Affordable Design Options for Small Businesses


So you’re just starting out or you’re rebranding your business and you need a new logo. Come to think of it, you’ll also need a fresh web banner, new business cards, an overhaul of your brochure, letterheads and media kits… and maybe even a custom website or blog theme.

Feeling your business budget shrinking already? Before you throw in the towel altogether – or even worse, haphazardly try and knock together some design in Paint – there are a number of affordable design options available for small and big businesses alike.


Search for logo design or WordPress theme on Etsy and you’ll see just how many designers are selling their wares via the massively successful craft and handmade-focused online marketplace. In fact, the last time I searched there were more than 23,000 listings matching logo design alone – including pre-made customisable logos for as little as $18, through to custom logo design packages, complete with multiple concepts and revisions, for up to $1000.

A quick search from Etsy’s home page will offer a veritable feast of design options, which you can then favourite to compare and consider later. You can easily contact each featured designed via email with questions and to confirm design details before making a final decision – and once you have, payment is in advance via the site’s secure shopping cart and PayPal supported systems.


Originating in Melbourne and with offices in San Francisco and Germany, 99designs proclaims itself to be the world’s largest online graphic design marketplace, and since its launch in 2008 has hosted more than 210,000 design contests for solo entrepreneurs, startups and established companies around the world.

Using the 99designs platform, you can host a ‘design contest’ where literally thousands of designers worldwide compete to create a design you love. You come up with a brief to outline what you need designed, choose a design package (bronze, silver or gold), and watch as designers submit concepts to compete for your prize. At the end of the contest, you choose your favourite design and award the winner, after which you receive the final design along with the artwork copyright.

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The cost depends on what you need designed and whether you’re choosing to award bronze, silver or gold price for that package. For a logo you’ll pay between $299 and $799, while a website or mobile app design will cost between $599 and $1599. The marketplace also offers ready-made logo design templates for a flat rate of $99 via a dedicated logo store.


Similar in concept to 99designs, Crowdspring is based on a contest system, where designers compete against each other to win your business. Rather than being directed by a pricing structure, you have full control over how much you’re willing to pay for your completed project, as long as you meet the minimum established price. For example, logo design projects start from $269 – though, of course, the more money you’re willing to pony up for a project, the more people you’re likely to get pitching, and the more competitive they will be to secure your job.


Elance prides itself on being the world’s leading site for online work – matching freelancers across all industries around the world with entrepreneurs, individuals and businesses needing everything from design and coding work to content writing, data entry and translation. All you need to do is post your listing, outlining a brief, and then choose which freelancer you’d like to work with based on the proposals you receive from people vying for your job.

Alternatively, you can browse the freelancers listed on Elance (there were more than 58,000 results for a logo design search when I checked out the site) and approach them about doing some work for you.

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Fiverr aims to be the world’s largest marketplace for small services, starting from $5. Search logo design in the Fiverr directory and you’ll see listings from people all around the world (more than 9000 when I searched) offering to create custom logo designs for just $5.

That’s right. Five bucks. So basically you could pay someone to design a logo for you using the change you find down the back of the couch.


The benefits of employing small online businesses and freelance individuals to create your logo, marketing, web and business designs are obvious. Often the cost is a great deal more affordable because freelancers can keep overheads low, and in the case of sites like 99designs and Crowdspring, you have the added advantage of being able to choose between multiple concepts from different designers, giving you far more options. What’s more, you also get to support other small businesses by using their services.

The drawbacks of working with someone you’ve found online are just as apparent, but worth reconsidering before shelling out any of your hard-earned coin. The old adage you get what you pay for is painfully appropriate here, and though you may well get a beautifully custom-designed logo for less than the price of a lunch in the city from some designers you find online, you may find yourself disappointed by the work produced by others.

Do your homework, ask questions, request links to previous works, and make your brief as clear as possible to avoid dealing with design cowboys. There are some wonderfully talented and professional designers making themselves available for projects via online marketplaces. Finding the right one to work with might take a little research, but the end result may be well worth it.

Nikki is a professional freelance writer and story teller with a passion for the web and technology. She writes for WP Dev Shed and amongst a roster of other clients.

3 thoughts on “Affordable Design Options for Small Businesses

  1. Nikki says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Stanford. I have friends in the industry who see some of these sites as devaluing the work of designers across the board, so I can see where you’re coming from. That being said, I agree with Charles in that I think it’s a completely different market, and I really don’t see individuals with hobby ventures on the likes of Etsy taking business away from local talent.

  2. Please don’t use 99designs. It requires us designers to work on spec (on speculation), which means a lot of us grew nothing for hard work. I mean, you don’t eat at a restaurant and then refuse to pay the check, do you? It’s the same thing.

    I don’t think WP Themes works on spec, so why would you even recommend that anyone support a site that does?

    Find a few designers you like, look at their portfolios, and have a real conversation with them before you begin. It’s as simple as that.

    Thank you,

    Stanford Alan Griffith

    1. charles charles says:

      Hey Standford, fair comments. You’re right, we don’t do any work on spec. That said, I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to go that route, and I don’t begrudge any designers who are prepared to work in that way. It’s a free market and you get what you pay for and all that. I’d also wager someone who wants a design for a few hundred wouldn’t be prepared to fork out for a good local designer so I don’t see it as lost business.

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