I frequently hear from practitioners who struggle to get things done because they simply don’t have the time, money or expertise. They can’t afford to create a website, for  example, or they don’t have time to write blog posts. Maybe the idea of an email newsletter is technically overwhelming.

It’s a frustrating problem, and we’ve all been there. Even a small practice demands a big range of skills, and it’s very challenging to do it all, and even more challenging to pay someone else to do it. What to do?

We’ve been experimenting with a few services that I think can help. Here’s our experience so far.

I’m a bit amazed by Fiverr. For $5 you can get a stunning array of things done, from writing press releases to songwriting. It’s crazy. This particular one might be my favorite. :)

I’ve used Fiverr to have a .jpg logo converted to an illustrator file so it was scalable and easier to work with. And I even had someone write a draft of this article that you’re reading right now. I didn’t use the article–it’s completely different from what I asked for–but you can read the results here. It’s not great, but  remember – I paid $5 for it. I think you could easily pay someone to write all your website, blog or newsletter content this way, and just revise it.

Use it when:

  • Budget means everything
  • You’ve been reluctant to experiment with outsourcing because of cost. This is a great way to get your feet wet.
  • You can wait a few days
  • You want a rough draft of something–like a blog post or a press release–that you can then revise yourself


  • Most Fiverr gigs have an “upsell”. If you want things done quickly, or to a higher degree, etc., you can pay extra. So an expedited $5 gig really can cost $25
  • Be very clear when describing what you want. A lot of fiverr suppliers are working very quickly. I wrote clear instructions for the writer of this post, but they wrote something completely different. :)
  • Look through the various sellers that offer what you do. You can see the estimated wait time for each. I try to find someone with a good selling record, but who doesn’t have a long wait list.

99 Designs allows creative types from around the world to compete for your design work–everything from logos and business card layouts, to brochures, websites and more. You decide in advance what the winner will be paid, and then choose the best design at the end. It like having a dozen designers all give you their ideas before you pay.

Prices range from about $199 and up. That’s not as cheap as what you can get on fiverr or elance, but if you’re picky about design, or want to see a wide range of ideas, this is for you. Normally you’d pay the same rates or far more just to get feedback from one designer.

Use it when:

  • You’re picky and need great design work
  • You want a wide variety of creative input
  • You have some money, but not tons


  • Because everything on 99Designs is run as a contest where you pick the winner, attracting the best talent means a) paying more and/or b) guaranteeing your contest, meaning you’ll award the money to someone no matter what.
  • People tend to lurk in the background and watch as the contest unfolds – don’t be discouraged if nothing great happens right away.
  • Provide lots of feedback. Designers will respond by changing their approaches
  • The stock logos are great! For $99, you can choose from one of a huge selection of logos, and a designer will change it to your name. (I can think of a more affordable way to get a great logo when you’re starting up.)

I tested 99Designs on a new logo for The Practitioner’s Journey. We’ve never really had one. I didn’t get anything that blew my doors off, but this was my favorite:

In hindsight, I probably would have just bought something off the logo store for $99, or paid an extra hundred bucks and/or guaranteed my contest.

Elance has been around a long time, and is now a pretty robust way to find and hire freelancers, and manage projects.

I’ve used it twice for small coding issues with our website. The kind of thing that I either couldn’t figure out, or knew it was going to take me four hours to solve. In both cases, the response was almost immediate, and the work was done in minutes for $20. I found it extremely well worth it.

Use it when:

  • You have something technical to do – Elance is geek-heavy, but still offers plenty of creative and marketing services
  • You want a higher level of professionalism than you might get on Fiverr
  • You need an expert in narrow niche–I hired an expert in WordPress, for example.


  • I found the interface a bit confusing, but it’s pretty powerful once you get used to it
  • Start with a small project. I spent about $20, twice, and was thrilled. Those small projects helped me get to know an Elancer, and now I have a go-to person for specific issues like email newsletters and WordPress technical issues.

My feeling is that these services are a fantastic way to solve the time/money/workload problem. You can get started for the price of a latte, so the risk is pretty low. And I have a feeling there’s an added side-bonus of helping people get used to the idea of hiring others. It’s a very “baby steps” way to get started on the road to having employees of your own, for example.

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1 Response » to “3 Resources for Getting Stuff Done Cheap”

  1. All fantastic (and cheap) resources which I have extensively used myself! They are ideal for those of us who have sporadic and specialized needs and are trying to minimize costs. Thanks for sharing them!

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