Minimize client revisions by pitching your proof like this:

If you’re anything like me, the absolute very last thing on your mind after finalizing a proof is your pitch.

At this point you’re reeking of awesomeness and positively giddy with the prospect of  reveling in the praise and glory your client is going to heap upon you from the moment they see your brain-child.

Okay, so maybe you’re not that excited (or maybe you are!).

But likely it’s late (early?), you’re tired, or you just want to move on to the next project that is a day or two behind. If there were only a way to do a brain-to-brain transfer of all the reasoning, tweaking, and thought that went into your proof, surely your client wouldn’t ask you to put a revolving kitten that meows Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in the upper right-hand corner.

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Once you understand how to pitch your proof, however, you’ll give your proof a solid foundation from which to shine. Below are a few tips on pitching your proof in a way that will make any client happy: (PS. If you have any to add, leave a comment on this post and let me know.)

Use Their Words

When drafting your proof, always mirror the wording and concepts of the contract (which ought to mirror those of the client). If they signed a contract stating “consistent with our brand guidelines” then use those exact words to describe your proof. For example, “I used <insert element>, which is consistent with your brand guidelines…” If they ask for a design “that instills confidence in our customer base” then specifically reference fonts, colors or elements that are typically trusted and therefore instill confidence.

By using phrases or wording previously agreed upon, you demonstrate to your client that your proof fits the description of their needs.

Connect your Proof to your Client

Show how your design is an extension of your client and/or their business. Discuss how the green represents their Irish background or how the diamond shape suggests gems and therefore the gaining of wealth.

Give your client a personalized connection to the design; this gives them a reason to like it.

Justify your Proof with Design Principles

Explain why your proof exhibits good design principles. Talk about the hierarchy of the page and how (in the contract *hint hint*) the logo needed to be the focus and therefore to gain the most visibility you centered it and…(you get the idea).

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Just be careful not to use jargon your client is unfamiliar with or they’ll start to think you’re bluffing. The idea isn’t to sound super-smart, just to be super-clear.

Polish your Pitch

Finally, polish your pitch. If you’re meeting in person or via conference call, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. You should exude confidence in every ounce of your being.

Be proud of your proof and at the very least, be able to recount the talking points of each one with ease.

If you’re sending an email, proofread your pitch.

Go to the bathroom or get a drink of water.

Now proofread again.

One of the worst (WORST!) errors you can make is sending a pitch with typos regarding any proof that contains text.

After you’ve finished your pitch…

Prepare for questions

Why did you choose this font?
What about right-justifying this text?
Do you think boxes with rounded corners would look better?

Rather than counting the hours of editing after repeating “sure, I can try that” about 20 times, work out a response that might help steer your client away from 300 minor versions (besides the price tag).

“Well, I tried right-justification but with the curvature of this element, left-justification looked much better.” “I wanted to see what yellow would’ve looked like, too, but it just drew the attention off of the text.”

By helping them understand that you’ve already done all the work of trying to find the best option, they will appreciate the time and effort you saved them in reviewing other options.

How do you minimize client revisions?

Okay Millo readers, it’s your turn. How do you pitch your design proofs? What works for you? What doesn’t? What elements did I miss? Leave a comment on this post!

Photo by JD Hancock

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  1. I am a relatively new design student and just starting to do a few design projects. This information is so helpful to me. Thank you April for such awesome insights. It is challenging to put it all together and y our insights here have been very valuable for me as I work to pitch my final draft of a design. Thanks

  2. A good article and I think a lot of the points you make about reflecting back what the client says and thinks are particularly valuable.

    I also think we have to be careful not to cross a line and inadvertently manipulate a client into accepting work that maybe they shouldn’t. I say this on two grounds: firstly that it could become unethical; secondly because they could end up with something that does not actually work for them, so somewhere down the line they realise it is not what they want or need – that’s not good for them and not good for a designer’s reputation.

    I think the best work often gets done through a genuine partnership between designer, client and other stakeholders. So we need to have honest communications and everyone should be encouraged to explain their decisions and ideas openly. It’s the designer’s job to solve problems – so if the kitten singing Michael Jackson’s Thriller is proposed, we need to understand why, have an honest discussion about why this is not a good idea (I know, there are so many reasons!) and come up with an alternative solution that fulfils the client’s need.

    Thanks for an interesting article and discussion.

  3. Great article. I’m guilty of asking ‘what do you think?’ when I present a proof, and I’m going to work on not doing that anymore.

  4. Hey, I tried this, and it worked! I sent my client one final design option that he requested. I started to just say “let me know your thoughts” then I thought, no… wait… I should extol the virtues and point out how I did exactly what he asked me to do and how each element represented his request.

    The response was, “This is a winner. I really like it. Done.”

    Music to my eyes!


    1. Curious how you would pitch multiple proofs. For example, I usually submit several design concepts (3-4 and sometimes more if I get inspired). Would you write 3-4 pitches extolling the virtues of each rough draft? What if you don’t like one of them? Let’s say, for instance, they asked specifically for the revolving kitten (LOL) and you HATE the idea, but do a one off just to appease the revolving kitten lover in them, then do 3 more outstanding iterations to show them the error of their kitten loving ways. (sorry, it’s early….I’m perhaps a bit giddy from lack of sleep.)

      1. Tamian,

        Great question, and I kind of gloss over that point in my article. When I write or prepare my pitch, I go over each concept and how they differ but have a strong correlation to the needs. I did a logo, and I presented several versions…in two of the versions, the font was different, so I outlined the “feel” of each font. (One was more traditional professional while the other had a more modern look.)

        If you make something that you hate but they request, try try try to find something positive about it and then lay out the 5 negatives (i.e. The revolving kitten might appeal to the animal lover in them, but the website is selling BB guns primarily to adolescent males, and this might suggest a negative behavior. You company doesn’t want to promote that type of activity.)

  5. One of the things I’ve learned over time is that when presenting a design to a client you should never say, “Here’s the design …. let me know what you think.”

    I was a bad offender of this. I mean, I wanted to know what they thought of the design, right? Well, yes, but I learned that you really have to guide a client from word go and that certainly includes when you present them with concepts.

    What the article touches on is perfect. Use the client’s own words. Making statements about the design like that is probably the best thing you can do. The next best is to actually ask them, “Is this in line with your brand/the goal of the project/your target market, etc. etc.?” Does it meet the needs outlined in the agreement?

    On logo projects, we always do concepts in black and white first. I fully explain why we do this with the client. Basically, we have found over the years that if we present full color concepts initially, the client will get hung up on the color. And with logos especially, color should be secondary. You should be able to run a photocopy off of the logo and still recognize it as the logo. So get the concept down first, then get color choices from the client and add those in. I’ve often found showing them a slight variation on each color also helps them decide better.

    On web design, we do wireframing first (which technically does work for print too). Creating these has saved us endless amounts of time. I also explain to clients why we take this step. It’s really to avoid surprises when presenting a concept. We work together with the client on placement and what elements should be on the page before we even open Photoshop to start on a design.

    1. Sherry,

      First paragraph is a WINNER!!!! (All the rest rock, too.)

      Thanks for sharing. Excellent advice!

  6. I am a nightmare at this and usually end up giving my clients way too many options (on logos especially). I like to give them the good, the bad and the ugly and sit down and let them go through the options first without my input. Then we re-vist each one and talk through what is good or bad about each to try and get a feel for what the client likes.

    I find if you connect with someone and ask lots (no loads) of questions before you start the process you get a much better result and an easier and smoother process.

    I know there are also clients who just seem to always go with the worst stuff. I find this hard but always try to remind myself that they are the paying customer and they have their own idea to and try to reach a happy medium that we are both happy with. My work is also my reputation so we have to be at least reasonably happy with the client decisions.

    Problem is as a designer (and I am sure we are all the same type) I can always look back and think how I could have done something better but you have to have a point where as long as the client is happy and you have put the work in it is time to finish, and then celebrate another successful project.

    1. Jason:

      Great points! I especially like your comment about finishing a project and not trying to perfect each one to death. Sometimes art is never truly finished, but being satisfied with the result and letting go is a very useful skill!

      When creating proofs for a project, I try to limit the number of options to 3, maybe 4 at the most. I also talk with them about mixing and matching elements/fonts/colors between proofs, or going in new direction altogether if they don’t see anything they like.

  7. Excellent article. I will add that as a designer, art director, creative director or any other creative person, your craft is only one form of your communication. Every email I write and every conversation I have with the client are all in alignment with substantiating the desired outcome of the project.

    The most successful creatives understand that clients aren’t only interested in how something looks—clients expect to see a return on their investment… so when you present your work to them it’s super important to explain why something you’ve done will help convert a visitor into a customer, for example.

    1. Jonathan:

      Thank you for your comment! Excellent point about ROI – show your client that your work will help improve their bottom line. This is ultimately why they hired you!

      I hope to see you around Millo again! Your input has been fantastic.

      (Neat website too!)

    1. Gustavo,

      It’s true that raising the cost always helps minimize revisions, but to me it’s all about customer service. You want your client to be happy with their final design, right? If they don’t like it and won’t make any revisions, then they probably aren’t going to bring you any repeat business.

      I always provide time in my contracts for revisions. That’s just part of the quote. After a certain number of hours (depending on the size of the project), an hourly wage kicks in. I keep them informed of how close we’re getting to that mark, and generally they stay within the limitations I’ve set.

  8. I find that utilizing Skype to have a voice/video conversation about a proof is an effective method. The screen sharing is a useful feature for sure. And as Tyler mentioned having a meeting whether in person or via Skype is a great way to get real-time feedback, address questions, as well as present your thought process with regards to your design choices. Plus getting some face time in is another important aspect of building a positive client relationship and can only help with getting on the same page as your client.

    1. Chris,

      Thanks for bringing up Skype! You are so right about building a good relationship with long distance clients – people are very responsive to faces, and making yourself a person rather than just a mystery designer a few time zones away goes a long ways toward retaining clients and repeat business.

  9. I like to show their version of requested changes and my solution. This way they can compare the two and you can then explain why your solution works better. Also limit your revisions, presenting too many revision will confuse both parties including yourself. Number each revision/file name you send. Also in your contract make sure that you have a clause stating that after so many days past the completion due date set in your contract the project has to be finalized (this way your not waiting forever to get feedback from the client and your project is stalled). In your contract state number of revisions you will provide. In my case I have stated number of hourly revisions they have. Once your past that, then you have to charge for additional time/revisions. Make sure your always communicating this with the client and keeping them informed about cost.

    1. Great words of wisdom here in staying organized amidst revisions, and too many revisions…they say that presented with too many options, the brain gets overwhelmed and chooses nothing at all (studies done in grocery stores, for example).

      As I say to Gustavo (a few comments down), you and I have the exact same method for revisions: a set number of hours based on project size, and then an hourly wage – with good communication about how much time they have left.

  10. What a nice write-up and great points of what to include. Tyler’s correct, many people do forget that there is more pitching involved after the initial sale.

    1. Thanks, Traci!

      You hit the nail on the head…no rest for the wicked…errrr…designers!, even after you’ve sold them on your services.

    1. Thanks – I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Where are you located? Do you find that your clients sometimes feel like they *need* to make a change just so that they feel involved?

      I’m excited to see Millo reaches multiple cultures!

  11. Nice post. I think a lot of people forget that just getting the client isn’t the only pitch. The amount of extra/wasted time a project takes up is dependent on how well you sell the client on your first project draft.

    Personally, I don’t like doing it by email. Another 40 minute meeting can save hours of back and forth by email.

    1. Thanks, Tyler!

      So many revisions can be avoided (which gives you more time for other projects) if you put some time and effort into your pitch.

      I love that you try to get away from the impersonality of email – sometimes it is so hard to convey your intent and emphasis in an email. A lot of my clients are too far to meet in person, so I send my pitch in an email with the proof and schedule a phone call so that we can go over the proof together.

    2. I like putting things in writing, especially when it comes to presenting logos. Clients like to show other people… business partners or even friends and family who may not be apprised of the project objectives. For that reason, the written text, which I place directly on the page with the logo, serves as my explanation when I don’t have the luxury of presenting to the viewer. Of course I understand that once a logo is complete it needs to speak for itself—that’s a totally different issue than deciding on which logo is most suitable based on the project parameters.

      1. Jonathan,

        Excellent words of wisdom. Often the pitch you give to your contact is exactly what they show/try to repeat to their boss, so it’s very important that they get it right.

  12. Great article! Nonetheless, does anybody know of pitch template, like a Word document or such, that would allow me to put all this information in a nice layout to present my clients?

    1. Nicole,

      That’s a great idea! Unless someone else has a solution for you, I’m in the midst of branding my freelance design (see the recent Millo post about naming a business), so I’m working on a logo and then collateral (business cards, contract, pitch template now that you mention it!, etc.)

      I will be unveiling my work right here at Millo as sort of a case study for the Millo community…follow along in the coming months to see the progress and I will be sure to include a pitch template!

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