Freelance Designer Dilemma

Hello All

I have a client who wants many things done in a short amount of time.

Its confusing as usually I am a full-timer or someone hires me for a certain amount of projects as a retainer.

The client refused to keep me on a retainer but keeps adding to the workload. It’s confusing I don’t think my rate card is clear.

The client keeps changing their mind as I guess this is all new to them as well.

How do you manage to quote or charge them for small things as well?
Is there a normal forumla I should use…

Thank you

Welcome to the wonderful world of freelancing.

You will only learn by experience how best to handle individual clients like this.

However, make it clear from the outset what your terms and rates are. Have a contract that specifies, how many rounds of corrections are included (I have up to three), after which they will be charged by the hour for further amends, or up to 100% for a complete redo.

Knowing they are paying money for each time they fiddle around, steels the mind wonderfully and they usually become much more efficient and accurate with revisions. All the while they can get you to keep making changes for free, there is no incentive to make a final decision.

Ultimately, if you are open with them all along, you can’t go for far wrong. ‘Yes I can make that change. It will, of course, incur a charge…’ over and above the agreed amount of revisions.

Clients keeping you on a retainer is not massively common. Most clients employ freelancers on an ‘as needed’ basis. Fair enough. Do you keep you mechanic on a retainer, or just take your car on when needed.

That they keep adding to your workload is not a bad thing. It means you have work coming in – unless they keep adding to it and not expecting to pay more for it. At which, point you need to be open and honest with them.

As to small jobs they keep adding, you can either price them up as you pull any other, or agree with them that for the toddlers, you’ll just charge at an hourly rate. I do this with many of my clients with a minimum quarter of an hour charge. By the time you’ve fiddled around, set up a job number and opened the right files, you’ve always used up the minimum charge.

Remember, freelancing is running a business like any other. 30-40% of it is going to be stuff, other than design: client liaison, invoicing, accounts, etc.

Good luck.


Fire them.

How the hell did corrective typing change ‘amendments’ to ‘toddlers’?!


Thanks for your reply. It really helps.

You have to start with a contract.
When they suggest adding work, that’s an “addition to project scope” and you tell them you will issue a change order for the new charges. You can also tell them additional work doesn’t proceed until they sign/agree to the new charges.
That’s how we do it because “Scope Creep” is a very real thing in my industry.

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Get a copy of the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook or Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. It’s an essential reference that will explain all the issues and provide sample contracts.

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The usual way is you take on a project, you charge 30% upfront at the beginning and then 70% when the job is completed. The issue is that some people won’t pay you the full and expect a little more work out of you.

Eg. They wanted a Business card mockup only so I gave them one or two versions.

A mockup doesn’t mean the actual designed Card. The client I think doesn’t understand so he wants lots of versions until it is done.

Now I am saying that I am happy to work with them and make the design better and give them further options for just a little more money.

Client says no. Should I do it to get that 70% or should I just leave it.

This is when I think maybe there should be a 30%, 50% then a final 20%…

Even I’m not sure exactly what you’re selling here. How can you sell just a mockup of a business card? Do the send you a logo and you make a pretty picture?

And if your contract says 2 mockups for this much, anything more is more money.

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Good to know that you are doing your project. However, if the client is increasing your workload, it also reflects his confidence in your professional skill. Moreover, you can also let him/her know that I charged the previous amount in which the additional work was not including.
Ask the client if the additional work is to be done, let’s modify the contract and you please add some more charges as per the workload.
It’s a very simple solution. If I were at your place, I would do the same.

All the best.


For all of the small projects, I would create a weekly or monthly time card and bill down in 15-minute increments. Then at the end of the week or month send the client the bill. After the first few months they will get the point that your time is valuable and stop bothering you with small projects.

How is the retainer stuff coming along? I have been trying to figure out a way to do retainer work.

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