When you’re out shopping for clothing, the main differentiator between regular T-Shirts and Hoodies is the design.  Sure, the big brands might such as Hollister and Nike might both get away with selling plain T-Shirts that look the same, but unless you’re manufacturing your own clothing, you want to be focusing on making your clothing stand out with the artwork.

I got started in the merchandise industry, specifically T-Shirts, by putting my mediocre Photoshop skills to use and creating some simple designs ranging from text only to those that used commercially free to use vectors.  At some point though, if you want to build your brand and expand your portfolio, you’re going to need to step away  from this approach and think unique.

Outsourcing your artwork

Unless you have an in-house design studio, you’re going to want to hire a designer. 

There are plenty of options out there, however if you want unique designs that can’t be found anywhere else, you’re going to need to pay a bit more for the privilege.


What is Upwork?

Upwork probably needs no introduction. They’re the go place to hire any type of freelancer.  With Upwork, anyone can sign up as a Freelancer, so you have to do a bit of legwork to attract the right designers to your job, and then weed out the bad designers

Its worth mentioning that since anyone can sign up as a freelancer, there are hundreds of bad designers out there.  Some are out to earn a quick buck, and will quite happily steal existing artwork, some will use free vectors where the license doesn’t allow commercial use or on clothing, and then there are those that are professional.

As for pricing, you set a price you want to pay in your job listing, and then any applicants can negotiate this price with you.

Upwork have a 7 step wizard that will guide you through the process.  There are plenty of guides already out there on how to find T-Shirt designers on Upwork, however since we’re after unique designs, we need to do things slightly differently.

Upworks 7 Step Wizard

Writing the listing

  • Name of Job Post
    • We want to give your job a name, however try to steer away from putting something like “T-Shirt Designer required for on-going work”
    • Instead, opt for something that an illustrator or designer would be interested in. “Illustrator required for custom artwork” or similar
  • Job Category
    • You might need to create a few jobs and play around with this one
    • I tend to use Design & Creative -> Art & Illustration or Graphics & Design
  • Description
    • Simply describe what it is you’re after, try not to mention you’re after a T-Shirt designer
    • Something like “I am in need of a Graphic Designer or Illustrator who are proficient with Adobe Illustrator or similar.  Your job will be to draw custom, and unique artwork in vector format, from ideas that I provide.  I will pay on a per design basis, please state your price for design. Before we come to an on-going agreement, I would like it if you could produce a couple of ideas that I will pay for. If we come to an agreement, there will be a consistent flow of ideas for on-going work.  Designs must be provided in .png and .ai (or simialr) format, and copyright to the work is transferred to me on submission. I look forward to doing business with you
  • Details
    • Either select a one-time project, or ongoing for continual work
    • You can also add screening questions in this section.  I like to add my own question, and ask the applicant to provide me with a portfolio of custom artwork they have produced.
    • I also like to check the box asking for a cover  letter. 
  • Expertise
    • These will likely be already populated, however just go through them and remove the ones you don’t need such as Print Layout etc.
  • Visibility
    • This section is completely up to you to pick your options
  • Budget
    • I prefer to pay a fixed price as this lets me negotiable how much I pay per design
    • Experience I usual go for Intermediate
    • Complete the other feels as you see fit

Finding Applicants

Once you’ve finished the wizard, you can submit your job.  Depending on the time of day you  submit the job, it’ll take some time to get applicants.  I’ve found that if you submit it at around 9am on a weekday in the Philippines you will get more applicants.

Completed Upwork Listing

When you start to get applicants, review them, check their portfolio and try to do some research using reverse image search etc to make sure they’re not using existing vectors.

For quality, unique and custom artwork, you can expect to pay anywhere between $12 – $30 per design. I’ve managed to secure a good designer for $18 per design. Your mileage might vary.

What is Design Pickle?

Design Pickle is a “cloud based” design service that take away the hassle of finding your own designer.  Their designers are all hired and vetted by Design Pickle, so all you need to do is add your design idea, and they will handle the rest.a

At the time of writing, Design Pickle have completed over 325,000 designs and have over 200 full time staff.

Design Pickle have 3 payment options to work with:

  1. Pay $75 per design request
  2.  Pay either $370 or $995 per month for Unlimited Requests and more
Their monthly options operate on what they call a DPU to provide requests.  A DPU is a measurement of creative output.  As an example, 1 DPU might equate to 1 design being produced at a time.  The more DPU’s you have, the more designs you can have in progress at a time.

Writing the listing

To get started with Design Pickle, simply sign up and select with payment option you want to use.  The below screenshot is the form you will see if you do not have a monthly plan

Design Pickles 3 Step Request Process

Their process is quite simple:

  • Provide them with the file dimensions
    • If you’re using them on Merch By Amazon T-Shirts, you want them to be 4500x5400px at 300dpi
  • Target Audience
    • A kids design might look a lot brighter than if you were targeting someone in a motorcycle club
  • Inspiration
    • I tend to create an Imgur Album for this section.  
    • I screenshot any styles, colours or ideas I might like and then add them to the album
    • Go to imgur.com, click New Post and then paste in your images
  • Description
    • Simply describe what it is you want designed.  Do you want a Unicorn jumping over a rainbow with some text, or are you after a cat in a santa hat?
  • File Type
    • For this you’re going to want to select .png
    • I also select Adobe too, as I want the raw .psd or .ai files so I can reuse them later.

For merchandise designs, you can probably skip Step 2 as we’re after unique, custom artwork.

In Step 3, you can upload any assets you want them to use.  Perhaps you’ve already got a vector of a dog you’d like them to use.

Once you’re done, submit the design and Design Pickle will assign a designer to your job.  You’ll get a notification when your design is complete.  You can then approve the design and download the files, or communicate with the design and request unlimited revisions.

Think Design Pickle is right for you?

What is OnlineJobs

OnlineJobs.ph is the World’s largest marketplace for finding Filipino workers.  They’re a similar setup to Upwork, but with some differences.

  • They focus only on Filipino workers
  • They don’t take a cut of workers salaries
  • They don’t monitor your communication with your worker, and then strike you when you ask for their Skype or payment details
  • They don’t force you to pay workers through OnlineJobs

OnlineJobs let you open a free account to post jobs, however to see your job applicants, you need to upgrade to a paid account, of which they have 2 types:

  • The Pro plan is $69 a month, lets you have 3 consecutive posts, and contact 75 workers a month
  • The Premium plan is $99 a month, lets you have 10 consecutive job posts and contact 500 workers a month.  It also comes with the ability to request background data checks and a few other things you can see here

Personally I use the Pro Plan.  Whilst you might think the monthly price is high, you can cancel it after you have found a worker.  I’ve had more success finding quality designers on OnlineJobs than I have any other platform.  The $69 monthly cost has by far paid for itself.

Writing the Job

To get started with OnlineJobs, simply sign up and select your plan.  Once you’re in, select Post Job and you will be greeted by the very simple Job form

OnlineJobs Form

As with the Upwork posting, I suggest you steer away from requesting T-Shirt designs.  Instead, you want to mention you’re after custom illustrations and graphics

  • Job Title
    • Opt for something that an illustrator or designer would be interested in.  “Illustrator required for custom artwork” or similar
  • Job Description
    • Again, just describe what the role you’re after is about. Use the example I provided in the Upwork section as a guide
  • Wage/Salary
    • This is actually a free text box, so I usually put “negotiable”
  • Type of Employment
    • Depending on your countries employment laws, a full time employee might set the expectation they’re employed by you, rather than contracted out.  I always set this as Freelance to be safe
  • ID Proof
    • This is OnlineJobs’ way of validating someone is who they say they are.  The higher the ID, the more chance they are who they say they are. 
    • I usually just set this at 60 and go from there.
  • Skills
    • Now simply select the skills you want the applicant to have. 
    • Since we’re after an illustrator, not specifically a T-Shirt deisgner, make sure you select Ilustrator

Finding a designer

Once you’ve submitted your post, you’ll start seeing applicants come in. You can message them on OnlineJobs, or you can request their Skype details and start talking there.

It is then over to you to agree how you want to payment them etc.  
Personally I deal with my designer over Skype and just pay them per design in batches of 20 every 2 weeks.

OnlineJobs.ph is my go to place to find designers.  I find the quality of the work they produce to be much higher than the other marketplaces, not to mention I’m no inundated by “T-Shirt designers” that you get on Upwork

Want to find the best Filipino designers and illlustrators?

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