Need help with logos, marketing materials, ad copy, or brochures? Elance ( is a Web site that pairs up freelance design professionals with business owners for small design projects. “Our customer base is generally entrepreneurs who are starting a business, or small and mid-sized businesses that could not afford a traditional marketing agency,” says vice president Raul Mujica.

The online outsource service allows buyers to post a project and choose bids from service providers. Mujica says buyers usually receive 8 to 10 bids within a few hours. Buyers can use the site's system of ratings and client feedback to evaluate providers.

The buyer pays Elance, so the designer never has access to the buyer's financial information. The company receives a percentage of the designer's bid. The company mediates disputes but says they occur in less than 1% of projects.

When builder Ben Sutterfield of Centex used the service to finalize his new logo and lay out his business card, he used the customer reviews to choose a provider. “You can see samples of their work and see ratings and evaluations by clients,” he says. “They rate them on things like friendliness, ease of working with them, and accuracy.”

Mujica advises users to post a thorough description of their project. “Look at some of the other project postings to get a sense of how it is written up,” he says. He suggests buyers consider several proposals in the high-, mid-, and low-cost range then finalize their choice by speaking to the designer to get a feel for his or her working style.