Infinite Revisions Drive you Crazy? 5 Tips Help your Ad Agency Cope

We’ve all been there, after pouring your heart and soul into a project you supply your best work to your client and they ask you to make some changes. Some tweaks, some minor adjustmentsrevisions, whatever you want to call them, they happen right?!

Design is a funny business, it’s a respected profession but at the same time, we all know those clients who think they know a lot better than agencies with years of experience. I mean, you wouldn’t turn around and tell your plumber “Hey, you know what? I think I have a better way to fix those pipes − follow my lead okay?”

However, when it comes to design everyone has an opinion. So, how do you manage this? Especially when it comes to fifth or even sixth round revisions when often your initial design is so diluted that you no longer recognize it. Worse still, you might be embarrassed by it after all of your clients’ “tweaking”! Also, you get things like scope creep where those “small tweaks” turn into full-blown redesign; lots of extra hours of work and little payoff if you haven’t counted for it in your initial estimate. Finally, no one wants to feel like a puppet who exists simply to carry out your client’s orders. It’s a relationship and they are coming to you for your expertise so a healthy respect and balance are needed.

So, brace yourself, here is how you can deal with those countless revisions:

1)   Cover yourself

Put limitations in your contract with your client. If you want to create 3 comps and limit the client to a set number of revisions per comp, outline this very clearly in your estimate. Specify that anything beyond, let’s say, 3 comps and 3 revisions to a particular comp will cost, most often a house hourly rate. Give extra revisions a monetary value! Some design houses only do 1 comp and allow 4 – 5 revisions before charging, it’s entirely up to you how you want to structure this.

2)   Put a lot of time into briefing

Nailing the briefing stage can eliminate how many revisions the client may request. The more time you spend getting to know your client and their requirements the better your results will meet their needs. Check out our tips on how to write an effective creative brief and download our creative brief samples and website creative brief template with a creative brief template for branding.

3)   Call or better still meet your client regularly

You always want to present your work in a professional way; this can be better done in person or by call where you can explain your reasoning clearly and why the design works. Also, it can be hard to set boundaries over email. By speaking to your client regularly you can establish boundaries and maintain good rapport (you want that glowing testimonial at the end right?!)

4)   Let your client know what stage they are at

Sometimes people have a very selective memory so you need to remind them. State very clearly what constitutes a revision and let your client know what revision stage they are at often so no lapses in memory can occur.

“Just to let you know that this is your second revision out of 3 included in the initial estimate”.

It may sound harsh but it forces them to structure their feedback well and concisely rather than giving you lots of little changes again and again.

5)   Know when to quit and recognize early

Finally, it is important to remember that sometimes clients can be just downright difficult. Some clients will ask you to change your design so much that it looks horrendous. “I want every color under the sun and by the way, I really love comic sans”.

Sometimes no amount of design advice and consulting can change their mind. Make sure you have an organized action and communication plan when you disagree with a client as you’ll need to show the value of your opinion and your work. So, you have two options either bow out of the project if you really can’t bring yourself to make these changes or swallow your pride, design as the client wants it (and hope no one ever knows you designed it!) and get paid.

Some design shops request that in these cases the client not recognize the design house, and obviously, this is a decision which must be undertaken carefully as it can affect the future relationship with the client and the ability to use the piece in a portfolio.

The choice is yours. These tough relationships can be excellent for career building. Managed well you can gain some extremely loyal clients, and at worst next time you will learn to filter your clients, brief extra well, recognize the warning signs for these kinds of jobs earlier and not end up so frustrated.

Good luck!

Karen O’Mahony | fp. Training Consultant

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