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I'm a web designer currently working with a very demanding client.

I presented them with designs back in May and I'm still working through amends with them. They are making changes to everything and although I know amends are to be expected, it's really getting to be frustrating. I'm currently working every evening on the list of new amends they have. Tiny things like "make this blue" or "change the width of this" or "make this gap smaller".

I know amends need to be made and that's fine, but how do you handle when there are just too many? I've counted the comments on inVision and there have been 185 amends on 6 pages of a website design.

Some of them change, and then change again, and then change again and again. For example they wanted to add a strapline, so I added it, adjusted all the menus to accomodate is across the 6 pages. Then they wanted to change the text, so I changed it and updated it across all 6 documents. Now that it's changed, they want to make the menu smaller so now I have to go back and change the menu again.

I quoted based on time I thought it would take to complete the designs with some time for amends but I've more than tripled the time. I haven't explained to them early enough in the process that amends beyond the normal would cost them more so I'm going to have to swallow the cost this time, but should I lay this out better with future clients?

How do you handle amends? Do you put an estimated time on them at the beginning, and then charge more if they go over this? Or do you do something different?

  • Related, possible dupe? graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/5777/… – Lauren Ipsum Jul 2 '15 at 18:18
  • See my answer in the link above ^^ but also, you don't estimate hours of changes but rounds of changes. Because changing that strapline might take you 20 minutes but takes me an hour. Now you have 40 more minutes for the client to screw around with fine-tuning fonts while I've said "nope, you had your three rounds, pay me." – Lauren Ipsum Jul 2 '15 at 18:21
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I usually make three revisions. After that, I start charging. .. a flat rate per revision.

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    Yes, and it should be in the contract how many revisions you include. – ispaany Jul 2 '15 at 13:08
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    Thanks. I also have them initial approval on each stage of the job, the composite, the proof and any revisions that are made are noted on at the time on the sign off. Clients usually want something changed and offering 3 revisions is a comfortable span for them and to allow changes to be made. Reminding them there are charges after the third revision if that comes up keeps it reigned in! – Allanah Anderson Jul 2 '15 at 14:31
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Work is work. You need to get paid for work. Whether it was part of the initial proposal or added on afterwards, you need to bill for it. This also keeps the client in line. If they are being billed for every change, they start to prioritize their changes.

When you set up your initial agreement with the client, definitely account for a period of revisions. Perhaps you may say "estimate includes 10 hours of revisions".

You then need to stick with that and if it goes beyond 10 hours, bill accordingly. This is typically handled with a clause ala "revisions beyond the 10 hour allotment will be billed at the standard hourly rate of $xxx".

Post-launch, changes typically have to be documented a bit more formally and you want to use something called a change request. A change request is essentially a mini-project with it's own analysis phase and estimate that the client agrees to before work commences.

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    Thanks, this makes a lot of sense. I have to say I haven't had a client with a lot of amends before so I've been lulled into a false sense of security thinking 3 hours or so should be enough. Next time, I will add a separate line for amends into my quote so they can see how many hours are spent, and time myself accordingly to ensure they don't go over. I'm also considering saying they only get to submit the amends in chunks and I won't work on every last amend as it comes in. – user1486133 Jul 2 '15 at 15:15
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    @user1486133 You could implement the block-of-work practice immediately, if you aren't doing it that way already. It makes sense to be able to schedule a definite period of work, even if you can't actually bill for it on this job -- three hours once a week, say. Your client gets a site with all of their revisions in it so they can see them in toto. Doing this may make them think a little more about what they ask for, too, because you're less likely to get "I preferred it as it was" comments. But you could actually charge for undoing work they've requested. – Andrew Leach Jul 2 '15 at 18:23
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Maybe this can help: https://freelancing.stackexchange.com/questions/3226/project-based-freelance-project-requiring-multiple-unexpected-redos-from-clien/3337#3337.

I like to ask a lot of questions before getting started, prepare quick sketches, and split my projects in "steps"; and then each step gets approved. Once a client goes back, it's a revision that is charged.

I also explain to clients they have to provide their final texts and the images they want to use to avoid revisions.

Always be specific and yes, explain clearly the process before you get started.


But since you're already stuck with this...

When clients are back to using the html site as a "sketch zone" as your client does, stop changing the CSS and the html, and go back to using a plan or showing them a JPG of ONE page (or sections of it). Explain them that when you start doing CSS and html, it's not the time to play around and modify things (at least not menus and big changes.) You can be nice and tell them it's for their own good since the coding requires some planning and it avoids mistakes. Don't tell stuff like "it's easy", they might end up believing it's truly easy for you.

So take a screenshot of a main page, do the changes in Photoshop or Illustrator or Indesign, and show them a JPG "proof" that they will approve. Have the main layout approved first, not all 6 pages!

On your proof, add a mention about "any changes after this is approved will be charged at XX/hour". And instead of sending that proof by email, host it somewhere and send them an url; this way it will appear at 100% in their browser and they'll have a better idea of what to expect.

Personally, I like to present them 2-4 options; this way they can say they like the menu of A, the body font of B and the footer of C for example. Then I present them another set of proofs with the elements they preferred, and other options if necessary. Usually it ends up limiting the possible requests they might have because you showed them pretty much everything possible at this point! Your proofs don't need to be perfect, they're like a sketch; just do some copy/paste and move things around.

Once it's approved, you can go back to coding. If you have to come back again to "sketching" or modify your code, start charging at hourly rate.

You need to do something like this otherwise they'll keep going until december 2016 if they get all that free work from you and if you don't require them to fully approve some of your work. Right now, they're not taking any decision.


PS: I don't like using design software to do sketches of the websites, and I'm sure you don't either. It's way simpler sometimes to do it straight in CSS but... the reason why you're doing this is not so much to make it faster to do the website but to make your client feel like you're also making them go back to step 1! All they want in the end is to have their website done; when you go back to showing them JPGs, they get a bit less excited and you get back some control on the situation.

They will approve your JPGs proofs faster than the real website you're showing them because they will want to see the result "live" as soon as possible.

  • If your goal is the last part why not just screenshot the website as though it was done in a graphics package. Wouldn't that get you the same effect without you actually having to do the design in a method you don't like? – Ryan Jul 2 '15 at 13:09
  • I do divide down into sections but because I do the build as well, I split it into research, design and build and sign off each stage. My problem is within the design stage that the amends are getting crazy. She has asked for a strapline to be moved up by a few pixels. I moved it up. Now she wants it a few more pixels, and I'm having to refuse to do it because the header already looks kinda awful and any more will make it even more terrible. I won't put the design on my portfolio, the whole thing has been picked at and it's awful now. – user1486133 Jul 2 '15 at 13:43
  • Also, I had the main homepage and a "look and feel" approved. But now it's changing, again once they've changed stuff on the other pages which affect the homepage. It's driving me mad. – user1486133 Jul 2 '15 at 13:45
  • I disagree that 'design' feedback and tweaking should be handled outside of HTML. It would depend on the particularities of the project, but for any project of size, design should be in HTML sooner than later and any 'tweaks' happening on a global level. In fact, that's what often causes this situation...highly detailed PSDs used as the 'sign off' before anything gets into HTML. Granted, in this situation, maybe that initial sketch never existed an in that situation, I would agree that this could help. – DA01 Jul 2 '15 at 14:30
  • @Ryan because it's rare a dev will do many samples of the same website at once. The JPGs will slow down that phase only for a while, then it will be fast once everything is approved. Use1486133; you don't have much choice then getting some "steps approved if you're already doing design on PSD. Maybe show then 2-3 options at once and go by elimination. Never too late to get out of he project too and use clear terms on the next one. – go-junta Jul 2 '15 at 19:25

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