Hourly jobs with unlimited changes

Wondering everyone’s opinion about something …
Say you’re working an hourly job and the client keeps coming back with changes to the point where it’s getting really annoying. Do you suck it up because you’re getting paid, or do you put your foot down for your own sanity?

Or maybe you don’t get annoyed at a lot of changes and you’re totally fine with it? Let me know, I want to hear about it!

My rates are generally client-based. Meaning, if I know the client will be trouble, I quote much higher rates because I don’t really want to work with them. I also give notice to client’s who are abusing their working relationship by giving unclear information (plausible deniability) or who keep changing their minds. Once the “reasonable” hours for a project has elapsed* I will charge a minimum of 1/4 hour every single time I open the file from then on. once the customer gets the itemized bill and sees 20-30 15 minute charges (changing a period to a comma), they get the hint.

*reasonable is totally subjective. Time = $. Don’t let client’s waste your money.

You must be pretty good at sniffing out trouble clients!
Sometimes they seem chill at first - then BAM! suddenly they get all crazy on ya.

I work with the same people over and over and weed out trouble clients. My boss knows so many people in the industry in this area that we know a lot of folks to avoid. But yeah, it’s difficult.

I had a situation where I was designing a leaflet for a company and my point of contact was the marketing manager. The marketing manager kept wanting to change the copy. She must have changed it at least 4-5 times. Due to the copy being changed I had to alter the layout of the piece and the sizing of some elements to allow for more or less text.

When it came to billing, the boss of the company wasn’t happy as he thought it shouldn’t have taken as long to complete the leaflet. I explained that his marketing manager kept requesting changes to the copy and had they been organised enough to know exactly what they wanted on the leaflet in the first place, it would have been finished a lot quicker. He wasn’t too happy.

So in this instance I look bad because it took longer than the boss expected, even though it was his staffs fault it took so long to complete.

I could have billed them for less hours than I actually worked to please the client and meet their expectations, but I really shouldn’t have to work for free. I do think it soured the relationship between myself and the client somewhat as I used to get a lot of work from them and now not so much.

To answer your question though, it doesn’t annoy me as long as I’m being paid, they can make as many changes as they want.

Charging for work hourly means you are covered anytime clients goes off-the-rails with revisions.

I understand how non-stop changes can be, but its the nature of the beast. “My clients should know exactly what they want before I start the project” is not a realistic outlook.

I’d suggest setting your hourly rate to a price that prevents revisions from feeling so annoying :wink:


I don’t care if they know exactly what they want before I start the project, as long as they don’t complain that the project then takes longer than expected as a result of all the changes they requested! lol

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I’ve had a couple experiences where it’s more of a micro-managing issue rather than the client not knowing what they want issue.

I like the way you think about pricing. Excellent - one million dollars an hour then!

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It depends. It’s easy money, but it’s also incredibly frustrating knowing that the client is paying extra to have the job turn out worse than it might have.

I do my best to head off these things by having solid strategies and practical, results-based reasoning behind my design decisions. Clients hire designers to provide expertise they don’t possess themselves. It’s part of our job to make sure our work meets the clients’ bottom-line objectives, which I make sure to discuss with them at the very beginning.

For example, a client might come to me asking for a brochure with this and that on it and looks a certain way. One of the first questions I’ll ask is why they think they need a brochure and what they want that brochure to accomplish for them. Asking these kinds of questions to get at the real reason they think they need what they asked for can be very enlightening and completely change the nature of the problem.

When prodded, the client might say she needs it for a trade show where she has a booth, and she wants something for passers-by to notice and pick up. Well, now I know the real purpose the brochure is meant to serve, which enables me to develop a strategy and a design that considers the dynamics of the trade show and what might prompt someone to pick up something and take it with them. The solution, might not be a brochure at all and might or might be best achieved in a way the client had not considered.

What I’m really saying is that once I’ve developed a well-thought-through and targeted custom solution that accomplishes the clients’ real objectives, the more ammunition l have when countering the client’s subsequent counterproductive suggestions. In other words, “Yes, I can change the background from orange to blue, but blue won’t be as noticeable to someone passing by your booth, which will decrease the number of people picking it up. I don’t recommend doing that. Are you sure you want to do it.”

Then again, even after all this, there are some clients who feel they know more than we do about design and no amount of strategic reasoning will dissuade them from the belief that we’re just hired hands to implement their bad ideas. I try to avoid those kinds of clients, but they’re not always obvious. When it happens, I just roll my eyes, charge them for the extra work that’s resulted in an inferior, less-effective product. I also have a good laugh about their costly bad judgment as I drive to the bank to cash their checks.


My record is 78 proofs.

It was a simple job - a small card, pic on one side, words on the other. The client sent me the text and asked me to reproduce the effect from another pic he had seen - just a kind of light stream/halo effect.

I did the artwork and sent him the first proof. He wasn’t happy with the pic and made some changes to the text. And so it went on. After about 15 proofs I asked the boss but she said go with it, so I did. We wanted to see how this would end. He changed the text completely 3 times. It went on for over 3 months.

I think he was just lonely.

I will keep making changes as long as the client wants to — as long as I’m getting paid. I include a line in my contract that says the project estimate includes up to XX hours for revisions and that time spent on revisions over and above that will be billed accordingly. “One round of alterations” does not equal “unlimited alterations.” I will let the client know when that time is maxed out so they understand they are paying for the changes over and above the original estimate.

just save graphics or changes because most of the time, the first design is always used!
i always kept photoshop designs as cd_cover1, cd_cover2 etc for new clients and ones who like drama.

You win! My record was 35, plus one at press. That was when I was working corporate, so projects were internal. We kept all records, as all good corporate citizen did, and that poor marketing fellow became some kind of cult hero.

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I particularly like the part where you do those 35 or 78 proofs and it comes to me, I do the press proof, and the content changes yet again. I’ve had outside-contract jobs where the contract says I have to do over proofs until it’s “accepted.” That changed right quick when we found out “accepted” also meant fixing their mistakes!

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Something tells me we need people like them.

I usually quote a flat rate for the first proof so they have some cost assurance, but after that, everything is at the hourly rate. So I don’t mind if they run up changes. My concern is that if the number of proofs gets too high, then that’s indicative of some other problems going on in their organization, and I want to make sure I’m not the scapegoat for that. That’s when I’ll request a meeting with a client to talk about the workflow.

I’ve started working this into proposals. On my catalogs I’ll get a lot of proofs back where there are only 1 or 2 text changes. And then there are a dozen proofs like this, with only 1 or 2 things changing. And it’s near the printer due date so everything needs to be rushed. It would preserve my sanity if they just held on to the proof a little longer and sent all those changes at once. Hopefully this will put some sense into them.

Mercy. My record is 18 proofs.

I hate that too. I tell my clients that the words “send to the printer” are sacred, and to not invoke them until they are really truly finished with changes. Because the printers may charge more if you start messing with their queue.

I’ve had heart to heart conversations once the money wasn’t enough for me to cope with them. One time I just told them “This project is getting really expensive. What can we do to get to the final version by your deadline?”

After that I’ve met with them to make changes with my computer in hand. It was more about my lack of patience than the money at that point.

I hardly ever mention this charge until either, 1. I have a strong suspicion the client is acting in bad faith, or 2. I plan on not working with the client again.

Normally, you’ll go back and forth a few times with the client. Then when you feel they are abusing the process, give notice of, then institute the charges.

On large (or multifaceted) projects this process can turn into days. This is easy to itemize by calling it a “consulting” fee instead of art charges - because these are the hours you are talking with the client. Consulting fees would never apply to individual pieces of art, but to the entire scope of the project.

This is more common than you might think. Worked for 7 months on Tequila labels for a woman out of The Bahamas. We never ended printing anything for her, but she had over 100 hours art time @ $60/hr. (shop rate).

Freelance is $120/hr.

I do have clients that I work with on retainer. Changes don’t bother me, unless we have a deadline, especially when it comes to print. If they shorten the print window to rush services through constant revision then complain about the increase in print prices, it can get stupid. I try to warn them before that comes into play. Also, they’re not my only client and they know that my work and changes/revisions are scheduled. I won’t drop everything to make a revision. Otherwise, change things all you want til you’re happy.

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