What a freaking waste of time.
I needed a logo for my Maria’s Guides website and line of books. I wanted something simple, something that communicated the brand as well as the fact that the “guides” were in print, video, and ebook formats.
I have no design skills. None. I know what I like when I see it and I can often modify something that’s close to what I like to make it more in line with what I need. (That’s basically how I “design” my websites: I start with a theme and modify it.)
At first, I put a request on Twitter for a book cover design. That was a mistake. I got a bunch of responses from strangers linking to their portfolios or just promising they could do the job. (I created it myself based on a few other book cover designs I found online; it’s okay for now.)
I decided I’d need a pro for the logo design. My budget was under $500, preferably under $300. I remembered hearing about Elance and decided to give it a try.
Elance is a Web site that connects freelancers with people needing freelance work done. It seems like a good idea and I know there are plenty of designers there. So I set up an account and used the “logo” template to submit a request for proposals.
I should have realized that something was wrong when I got six bids within about fifteen minutes. Although I’d set up my budget for less than $500, the bids ranged from $60 to $149. Four bids were from (supposedly) U.S. based companies, one was from India, and one was from Argentina. Most of them linked to logos or business packages they’d (supposedly) designed for other clients. Most were obviously canned responses that showed no indication that they’d read my request for proposals. LIke this:
Thanks for reviewing our proposal.
We understand your requirement for creation of logo design. Plz check our portfolio attached.
Also view our elance portfolio :
or this (supposedly from a U.S. based company):
Hi and Thank you to review our bid!!
This Bid includes:
1) 7 Initial concepts of logo. (Designed by 6 different designers)
2) A complementary Stationery concept (includes Business Card, Letter Head, and Envelope)
3) EMAIL SIGNATURE without any extra cost. (100% NO COST)
4) Unlimited Color schemes of selected design.
5) Original Copy right files. (All rights reserved by you)
It should be noted that all I asked for was a logo.
I decided to give it a try by picking one of the (supposedly) U.S. based companies that submitted a proposal that didn’t seem canned. Their samples were in line with what I was looking for. The price was very good — only $65 — so I figured I wouldn’t lose much if they completely sucked.
On accepting the bid, the first thing they did was send me a list of information they needed. This was the same exact information I had already provided using the Elance template for a logo request.
So apparently, they hadn’t read my request either.
With my response, I added:
PLEASE do not respond to me with canned communications. I have extremely low tolerance for people who waste my time by asking for information they already have. I realize there’s not much money in this, but that’s not MY fault. If you can’t treat me like a REAL client, let’s end this relationship now.
We got past that and they started submitting designs. The first batch had five. (I’m not sure if I’m allowed to show them; I haven’t paid for this yet and, chances are, they’ll use these same designs again for another sucker.) I liked one of them — it featured a graphic representation of a book emerging from a square — and made some suggestions:
…is there a way that the graphic part can indicate both books and electronic media? Maybe a 3-part icon that includes a representation of a book, an ebook (or tablet computer with writing on it), and a movie? For the movie, the old-fashioned filmstrip kind of thing might work.
“Designing” with Clipart
They submitted two more designs. They were dramatically different and very complex. But worst of all: they looked like they had been assembled by copying and pasting clipart. Clipart drawn from different perspectives and in different styles. I started to get a bad feeling.
I wrote back, telling them it looked like clipart. The response:
These are victor file, but if you don’t like them we will send you more revision.
Ah, yes. I know the U.S. education system is pretty crappy right now, but that’s not the kind of English I expect to get from a native speaker. I began wondering where the company was really based.
The next logo design was closer to what I could use. It included the three icons representing books, video, and ebooks. But the style of each icon was dramatically different. I had to look at the video representation under magnification to figure out what it was. And the ebook representation was just plopped on top of its frame with no attempt to make it look as if it were emerging. And, of course, all three icons appeared to be drawn from a different perspective, so they just didn’t go well together. More clipart.
Among my comments to try to fix this one up, I said:
The second panel doesn’t look like film. Consult this link http://www.jeffjonesillustration.com/[redacted] for something closer to what I envisioned. A reel of film with a strip of film coming out.
I should note here that the image I linked to as an example is one of many copyrighted images by illustrator Jeff Jones. Mr. Jones sells the rights to his artwork for use as stock images. I did not buy this image; I was just using it as an example.
Apparently, the “designers” I’d hired thought that they could use this copyrighted image in my logo. In the next revision, that exact image, scaled to fit, was part of the logo. They’d also managed to completely misunderstand my instructions for the ebook reader image in the third panel of the logo.
It was pretty clear that:
- They had no real design skills.
- They had no artistic ability.
- They heavily relied on clipart to create logos.
- They likely didn’t understand English enough to follow instructions.
Yes, I Know that You Get What You Pay For
Now I know what you’re saying: You get what you pay for. But understand that I was willing to pay more. This isn’t the first logo I’ve had designed — the others cost more. I picked this “design” company based not on the fee but on their proposal and samples. I don’t know where the samples came from, but it’s pretty clear to me that the people I hired did not design them.
By this point, I was fed up. This had been going on for a week and I was at the point where I dreaded opening my next email from them. I wrote:
I’m trying to understand why this is so difficult for you folks. Do the people working on this project read and speak English?
First of all, you CANNOT use the film clipart I linked to as AN EXAMPLE because it is copyrighted. If I use that in my logo, I will get sued. You should KNOW this.
Second, when I said that the tablet computer representation should have writing on it like an ebook, I didn’t mean to put the word “ebook” on it. I meant using lines of fake writing so that it looked as if it were showing an ebook. Also, laying a rectangle on top of a square does not match the design elements of the first frame “book” which is emerging from the frame.
Clearly this is NOT working out. I cannot understand how you folks have gotten good reviews unless the people you worked for were satisfied by your use of clipart to create “custom” logos. I don’t need to pay someone to do that. I can do that myself.
I cannot use what you’ve created and I’m tired of going back and forth with you on this. What an incredible waste of my time. I will contact Elance directly on how to resolve this issue.
And I got online with Elance and sent them a request for help:
I put in a request for a logo design. I got a bunch of very low bids, most of them from organizations that obviously did not read what I was looking for. I picked one I thought knew what I wanted.
For the past week we have been going back and forth on this. I’m supposed to be getting a custom design and what I’m getting is cut and paste clipart. When I offered a link to a sample image on the Web, the “designer” used THAT copyrighted image — if I included that in my logo, I could get sued!
These people are obviously amateurs, have no talent, and cannot follow instructions. I want to end my contract. I am willing to pay 50% of the agreed upon fee to cover the work done. I cannot use the logo as is and will have to pay a REAL designer to come up with something I can use. Please help me resolve this so I can move on and get the logo I need.
I’m still waiting to hear back from them. Believe me, 50% is generous for the aggravation I’ve been dealing with. What I’m willing to pay for is the idea, which I helped them develop.
[Update: They've agreed to the 50%. I guess people like this will take any money they can get.]
Apparently Freelancers Know Better
Now when all this started going south, I tweeted:
If this Elance experience is indicative of what it’s like to work with all Elance service providers, this will be my LAST time using Elance.
A Twitter friend tweeted back:
I tried providing service on elance, but would always get undercut by clueless people from india.
So that’s what it’s all about? A web-based service that leads you to believe you’re helping out local designers who are trying to build a client base. Instead, you’re sending business overseas to “design factories” manned by clipart manipulation experts.
What do you think? Do you have any experience — good or bad — with Elance? I’d like to hear a story with a happy ending.