One of the best outcomes of running a contest is finding an awesome designer who you’ll be able to turn to for all of your future projects.

We just so happen to have a 1-to-1 projects platform to help you collaborate in just this manner. The results tend to be glorious – especially if you take care to set fees and expectations the right way. Here are 6 tips to help ensure that you and your designer are on the same page.

Communicate on 99designs


The 1-to-1 projects platform is there to help you keep organized (photo by Theen Moy)

We created 1-to-1 projects as a place to collaborate with designers, exchange payment and deliverables all in one convenient location.

Having everything in one place like this makes record keeping wonderfully simple: if you or your designer need to reference a prior agreement, like the due date for a deliverable, you only need to scroll up, rather than trying to remember which email thread or Skype conversation it was from.

Additionally, communicating on 99designs allows site admins to review correspondence, so in case there is ever a disagreement, we can weigh in.

Inventory all deliverables and corresponding fees


Outlining your project and itemizing your fee will spare you trouble down the road (photo by Jaypeg)

Nobody likes to be overly formal, but it pays off to be as meticulous as possible when outlining a project with a designer. Make sure everything is itemized, and all components of the designer’s fee accounted for.

For example, a designer saying “I’ll make a landing page for you for $1000” may seem straightforward enough, but it is actually much better to itemize the job in a more detailed fashion. “$300 for the page structure, $100 for font selection and treatments, $250 for the hero illustration and $350 for icons” is much better: it leaves no questions about where the $1000 quote came from, and in case the job cannot be completed for some reason, it allows you to easily figure out how much the designer is owed for the deliverables he or she did provide.

Agree to a firm timeline


Make sure you and your client agree on deadlines before getting started (photo by Calsidyrose)

This is probably the number one reason that relationships with designers fall apart — not because the designer’s skills are lacking, but because he or she is not delivering work at the speed that you require.

So, after agreeing to an itemized set of deliverables, your next step should be to clearly set a due date and verify that the designer will be able to deliver within this time frame. Keep in mind that the designer may adjust his or her quote based on that: higher fees for quick turnarounds, lower fees for lengthier turnarounds. If your designer thinks s/he cannot do a quality job in the timeframe requested, s/he may respectfully decline the job.

Put a cap on drafts


If you don’t negotiate the number of drafts offered, you could find yourself doing more work than you bargained for (photo by Mark Van Laere)

Here is something that you might not consider ahead of time, but your designer surely will: a landing page for $1000 (for example) may seem like a fair price for both parties, but if that page takes 1,000 drafts, then it might not be such a profitable use of your designer’s time, after all.

To avoid this circumstance, designers sometimes like to set a cap the number of drafts — say, at two or three after the basic wireframe is agreed upon. Don’t be surprised to receive a hard cap, or for the designer to set an extra charge for further drafts after the cap is reached.

Set a payment structure


It is in your best interest to schedule payments at intervals throughout the project (photo by 401(k) 2012)

Most designers are trustworthy people and you don’t have to worry about them disappearing into thin air midway through a project. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to protect your interests and make sure you are getting what you pay for.

Oftentimes designers charge by the project. One common arrangement is to pay 50% of the fee up front to show the designer that you’re serious, with the agreement that you will pay the remaining 50% once the project is complete.

That method works great for relatively simple projects, but for more complex ones like our landing page example, you may want to break up payment even further. 25% up front for conceptual work and wireframing, 35% for drafts and 40% for the finished product could be one option. This also makes it less painful for either party to back out, in case the relationship just isn’t working.

Charging by component (structure, font, illustration, icons) could be another option. Heck, if you’re amenable to it, you could even break up payments for each of these sub-components! Of course, there is something to be said for keeping things (relatively) simple …

In other circumstances, designers like to charge by the hour. There are many ongoing projects where a designer will find it better suits their business to determine an hourly rate rather than a single rate for the entire project. It depends on the requirements of individual projects or the designer’s working style, and if you prefer this method, you can always request it.

Keep in mind that 99designs highly recommends that you utilize the pay and hold option, regardless of the payment structure you choose. This means that payment is transferred to 99designs and we keep it safe until you confirm satisfaction with the deliverables and opt to release it to the designer. This protects both parties: in case either should for some reason disappear or break a written agreement, 99designs can help make sure that the funds are transferred to the deserving party. Granted, the pay and hold option is less critical when you are already dividing payment into several intervals, so if you already have a strong relationship with your designer, you may agree to paying directly.

99designs is here to help


Photo by ThinkPanama

In the unlikely event you find you have a disagreement with your designer that you cannot work out between yourselves, just holler for a 99designs admin and, assuming you followed the previous five tokens of wisdom, we’ll see if we can’t help to smooth things over.

Do you have any advice about handling 1-to-1 work? Please share in the comments!