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Why PeoplePerHour and Upwork Are Bad Places to Find Designers

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PeoplePerHour, Upwork, and other freelance marketplaces are the wrong places to look for designers. Here’s why and where you should be looking instead.

Freelancer marketplaces like PeoplePerHour, Upwork, and Fiverr are popular places for businesses and entrepreneurs to find freelance talent for everything from data entry to software development. While these marketplaces have their place, you should avoid finding designers on them at all costs if you value unique designs for your business or nonprofit.

In this post, we’ll highlight some drawbacks of using these platforms, specifically when looking for designers.

Inconsistent Quality of Work

As Forrest Gump famously said:

Finding designers on freelancer platforms is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get*

*It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie, so this might not be accurate

The freelancers' design work on these platforms is all over the place. While great designers are on these platforms, there are more bad ones. Vetting can be tricky as you don’t always know that the work they display in their portfolio is theirs.

Additionally, many designers use generic templates, blatantly copy designs, or use AI. If you’re looking for something unique and designed to your specifications, buyer beware!

For my first startup, we used 99Designs to create our first logo. When we ultimately chose one, it was good for what we paid. But over time, I saw our same logo everywhere, used by other companies. It was such a running joke in our company that we started a Slack channel to share when we saw variants of our logo in the wild.

High Competition Leading to a Race to the Bottom

The nature of these platforms, where thousands and thousands of freelancers bid for hundreds of jobs each day, inevitably leads to a race to the bottom. Clients, of course, want to pay as little as possible, and the massive mismatch between the number of freelancers and available jobs means freelancers have to bid lower and lower to land their next gig. Not to mention that many new freelancers to the platform will bid well below market rate for gigs to land their first ones and get ratings and a reputation.

The mismatch between supply and demand partly leads to the previously described problem, where only the bad designers who can’t find work outside these platforms remain. They’re increasingly incentivized to recycle old designs to save time, get paid, and move on to the next bid.

Communication Barriers

Generally, freelancers are based in less developed countries, where their smaller fees go a longer way. Hiring people from all over the world is great, but it potentially leads to some communication barriers. Most obviously, they could be working in a completely different timezone from yours (though most freelancers will alter their hours to work in US time zones as that’s where most of their clients will be based).

But it can also impact the quality of the design. Developing designs that match your brand or business is more complex if the designers aren’t familiar with your market or unique voice.

Lack of Long-term Commitment

Often, you need ongoing support with design. Branding guidelines are great. But to properly implement your branding across flyers, social media posts, blogs, and all your other content, you’ll want someone you can rely on to produce these assets on an ongoing basis.

Freelancers have many plates in the air at once—while you might luck out and be able to return to them for a few ongoing projects, that is relatively rare on these platforms.

Alternatives to PeoplePerHour and Upwork

With all the problems presented by freelance marketplaces like PeoplePerHour and Upwork, where are good places to find designers?

We recommend subscription design agencies like Peak Digital Studio and have written extensively about why this option is best for startups, small businesses, and non-profits. Subscription design agencies give you an ongoing resource to access excellent design and provide you with all the flexibility of a freelancer without any hassle.

If subscription design agencies are slightly outside your budget, look at freelancer forums like Behance and Dribbble, where you can view their work and ensure you’re getting a high-quality designer.

View our article on alternatives to Upwork


While freelancer platforms like PeoplePerHour and Upwork make finding freelancers relatively simple, they’re not great for finding reliable, high-quality designers. The inconsistency in work quality, high competition driving prices down, potential communication barriers, and lack of long-term commitment make these platforms risky for businesses seeking unique and ongoing design work. Instead, consider alternatives like subscription design agencies or specialized forums like Behance and Dribbble. These options provide a more reliable and consistent source of high-quality design work, ensuring your business maintains a distinctive and professional brand identity.

Matthew Johnson

Published on

June 21, 2024