We are currently in the middle of working with 8 amazing women in the Get Back to Design Accelerator, and we have been enjoying helping them with their design businesses so much.
Last month we were talking to them about simplifying the client process, and when we were covering that the topic of revisions came up. Around the same time, Kory also was coaching one of the members on how to reduce revisions in general.
We know revisions are a big frustration for designers, and we’re shocked we haven’t covered this topic already. Today we’re covering how to manage revisions with clients and sharing a few tips on how you can reduce them.
What are revisions (versus changes)
Let’s start by covering what a revision actually is. To us “revision” means changes or general updates to the design that was originally agreed upon. A “change,” on the other hand, is an update to the project scope, something that wasn’t mentioned at the beginning of the project.
Revisions and changes differ throughout the project. For example, it might be a revision to change how the header is laid out during the web design stage, but once that design is approved and the site goes off to development, that same update would be considered a “change”.
How many should you offer?
This depends on your process and timeline with client projects. When Kory first started, she offered 3 revisions for the two main parts of her projects (3 for branding and 3 for web design). However, as she got more experience as a designer and working with clients, she reduced those down to 2 for branding and 1 for the website design.
When you’re deciding on how many revisions you want to offer your clients, think about the flow of working on your projects. It’s helpful to look at how many revisions previous clients have requested or needed to get a good idea of how many you’ll need.
How long should you give clients for revisions?
The deadline you set for clients to give you feedback on the work really depends on your project timeline. We both recommend around 2-3 days for this, though. It’s long enough that they can have time to review your work and really be thoughtful in what they’re requesting. It’s also not too long that they forget about it altogether.
What do you do after that?
Once you hit the included number of revisions, most designers will bill an additional fee for the work that’s being done. We find it’s important to keep going on a project instead of forcing your client to settle with the work so you can ensure that the client is happy.
However, it’s really important to take a look at the project and consider why there have been so many revisions. There may be a disconnect between what the client was expecting and what you are creating. Instead of continuing revisions, you may have to go back to the drawing board entirely, and that’s okay. If you find yourself in that situation, you may want to work on how you’re onboarding your clients and the beginning stages (like the strategy phase) of your process.
How to reduce revisions
Let’s transition a bit here and talk about how you can actually start to reduce the number of revisions you’re working through with your clients.
“Refinements” not “revisions”
There’s something in the psychology about the difference in word choice here. Instead of asking your clients if they have any “revisions,” reframe that for them and call it the “refinement” stage. The word “revision” naturally opens up the door pretty wide to clients, especially if they aren’t sure what you’re looking for in terms of feedback or requests.
Whereas there’s something about the term “refinement” that feels more specific and would encourage a client to request smaller tweaks instead of major design changes.
Set boundaries around what’s included
Kory shared that one of the members of our Accelerator realized she was doing a lot of revisions and some of it was copyediting for her clients’ site copy. If you don’t mind doing this type of stuff for your clients, then that’s okay. The time for copy changes is not during the design phase, though.
So many designers find themselves in that place of clients asking for things beyond what the designer should be working on in the revision phase. This is why it’s important to set boundaries around what you’re going to do in the revision stage for your clients. This can be done in your contract, Intro packet, Welcome packet, Asana (or other project management software), and it also doesn’t hurt to remind them throughout the process.
Present your work
Abbey was just on the podcast last week, and she talked a lot with Kory about presenting your design work. One of the major benefits of taking this extra step in your projects is that presenting your work allows your clients to understand the decisions you’ve made, which naturally cuts down on a lot of changes.
Keep clients updated on how many rounds are left as you go
Another great way to reduce revisions with clients is to simply remind them of how many are left while you’re working. When you send the design to them for the first round, tell them it’s their first round of revisions. When you start the last round, remind them that you’re at the last round of revisions that’s included in their project.
This doesn’t have to be overly complicated. I usually include one casual sentence in my Asana task description so clients know where we’re at on the number of revisions.
Have them physically sign off after each portion of the project
If you don’t want to open revisions to a specific part of the project back up after it’s been approved, have your clients physically sign off on a sub-contract. It can be super short, just saying they approve what has been done and explaining what will happen if they want additional revisions on that portion moving forward.
- Decide how many rounds of revisions you want to include
- Decide what will you do with clients if they need to go over your set number of revisions
- Identify problem areas in your onboarding or process – do you need to improve anything to limit how many revisions are needed?
- Update your onboarding material and project process to make revisions clear + keep clients updated throughout the process