I am not a designer and I never pretend to be. The projects I have worked on over the years has had a designer involved at some level so the pain of trying to make a user interface pleasant to look at was never a concern of mine. I have a few personal projects I have been working on lately and needed some design work. A bit of searching around the web led me to 99Designs. 99Designs is a web site which will put designers in touch with people who need services. The folks looking for design work create "Contests" with a fixed price for designers to submit an initial design, hoping to get the work.
I created a contest for a web site design for a small utility application I have been creating. The contest started about February 21, 2009 and after only a few days had some entries. The cost of the contest was $45 dollars to setup and I put a fixed amount of $400 dollars as what I thought was a fair price. I received a total of about 25 entries over the life of the contest, which was 7 days. Overall the process of viewing the contest entries was good but, the quality of the entries varied a lot and were less than top-notch design work. It was about what I expected for the amount I was willing to pay.
I found what I determined to be the winning design and informed the designer. Over the next couple weeks the designer was very gracious and work with me on several iteration of the pages he agreed to create. Once he was done it came time to pay him and this is where the issues started. I do a fair amount of transactions using Paypal, love them or hate them, they work. I planned on paying this designer via Paypal, except Paypal does not transfer money to Egypt. After talking with the designer I found out Western Union is the accepted way to send money from the U.S. to Egypt. A quick trip to the Western Union web site revealed they do send money to Egypt but the fee for the transaction was $42 to send $400, what the heck? The $42 fee did not include credit card fees for "withdrawing cash", but not much I could do at this point.
The story gets a bit more interesting when I submitted the request to transfer money to my new designer friend, when I received a message from Western Union who could not complete my request. I then needed to call Western Union to give them additional information about the transfer. A call, and fairly long hold time, put me in touch with a very nice customer service woman who assured me she would take care of this right away and I would be on my way. Well, I was on my way alright. I was told by the customer service representative that Western Union refused to send money to this person and suggests highly that I do not do business with him or attempt to send funds to them. She told me to read between the lines, whatever that meant. I was completely baffled by this response and thought I had triggered some terrorist alarm or something. How could this be? Western Union is in the business of sending my money where I say and how can they determine not to send it.
This left me with little choice other than to tell the designer what had happened and my apparent lack of ability to pay him for his work. It goes without saying he was not very happy and accused me of trying to back out of doing business with him. I couldn’t blame him for being upset.
I then contacted the good folks at 99Designs who assured me they have dealt with sending funds all over the world and could do this for me for the contest cost plus 10%, which equates to about the same as Western Union. After some manual intervention by the 99Designs team I was able to send 99Designs the necessary funds to complete the agreement I had with the designer. The designer later uploaded the artwork and it is now in the hands of 99Designs to forward the funds.
In hindsight I should had found out where this designer lived and possibly taken his location into consideration. I probably should have created a guaranteed contest instead of the type I created, this way 99Designs takes care of paying the designer and then accepts the design which is then delivered to me. 99Designs’ Customer Service was top-notch and salvaged what I thought was a project gone wrong.
I hope my experience saves a fellow developer the hassle of dealing directly with foreign designers.