a quick overview of each.
Hatchwise likes to keep things simple, for better or for worse. Although they offer a variety of services, the process is always the same: you commission a design contest where designers submit samples, and then you pick your favorite. The pricing, however, is not so uniform: you pay based on the type of design work and how many total entries you want to receive.
What sets Hatchwise apart most is that, in addition to the standard graphic design services, they also delve into copywriting services, specifically company names, product names, domain names, taglines and slogans.
However, their pool of designers is significantly less than that of 99designs. Hatchwise has just around 34,000 designers by our estimates, a mere 0.02% of the 1.4 million registered designers at 99designs. Moreover, Hatchwise’s vetting process seems to be non-existent, with anyone free to start an account, so it’s unclear what the level of experience of those 34,000 designers is really like.
By contrast, 99designs offers a more expansive business model. They offer the same design contest option as Hatchwise, where designers submit samples and the clients choose their favorite. However, 99designs also offers an alternative that Hatchwise does not: you’re free to directly contact a designer you like and jump straight to work, or 99designs can even help pair you with the kind of designer you’re looking for.
The “Find a designer” tool of 99designs is built for browsing, with ample-sized previews and plenty of filters by category, industry or even language, so you can scour through hundreds of designers until you find one with a style you connect to. Moreover, 99designs vets all incoming designers and assigns them a rank of Entry, Mid, or Top, so you can browse by skill level as well.
On the downside, 99designs only deals in graphic design, both print and digital. While you can find plenty of designers for a logo, website or poster, there are no options available for copywriting or slogans. Though that inconveniences people looking for a “one stop business startup shop,” it does allow 99design to hone in and specialize on the one thing it does best—graphic design.
99designs vs. Hatchwise: pricing
Although both payment models have a lot in common, let’s take a closer look to reveal the differences.
At first glance, 99designs appears more expensive—the numbers in the price tags are certainly bigger. Ostensibly, you’re paying more with 99designs because they vet their designers and there’s simply more of them to choose from. However, when you look into the details of what you get back from 99designs and Hatchwise, you see their pricing is actually closer than it seems.
For design contests, you pay by the approximate numbers of submissions, starting with a minimum of around 30. More expensive tiers not only get more submissions, but also other perks, like the submissions come from only higher-level designers. You’re also free to invite designers to participate in your contest, in case you find one you like but still want to consider all options.
Alternatively, you bypass the contest and find the designer yourself. This route can sometimes be significantly cheaper than commissioning a design contest, depending on the fees and skill level of the designer. You’re free to browse the 99designs community on your own for a designer or, if you prefer, you can request a design consultation with the 99designs support team and they’ll help pair you with your perfect match.
99designs also offers a money-back guarantee on contests to mitigate the risks of crowdsourcing. The only stipulation is that you must request your refund before the selecting finalists for your contest, but if you’re not satisfied with your submissions, you can end it right there.
If you’d rather work directly with a designer, you can invite the designer of your choice to start a project. In projects, designers set their own prices and you can negotiate directly with your designer to settle on a price you’re both happy with.
If you ask Hatchwise, they’ll say they’re the cheaper of the two, but is that really true? Sure, they list lower prices—and that $89 sure looks appealing—but what do you get in return from Hatchwise?
For one thing, Hatchwise limits the number of designers at each tier, so while you may get around 30 designs in the lowest package, all of them are only coming from a handful of designers. But even those numbers are the maximums, whereas the reality is often less. Some disappointed customer reviews point out that they only received 7 submissions, even after paying extra to include the contest in a mass email.
In direct contrast, at 99designs the advantage goes to the client, where you can receive more submissions than you pay for. A Hatchwise vs. 99designs comparison at Best4Business shows how one client received over 100 submissions at the lowest tier, a substantial improvement over the minimum of 30 entries.
Hatchwise still offers a money-back guarantee similar to 99designs, but again disappointed customer reviews reveal that there’s more here than meets the eye. Aside from more exclusions (for example, it doesn’t apply to 48-hour contests), the guarantee only covers whether you receive the bare-minimum of submissions, not whether you’re happy with them. If you receive a ton of submissions but don’t actually like any of them, you still have to pay.
99designs vs. Hatchwise: design quality
As is often the case, the design quality is reflected in the price tag, but there’s also something to be said about the number of designers.
Compared to other crowdsourcing agencies like Fiverr, 99designs is known for its high quality and wide range of talented designers that specialize in all kinds of design types and styles.
Whenever a new designer joins 99designs, they undergo an assessment from one of the in-house curation experts. The curator reviews their portfolio and application, evaluating not just design skill, but also professionalism and how well they work with clients. If a designer is accepted, they are then assigned one of three levels (Entry, Mid or Top), which helps companies find the exact skill level that fits their project.
When using the 99designs Discover tool, you can also filter designers by skill level, essentially weeding out all but the best designs from the highest ranked designers. Of course, designer fees are commensurate with skill, but if you’re in the market for the highest-quality designs regardless of cost, it’s easier to find them directly on 99designs than Hatchwise.
And because there’s over 1.4 million designers at 99designs, you can more precisely hone-in on the style you’re looking for. More designers means more choices, which means you don’t have to settle for “whatever’s left.”
Like 99designs, Hatchwise focuses on graphic design, with a few extra copywriting opportunities we mentioned earlier. For that reason, their design quality tends to be higher than platforms that don’t specialize on design, like Fiverr or Upwork.
While the caliber of designers may be similar, there are still glaring discrepancies in other areas. One of the biggest is that you can’t really control who submits to your design contest. With 99designs, you’re free to browse the community and invite any designer to participate in your contest, whereas with Hatchwise, you don’t have that option—you can only sit back and hope for the best.
Moreover, Hatchwise has no vetting process, so virtually anyone can sign up and submit designs. There are certainly professional designers at Hatchwise, and quite talented ones judging by some of the samples, but there’s no guarantee for the majority of designers. Coupled with the instability of who gets to submit to your design contest, you can’t rule out the possibility that all your submissions will be fulfilled by entry-level or amateur designers.
99designs vs Hatchwise: design process
99designs and Hatchwise have similar processes, at least for design contests, but on a closer inspection we can see where they vary.
99designs offers what they call a design contest, which is fairly close to what you get at Hatchwise. In a 99designs contest, you…
- Choose pre-existing designs you like to narrow-down your style and preferences
- Define the parameters of your branding identity (traditional, playful, modern, etc.)
- Pick the color-scheme you’d like (or leave it to the designer)
- Fill out the one-page brief, describing your business, goals, target customers, content details and any other notes you might have
- Select any extra features, like dedicated support, contest duration and boosts to promotion
- Once your brief is finished, interested designers can submit their samples; you’re also free to browse the 99designs community and invite anyone you like to participate in your contest
- After browsing the samples, you can leave specific feedback on your favorites before final submissions
- Following the final round, you choose the winner among your favorites
Compared to other crowdsourcing design agencies, 99designs tends to have a more involved design brief. They understand that not all clients can articulate their wants and needs, so a more thorough questionnaire can often describe what they’re looking for better than they can. But sometimes people want to hire a designer specifically to avoid making design decisions; in which case, you can simply skip those steps in the briefing process.
But with Hatchwise vs. 99designs, what really stands out is that 99designs offers more than just design contests. You can also find and hire a designer directly, or enlist the help of the 99designs support team to find a designer for you. The designer search tool is built to streamline this process, with filters for industry, specialization, skill level and plenty of other criteria.
These alternatives are recommended if you prefer having more control over the project or perhaps have a particular design style in mind. To speed up your search for the right designer, you can review the curated lists of the best designers in specific categories like logo design, product packaging, WordPress site design and many more.
There’s also something to be said for customer service. In addition to a robust Help Center, 99designs also offers a toll-free customer service number and message request system. At the Platinum tier, you can get even more assistance, with options for direct assistance and a dedicated account manager.
And, of course, all contests are protected by the money-back guarantee, one with much less fine print than Hatchwise.
Hatchwise offers only one method, opting for simplicity and ease-of-use over more options. All projects, whether designing a t-shirt or a brand slogan, follow the same process:
- Fill out a design brief, which includes sections for your business goals and branding parameters, plus picking designs you like from samples to better gauge your style
- Designers review your briefing and interested ones submit their samples
- Give feedback on the designs you like
- Choose your winner
The big difference in 99designs vs. Hatchwise is that, with Hatchwise, this is your only choice. Even if you find a designer you like beforehand, you can’t directly contact or hire them without a design contest. While that doesn’t matter if design contests are your first choice, it can be frustrating if you prefer a more hands-on approach to selecting the designer you’ll be working with.
In terms of customer service, Hatchwise offers a Learning Center similar to 99designs, along with a customer service hotline and message request system. Although they have extra paid options for boosting your contest’s promotion, there are no options for extra or dedicated customer service.
Final verdict: Hatchwise vs. 99designs
The Hatchwise system seems to be built for simplicity and ease of use, but those in turn hamper more precise designer targeting, not to mention a lack of style diversity. It’s also tempting to say that Hatchwise has cheaper prices, but considering the inconsistencies of their results (and the problematic money-back “guarantee”), it’s more than possible to receive a better value at 99designs.
The one inarguable advantage Hatchwise has over 99designs is the copywriting work: if you’re looking to brainstorm company and product names or urgently need a tagline, Hatchwise wins by default. When it comes to graphic design work, though, you have to weigh your options more carefully.
If you’re having trouble deciding, why not check out both 99design’s gallery and Hatchwise’s gallery. Here you can make your decisions based on the final products from each platform, not the hype. Scan what each platform has to offer and see if any particular designs resonate with you and what you’re going for. If you see something you like on 99designs, you can even hire that particular designer right now.