Do you know that feeling. When your tummy twists in painful excitement. When your tongue is dry and it’s a nuisance to swallow…I’m talking about the torments of trying something new.
Now imagine being a designer and working a certain way for ages. Imagine having a comforting professional routine. Then imagine turning your world upside down and working differently. Different hours. Different design projects. Different deadlines and most importantly different clients. Some of you may have a boss. So now imagine having loads of different bosses, and now the catch! You may or may not get payed for your hard work.
No, I’m not talking about freelancing with bad contracts and cheeky clients, although it may sound the same. That’s a post i’ll write some other day.
I’m talking about 99d – 99 designs. Yes I have been testing this thing. love it and hate it. What is 99 designs? I like to think of it an international design bidding platform.
I first heard of it when I was still employed full time and daydreaming about freelancing. I thought to my self. “Here’s a seductive concept. I just log in. Look for a cool project and submit my design/ illustration/ sketch and get payed”
There may be over 300,000 happy customers. But there are even more designers and the playground is a jungle of hungry predictors circling a juicy brief.
Why do they do it? Why do I do it?
It’s not the pay. The money is not guaranteed and you may find your self working hours and hours and the client tosses your beloved piece of art out the window.
What?! You put your heart and soul into your creation and someone has the nerve to say they don’t like it and won’t pay for it?!
Yes. And it’s Horrible. But it is also awesome. It’s all about accountability. How many times have you vowed to yourself to start a personal project. How many times do you have an itch to boost a certain aspect of your portfolio. I think most of us have the “want it” part but not the “work it” part. Not all of us are type A people who put our mind to a project and just give it our all even though it’s off hours and totally unpaid for. It’s hard to work for yourself when you don’t have accountability. You lack the motivation. You suffer from procrastination. “Shall I design a cool retro poster?…oh..look…Back to the future trilogy”
As a designer & an illustrator I log on to 99d to look for cool briefs to enhance my portfolio and shake the dust off my wacom. I essentially go into a deadline and critique simulation of the real world. Iv’e been submitting projects on and off for about two months. Iv’e been a finalist a few times. Which means the client likes what I did but wants to choose between me and a few other designers after eliminating tens of others. The first time I was chosen as a finalist I felt great, I did a little victory dance in my office/ bedroom. The joy was short lived. I pulled an all nighter . I remember sitting red eyed from fatigue and looking at the clock closing in on the deadline for all finalists. Submitted my final final final design at the last minute only to be informed in the morning that the client went with another designer. “Thanks for all the hard work, but no thanks.”
It was discouraging, I admit. But the sooner I tried again the pain got a bit more bearable with the second rejection. The pain of failing and getting a bad critique is hard on any designer. It is also a school of life. It taught me something I forgot. The real world has many opinions and many tastes. I might not be the right taste for those clients. It also taught me not to get too attached to my baby. Yes I gave birth to it. But as soon as I put it out there, it’s on it’s own. Elizabeth Gillbert said it and I concur.
And as soon as it’s out there, In the words of the very wise Seth Godin “it might not work”.
Up until this very moment I have been trying and designing and working against the clock. Each attempt makes me stronger in some ways and discourages in others. I feel like a student again. I have a few years of experience behind me and yet I feel like i’m at square one. To be perfectly frank. The internet is a much more vicious arena than the university. No one is nice and they don’t always give a hoot about the right critique etiquette. Even in my fully employed days I have been given softer sugar coated comments and remarks about my work. People on the internet don’t see me. They don’t see my gender, my religion or my country if I choose not to show it. They see my stuff. They are less sensitive to my efforts and in some ways I’m sure they feel the same. They are the client and they are not seen. All they are to me is a message. I don’t try to please them with my personality, but rather with my ideas | designs | illustration. It’s a whole new way of working.
They might be in the US or somewhere in Dubai. I don’t care who they are. I just care about the project. I don’t even care that much about the price they’re offering. I see designers working just as hard on low paying projects.
There are other ways of finding good briefs, sure. Pro Bono projects, charity, Online challenges. But 99d is another way. It may not work for most, it may be a bloodsucking creativity monster. But for now…it brought something alive in me. I was reminded why I love the field. I have yet to see the fruits, but I’ll keep harvesting just a little tiny bit longer. Winter is coming.
What about you? Have you tried it yet? I dare you. I double dare you!