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Ask DN: Unlimited Design Revisions - Good or Bad?

6 years ago from , Creative Director/Designer/Developer

When setting a contract with a client do you offer unlimited or a set number of design revisions? Why?

To some the idea of unlimited revisions says "we want to get you the solution you", to others it says "we're not confident enough that we can get this right quickly". What do you think?

Consider budget and deadline implications too.

9 comments

  • Visnja Zeljeznjak, 6 years ago

    We've had this in our contract before, but it turned against us.

    Let's first discuss my reasons for offering this to a client: I used it as a marketing gimmick. I thought that I'd sell more services and land more clients this way. Maybe I did, but the clients who really took advantage of this guarantee made us miserable and jeopardized other projects. A $1000 project with this guarantee can jeopardize completion of a $20.000 project if you let it.

    I realized this guarantee was a crutch I used in sales. I didn't need it - the only reason my agency had this because I lacked confidence. Most clients did not ask for it. Design process is not all about designer's creativity. Good design is a result of so many things that involve the client, that it's not only unfair to take all the risk, but it's also not a sound business decision on designer's part.

    Clients need to have skin in the game too. The designer should not be the only person taking all the risk. Clients get some skin in the game when they potentially lose something (time + money) for not cooperating, not communicating clearly, not giving feedback on time, not bothering to answer questions, etc.

    Limit the number of revisions in your design contract. I've been in situations where clients assumed the maximum benefits for them unless otherwise stated. For example, one major revision after a detailed feedback session with the client, could do; plus, two to three minor revisions of the approved major revision. Define examples of major and minor revisions.

    Also, define in clear terms what happens if the client does not like your work, but there is no need to offer to give them all of their money back, or any of it. You'll have to experiment with what produces the least amount of friction in situations when clients aren't satisfied.

    Also, make them sign off the exact design revision they approved, after that every bit of work is no longer included in the original price.

    It helps to let the client pay for additional revisions. Some clients value more ideas over their money, those are the clients I love. Do have "extra major and minor revisions" as an item on your list of services. It's like ordering a pizza with extra cheese: extra cheese is billed additionally. Want ten times the cheese? Pay 10x more. Clients will not automatically assume they have this option, unless you mention it explicitly. You might even land more deals like that, I bet your competitors do not all think of this idea.

    There is no need to even discuss this with the client before they ask you, and definitely not in the sales process before the contract is mentioned. It focuses clients on things that take you away from delivering your most excellent work.

    Hope this helps. Good luck with your design business!

    12 points
    • Paul MistPaul Mist, 6 years ago

      Wow. Great reply -thanks.

      It echoes some of my thoughts, and shows clearly that whatever is decided communication with the client is paramount to establish rules and boundaries.

      1 point
      • Visnja Zeljeznjak, 6 years ago

        Thanks. I would go so far to say that if there are countless revisions, that this only shows that we haven't done our most excellent work in the beginning with this client, regarding communication. I've had my share of miscomms in my career :) What I've learned that I cannot ever skip steps in a process that I know works, not even when I'm dealing with my best and oldest client.

        0 points
      • Visnja Zeljeznjak, 6 years ago

        I decided to turn my answer into a more elaborate post: https://www.simpfinity.com/blog/unlimited-design-revisions/, with the following chapters:

        • Why the unlimited revisions guarantee is bad for fixed-price projects
        • What to include in your design contract
        • How to make your limited revisions work for you, instead of against you
        • One more reason why clients sometimes say they don’t like your designs
        • How to decrease the chance of clients not liking your designs and asking for money back

        Thanks Paul for asking this great question, you inspired me.

        0 points
    • Blaine KBlaine K, 6 years ago

      Great advice here.

      1 point
  • Antonio PratasAntonio Pratas, 6 years ago

    awful idea. stick to a limited number. it will allow for better creative control, frustration and relationship management, and allows you to charge for your work more efficiently. we're not a machine of churning out ideas and designs, we are creatives and get paid for our work, and the only way is to charge by design and having a limited amount of changes.

    When I was younger I also had no restrictions, and this led to frustration, bad client relationships, projects quickly being more costly than profitable.

    2 points
  • Ketan Anjaria, 6 years ago

    Things that are unlimited or free have low perceived value. You aren't actually offering any value to them, just lowering the value of your services and saying your time isn't worth much.

    Revisions by nature are the core of design. Iteration, sketching, feedback are part of the design process, why would that ever be free?

    The breadsticks at Olive Garden are free. They are terrible.

    1 point
  • Edward Cooper, 6 years ago

    I agree with most that offering unlimited revisions is a bad idea.

    However, I am concerned that agreeing on a number of revisions before the work is almost like priming the client to mess up your design (i.e they will come to me with a design, that I will change because that is included in the service).

    Does anyone share this concern? Maybe the best way to go is to include zero revisions, and agree on a set price per minor / major revision?

    1 point
  • Tom WoodTom Wood, 6 years ago

    I've always felt that I should offer it. So I did.

    Cue a logo project I started in June for a small fee, which didn't end until last week. A situation entirely of my own making.

    I was naive in assuming that I would deliver the design they wanted after 2 or 3 revisions, where I ended up doing a dozen or more.

    I will now respect myself enough to not offer unlimited revisions, as my time is valuable too. I think 3 is a minimal requirement personally, but any more should be charged (unless your project fee is large enough to take into account unlimited changes of course).

    It's a balance, but ultimately you want to be in control of your own time.

    1 point