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How many design revisions do your clients get?

Table of ContentsUpdated Apr 08, 2011

One of my favorite pieces of design business advice comes from talented and successful designer, Christ Spooner. You can read about his advice (and some of mine) in detail by skimming through “Avoid Design Burnout by Limiting Client Revisions” but here’s the basic idea:

On Chris’s request for proposal page he includes the following phrase:
Don’t ask how many revisions are included in the cost

This is my most hated phrase in the design industry.

A Common Problem

Frankly, this is one of the most common questions I hear from designers. “My client keeps asking for more changes. What should I do?” Clearly offering too many design revisions is a problem in the design community, so today I want to ask you – how many revisions to your design clients get? (Leave a response)





What, you haven’t set a limit?

When and how to stop the madness

Those of you who know me, already know what I am going to say about controlling the number of revisions your client asks for:

Start with the contract.

If it’s written and signed, they’ll take it more seriously and you will have no obligation to go above and beyond the scope of the project. You can also set up milestones with your client to help them understand appropriate times to give feedback, make changes, and ask for a revision. Sometimes your client doesn’t even realize what he or she is doing when they ask for so many revisions. They see it as part of the design process when all you see it as is an annoyance.

A big one.

Change your destiny today

You’re not stuck dealing with clients who demand hundreds of revisions. Make a change today and start getting over this far-too-common problem in the design community.

How do you deal with revision inflation?

I’m totally opening this up to you now. How do you overcome revision inflation with your clients? How many revisions do you usually allow them to have? What’s your breaking point for revisions? Share your thoughts be leaving a comment.

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  1. Hi, very new web designer here.

    What do you guys consider a revision?? Like, if someone says “can we use this photo instead of that one?” is that considered one revision? Or if they say, “can we add another tab for xxxx?” thats obviously going to take way longer than changing a photo but if you give them three free revisions, then you add a-whole-nother tab for free?

    And by “rounds of revisions”, if you’re giving 3 free rounds of revisions, someone could send you an email with 20+ revisions and thats considered one round? and then another email with ten more? thats getting pretty extensive….I could see where charging hourly for revisions would come into play. Would love some input/opinions.

  2. Wow this is so eye opening.

    I am by no means an amazing designer but I’m not bad either.
    I have been redoing the same logo for almost 3 weeks (my second commission ever though) and have been paid already. They just keep asking me to change it!

    I was paid $250 when I originally quoted $150 because they felt generous and they were asking for changes late at night after I finished my real job but do you guys this this is bad?. Or should I just be glad I got that much?

    They have told me it’s done and perfect twice now and it’s getting insane.

    Since they’ve asked me for business cards and flyers they will all have to be changed before printing too.

    Any advice would be so appreciated.

    1. Hi Laura.
      I understand where you are now. Its rather unfortunate that there are such clients. But you have to be firm and stand your ground, or, like i just read in an earlier post by “BZ”, every next client will “include an infinite maintenance in your package.” [ For some reason i still can’t stop chuckling at that statement ].
      I assume you’ve heard the statement “customers do not know what they want”, right? Well, some customers tend to ride on this sentence like a 10-year old child using the fact that he is still young to make his mother breastfeed him. These type of clients are looking for “perfect” in your work, in the sense that when they themselves see it, they will be like “WOW”. They never know when to say “Ok, this will work.” They will want you to change something every time, as long as it’s free. I want YOU as a fellow designer to put a cork on that bottle. By giving them at least two or three free revisions, you let them understand that, though your work may not be perfect, you know what you are about. Only a client, who understands the value of your service and how important it is to him, will pay more.
      I know. This will be a client-repellent – at least the ones you will surely not wanna work with, But it helps you brand your service as different from the rest.

  3. I’m totally stuck with a client who has been adding new revisions every week for the last six months. Some edits are small, some large. And some edits are done several times. We’ve also had this client request to go back to previous edits that have been re-edited several times.

    Unfortunately there’s no contract. I have certainly learned my lesson. We estimated 40 hours and we’re approaching the 300 hour mark…

    At this point I’m thinking of letting them know that we just won’t make more edits unless she pays hourly or gives

  4. In approaching the “what is a revision”, we’ve found it useful to include something like: Initial concepts, and two further reviews of the selected direction included in the estimate.
    The Key point here is to manage the review process!!
    In combination with this, have a scheduled review period (2-3 days) where they can ponder and. If you action every incremental idea they keep firing off you’ll go nuts. Following that review period, schedule a call to talk about their ideas. Summarise this afterwards – get their approval on your summary – then go do your second draft.
    May sound like a long process but worth the hassle. Obviously a good discussion and brief to begin with does wonders.

  5. No, No, No, you make a change you pay for it. Put in place processes that cover supply of text images etc if it needs to be touched by you in any way other than dropped in the document or space it belongs charge, charge, charge. Make them aware of this from the start no one needs to work for nothing. Its not good for clients they learn to get away with. Its not good for us we learn to let the clients get away with it. Creative costs money. Don’t give it away.

    1. I was against using the charge for everything pricing model and had tried to be flexible with client revisions but having been stuck in a ‘final amendments’ stage for two months on a simple website, I will be amending my contract to make sure that it is much clearer in defining what constitutes a round of revisions!

      I think your contract should reflect your business to an extent. If you have big corporate clients you are more likely to be able to charge by the hour, for smaller clients with smaller budgets they will be happier to work on a fixed cost basis and what they’ll be getting for that.

    2. How do you handle a situation when several edits were missed? Do you still charge the client for our missed edits first or 2nd time?

  6. kitsunegari says:

    I’m an illustrator, but the same burnout criteria applies. I limit art directors to a couple rounds of revisions while my images are still in the drawing stage before I go to ink and (digital) color. My publisher blew through two rounds, approved revised drawings for finishing, and now is trying to get me to alter finished pieces because their author is throwing a hissy fit that it isn’t her “vision” for how she wanted it to look (she’s a nobody local musician with a God complex). I don’t get paid until this goes to print, so I’m here 180 hours in with nothing to show for it. Never working for publisher-who-must-not-be-named again… Quel nightmare.

  7. TaimaChan says:

    Ok, so I’m not a ‘professional graphic designer’. I am a creative jack of all trades (top academic grades, Triple distinction in BTEC Art and Design) who mainly freelances as a writer, musician, tattoo/graphic designer and film studio runner/editor/camerawoman. I paint, sculpt and make costumes so have a good artistic eye from a traditional point of view and awareness of things like character spacing etc.

    The only problem with being gifted and having lots of talents/interests is *everybody* asks you to do *everything*, and they want it as a favor. Even bigger clients. I think it’s because I’m young (an undergraduate) and too nice, yet I don’t want to turn work away cutting my nose off to spite my face. i hate appearing greedy, arrogant or mean simply asking to be paid for my time and the effort I put into everything as a perfectionist.

    I’ve just been paid Β£20 for 20 HOURS work on a logo including 13 different revisions. I’ve been getting out of bed at 3 am to respond to requested amendments via email. I’m still being asked to make revisions after the date of payment/deadline when the logo was meant to have been sent to the printers. No the client wants her money back because she fears she won’t be able to get to my logo to the printers on time. I have a blinding headache and just want to crawl into a hole. I love my work and need to make money whilst doing my degree but it just seems like all these shitty people want a piece of me for free.

    1. πŸ™ I feel for you. I just had the same thing happen and I finally stood up for myself. I even broke my own rule of taking it personally and when I explained to the client “no my packages don’t include lifelong maintenance” that I felt taken advantage of and all the extra things I did were not only under appreciated, also overlooked sometimes completely.

      I’m actually glad it happened because now look were both here and making some changes . Best of luck.

  8. I had an awful experience recently where it was a rush job, no contract, very loose brief, existing client, but new member of staff – I explained I had limited time to do it, so any amends needed to be within a 24 hr timeframe. The amends lasted for a week, then they came back to me to let me know that the client was going to change it themselves! I learnt my lesson from that, so I’ve now got to think up how to create contracts for each job I do.

  9. More of a side note but I think still relevant as it’s all about change management: Is anyone using any software to better manage the process? Allowing for the client to make markups to a webpage/design that you’ve drafted for them?

  10. Chris Stephens says:

    I usually prefer to provide customers with limited windows of time in which to submit revisions and those revisions should be submitted in one fell swoop, rather than via multiple emails. It’s worked well to ensure customers thoroughly review their website and take it seriously.

  11. We need to make money; just charge for any change after 3 revisions; your costumer will think twice next time.

  12. Geoffrey W says:

    Wow great write up! I am facing this problem also…My question is…How do you compete against the millions of “designers” out there that IS offering unlimited revisions?

    I am stuck in this same situation right now with a client because I was not getting any sales till I offered unlimited revisions, and now…it has bite me in my ass because I have literally done over 50 revisions for this client and I just want out already. I want to partially refund his money and call it quits with this client.

    So…back to my question, How do you compete and get sales when you are going up against designers WORLD WIDE! who offer unlimited revisions because they can literally survive off of 1 sale?

    1. Geoffrey W – if you do great work, you deserve great clients… Start charging for those revisions. I’ve been in your shoes before and thought the same thing you did. You want quality clients and quality clients won’t mind paying for revisions.

      Stick to your guns… Start charging for revisions. Your quality of clientele will get better over time when you do.

  13. Jay Llana says:

    Once client asked me if I do unlimited revisions, I explained that there are no such thing as unlimited revision but getting exactly what they want though the fact that its stated in my contract that I’ll do 3 rounds of revisions. I always sit down and explained clients that its better to know what they want than to scrape out all creativity out of my head revising artworks and it saves time too. I provide client information form which they can give idea what they want me to output also their personal preferences and everything they wanted, they can even draw ideas then I let them sign it(with the contract), from there I’ll draft their idea and I also make another using my own preferences, they choose, consolidate ideas on artworks shown to them then that’s the design proper by doing these I minimized the revisions because of client not knowing what they want. I also require them to provide all needed before the design proper. Getting paid is better if you know you also help people by doing your job plus the referral through hear says. πŸ™‚

  14. Spicle Media Web Design says:

    I offer two revisions and charge an hourly rate for any extra modifications. It also gets my busiest clients to really take the time to think through what they need changed before sending me the list. Offering too many revisions is time consuming for all parties involved and most of the time far less effective.

  15. Todd Lohenry says:

    I love your perspective on revisions and want to incorporate your perspective into your business. Do you have any sample agreement language that has worked for you?

    1. I’m looking for the same thing, I think I’ve got it.
      How about “… and due to the complex nature of the process , don’t be a greedy d*** head”

  16. No more that 3 revisions. This should be stated in your contract with your fee for additional revisions.

  17. GraphicDesignBoss says:

    I charge on an hourly rate and charge for ALL client revisions.

    They can have as many revisions they like as long as they pay for them.

    Infact I would say that you are seriously impacting your profitability going for any other model. It may sound a bit like hard ball for many, but seriously every large design house charges for everything.

  18. Grace Oris says:

    I don’t count but so far there haven’t been too many that they annoy me. I’m open to requests for revisions as long as these are justified. I wouldn’t want to call a project finished if I refused to change or add something that would actually complete and improve it.

    That said, this is why we should have a reason for every design decision we make based on professional standards and our expertise. Should a client ask for changes that we feel would “damage” the overall design, then we can explain why we ought not to make the changes. It also comes down to how we present ourselves to our clients if they can see us as trustworthy and professional enough to make design choices. Of course this doesn’t mean that we should be inflexible and know-it-all. We should learn to listen too because sometimes clients are right.

    It also helps to be specific when asking for their opinion. Instead of asking a general, “what do you think”, I ask “does this color combination convey your brand” or something like that. But then you should have a reason for using those colors in the first place. It’s more like a confirmation you are asking for.

    For content changes, I think it’s good practice to say at the start of the project that you expect the client to provide, as best as possible, complete content. If changes are to be made during the course of the project, these should be done in batches and not one at a time. Now that would be annoying.

    Anyway, we should know when too much is too much and say so then charge accordingly. And if this happens, hopefully next time, we would be wiser in dealing with clients and choosing which clients to take on or avoid.

    1. GraphicDesignBoss says:

      @Grace Oris, I think you are undermining your own profitability and confidence in your own work by having too many revisions, unless it annoys you.

      You deserve to be rewarded for the work you do!

      1. Grace Oris says:

        @GraphicDesignBoss, Not at all. If I did count, that would be three revisions at the most I think. It’s just that it isn’t a major issue for me. I make sure I have a purpose for my design decisions so there won’t need to be any revisions on the design aspect. For copy, I always check and recheck. I wouldn’t want the error to be from my end. Anyway, I charge by the hour πŸ™‚

  19. SmashingWall says:

    It is rare (from my experience) that when working as a creative that you don’t have a manager somewhere in the process who lacks creativity or understands design. These people are usually qualified at managing, and have a say in what gets sent to the customer.

    Minimally, you should have at least one revision as your design should go through a QA process and things such as spelling and other content-specific requirements are addressed.

    Past that, I always try to encourage management to allow the customer to drive changes. It is easy to get into a cycle of changing things simply because management likes to get involved in the design, and ultimately you end up wasting production time on it.

  20. Conor O'Driscoll says:

    “Christ Spooner”, eh? I mean, his designs are pretty God-like, but he’s not quite the second coming πŸ˜‰

    Personally, for logo design, I have 3 concepts and five revisions. Any other revisions cost more.

  21. I’m going to go with 3 even though I have been down this path before. The contract is a great idea to keep revisions from dragging projects out and potentially ruining great designs. It also allows you to move on with new projects and keep you from being overwhelmed with tasks that should be considered complete.

    One I’m back on my own, my contract will have 3 revisions at intervals of the design and development process. Then I will have them sign off on work, probably through email, before we move onto the next stage of the project. I’ve read a lot about this kind of thing and notice the more you structure you design and development process, the smoother it can go. Best of luck to anyone trying to make ever change a client asks for. Great article Preston.

    1. I recently overhauled my process and introduced a welcome packet that I thought would structure the process In the mind of my clients. I say clearly that I offer 3 rounds of revisions but I’m going to change that because as We’re all agreeing on; a round of revisions is pretty vague. Today I had a client send a 21 slide power point of a layout with notes. I had already said $75 per extra rounds of revisions. That would be fair probably on average. I really shot myself in the foot because I’m choosing to eat the cost. I’m so happy I found this thread and I so hope to chat with some of you about this

  22. I also write in a clause that basically says what I count as a revision and where I choose to draw the line is ultimately my call, which stops any discussion on the point. But I also don’t specify revisions in “rounds”, I specify them in hours – which makes it very difficult for the client to judge anyway.

    I find rounds of revisions difficult to judge, as Katy points out what counts as a “round” is very arbitrary.

    I actually draw the line when the client asks repeatedly for things that are contrary to original brief. Or if they start revisions on a particular design and then decide it’s not any good after all and want something new. If they’ve specifically asked me to do something and then change their mind, that’s the point at which I tend to want to start charging extra if we’re above an beyond time specified in the contract.

    1. GraphicDesignBoss says:

      @Lily, You are very generous Lily. I think you would find that most people are prepared to pay if they make changes for subjective reasons.

    2. Wow! What a great idea. You are right…rounds of revisions are very arbitrary. However, if specified in hours it does clear things up. And I can easily put a cap on hours. One round of revisions could take hours or minutes…depending on the client and project. Thanks. I’m going to add this to my proposals from here on out.

  23. Kendall Vollucci says:

    I TRY to stick to my guns, but typically it’s 3 for my clients – after that I start charging per hour. It’s all up front and agreed on first before any work is started of course. But bottom line is they wouldn’t do any work for free so they don’t really give me a hard time about it. Good Luck!

    1. GraphicDesignBoss says:

      @Kendall Vollucci, I think 3 rounds of revisions is too many Kendall, you are still giving them 3 rounds for free. Think of the $$ time over a year and what you would make if you charged for that time.

  24. I think its really up to your discretion based on your relationship with the client. If you feel the need to have it in writing at the time of contract signing, then put it in there. From experience I see that often the customer doesn’t know what they want until they have seen the finished product, so having to revise or even redesign from the ground up does happen, but that depends on the terms of the contract. This is one of the reasons I generally work on an hourly basis.

    If I work on a flat rate fee and have it in a written agreement with the client I factor in knowing that there are going to be revisions. Its just a given. Especially when the customer has no idea what they want until they see it live and are interacting with it, they may have a new idea that enhances the overall purpose of their site or designed product.

    Revisions are part of the process, at least where I come from, and I expect it to a certain point, but having an honest and firm dialog with the client can help keep this in check without having to put it in writing. Sometimes putting it in writing can cost you the job since the client may come to expect the ability to make changes on the fly, and if you aren’t flexible enough to at least make a few changes, in a way you are doing yourself a disservice. The client may see that and feel they aren’t getting the best deal and just move on to someone else.

    Now, when I say you are doing yourself a disservice, don’t get me wrong. I am by no means a push over. But I go out of my way to help my clients because it has become one of my greatest selling point. Its what has gotten me BONUS TIPS on top of the contractual agreements. Who doesn’t love getting paid a little extra? It also helps word of mouth to like minded clients who have all come to me from referrals so take it with a grain of salt that you should consider doing revisions. It reflects on your work ethic and your reputation for how you administer your services. Be firm with your clients, but don’t limit their revisions when it may mean the difference in their overall brand and company profile. Your creativity should be used to their advantage and your own, and in limiting revisions, you may even knock your own design down a notch, when the revision might come out even better than your original designs and help your portfolio even more.

    With that said, there are always going to be clients from hell. Lets face it, some clients need to be given the boot, and for that I can say cut all ties with these people. I’ve had to do it with clients in the past, and its the best thing you can do to keep your sanity and focus on what is important; giving the customer a great end product and keeping your integrity in check while earning the respect of your clients and peers.

  25. J.M. Waters says:

    I am a fairly new Graphic Designer and have only recently begun going after clients full force. In thinking through the number of revisions I allow clients. I have settled on 3 (for now). My reason for doing so a two-fold: It sets a limit on revisions while allowing the client to offer feedback.

    I think allowing some revisions, for me, at this point is healthy as it will teach me what clients expect and lessen any need for revisions on future work.

    I welcome any and all feedback on this.

    1. GraphicDesignBoss says:

      @J.M. Waters, have confidence in your own ability Mike, charge for your work. If you add the time that you give away over the year you will see your true earning potential.

  26. My limit on revisions often is determined by the client’s budget. A very low budget may only get one round of revisions. A larger budget gets 3. I can’t say I’ve ever built more than 3 rounds of revisions into a contract.

    But my question to you is how do you determine what constitutes a “round of revisions”? It’s easier to tell with something like a logo design. But when working on a project with more components (like a brochure, or a website, that has design/copy/programming involved), I think it is trickier to tell.

    Sometimes, I have a client that works just how I hope they will–gathering all revisions and sending complete lists from everyone involved at once with all their wishes. But more often than not, the changes and edits just trickle in. A small adjustment here. A text edit there. One last rewrite. One more adjustment to the page style. And no matter how many times I remind them that it’s better to do a group of edits at once, rather than in pieces, the client can’t always seem to adjust their working style. So the lines of one round of revisions into the next get very blurred. How do you avoid that problem?

    1. GraphicDesignBoss says:

      @Katy, sharpen that line for revisions by charging for everything you do. You are worth so much more than that.

      Your clients wouldn’t work for free and neither should you πŸ˜‰