My tips on effectively managing 99design contests
Nov 23 2012
Instead of waiting for your contest to be discovered, invite designers as soon as you start the contest. If its a logo contest, visit the Logo Store and invite the designers of designs you like. If its web design or something else, invite the winners of the last 15 contests in that category. This is a relatively low effort high yield tactic.
Make your contest blind
I found that most good designers participate only in blind contests. Having seen both sides of it, turning a contest blind really made it easier to sort out the good designers from the average ones. When a contest was not blind, a lot of average designers would rip off designs which got a good score - making it hard to differentiate. You don't want such designers as they will struggle with design tweaks in later rounds.
Set clear expectations on feedback.
I've seen a lot of contest holders struggle with providing feedback in Round 1. This is a hard job as contests get hundreds of submissions. So its really important to publish the rules of feedback in the beginning. My rules for feedback for Round 1 are always posted publicly - If I like your design concept, I'll provide you feedback 2 or 3 times. If your design gets eliminated without any feedback, then please try a new design concept. Most times when I eliminated, I would drop a quick line, and an encouragement to try another concept.
Setting these ground rules straight prevented designers from personal messaging me all the time.
Set goals for each round
A lot of designers tend to focus too much on one design in the first round. What you really want in the first round is a lot of design options. Usually I do things to narrow the designer's focus. For example. I ask them to submit their design in just 1 color variation in round 1. In round 2, we do design tweaks, multiple color variations etc. Also, in round 1, I ask them to quickly move on to another concept if their current one is good enough to compete in the next round. Ideally, you want multiple design submissions in round 1 from the same set of designers you like.
Top $$$ does not attract the best talent.
A better managed contest definitely attracts more designers than high paying ones. A little bit of research into past auctions prizes will keep you from over spending. I'm really not sure how effective the contest add-ons are. The 99Designs's twitter feeds is really busy, so I'm not sure if a promotion there is worth paying for.
Keep the dashboard as clean as possible.
Another trick to keep getting more and more submissions is to keep the 'All Active' section of the dashboard as clean as possible. If a concept has no prospect, eliminate it. Most designers coming to your contests see the 'Active' board first, and its really not encouraging to see a crowded lot.
Not just a contest
Its not just about the design contest. I also found 99Designs to be a good place find design talent for my project.