I don’t normally advocate working for free. All too often, freelancers are persuaded to do a certain amount of free work ‘for exposure’ – when actually, ‘for exploitation’ would be nearer the truth. Some unscrupulous clients use this tactic with a number of freelancers, setting them all different tasks and getting their whole project completed for free.

However, there are a few cases in which it can be worth completing a design or piece of work with no guaranteed pay-out. Projects on crowdsourcing sites can fall into that category. You have the potential to win a prize or pay-out, although of course, you’ll be competing with others. And it could lead to bigger and better things – including regular work – even if you don’t win.

Here’s a look at three crowdsourcing sites that offer freelancers the chance to compete for creative projects.


US-based Crowdspring is free to join, but you do have to go through a verification process first. That process includes submitting three samples of your work for consideration by their verification panel.

Once you’re verified, you can enter competitions for projects. You’ll be able to see the awards offered or assured. Some clients may decide to offer multiple awards and buy more than one design. After you’ve won the award, you have 30 days to wrap-up the project.

There are legal agreements and contracts in place to ensure that the copyright only transfers to the client when you’re paid. As a creative, you don’t pay any fees – you get the total award amount, paid via either PayPal or Payoneer. Payments are made every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but if you’re newly-registered or it’s your first win, your payment will be held for 30 days.

You can also be invited to work 1-to-1 with a client if they’ve liked what they see in your portfolio.


‘We like to have fun at crowdspring, but we take our business very seriously. Although the vast majority of the businesses we work with are smaller, we regularly work with the world’s best Brands, including Amazon, LG, Random House, Starbucks, Barilla, Phillips and many more. We also regularly work with many of the world’s best agencies – and tens thousands of entrepreneurs and startups from over 100 different countries.’

You can find more information on Crowdspring’s help page – scroll down to their section for Creatives.


DesignCrowd works in a similar way to Crowdspring, with a verification process and the chance for clients to choose a ‘One Designer’ option to work with just one freelancer. However, there are a few differences:

  • You may be offered a participation payment (by the client) or a bonus payment for excellent work (by DesignCrowd) – even if you don’t win an award for the project.
  • You can choose to be paid through PayPal, Payoneer or Skrill.
  • 15% of any payment awarded to you go to DesignCrowd.
  • There is also a ‘freelance jobs’ option. A client picking this option initially receives quotes from you or any other designers interested on working on their design project. The client then selects a designer, pays for the quote, and the selected designer works on producing the designs.

There’s no useful guide for designers, but many of your questions should be answered on the site’s help/FAQ page.

‘DesignCrowd is an online marketplace providing logo, website, print and graphic design services by providing access to freelance graphic designers and design studios around the world.

We pride ourselves on quality (not just quantity) – DesignCrowd uses “Crowdsourcing 2.0” a fairer, sustainable, higher quality crowdsourcing where every designer can get paid and customers can browse our top graphic designers and hand-pick their favourites.’


‘We’re 99designs, the world’s largest online graphic design marketplace. We connect more than one million talented freelance designers with creative people, genius entrepreneurs, savvy businesses… anyone who needs great work.’

Create a profile on 99Designs, pass the identity verification process and you’re free to enter a contest. Contests are open for 7 days and up to six finalists can be picked. You then usually have 3 days to hone your design, according to the client’s feedback, in a bid to be the final winner.

At the Design Handover stage, copyright is transferred to the client. Once they’ve confirmed they’ve received your original design files, the prize is awarded to your account. Your pay-out can be via PayPal or Payoneer.

There’s no joining fee, percentage cut or fee for entering contests. You can find more information on their Designer Resource Center pages and help pages.


As always, ensure you check out the full terms and conditions of any marketplace or crowdsourcing site before you commit to registering, entering contests or producing work.

Good luck!


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