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How to prevent endless design revisions

As a freelancer, most likely you've had the experience of working with a client who won't stop asking for changes. While some revisions are inevitable, too many revisions can be costly to you as they use up your time, delay the project completion (and the final payment), and can be detrimental to the quality of the final product.

Let's face it - situations where the client approves your first design take as is are rare. With most projects a client will request changes. In many cases change requests are productive and valid. The client trusts your abilities and best intentions. However, the client might have come up with other ideas since the initial discussion, or had not communicated certain requirements well enough. Or, since design is subjective, the client's preferences are simply different from yours. These types of revisions should be anticipated. 

The trouble starts when revisions happen for the wrong reasons: either the client lost faith in you, or you are stuck with a micromanaging unreasonable client. 

1. It is all about trust

Trust is a critical factor in sales, and it is equally as important for the success of the project. When trust fades away, working together becomes difficult.

Typically clients want to provide input, but they'd rather let the expert be in charge. Too many requests, especially specific requests (on what colors or fonts to use) may be an indication that the client does not feel that you are doing your best work, or that you are competent to produce what they need without being told what to do. 

The key is to do everything possible to make sure the client maintains confidence in your abilities, and in you personally. Aside from incompetency, the loss of trust can happen for reasons that could have been easily avoided, such as: 

  • You appear to be rushed and not dedicating enough attention to the project and understanding of the client's needs. 

Completing a project quickly has its merits. In some instances, however, it is far more valuable to slow down, ask additional questions, research and present a few options, and anticipate some collaboration and change requests.

  • The client is not sure that you have their best interests in mind.

If a client is requesting an expensive feature that you know won't help them advance towards their goals - state your opinion about it. The client should always feel that you have their best interests and expenses in mind.

  • The client feels there is not enough transparency.

This is easier for established agencies that are able to invite clients to their spacious offices to observe the creative minds working away on fancy hardware. 

Freelancers don't have this luxury, but there are other things you can do. At a minimum you should keep your client up to date on what you are working on and estimated completion dates. Needless to say it is important to be honest as well as stick to your promises. 

2. Present your designs

Never simply email a preview link to the client. Even if your ideas make complete sense to the main client contact person on the project, they will likely forward your design to others for feedback, and this is where the trouble can start as 3rd parties sway your client with personal opinions. 

Instead, present your designs by clearly explaining why you made the choices you made. This also gives you the opportunity to hear feedback firsthand and collaborate productively (even little "disagreements" are easier to resolve in person or via the phone than via email). 

This also gives your the chance to remind the client that they do not have to come up with specific ideas. Instead they should simply communicate why they are not a big fan of a certain design aspect, and let you figure out the appropriate alternative.

3. Set clear expectations on how your revision process works

You should think through the revision management process and educate your clients on how you manage revisions. If you mention that X rounds of revisions are included in the proposal, you need to clarify what a round of revisions is. For instance: once the design is presented and you collect all the feedback and present a new version, this concludes one round of revisions.

If more requests come in after the specified number of revisions, then don't be shy about letting the client know that additional work will result in extra cost. 

And finally, how do you deal with unreasonable clients? 

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the relationship simply does not work. The client is being disrespectful, micro-managing, or their expectations are flat unreasonable. You may choose to do your best to wrap up the project, but ending such relationship sooner other than later may be the most productive thing to do. 


[Image credit: TheMonitorDaily]


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