Design revisions are expected. Revisions help us refine our work and help us to become better designers by stretching our comfort zone and causing us to re-evaluate what we know to be right.
As designers we should all expect to face revisions, but how many is too many and when is it time to say, enough.
We’ve all had those clients who have stepped over the line or tried to take us down the path of endless revisions, but as professionals there needs to be a clearly defined boundary for how many revisions we allow our clients.
How do you define boundaries for design revisions?
Start with a contract.
Every job I undertake has a contract that is approved and signed by all parties involved. In the contract is a clearly defined process for revisions as it related to the specific project.
No project or client is exactly alike, and every contract should reflect that. I don’t buy into blanket revision policies. You know your client best, and you know how you work best under specific pressures and guidelines. There may be times when three sets of revisions is not enough, and other times way too many. That’s something that needs to be assessed on a per-client, per-project instance.
The key to this process is to be perfectly clear in outlining what the contract covers. Walk your client through their contract line-by-line and be sure they understand what it is they are signing. Schedule a time just for contract review and allow the client to take a copy of the contract with them to look over before signing if necessary.
Contracts are serious business and shouldn’t be taken lightly. If a client understands your professionalism from the start, they’ll be less likely to step over their boundaries later on in the project.
Reminders and Progress Reports.
Updating your client on where you are in the grand scheme of things can work to your advantage and reduce revisions. By reminding the client of the original timeline and contract obligations—the client better understands where you are in the project timeline and how the evolution of the project is moving forward.
By keeping the client in the loop, you’ve effectively made them somewhat responsible for the timeline and it’s outcome. By sharing this responsibility with the client you making them a partner in the project. You build confidence within the client toward the project. Clients are less likely to tear apart a project that they feel they’ve helped build and have confidence in.
That doesn’t mean that you allow the client to watch over your shoulder while you design. Clear separation of responsibilities should be established early on. You are the designer and they are the client—there should be no blurred lines here, but that might be another article entirely.
What to do when design revisions go outside contractual boundaries?
Charge. Charge. Charge.
In those rare cases where the client has no respect for the timeline or lacks confidence in your work—there’s always charging for additional revisions, and this is something that should have been outlined in your initial contract. On the occasion where I’ve been taken down the revision rabbit whole, I’ve always found that once you start charging extra for those design revisions—they tend to fall off rather quickly.
- Try not to get too carried away with additional charges, after all they are potentially a return customer.
- Remind the client that they’ve exceeded their allowed number of design revisions and that time is money.
- Ask for partial payment for services rendered. This reminds them of their financial obligations while working toward compensating you before the project moves too far beyond the initial deadline.
- Always be professional and courteous. Showing the client respect regardless of the situation goes a long way for your reputation. This doesn’t mean you let them walk all over you, but that you never respond emotionally. Always solve your problems diplomatically.
Design revisions are a fact of life and we all have to face them. If your not having to revise your work than you are not being challenged. If you are not being challenged, you will never grow as a designer.
Try to look at design revisions in a positive light. Try not to allow yourself to become emotionally attached to the situation—in stead—try to view all revisions as objectively as possible. For those especially ridiculous clients or hard-to-swallow revisions—jot them down and step away. By allowing yourself time to emotionally defuse, you’ll return to the revision with a clear mindset and professional attitude.
That brings up one last thing…
Should you ever challenge a clients revision?
Yes. As a professional designer, it is your responsibility to provide your client the best possible design. At times, this may mean that you disagree with your client. It may also mean that you have to educate your client, but it never means that you undermine your clients authority or disrespect your client.
Ultimately, it’s your client’s project and professionalism demands that you be courteous and respectful to the wishes of your client. If you cannot abide by your clients wishes, you should politely and diplomatically remove yourself from the project, and recommend another designer.
Care to add something? Share your revision policy or client nightmare. It’s your turn to share.