Awful Idea: Buying Presentation Design Services on Freelance Websites

Feature Image: Buying Presentation Design Services From Freelance Websites Is A Bad Idea
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I’m a CEO of a presentation design agency, and my team and I produce some awesome work. We take the time to research, craft and design presentations that get the results our clients are after.

And yet, every now and again, I always hear someone say something like this:

“Why are your presentation design services priced so high? You can get it cheaper at freelancing platforms like Fiverr, 99Designs or Upwork.”

I mean, really?

Comparing a presentation design agency with over 20 years of collective experience in content creation, copywriting and design… to freelancers on Fiverr, 99designs or UpWork?

That’s like comparing a Michelin 3-star restaurant to McDonald's.

I guess people don’t want to take the time to truly understand what they’re getting when it comes to presentation design, or design in general.

But hey, that’s fine. They won’t have to. Because I already did it for them.

Yep. I purposely designed a boring, error-riddled slide and spent my hard-earned money on freelancers using Fiverr, 99designs and UpWork. I also asked a member of the Slide Cow design team to design that same slide, just to give you a comparison.

And I did this to prove, once and for all, that there is a considerable difference when it comes to comparing the work of an agency to the likes of someone selling their services on freelancing platforms.

There’s a lot to go through in this post, so go ahead and grab a coffee. Feel free to navigate each section using the links below if that's your thing.

A Quick Disclaimer

Before we get started, I want to set a few things straight.

First, I’m not saying that platforms like Fiverr, 99designs or UpWork are absolute trash and that you should never use them. There’s some good talent on there that you can take advantage of for various things.

But I am saying it’s unfair to compare the price points of creative agencies to the likes of freelancers on these platforms because they’re not the same thing. And I hope this post explains why that's the case. 

Second, I realize that the sellers I approached make a living from selling their services on these platforms. It would be outright evil of me to call them out and plaster their usernames and profiles for the world to see.

Because of this, I’ve purposely removed their names and photos from the pictures in this post. Remember, all I’m trying to do is prove a point. I don't want to ruin some guy’s life. For all I know, these sellers have families to feed.

Third, I am not saying that Fiverr, 99Designs and UpWork are responsible for the work that was processed and delivered. The responsibility lies with the sellers on these platforms.

That said, there are some areas where the team managing these platforms need to focus on. For example, there is no excuse for allowing a high-tier seller to plagiarize other people's work and get away with it. I'll get into details of this point in the post as it progresses.

Now that we're clear on that, let's move on.

The Ugly Slide I Made

Before approaching sellers, I needed something for them to design.

So I went ahead and created a slide for them to work with.

I had one goal when I made this slide, and that was to make it the most obnoxious, ridiculous and blandest-looking slide on the planet.

I know.

It’s boring, it doesn’t really say anything, and the copywriting is ridiculous.

But that’s precisely the point. I needed to make sure I created a slide that would really test every designer I approached.

Oh, and just in case you missed it: I purposely added a few spelling errors in there just to test how far the freelancers will go when it comes to the redesign process.

The Design Brief I Wanted Designers To Follow

So, I have my ugly slide on hand. Now I needed to provide some direction on what to do.

I wanted to keep things short, sweet and simple, so I came up with this (and yes, this is it word for word):

The Design Brief

Hi there. Thank you for taking the time to do the work.

I will need this slide redesigned using the following guidelines:

  • Please review the text for spelling errors,
  • I need icons to represent each of the points
  • I want an infographic that is relevant to the content designed to connect each of the points
  • Please bring in a picture that is relevant to the content. You can be as creative as you want with the picture (i.e. make it part of the slide, or a background, or anything of the sort).
  • Please use any font you’d like
  • I want the colors to be blue and white. You’re free to apply gradients to either colors (i.e. blue and white gradient, dark blue and light blue gradient, etc.)
  • Please make this slide look amazing as I really want to impress my audience!

Pretty clear, right?

Well, just so you know, NONE of the designers I approached on Fiverr, UpWork or 99Designs got everything right

Shocker.

And yes, I gave this exact same brief to every designer I approached, including one of our designers on the Slide Cow team.

The Benchmark: What Slide Cow Did

So let’s start off with the good stuff.

I approached a member of the Slide Cow team to design the ugly slide you saw earlier, with the exact brief that you also read above.

I did not tell him that I was doing this for me (or more importantly, you), nor did I tell him that I was doing this for a content piece. I simply told him that we have a client on retainer that needed this done.

And lo and behold, I already got my money’s worth before he started designing anything.

How?

He asked questions.

He asked what the goal of the redesign was, and why it was important to the client. He questioned why the color had to be blue, and not something else. He challenged what the blue was meant to represent. He wanted to understand who the audience of this slide was for.

These questions helped him understand the client’s perspective, which enables him to design something that would truly work for the client, and more importantly, the client’s target audience.

When he got his answers (that were fake, for obvious reasons), he got to work.

And he didn’t give me one slide....

He gave me four.

The slides are stunning, they speak directly to the content, and he even cleared up all the spelling errors, too.

Raditya, if you’re reading this, you’re awesome at what you do my man. Thank you for all the hard work.

Slide Cow Designs PowerPoint Presentations That Get You Results

Seller #1: Mr. Plagiariser [Fiverr]

This seller is the first one I approached on Fiverr, and he is, without doubt, my favorite for all the wrong reasons.

He is literally the human embodiment of what a designer should not be.

I want to emphasize that this is a LEVEL 2 SELLER. This means that this guy had to be on Fiverr for a while and met a bunch of requirements (set by Fiverr) just to earn that status.

Source: Fiverr level requirements, which you can read up on here.

So, why is this seller so monumentally bad that he's pretty much become the de facto example of what a seller should not be?

Well, let's go through the list.

Strike 1: Plagiarism

As his alias suggests, this seller claims the hard work of others as his own.

And to make it worse?

The guy plagiarized the work of Slides, a talented presentation design agency based in Europe.

I decided to give this seller the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's claiming that this is the work he could do, rather than the work he did.

So I asked him if what he showed me is indeed what he made.

Unsurprisingly, the Level 2 Seller makes no hesitation and states that this is indeed his work.

For shame.

But hey, if the guy is claiming that this is his work (even though it's not), then I'm expecting something stellar.

Strike #2: Lateness

I went ahead and made the purchase for $15 for this slide (and that was after some negotiation, too). We agreed to a timeline of one day.

Now, I totally understand that designers may need a little more time to produce quality work. I'm all for that if the results are going to be worth the wait.

But he said he'd be done eight days later.

I mean, who on earth does this guy think he's fooling here?

Fine, I waited it out.

If this guy was making me wait eight days, then I figured he's working on something incredible.

And then, it came.

Strike #3: Questionable Work

I got the seller's design back.

And... well... why don't you take a look and decide if his presentation design services are worth it?

Um... okay. Here's what I have to say about this.

Lies. All Lies!

This is a Level 2 Fiverr Seller that maintains a 4.9 out of 5 rating, all while claiming the work of others as his own. And this is what he gives me? That's just unacceptable.

Spelling Errors

For someone who has "Copywriting" as his list of skills offered in the package, I'm quite surprised he didn't manage to pick up the "Launch a Startups" spelling error (not once, but three times).

"Design"

I don't understand why there's a picture of a man walking into a dartboard.

I also don't understand why there's map of the world in the background.

But what really confuses me is how he decided to divide the presentation's content up even though I didn't ask for it. I guess he felt he couldn't put a picture and infographic in the same slide? If so, the infographic isn't even all that great. It's hard on the eyes.

Oh, also, I asked for blue and white. And yet, I somehow manage to have black, beige, grey, blue, yellow, red, green, and orange. I wouldn't mind other colors if they were at least complimenting each other.

And why did he design me a slide that says "Thank You"? Thank you slides are the worst. I never even asked for one.

But hey, I guess this is what $15 gets you.

My Rating For This Engagement?

I can forgive a lot of things, but I have no respect for people who claim the work of others as their own. And that statement is only amplified when that same person is trying to make a sale.

Seller #2: Mr Processor [Fiverr]

Funnily enough, I don't have much to say about this guy. I searched for "presentation design" on Fiverr, found him, and gave him the order.

I would go ahead and show you a picture of his profile. But after going back to his profile a couple of days after I received the work, it was no longer there.

Uh oh.

But hey, he's called Mr. Processor for a reason: We didn't make any conversation at all.

I simply gave him the slide and brief, and he got to work. The price for this engagement was $10, and the deadline was 24 hours.

Mr Processor's Work

After a day, he sent over what he had for me. And here it is.

Well then, I supposed we should we get started with the commentary.

Watch Out For That Bus!

I asked for a presentation designer to design a slide discussing various reasons to launch a startup.

Somehow this seller thought it was a good idea to put a man walking in front of a bus as the picture in the background.

Infographic?

Yes, he provided an infographic. But aren't infographics meant to be informative? What he provided is a genuine cop-out. It doesn't do anything to help enhance the slide's story.

Also, if you need numbers to connect to the icons, and have those same numbers connect to the text, then all this seller's doing is making things more complicated.

Design Inconsistencies

I'll be honest. The design isn't all that great because there are two distinct styles on the same slide. To elaborate, there's a gradient, and a playful sketchy doodle sort of thing. They don't match.

Oh, and I kind of asked for blue. Not purple.

But He Got Something Right!

There's a silver lining! He actually noticed the typos and fixed them. At least I have that going for me.

My Rating For This Engagement?

I'm not a fan of the design, and I still question why he used that picture of a man almost being hit by a bus on the slide. But hey, at least he corrected the spelling errors.

Seller #3: Mr. Negotiator [Fiverr]

You're probably wondering how this guy got the name, right?

It all started when I asked him how much it would be to redesign my slide.

His response?

He stated he'd do it for $5, but for that price, he expects me to leave him a "great review."

I know this is an innocent ask, and I know that the guy meant nothing by it.

Still, I couldn't help but feel slightly annoyed at the request. I mean, he's asking me to rate him before he even did any work.

Not cool.

But whatever, I went ahead anyway.

Mr. Negotiator's Work

He got back to me after a couple of days with this.

Okay, let's get into the commentary.

The Design Ain't That Bad

Honestly? The design isn't all that bad. It's by no means excellent, but for $5, I think I got more than I paid for here. I like his adherence to the colors, and how he went for a layout using shapes.

The pictures aren't exactly the best fit, but at least he went for something that was relevant to the points on the slide.

But with the above said, I still feel the typeface he used is off. For one, the font size is way too small for each point. For two, I don't like the header's font style at all. It's too formal, and the slide's design goes for a more creative approach.

I'm ready to admit that all of this could just be a personal preference, though.

Look At The Typos, Man!

He got one spelling error, but didn't manage to get the one in the heading. So close!

Icon Conspiracy

There's a really weird use of icons here. And no, I'm not being pretentious when I'm saying this. I really mean that this seller used the exact same icons as another seller did on a completely different platform.

No joke.

I'll even show you what I mean in the next section.

My Rating For This Engagement?

For a $5 job, the design's layout is okay at best. But the typeface, use of imagery, and inconsistency with the design isn't aesthetically pleasing in my view. Also, asking for a good rating before even starting the work isn't the best way to do things.

Seller #4: Mr. Robot [UpWork]

So we're done with the Fiverr platform. Let's move onto UpWork and meet someone who I like to call 'Mr. Robot.'

Mr. Robot got his name by giving me the coldest, robotic answers a human could ever witness.

Even his cover letter seems like an overly-used greeting template found online.

He offered to do the job for $15, and said he'd get back to me within the day. I agreed, and he got started.

Mr. Robot's Work

He met the deadline and sent me his work. Pay attention to the icons.

The Icon Conspiracy

Before I go into the slide commentary, I just want to take the time and point out just how weird things got when I compared this seller's final product with the slide Mr. Negotiator created.

Somehow, they both managed to use the exact same icons for each point.

These are two different sellers from two different platforms. Yet, both of them managed to find the same icons that, in their own opinion, would best illustrate each point.

What are the odds?

Another theory is that they're both working together under some foreign outsourcing team.

But hey, it's a conspiracy theory, so I'm going to be wearing my tin foil hat for this one.

The Design Is ... Basic

I really wanted to give the designer the benefit of the doubt. He did meet most of the guidelines I requested, after all.

But I just couldn't give into the final results.

The blue is too striking for the eye, the typeface just doesn't work, the spacing and layout is all over the place, and that rocket just doesn't have that aesthetic impact I'm after.

Typos, Typos, Typos.

Once again, it's "Reasons To Launch A Startup" not "Reasons To Launch A Startups." Come on, Mr. Robot!

My Rating For This Engagement?

$15 for a slide that features the most basic rocket infographic in the world? Not worth it in my view.

Seller #5: Mr. Joker [UpWork]

I have to say, I kind of like this one.

First off, he was honest and admitted he isn't exactly a presentation designer, but a web designer instead. Although, he did also admit he's done "hundreds of presentations."

Second, his cover letter gave off happy and quirky vibes. He made me feel like I was talking to a person rather than a seller, which is great in my book.

So I decided to give him a shot. We agreed he'd finish the project within the day for $15. 

And yeah, he even had another joke for me when I accepted the project.

Mr. Joker's Work

I really wanted to like this guy's designs. I really did. But I couldn't, and maybe you could see why.

Everything's Out Of Place

I mean this: Everything, from the infographic, to the icons, to the misleading line chart, to the text, to the typeface, to the illustrations on the right, is way out of place. The slide just doesn't look balanced. If anything, it looks distorted.

And what really adds salt to the wound is how the seller put in an infographic of his own. It adds absolutely no context to the slide's narrative. Beyond that, he proceeds to entitle it "STARTUP INFOGRAPHIC" just in case I missed the hint.

Fix The Damn Typo!

This is the 4th seller that didn't get that typo in the header. I really didn't think it would be this hard.

My Rating For This Engagement?

If the seller gave at least half of the design components some thought, this rating would have been at least a three out of five. But a good personality can only take you so far.

Seller #6: Mr. No BS(ish) [99Designs]

Mr. No BS(ish) doesn't take any BS... for the most part.

When I approached him and asked him if he was willing to take on the project, he didn't greet me, nor did he even introduce himself.

He gave me the answer to my question and ended it there.

I agreed and waited for the quote.

And when I got it, I was a little surprised. What I thought was a done deal didn't turn out to be a done deal at all.

He clearly said that the engagement would be $12. And yet, he sent me a quote for $16.80.

And this is why I named him Mr. No BS ... (ish).

I went ahead with the price anyway because he was known to be among the top level talent on 99designs, and I was curious to see what he could do.

Mr. No BS(ish)'s Work

I don't even know where to begin with this one.

Lazy Design

This is a perfect example of what lazy design looks like. I asked the seller to give me an infographic, and I didn't get one. I asked the seller to use a picture, and didn't even get that.

I instead got an illustration of a rocket launching into the air.

How original.

How in the world am I supposed to believe the seller is after my best interests when he hasn't taken the time to understand what I wanted?

But I guess I should have known that when he just replied with a price to my question.

The Subtle Typo

This makes this the 5th seller that didn't fix the typo I had. I mean all it takes is a 10 second review.

My Rating For This Engagement?

I expected more from a Top-Level Seller on 99Designs, to be honest. But again, I can't complain if I only spent $16.80 for the work. I got what I paid for.

Final Thoughts

So based on these six sellers that I found on Fiverr, UpWork and 99designs, we've managed to cover plagiarism, icon conspiracies, rating negotiations, and an unsolvable typo, among other things.

Oh, and the designs I received aren't all that amazing either.

But again, I got exactly what I paid for.

There's a reason why these sellers charge so low for their presentation design services. It's because they know where they stand in this market, and the only way to compete in it is through price.

As the CEO of Slide Cow, I refuse to compete based on price. There is absolutely no way I would allow myself or my team to do it.

We choose to compete with value. We look for ways to make sure a client gets the best damn presentation experience on out there, and make sure we price for that.

And that is the difference between a skilled creative agency and freelancers on different platforms. Agencies aren't cheap, but they do provide a ton of value.

Remember this: Neither I, you, or anyone on this planet is willing to go the extra mile for a measly $15 design job. If you want more value, you have to be prepared to pay for it. Period.

Neither I, you, or anyone on this planet is willing to go the extra mile for a measly $15 design job. If you want more value, you have to be prepared to pay for it.

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So Are Freelancing Platforms Bad?

No. But they are frustrating.

To find a freelancer on these platforms that is suited for a job you have in mind, and has the skills to not only meet, but exceed your goals? That's rare.

But it does happen. I even managed to hire an amazing presentation designer after finding him on 99Designs. Indeed, it took me weeks to find him, but I did.

If you want to take that chance, go ahead. But I promise you, the process will be tough, expensive, and time-consuming. You have a better shot at hiring an agency with proven credentials to do the work for you instead.

In the end, it's your money, and therefore, your choice.

Just don't expect miracles.

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About the Author

  • Excellent blog post! Thank you for doing the research and sharing the results. Yes, you get exactly what you pay for. Good design takes time, training and talent. It also requires understanding what the client wants to communicate to the audience and why. I love your tutorials. Thank you for inspiring the rest of us to be better designers and communicators.

  • Thank you so much Erin! You’re exactly right. Good design takes time and total understanding of the client’s objectives.

  • I am into formatting of presentation in corporate though i am not a Freelancer. 30 mins back i liked what all i created for my clients.
    I read your blog and would like to say a big thank you as your findings… detailing… motivated me to think from a different perspective… Now i find a lot of scope of improvement in my previous work. The pointer you mentioned definitely would be added on my check list…

  • Loved the article!
    Working on presentations is one of my passions and I would make fun of those people who thought our job is very easy. So, when they asked what I did, I would always answer: “Pretty slides!”

    Then I let my work speak for itself…
    😉

  • What an awesome comparative test! Thank you for doing the work for this post. Will be sharing w several folks I know. One question…we know how much the poorly designed slides cost in the post, I would love to have seen what the good design would have cost a potential client (ballpark) for the process of designing that one slide. For a single slide like this should it need a retainer? One time fee? At what rate? Thanks for these blogs!

  • Tired of making PowerPoint presentations that don’t get results? We can help.

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