What do you do when clients won’t stop asking for revisions? Here’s some advice.
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As a young entrepreneur you may have had the experience of working with a client who repeatedly asks for revisions with no end in sight. It can be draining, bring about mental fatigue and over all pretty frustrating.
You’re in a bit of a dilemma because you want to keep the client happy without driving yourself crazy or ruining your profit margin. Both are essential to the success of your business. So, it’s important to understand how to avoid getting sucked into the vicious cycle of revisions.
Managing projects and client relationships is a delicate matter and a two-way street. Sometimes we end up working with an over controlling client who micro-manage and want to do everything themselves “if only I knew Photoshop”. But if we haven’t set the right expectations with the client from the beginning, or we’ve mismanaged the client relationship, it can become a tricky situation to worm yourself out of.
It is important to remember every client is unique, and there may be some where things run smoothly or there may be some where the road to the end is a little bumpy and rough. We have used the following strategies have helped us create healthy professional relationships with our clients, and hopefully you can use them too!
1. Start with the intention to develop a healthy relationship with your client
If you start the project just wanting to finish it quickly and get paid ASAP, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.
In the beginning set a plan in place with your client where you are open, transparent, and honest about the timeline of the project.
An unreasonably short timeframe will create stress and anxiety that will cause you to be frustrated about each additional client request, no matter how minor. Also, the client will feel that you’re in a rush and not intending to give your best. If they feel like they are getting short-changed, they’ll likely start asking for more.
However, if you start a project with a transparent timeline and a mindset of developing a healthy relationship with your client and doing your best, you’ll be off to a good start. Aim for a mutually beneficial professional collaboration where you respect each other’s time and ideas. From here, any hiccups along the way will be easier to resolve.
Young EntrepreneurTip: Remember the say ‘Under Promise, Over Deliver’ Under promising and over delivering is the opposite of over promising and under delivering. For example, if a business states a product will be dispatched in five working days and it is dispatched in three working days it has performed better than it promised to. Under promising and over delivering is doing that little bit more than stated and going that extra mile to satisfy customers. It is providing value for money, which is something all customers want.
2. Educate your client about the real purpose of a revision
The design process naturally consists of phases.
The designer creates a design draft and asks the client for feedback. Revisions are then made with the goal to move closer to the best end result for the client’s project and its audience.
In other words, revisions are part of the design process, and they cannot (and should not) be avoided. Rather, they should be done purposefully by keeping in mind the project’s objectives (this is why tip number one is so important from the get go.)
In your first meeting with a new client, explain this process as part of your overall work approach. You’ll set up certain expectations – of both your role and their role. That will give them a clear perspective on how the project will unfold and they’ll understand that revisions are part of the process.
Knowing these boundaries, they should respect the process (you might need to remind them a few times along the way) and not take advantage of you by asking for numerous revisions based on their whims. Unfortunately, that does happen. Read on to find out what to do when it does.
3. Clearly define and articulate what is a round of revision and how they are included in your fee.
Your client hired you because you’re the professional, not them.
They may not know exactly what constitutes a “round of revision”, it can be a vague term for someone not familiar with design jargon. Take the time to explain to your client exactly what a round of revision is and include the specifics in your initial estimate and legal contract.
Here’s how we at Young Entrepreneurs would define a round of revision for our clients. Once a design draft is presented, the client has a specified number of days to provide their feedback. Once all their comments, ideas and questions are consolidated and we provide a new version, that’s the end of that round of revision
Young EntrepreneurTip: Young Entrepreneur Tip: Don’t jump into doing a revision right after the client has provided their initial comments. Often people have an immediate reaction that changes after thinking about and reviewing the project over time.
Give a client enough space to formulate all their thoughts into a cohesive response, then review and confirm the changes they’re requesting. Then and only then, get back to work on it.
The number of rounds of revisions – based on your professional knowledge of the complexity of the project – should be clearly articulated both in your legal contract and in the initial estimate you send to the client. The more transparent and informative you are upfront, the less confused your client will be. In the end, your diligence at the beginning will prevent misunderstandings and conflicts throughout the remainder of the process.
Following these clear steps in a round of revisions will structure and pace the project in a way that’s comfortable for the client and less stressful for you.
4. Clearly define when change requests will be considered extra work and how this will be billed
As you know, there are major revisions and minor ones. But your client might not realize there’s a difference.
Give your client clear examples of each so they understand it upfront. For instance, you could say: “Moving photos and text around the page means we are doing layout changes and that’s a major revision. However, changing a short text phrase here and there is a minor revision.”
Again, these specifics should be included in both your legal contract and the initial estimate you send to your client.
Of course, you can’t include every possible scenario in these documents, and many change requests are somewhere in the middle between major and minor. It’s your job to keep educating the client along the way.
5. Keep the client informed about each phase of the design process
Most clients aren’t aware of the incremental steps a design process entails. Keeping the client informed about each design phase helps avoid misunderstandings about where you are in the overall process.
For example, after we receive the client’s first consolidated feedback we send them a confirmation email. We’ll use a subject line such as “first round of revisions out of three” and then reiterate the changes we’re planning to do based on their feedback.
Taking time to do this will help you structure your work and manage the revisions, but most importantly, it will keep the client informed about the progress of the project.
6. Don’t forget to show your goodwill and flexibility
Most clients are nervous about choosing the right designer, one who will be committed to the project and do their best to deliver quality work. If the client doesn’t really trust you, the project will not run smoothly.
It’s your job to establish trust and show the client you are coming into the arrangement in a spirit of goodwill. If you push too hard on that extra chargeable time, the client will feel that your primary concern is earning money rather than addressing their needs. So be careful.
Moreover, it could be in your best interest to do a little bit of extra non-billed work here and there because goodwill goes a long way. It helps to strengthen a relationship with a client and reinforce that trust.
Remember: only do this if you want to do it and have the capacity to do so. Make it your choice, not something your client expects from you. If they begin to take advantage of your generosity, refer to your initial contract and estimate. They’ll respect you for sticking up for yourself!
7. Accept your mistakes
Design is subjective. Therefore, sometimes designers truly misunderstand what the client is expecting. Using words to communicate visual tastes and preferences can be tricky and misleading. If your design doesn’t meet the client’s expectations, simply apologize and ensure them that you’ll get it right and, don’t count that round as part of the agreed number of revisions.
It can be a hard and costly lesson, but it happens to the best of us. After years of experience, we know that a project succeeds or fails based on how much care and attention we give to the design briefing process. It’s a crucial step that can save hours and heartache down the line.
So, be sure to ask your client the right questions to obtain all of the information you need. Then, use a visual tool, such as Monday, to visualize and communicate what the client wants and expects. If you catch discrepancies up front and adjust them, the rest of your project will flow smoothly.
8. Put a stop when needed
Don’t ever be afraid to put a stop to things if they are not working out. Sometimes enough is enough. If a client isn’t complying with what they agreed to in your estimate and contract, you’ll need to start protecting your boundaries.
As long as you have clearly communicated to the client upfront how you manage the revisions, and you have a reason for calling a stop to their endless revisions. Confidently (and pleasantly) say to your client something like this: “Since your request comes after we’ve completed the agreed upon rounds of revisions, I will have to charge you for this.” Short and simple.
9. Don’t waste your time with the wrong clients
That being said, sometimes no matter what you do, a client relationship just doesn’t work. Either the client has a different vision than you can provide, or they’re over-controlling, micro-managing or disrespectful. If their behaviour is spoiling the synergy, you won’t be able to do your best work.
Working with the wrong client can be soul-crushing to any creative person, and it’s not worth compromising your integrity. It’s better to use your time to look for someone who respects your talent and unique creative contribution.
Managing client relationships is a delicate matter with many different ways to manage. The strategies above have helped many refine client communications and develop positive relationships that are crucial to business success. Now it’s up to you to take these ideas and develop your own formula for creating healthy relationships with your clients.
Remember the keys: set expectations upfront, keep the client informed about each phase of the project, put a stop to revisions by referencing your initial agreement, stay flexible and show your good will.
Your ultimate goal should be to do your best within your capabilities, ensure the client is happy and create a piece of work you’ll be proud to include in your portfolio. The rounds of revisions should be only part of the framework that helps you to do your job well, rather than the sole focus of your work. The right clients will understand this and will appreciate the way you handle your professional relationships.