Every business needs a logo. It is the symbol that defines your brand and creates consistency across all of the different marketing channels you use. For my own business– Lernabit— I recently finished a contest on 99Designs to have a logo designed.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a logo made. For previous projects, I’ve had logos designed from a variety of different places, including hiring a designer directly from a freelancing website, hiring a friend of a friend, and even hiring a designer on Fiverr. So I’d like to tell you what I’ve learned about the pros and cons of each method, plus some tips that can help get an awesome logo for your business or project.

Methods

First, let me outline the pros and cons of all of the different ways you can get a logo. I’ve used all of these methods myself at some point, so I speak from experience.

Hiring a designer from a freelancing website

The first time I ever hired a designer was for my first business idea. It was a product review website called RevPlace. (It was a miserable failure). To get the logo, I went to a freelancing website. I don’t remember if it was Freelancer, or Upwork, or eLance, or whatever it was. I think I paid about $100 for the logo, and I got some decent results out of it, but it wasn’t stellar. They worked one on with me to go through multiple revisions and tweak it as needed. Here is what I got:

Revplace Logo

The logo for my first business attempt.

Keep in mind that this was a long time ago when the glossy style was “in”, so it looked a lot better then than it does now. So not too bad.

Pros: Decent work at a good price. $100 is pretty cheap for a logo. One-on-one work helps get exactly what you want.

Cons: Limited number of concepts. Once you commit to working with a designer, you are stuck working with them.

Best for: I recommend this if you already know what you want and just need a good designer to put it on paper, and perhaps offer some new ideas to build on your idea.

Hiring a friend

Back when Google Reader shutdown, I built a replacement of my own called FeedFiend. When it came time get a logo, I went to a friend of a friend who was trying to get started in the freelancing business. He offered to do it for free, and I was flat broke at the time, so I accepted his offered. This was a bad idea.

A few days later he came back to me with a sketch of his idea, and it had an icon that looked a lot like a sperm. It was supposed to be a computer mouse with a cord, which itself was a bad concept. This was in 2013, when most computer mice were cordless anyway, so most people wouldn’t even know what they were looking at. Not to mention the fact that a computer mouse had nothing to do with a news reader app to begin with. It was just a sketch on paper, so I don’t have a digital copy to show you, but suffice to say, it was ugly.

The worst part about this was not only “firing” him from the job, but having a hard talk in which I told him that he probably didn’t have the skills for being a freelance designer. It damaged our friendship too, and we’ve gradually lost contact since then.

Pros: It was free.

Cons: Everything except the price.

Best for: If you know for a fact that your friend is a skilled designer, go for it. Otherwise, don’t do it. For that matter, don’t mix friendship and business at all.

Hiring a designer on Fiverr

Like many website developers, I often launch small mini-projects for fun. They are a great way to learn new programming skills that can be of value to your main project or job. For many of these projects, I go to Fiverr to get cheap logos. Fiverr is a site that lets you hire people to do things for $5, and there are tons of designers on there. But you get what you pay for, and you usually have to pay extra if you want the Photoshop design files to edit your logo later. Nevertheless, if you just need a cheap logo for a hobby project, this works.

After the fiasco around my logo for FeedFiend, I went to Fiverr for a quick placeholder logo. Here is what I got:

logoSomething like this might be fine for a side project, but not for a business.

Pros: Wide selection of designers. Dirt cheap.

Cons: As stated, you get what you pay for. Some of the work is surprisingly good for $5. But in general, a $5 logo is going to look like a $5 logo.

Best for: This option is good if you just want a cheap logo for a hobby project. Don’t use it for a business though.

Hiring on 99Designs

My most recent logo was designed for Lernabit using a site called 99Designs. The cool thing about this site is that you just post a contest, and different designers can submit ideas. You choose the ones you like to move on to the next round, and they start tweaking their ideas based on feedback from you. Then you choose the one designer you like best and work one-on-one with them to fine tune your logo and make it perfect. At the end, the winning designer gets the prize money.

Here is the logo I got for Lernabit:

Lernabit logo

The Lernabit logo I got on 99Designs

This is one of many concepts that received, and I love it. In case you didn’t know, Lernabit is a site that offers free educational audio lectures, so this logo has some nice subtlety to it. The bars can be interpreted as audio waves or books on a shelf shaped like an “L”. The font is mature but no too serious. Plus the designer gave me files in multiple different color schemes so I have one for any use case. Finally, I also have the Photoshop files for further editing, so I was able to crop out the icon myself and just use that where space is limited. In all, I’m very happy with it. I spent about $300 to get this.

Pros: You get a wide selection of ideas, then you can get one-on-one work with the one you like most. You get very nice work. This was my favorite method.

Cons: It’s exhausting. You have 30+ designers submitting ideas and asking for feedback all at the same time. Also, it’s slow. The other methods got me a logo in a day or two, this method took me a few weeks. Finally, it costs a lot more than the other methods, at about $300-$700 depending on the plan you choose.

Best for: If you are starting a serious business and need to build your brand identity, use this method. It’s worth the money. But it’s overkill and takes too long if you just need a logo for a fun weekend project.

Tips for hiring a designer

So that’s what you get at each price point. Regardless of which method you choose to get your logo, there are some general tips that can help you out a lot.

Know some design basics

First, it helps to know some basic design principles yourself. Even though you are hiring someone to do it, a basic knowledge of design is still helpful. You don’t need to be an expert. I can’t name a font just by looking at it, and I don’t have hex codes memorized by heart. But just being able to put your finger on what’s wrong with a design is useful. If something doesn’t look right, what’s wrong with it? Is it the slant of the letters? The letter spacing? The serifs? Just knowing those basics can help you give very useful feedback to the designer.

Notice logos around you

As soon as you know you will need a logo, make a habit of stopping to notice logos all around you every day. The benefit here is two-fold.

First of all, it helps you notice cheats and knock-offs. Even when I was using the most expensive option– 99Designs– it’s surprising how many concepts I got that were just knock-offs of other logos. If you are aware of other logos you’ve seen, you are more likely to spot copycat designers. (Tip: Even if those designers offer a different concept, don’t work with them. They might just be offering a copy of a different logo you’ve never seen).

Second, logo-spotting can give you inspiration for what you are looking for. Do you want something that looks strong, like the logos used by security companies? Fun, like the Google logo? Intellectual? Hip-hop? Look at logos from a lot of different industries to get a feel for what will best convey your brand.

Study the designers

Most hiring websites let freelancers create a bio. Make sure you read them and look at their previous work. When I was running my contest on 99Designs, one designer had as her own logo a swastika. To be fair, I think she was using it in it’s original context as a symbol of peace, which is still common in some Eastern religions. But still, if they don’t understand the other cultural implications of that symbol, especially in America and Europe, I don’t think I want them touching my logo. Keep in mind that your logo will be online and people around the world will see it. You need to work with someone who understands that people in different cultures might have their own interpretation of your logo.

As I studied the designers, I also found some designers who designed every logo almost exactly the same. Don’t work with those people either. They might even be using one of the many online logo generators to spit out generic logos.

Don’t give too much feedback

This mostly applies to 99Designs or other scenarios where you get input from multiple designers. It is counterintuitive and perhaps surprising, but there is such thing as too much feedback, at least in the beginning. On 99Designs, all of the designers can see the concepts submitted by other designers. So what I noticed was that if I offered feedback on a design during the concept phase, everybody else zoomed in on that concept and started doing offshoots of that. That’s a problem. In that initial phase, you want people to work in silos. If they don’t know which one you like the best, they keep submitting a wide variety of different ideas.

Once you leave the concept phase and focus on a handful of designs that you like, then you should start giving a lot of feedback to help the designers perfect their ideas. But only after you have narrowed it down to a few good ideas. During the brainstorming phase, focus on quantity of ideas, not so much on quality. Just let them throw stuff out in the open to spark creativity.

Conclusion

The bottom line with hiring a designer is that you get what you pay for. But in any case, get the best logo you can afford. Funds are often cheap during the startup phase, but don’t cut corners on your logo. It’s the identity of your company and sets the first impression when introducing people to your brand.