New one on me

When I quote design work, I always specify that it includes one round of revisions/edits. After that, revisions and edits are chargeable. I find that by saying that it helps motivate people to proof the whole document before sending corrections. So we go through the process, I design and send first proof, client approves as is and says go to print - this never happens with a new client but there’s always a first time I guess. I print, send invoice, get paid, job finished. Then my happy new client wants more. Here’s what I get via email:
“I still have one edit on my proof right?
I’m planning to run another one but this time just meant for the construction industry.”
I explained it doesn’t really work that way, and if they want to use the same basic design and just change the focus that the design process starts over, but probably for less than the original. They seemed okay with that.

Not too long ago, I remember someone saying they gave clients up to four revisions on projects. This person had a client who only used one or two per job and assumed he was building up a bank account of unused revisions that he could somehow cash in down the road.

I’ve also heard of situations where the word revisions wasn’t tightly enough defined and the clients assumed it could mean total redos of big projects.

The word revisions doesn’t appear in my contract. I use refinements instead. Subsequent wording talks about processes, procedures, approvals, tweaks, proofs, corrections and at what point hourly rates kick in when the effort expended on the job exceeds the scope of the contract.

I stress to clients what the process entails and how deviating from the process will cost extra money. It’s word it nicely, but I actively counter the notion of me being someone who comes up with a bunch of idea for them to mix, match and change in whatever way suits them.

The cost quote I give clients includes some unmentioned informal flexibility that enables me to do a little more than the contract specifically mentions. But tightly spelling out the process to the client serves to keep them focused and efficient since they’re aware they’ll be charged extra if they aren’t.


We have print projects come in that have been through round and round of design proofs, edits, revisions and final approval. For some reason, designers and end clients consider the printer’s proof another opportunity to change the copy. Um…no. It’s to check to make sure the glyphs print and the word wrap didn’t change in-rip. And yes, we charge an hourly rate to do file changes and second proofs do cost money.

I always stress to clients that printer proofs are only for checking whether or not the printer got things right (I’ve given up trying to explain RIPs to clients). Everything else should have been caught on the laser printer proofs and PDFs before files ever made it to the printer. In the off chance client/designer error is caught, it’s also one last chance to catch major problems, but any changes at that point will cost money because both I and the printer will charge extra for them.

I’ve found that this discussion with clients usually avoids the problem.

You are one of very few. Quite a number of senior designers still get tripped up at the last minute.

And, I’m sure you’ve seen that clause in any government contract, that you have to sign, about revisions until accepted. They do take advantage of that.

Government… you start with one or two then it becomes design by committee involving several departments, then finally the decision maker gets involved, we start over, and the job gets put on hold… forever, then gets revived 6 months later only to be cancelled shortly thereafter because budgets ran out.
But they do always pay - eventually. I have an invoice I’m chasing right now from the end of August.

A personal experience story…

Three or four years ago we got a job to create a leave-behind presentation kit for a committee composed of representatives from various government agencies. Its purpose was to promote a specific type of economic development across the state. It involved writing, photography, a die-cut presentation folder, letterhead, business cards, a brochure for the inside and a 5-minute video that was included on a small flash drive.

It was contracted as an hourly rate project, which we estimated would come in at around $20,000 or so. Okay, so this committee could never make up its mind on anything. Everything was always being delayed and pushed off to the next monthly meeting for deliberation. Committee members would quit, new ones would arrive with different ideas, then whole process would start over again. This went on for, no kidding, about a year and a half.

But they always paid. It almost became a regular source of monthly income for us as this relatively small project stretched out longer and longer and the total price kept growing bigger and bigger due to the never-ending meetings, redos, shifts in direction and reprints.

By the time it was finally done — final video, shot, edited and burned onto the flash drives; presentation folders printed, cut, glued, brochure printed, etc. — the committee members had all been replaced by new committee members who didn’t seem to be the slightest bit interested in the finished project. Since this committee didn’t have a physical address, they couldn’t decide on a delivery location, so we agreed to hold the finished kits for awhile in a storage room. When I left the company this past summer, all the boxes were still in the storage room and had been sitting there for, probably, about two years.

This whole ~$20,000 project ended up costing them over 5 times that much, and they never even bothered to pick it up. As mentioned, though, they always paid in full each month.

Your (and my) tax dollars at work.

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