How To Get Good Design For Cheap

Good design cheap

It simply blew my mind. I had no idea what she was doing until that moment.

It was a balloon. And it was the most amazing balloon I, to this day, I have ever seen.

This was my first job out of college. A temp agency had placed me at the headquarters of a large chain of craft stores. My job was to systematically put together weekly ads for newspapers around the country.

That’s where I learned the difference between me, a person who could use graphic programs, and a true graphic designer.

One day, my boss was helping me and started drawing something at my desk. I watched for three minutes as this woman sketched something in front of me. I had NO IDEA what the heck she was doing…

…until the very end…

…it was a frickin’ balloon. And it was, I’m not exaggerating, amazing to see her draw a balloon.

The difference between me and a true graphic designer is just that. If I leaned over your desk and drew a balloon, it wouldn’t be a mind-blowing experience for you. Trust me. 🙂

But when you see a true graphic designer at work, it is something to behold. What a true graphic designer can do with the simplest depiction is worlds beyond anything a dabbler like me could ever hope to achieve.

However good we are at pushing buttons or using programs, most of us will never be graphic designers. We have to accept that fact. The skill of using those programs and the skill of designing are simply two different things. Having one doesn’t mean you have the other.

To Graphic Designer Or Not To Graphic Designer

Hiring a great graphic designer, while arguably worth their weight in gold, can be quite expensive.

Luckily, you have options for graphic tasks that are reasonably beyond your ability to do well.

In fact, I’ve found you can get a good graphic design, “good” not “exceptional,” for less than you might think.

Let’s talk about your options:


The first time I used 99Designs was when I was creating the cover for The Magic Of Winning Proposals. I had thrown together the cover for Proposal Development Secrets myself. But I knew:

  1. I didn’t have time to create a cover.
  2. I didn’t have the skills to create a much better cover.

So I set up a design competition through (which I believe you can see at this link). I wrote a description of what I wanted and designers competed for my business.

It was the first time I had done a design contest. And I was on “paternity leave.” So, as I was getting designs in (331 of them), I was frantically checking my laptop to see if any of them were good. I could rate each design and give feedback on what I liked and what I didn’t like.

The winner got the prize money and transferred the design’s rights to me. Ultimately, I paid $799 For the cover. But look at the difference.

Magic of winning proposal cover

I just don’t have the skills to design something that nice.

An important note about 99Designs is their motto is “a design you love or your money back.” I tested them on that. I wasn’t satisfied with the designs I received for one of my contests. They gave me a number to call. When I called, they apologized and gave me my money back. There wasn’t any hassle.


There are many professionally-designed templates that someone with a little skill can customize for their particular use. Here’s an example of a template I’ve used in the past. The second example is one that we ultimately never used, but I really liked it.

post graphic design example

Sites like offer professionally designed templates in a variety of formats.

There are also many templates you can start from over at Canva. Canva is a tool I use to quite often.


When the task is small, like a graphic for your website or prototyping a new logo, is a great place to go.

All designs at Fiverr start at $5. Yes, $5. Usually, the base design is $5 but they’ll charge you another $5 for extras like “.psd file,” etc. I’ve spent between $5 and $35 for designs on Fiverr.

Unlike 99Designs, Fiverr offers others creative, non-design, services (which they call “gigs”). But we are talking design here.

Here are some of the designs I bought from Fiverr:

Podcast image

Here’s another one that might look familiar.

Brutally Honest Proposal Critiques

And here’s a sneak peek at an illustration for a children’s book I’m writing. I got this at Fiverr too.


Now, these are examples of some of the best stuff I got from Fiverr. I’ve also had some duds. Most of the time, I’m pretty cool with stuff not working out if it only costs me $5. Here’s an example of something I had done at Fiverr, that turned out….well, pretty terrible. logo fail

Yes, with Fiverr, sometimes it’s a crapshoot. But in general, my overall experience has been positive. And hey, if you lose $5…no big deal.

99Designs Tasks

Similar to Fancyhands, 99Designs gives you the option to buy tasks. But in this case, these are not virtual assistant tasks, but design-related tasks. And they are $19 per task. Here’s what 99Designs will give you for $19.

A Task is a small design-related task that can be completed in a short period (ideally in 30 minutes or less). Examples would be a text or layout change to a business card or banner, color changes to an existing logo, minor photo retouching or basic image vectorization…

For example, I had someone recreate a graphic the appendix of The Magic of Winning Proposals.

Bottom Line

Most marketers are not exceptional graphic designers. I’m sure there are some exceptions, but in general, that’s the rule. If you are faced with graphic design tasks, I’ve just shared a few ways you can get a good design for cheap.

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  1. Although I am impressed by what you received for $5 from Fiverr for your Brutally Honest Proposal Critiques, I want reiterate that you get what you pay for with these websites and you are the art director, which can be challenging in many cases. We’ve had a few clients use for “easy designs” like company anniversary logos, only to be disappointed and behind schedule because of the delay.

    The crucial element of design that makes it so effective is knowing the client, challenge, industry, and ideally the client’s clients. No one competing for a contest will get to know you well enough to help with positioning and strategy, they just submit the first thing that comes to their mind or what another contest didn’t select.

    For $5, you’re lucky they spell your name right.

    • Matt Handal says

      Hey Perryn,

      Thank you for commenting. And thanks for sharing your clients’ experiences. 

      Not to rant, but the concept of “you get what you pay for” is complete hogwash. Not only that, I think it’s a dangerous concept that ignores the reality of the market.

      Anybody who has ever worked in any office has probably noticed that there are some highly-compensated individuals who don’t always bring the most value to every situation. The $8 burrito I buy in the city is not better than the $4 burrito I buy in the suburbs. A $200 pair of designer jeans are not going to be more functional for me than a pair of Levi’s. The $200M hospital in New York City won’t necessarily function better than the $150M hospital in Dayton, OH. Also, I’m sure you’ll agree that every consultant with a higher rate than yours is certainly not, by default, a better consultant. And I can give you a million more examples. 

      There are exceptions. But these are exceptions. They certainly aren’t the rule. For example, would I buy a $1,200 Macbook Air over a $200 Chromebook? Absolutely!

      You have to look at each purchase’s individual merits and trade-offs. You absolutely can’t use a rule like “you get what you pay for” and apply it to your purchases. To do so would be foolish.  Just because everybody says it, doesn’t make it true.

      I was upfront about the positive and negative sides of these services. I even went as far to say you could get good design, but maybe not exceptional.  But if I needed an anniversary logo, the first place I’d go is Fiverr.


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