Playing off this question "How should a designer communicate price is negotiable to a client?" and creating a question that isn't about software I was curious to know how do designer's include verbiage in their contract:

  • Mandating an X amount of time for approval
  • If a project is in several stages adding verbiage that requires client's to approve in X time to meet requested deadline
  • If X amount of time for approval onto the next stage is not met then it gets added to the deadline date, meaning if it takes seven working days when it should have taken two for approval you would add seven days to buffer for any other projects.

Is this a common process for designers?

3 Answers 3


All 3 of these items are common contract considerations. This info is coming from experience as a designer freelance as well as an agency designer.

While not as important during my freelance days (as I had more flexibility to work to the client's schedule), the necessity for approval deadlines in agency work is critical.

Because of this, all of our agency project schedules included deadline dates for approval items. There was simple verbiage explaining that delays to deadline dates would directly correlate with an increase in schedule time at a 1:1 ratio.

That is, if the approval is late by 4 days, all other project items would be pushed back 4 days. To embed this idea in our client's minds, we actually put together a revised schedule (which we sometimes charged for) that outlined the updated schedule.

Charging our clients for this update was another incentive for them to adhere to the original deadlines. All of these items were explained before the project began, and were referred to throughout.

Hope that helps, as a personal comment, it sounds like you're wondering about how to set up the boundaries between you (or your company) and your client. While it seems to be the trend in design to not be "difficult" with clients, this sort of contract agreement is super important and it will save you the frustration and pain of arguing about this detail later on.


Short answer - Yes.

This is what I do and it's very import that the client understands the consequences of missed deadlines. I have had disputes with clients in the past because of missed deadlines that were entirely the client's fault. Because there was no previous agreement, the client is unwilling to take any responsibility and expects the final deadlines to be kept. With no understanding that there are probably other clients' deadlines that have to take priority.

Adding the missed time to the deadline isn't enough.

You have to take in to account that you can be working on a number of projects at once and you have other deadlines to manage. A few days missed probably isn't a problem, but a month or two late and you're timetable is most likely full working on other projects. Being months late is rare, but it does happen.

Add at least the missed time to the deadline & re-agree any further deadlines

What I do is make clear that any deadlines missed by more than X days means any future deadlines will be pushed back by at least that amount of time and any further deadlines will need to be re-agreed on. If I am unable to keep to any required deadlines the client has, it is due to their missed deadlines, and they wish to cancel the project, they have to pay any applicable cancellation fees.

In most cases missed deadlines will be at most a few days and I will always try to keep to the original deadlines if possible but the client does need to understand that they have as much of a responsibility to keep to deadlines as you do.


Building off of CAI's answer, you can't just push out the deadline for every delay for a couple of reasons:

  1. that does nothing to encourage the client to stick to the agreed upon timeline
  2. You're bidding on the contract based on time you know you have available.

As such, I'd encourage you to make sure the contract stipulates phases and deadlines for client deliverables. I'd then make sure there is a statement along the lines of

delays beyond the agreed upon schedule may require a re-estimate of the project timeline and costs.

The point being is that significant delays can severely impact your business and this needs to be accounted for. If the deadline for the project is the end of June, because on July 1st you're committing to working on a big project for a new client, you can't have the first project creeping into July without that incurring all sorts of headaches on your part, and client 1 needs to be billed accordingly ("headache" fees :)

Furthermore, I'd strongly consider placing in a "kill fee" clause in case the project goes dormant--which is not uncommon.

In the past I've used language along the lines of:

Any delays in customer deliverables beyond the agreed upon schedule will constitute an end to the project up to that phase. Client will be billed for all work to that point + a 10% kill fee. Any further work on the project may commence at clients discretion following a new proposal and estimate.

  • I agree you can't just keep pushing back deadlines, my point was to make sure you can if you do need to (especially if it's not your fault!).
    – Cai
    Jan 14, 2016 at 23:58
  • Rereading my answer, it does seem a bit harsh.. I actually bend over backwards to do what the client wants most of the time :) but It's important to have agreements in place for when things do go wrong.
    – Cai
    Jan 14, 2016 at 23:58
  • Yes this is a better clause.
    – joojaa
    Jan 15, 2016 at 9:30
  • I'm okay with clients needing to shift timelines - but if its a large shift, the client needs to know that the original project is "done", and if they want to continue and finish that project, a new contract (and more billing) will need to occur (re-negotiated contract). Because a contract is still a contract, even if the client breaks it by shifting expected timelines.
    – bemdesign
    Jan 15, 2016 at 11:59

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