How NOT to act when your client asks for revisions

how not to act when your client asks for revisions graphic design blender
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A note from Preston: This is possibly one of the most important blog posts I have ever written. I didn’t mean for it to be, but by the time I was finished, I realized how insanely important this message is.

Please take time to really read it (or at least bookmark it for later) and if you agree that the message is super-important, please tell anyone you know who needs to hear it.

As always, thank you and I hope you enjoy!

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I’m a freelancer and entrepreneur.

And many of you know that just a few years ago, I also took a desk job. (PS: In fact, it’s really a dream opportunity for me. Here’s how I skipped entry-level jobs and jumped right into the perfect one!)

So I have a unique perspective on working with clients.

Half the day, I work for clients.

The other half, I am the client.

So it’s awesome.

And a couple weeks ago, I was working as the client and had hired a video editor to cut a TV commercial for me.

After a few days, he sent me the first draft.

It was mostly great.

Mostly.

Here’s where the trouble began.

There were certain things about the project that only I understood: certain obligations we had, certain legal necessities, and junk like that.

So, I sent a very short email with 3 simple and quite reasonable changes back to the editor.

(Remember, I also live on the end of receiving revisions and edits from clients, so I know how to handle the requests.)

The following is a paraphrase of his response to me:

1. On [request #1], I’m just not sure the public is going to notice the difference. It’s not really worth the hassle, so we won’t be making that change.

2. As for [request #2…a grammar mistake], most people read those two words similarly. I don’t think it’s worth the re-render to edit the text.

3. And [request #3] simply can’t be done. (I assure you, it could be. -Preston)

What!?

Now guys, this may sound like a rant.

And it was a little.

But now I’m writing as a blogger who works with amazing creative professionals every day.

Please, please, please tell me this isn’t how you treat your clients.

I beg of you: please leave a comment on this post and tell me I’m not off my rocker when I say this guy was pretty out of line.

Should the creative professional make suggestions if the revisions don’t match industry recommendations?

Sure.

Can the client and creative engage in a healthy conversation about whether or not the revisions are based on solid information?

Absolutely.

But should the creative outright tell their client it just can’t be done, won’t matter, or is “too much hassle”?

No!

And I dare say any creative person that treats their clients like that won’t make it too far.

Some advice for outspoken creatives

I’ll be the first to admit: I’m outspoken.

No one ever has to ask my opinion, because they know they’re getting it whether they like it or not.

Am I nice?

Usually.

But am I opinionated?

Always.

For those of you who are like me and always have to share their opinion (and enjoy being right), here are a few tips for dealing with clients (especially when they ask for revisions you may not agree with).

How to respond to client revision requests

1. First, don’t tell them they’re wrong first off.
Take time first to empathize with them. Say things like “I see what you’re saying” and “I understand why you feel like we need to change that.”

2. Never say “but.”
If you start off with a nice phrase like “I see where you’re coming from on that” and then immediate say “but” afterward, you might as well be telling them their opinion doesn’t matter. Instead, validate their opinion (see step 1) and then offer your opinion in addition.

Try something like “I see what you mean about making that logo bigger. In my experience, leaving more white space not only looks more professional, but makes the logo more legible.”

3. Ask them “what do you think?”
Just because you have a different opinion about something, and just because you’ve done this before doesn’t make you the end-all know-it-all on what’s best for your client.

Sometimes, their dealing with legalities you don’t understand. Sometimes it’s all about office politics or some sort of extensive customer research they’ve done. Sometimes, in fact many times, they just know more about their business than you do.

So, instead of giving in entirely (one extreme) or demanding they  give in to you (the other extreme), engage in a healthy conversation about the pros and cons of making the change.

4. Don’t be afraid to give in.
This is not about your pride.

This is about getting the best results possible for your client.

And sometimes good results come when the client is satisfied with the work (whether you think it’s perfect or not). So don’t feel like you’ve lost the battle by ultimately having to make the revisions you disagree with.

You’ve won!

You’ve won because your goal, at the end of the day, is to provide quality work for your client.

If they’re happy, you should be happy. (Of course, I have to take my own advice here, too.)

Am I completely off my rocker?

So be honest with me, am I completely crazy here?

Did I miss the mark?

Because, speaking from a client’s point of view, I feel like every freelance designer, videographer, programmer, developer, writer, etc. needs to hear this message.

If you agree, will you please comment and let me know? And if you truly agree, please do me a favor and help spread this message via twitter, Facebook, linkedin, etc.

About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. You are correct. I am old-school enough to still remember that “the customer is always right”. Even if you don’t think changes are “worth the hassle”, the client wouldn’t mention it if it wasn’t important to them. I generally say something like, “Let’s try that and see how it works. I think (for such and such reason) that you may like the original better, though.” After a few times of this, especially if they end up liking my instincts better, they learn to trust me. You won’t get that trust if they never come back…

    Btw, please check your article. Both times you used the word “their”, I think you actually meant “they’re”…

  2. Nope – not off your rocker at all. And now I come to think of it – as a designer, I completely understand what you are saying – but I consider it a tenet of life that when interacting with ANYBODY you have a choice to be polite and lovely, or abrupt and rude, and I have never understood why so many people would choose the second option! But sadly they do :(

  3. In the section, “How to respond to client revision requests,” #1 should say They’re not Their.
    Cheers.

  4. I have to say I agree with you. As a paying client I would have found those responses unacceptable, especially if the terms of the contract or agreement allowed for revisions.
    As a GD I have certainly had projects in which a client requested a revision that I thought was just wrong for the design. They were absolutely adamant and all of my gentle persuasion and experience couldn’t budge them. In the end I made sure the client was happy with the work.
    I am curious as to to the outcome of your commercial. How did you respond and did you get your revisions?

  5. I know it’s being pedantic, however, your Rule #2 (‘Never say “but”.’) includes an example which breaks that very rule ‘…not only looks more professional, but makes the logo more legible.”’

    I do think that there are some instances where being a bit brutal and brash with a client is the only way to break through to them that they are making poor decisions which will cost them (or you) time and/or money. I have tried religiously playing the diplomatic line in the past, but it becomes a death of a thousand cuts. The client makes a stupid, poorly thought out, or impractical request. I pour on the PC fluff words to subtly suggest that we should approach the problem from another angle. The client ignores me and insists that we follow through on their plan. Their plan fails. But, of course, their plan is perfect, it was my execution of their plan which was flawed. I end up eating hours and money to correct “my” mistake. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    By all means, I agree that you get more flies with honey rather than vinegar. That being said, sometimes tough love is necessary, and you should never be afraid of losing a client (who, realistically, is probably not the kind of client you would want to keep) by trying to kill them with kindness.

  6. Jeff Kulinski says:

    I’ve been a professional designer for close to 2 years and previously worked in retail management for close to 8 I’m 28 now and what I’ve seen in both in my opinion would be considered embarrasing. What I would consider as customer service and common etiquette seems to be dead in both industries. The scary part is its not generation specific, its accross the board. I believe designers who put an emphasis on customer service, often are the most successful in the long run.

  7. Jeff Kulinski says:

    *i’d also like to praise this site for all the great info, as I’ve seen more informative content on here regarding graphic design than I’ve seen anywhere else on LinkedIn. Keep up the excellent work.

  8. great post! thanks.

  9. Baker Senatmu says:

    Great post !! recently I made a logo for a client which was great to him and me however after sometime, he needed some revision on it which I made, then again asked for another revision. This time I had to find a way of convincing him that what he had was the best. It worked great, left both of us satisfied.

  10. Not off your rocker at all. I cannot believe this ” professional” would act like that. If someone is paying me to design something for them, then design what THEY want. Simple.

  11. no no.. of course you’re not off your rocker – you are completely correct and it should always be standard procedure to put the client first, be politeful & respectful in ur words & actions, otherwise how can you build and develop a good reputation?! Agree with you completely.. of course as experts we should make suggestions when we feel necessary but never to say ‘no’ or be abrupt.

  12. I have some clients who give me a lot of event guides and newsletters. The nature of these types of publications usually end up with several rounds of text and sometimes image revisions. Although I wish clients would provide their copy proof read things often move too fast for them to be as careful as I would like. So I build 3 or more rounds of text changes into the job. More depending on the type of job. If they want a redesign after we agreed upon the design that would be different. And I would negotiate an upcharge at that point. My goal is to keep clients on a long term basis so I pretty much give them what they want without much fanfare. Good l clients rarely mind paying a bit more if they go past their agreed upon rounds. I had some clients for 15+ year so it works for me.

  13. Great article and very appropriate, thank you. The worst scenario for me is creating artwork that isn’t up to standard aesthetically but as you mentioned, it is at the end of the day what makes the client happy. I always do give my design opinion upon submitting the artwork and have never had the audacity to say outright NO. I have also used BUT on many occasions so thank you for that useful piece of advice. I find that sometimes clients amends can be unreasonable in terms of the original design quote and brief supplied but then I guess it’s down to covering yourself by supplying T&C’s before any work commences so you’re covered to charge where appropriate for unreasonable amends. Thanks for another great article.

  14. Wow. I would never, ever, EVER react to a client like that. Unbelievable.

  15. I agree with both points of view. I think as designers we have an obligation to steer the client in the right direction for the success of their projects. I have just finished working with a client that I gave good information to, but I could see along the way that they were determined to do the projects as they always have. This was the first time that I encountered this in my career. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but hoping for a different outcome. The client just wanted me to make them “look” professional, but was determined to prove that their methods were correct.

    Well, the project was stopped. I am not unhappy. I use my interview meeting with clients to find out about: their business, their objectives, their past successes and failures, their target audience, etc., and I do my homework to learn of the best methods to implement the design and final production materials at cost.

    As for your experience with the videographer. I am shocked. They should have discussed the changes that you requested, because you could have presented the reasons and concerns of the client, since you are the liaison between them and the client.

    I believe in diplomacy in business. It is not reasonable to expect that clients working in different industries will understand all of the technical processes needed to make revisions, thus your videographer my not have wanted to spend the time to make the changes. But, I hope that you will be able to reason with them concerning their responses and will help them to see how it will hurt their business if they continue to act in the way that they apparently are behaving now.

  16. I totally agree. It’s not that “the customer is always right”, or that the designer must always defend their creative choices. You have to pick your battles. If a client insists on red text on a blue background it’s up to the designer to give some good, solid guidance, without making the client feel stupid. The bottom line is that you want to maintain a good working relationship with your client, and sometimes that calls for making a compromise.

  17. Christopher says:

    I completely agree!

  18. Not only are you not off your rocker, you are dead on! Great advice for all creative professionals whether working in-house or freelance. Keep up the good work!

  19. I had just designed probably my best work and sent it to my client with an other, not so special option. So client likes the boring version, I am nearly in tears, swear I’m quitting, etc.
    But being terribly, religiously polite I kindly ask him to let the both works be sent for sample printing, and then decide. I didn’t even have print samples, he came back to me apologising and saying how much he and everyone prefers the special one. Woo hoo! And Phew!

  20. No you’re not off your rocker, if it were me I may have decided I wanted my money back. It’s shocking to think that some people would talk to their clients like that.

    When it comes to clients & revisions, like you said, you have to ‘validate their opinion’ in some way. Even if you believe the changes will definitely not work at all, sometimes you have to humor them before they’ll see that, but without being condescending or negative towards their ideas. At times like this I’d say something like, “Ok, I’ll change [such and such] to [such and such] and then see how you like it, and if it’s not what you were hoping for then we can go back to the original or maybe try something else.” Obviously, if your client is asking for the project to be revised they feel that the it’s lacking something.

    Since I converse with my clients mostly via email, I may point out 1 or 2 of the pros and cons of the updates when I email them the revision. Sometimes I might even offer my own version of the revision, after they’ve seen their version. This makes it MUCH simpler when dealing with a situation where you’re sure that what they think will look good, is not really going to look good. They are paying you though. So unless their request is completely unreasonable, you do it anyway. Even if in the end you were right all along, you have to remember the project was never about you to begin with.

  21. Great subject for this post and I agree with the others – you’re blog is always informative!
    You were not being unreasonable. Most of my experience and training comes from print design. It’s a particular pet peeve of mine to have a grammatical mistake printed ANYWHERE and I wouldn’t consider anyone a professional who chose to leave such a misspelling untouched. The fact that he chose to leave this says volumes about his work to me.

  22. I know you not off your rocker! what happened to the customer is always right?!? and there is no “no/not/cant!” there is always a way to find some solution.. but this also applies in photography as well- I had a client that esplained their vision to a tea – then when it was all done they changed thier minds again and again but only paid for an hour with one edit turned out with 7 changes, and about 12 hours of editing sometimes you just suck it up Because at the end of the day its your reputation on the line, and a happy customer is gold – the word of mouth ideal – and more customers in the end.

  23. I feel live being outspoken can have it’s advantages and disadvantages. I tend to be fairly outspoken myself, but obviously we need to limit this to work with clients.

    The clients end goal should always be in mind. I’ve recently fineshed three projects I wasn’t to happy with the layout or styles of some elements, but I made them work well and compliment eachother as its what my clients were wanting. None the less I always strive to inform a client on how this can effect design and user experience, along with engagement. Some times it pays off and your input is Helpfull, other times a client couldn’t care less and wants it all their way regardless.

    The key is not to forget that we are creative professionals, and a great deal of our work is client relation orientated.

    At the end of a project, if you don’t want to show off what you’ve made, don’t include it in your public portfolio.

  24. Travis Smith says:

    My wife is my negotiator.

  25. I agree with your thoughts whole-heartedly, and your designer was not only way off base, but I assume he is now unemployed (after fixing the requested edits, of course).

    We recognize that many times a client can make what might be viewed as unreasonable requests, but must understand that they don’t seem unreasonable to him (or her).

    So our policy, in 24 rather successful years in business, is to suggest alternative revisions to the client TWICE. Then, we do it their way!

    SS

  26. I totally agree, I try to treat my clients the way I want to be treated. Since we don’t always know everything that’s going on in their head or otherwise you just have to trust that they know what they want. I try to give gentle advice but in the end they are the one writing the check. If you don’t like the final result, don’t put it in your portfolio.

  27. You are right on the money. I worked as a corporate designer for 16 years before going out on my own. I know first hand the politics, personalities, and protocol one has to deal with, and being sensitive to that as a freelancer has been a breath of fresh air to my clients. I recall the incredible frustration in dealing with a prima donna freelancer, and then having to go to my client with something that I knew she wouldn’t, or couldn’t, accept. Many designers forget that we provide a service to our clients. There may be a handful of designers and agencies that have earned enough of a reputation that they can direct their clients. But that is a rarity, and even they can drop several rungs on the ladder with a sudden shift in business. I always need to be reminded that my job is to promote my clients, not myself.

  28. I agree with your approach. Dismissing the client’s requests out of hand is unlikely to produce harmony. When a client asks for changes I think inappropriate, I explain my rationale for doing it my way, but make it clear that I’ll do it their way if they prefer. If the changes would be extremely time-consuming I also make it clear that the cost will be higher.

  29. i think its important to distinguish between the kind of client that you are looking for. Like Luke mentioned, playing nice always could sometimes mean the client would trample over your thoughts and always believe that they’re right.

    In that case, I’ll probably ditch the client and find another one.

    If its a client that’s understanding and willing to work with me, being polite and professional is definitely the way to go

  30. Marion Anderson says:

    Nope, not off your rocker.
    If for any reason I can’t do a requested change – I ALWAYS give an full explanation to what the probem might be, and then ALWAYS offer an alternative or suggestion.
    A client’s requested change is never EVER “not worth the hassle,” whether I like it or not. I have had many finished projects that aren’t necessarily what I would have done but the simple fact is I don’t OWN the product, the client does. The client’s decision is final. Period.
    Having said that, I will insist on “correctness.” I can’t begin to illustrate how many people don’t know how to use an apostrophe…
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment. This is a great blog.

  31. Totally agree, that vid editor was clearly either ridiculously wealthy and didn’t need the work or just a very bad operator. Ludicrous he actually said “we won’t be making that change”! I got a good laugh out of that one.

  32. You are absolutely right ! I alway try to have a constructive dialogue and try to “educate” the client on what makes GOOD graphic design. At the end, if the client insists, he always “wins” . But I’m often able to convince them, even if it’s by making the changes so that they can see it was better before… I consider this part of the job. Good article and great blog !

  33. Oooh, what a nice, essential and tricky topic…
    It seems to be all related to “The customer is king” paradigm.

    One way to think about this problem would be to see 2 opposite sides:
    – The client is the one paying, so the client is right and has to be pleased no matter what, period
    – The client comes to us because he can’t (or doesn’t want, have time to, etc.) do something, and hires us because we’re (supposed to be) experts at what we do. We are the ones (supposed to be) knowing the stuff, so our opinions are righter than anything the client could say
    So, our behaviors vary from slavish and shoe licking to closed-minded, rude and condescending, with infinite shades in between.

    In my experience, one of the hardest things to do as a service-provider is finding a balanced, healthy way to deal with clients without falling into one of these extreme behaviors. Being able to let the client recognize he may not always be right and let him respect our opinions is a highly valuable skill. Same about being able to recognize we’re not always right either, and the client may know best.

    In this example, the video editor seems to have failed to develop this skill set, but let’s face it: we probably all have failed about it at some point of our career.

    This, of course, is a very personal opinion, and I’d be happy to discuss it.

    Thanks for your advices, Preston, it’s going to be really helpful next time this situation comes up.

  34. Good post, i will share with my friends.

  35. Ton Limburg says:

    Once, a few days after the presentation, a client asked me to change a colour. I did, and showed him three altenatives. He couldn’t choose, and requested to ‘sleep a night over it’ (as we say in Dutch). It took eventually two weeks to come back to my first proposal – being a professional’s one. I discovered, by the client’s secretary, that the requests for revision didn’t actaully came from my client himself, but from his wife…

  36. You are not off your rocker! The only thing that rocks here, is this post. I totally and utterly agree.

  37. Because this article was very helpful I reblogged it at http://laurabwilliamsdesigns.wordpress.com. I think rude creatives give the rest of us a bad name. I HATE it when people say that creative people are hard to deal with. I pride myself on being a professional. Thank you for speaking up.

  38. So did you fire him, escalate to his boss, or remind him you are the client? I wouldn’t tolerate the condescending sob for five minutes.

  39. I have been a graphic designer for over 25 years, and for the last 6 years I have been a design educator at a public 2-year college. I would be horrified if any of my students EVER thought that it was acceptable to speak to a client like that! Yes, you want to give a client your best advice, but ultimately, it is the client’s project—they have bought and paid for it. And for the record, Preston, if a vendor of any sort refused my changes in this fashion, I fear I would remind them that I might just refuse to pay them! That attitude would make me furious! Ultimately, you the designer (and they the videographer) are a consultant—there to give the client advice and guidance, but the final decision belongs to the client and to no one else. I used to work for a designer who had his own agency who pulled tricks like that, and was told on more than one occasion “I would work with you again anytime, so let me know if you leave this agency—because I will NEVER work with him again!” Notice I said “had” his own agency…he is not working for a corporate entity as an in-house designer. Designers, think of yourself as a surrogate mother…you carry the baby, but ultimately it belongs to its parents!

  40. This post struck a familiar chord with me. You touch on several points I’ve noticed young designers and inexperienced clients do not consider when organizing a project.

    You don’t mention budget and turnaround time requirements. As a freelancer you surely understand that many clients do not grasp the time involved in making “just a few edits” and a) do not want to pay for “minor editing” and b) want the revisions immediately, if not sooner because the deadline is RIGHTNOW!.

    The only excuses for what you experienced is a lack of professionalism and an overinflated ego. But in other, less ego-driven and more typical client situations, what seems like bad customer service may actually be a savvy designer who’s been burned by “just a few quick edits” that turned into lengthy revisions, monopolizing the designer’s time and offering them very little in financial return.

    Unless you’re on a private retainer with this client you have other clients and projects with deadlines. Making those “just a few edits” means juggling your time and project schedules. In some cases you may have to sacrifice a new project or client, or work a 22 hour day in order to complete the edits while staying on deadline with other clients/projects.

    I budget my time based on the project brief (and past experience with the client if this is a repeat client). Edits are a fact of life in our industry and I always assume there will be “regular” edits and last minute edits. I always present this topic when discussing a project and the subsequent quote. I say something like, “Will all the text be final edited copy, and will all the logos, color requirements (etc. depending on the project) be provided at the time you turn the project over to me?” If the answer is yes, I spell that out in the quote. “Final edited text, logos and color requirements submitted to designer at project intake.” This reminds the client to get their ducks in a row and organize their project before giving it to me. Even under these circumstances I typically expect 2 -3 rounds of edits per project and also spell that out in my project quote – I include (read: give them) 2 -3 rounds of edits in the price of the project. I’m really lenient (too lenient) about the fourth and fifth rounds of edits, especially when they’re minor, quick and easy edits.

    But. If we’ve been working on this project for several weeks or months and the editing process (and client) has already monopolized a lot of my time with “just a few quick changes,” and taken me far beyond the time originally allotted in the project brief, I will not hesitate to say, “Of course anything can be done and I want you to be happy with the end result, so we’ll do what we have to do to get it right. BUT (yes, but) we’re into the sixth round of edits and your deadline is tomorrow which means I have to juggle other projects and clients, so we’re going to have to discuss amending my original quote.” I HATE sounding like I’m holding the project hostage, and I HATE mentioning that I have other clients because I like to make my clients feel that they are the Sun in my design galaxy, but (again, that word) I learned the hard way that if you do not have this conversation, at that juncture, clients will get very testy about paying for anything above the original quote. In the moment, especially on deadline, especially when the edits are something due to their mistake or ignorance (like forgetting to include a legal disclaimer in the original project materials, or copyright info, or a sponsor or sponsor logo…really crucial bits of info that they completely forgot or didn’t know about (and should have) when handing over the project to the designer) clients tend to say, “Anything, yes, whatever, just FIX IT!!!!” Get it in writing. I’m sure this comes off as picky and bad customer service to some clients, and it’s the last thing a stressed client on a deadline wants to hear, but as much as I try to make my clients feel like they are the Sun in my graphic galaxy, the reality is that they are not my only source of income and I have obligations to other clients.

    On the other hand, when the initial conversation about the project starts with the client saying, “Welllll, no, I don’t have all the copy written, and we’ll have to make edits on the text and we’re not sure about the sponsors yet, and the focus group results aren’t compiled yet, and I don’t have a clue what my company’s graphic standards are about color and logo placement…just go ahead and start the project and we’ll revise it when the information is available…I have to get this project started because it has to be done in three weeks and I have to present concepts to my boss next week” I know darned well I’m dealing with a lot of hand holding, phone calls, emails and revising…and I quote accordingly. And I budget my time on the project accordingly. If I have other clients/projects on deck, I may tell a client like this that unfortunately I don’t have the time to commit to their project. Yes, I lose money and potentially lose the client, and that is not something I like to do, but, in my 20+ years experience these types of clients are time vacuums that suck the designer’s profit (and patience) out of a project. If I don’t have other time-demanding projects on deck I’ll quote high on the projects. If they give me the project I’ll be very firm about charging for revisions after the fourth round of edits. If it ends up going smoother than anticipated with few revisions and not as much time as I anticipated, I’ll invoice them lower than the quote.

    A few words about forcing design opinions on the client: Do you want to win an award or do you want to earn an income? Of course the best end result is a satisfied customer. Period. And sometimes that means sacrificing our design principles. Not every project is going to be a show piece. Period. Our job is to present solid concepts to the client and offer design guidance and suggestions. If they want to take our advice, great. If they want to alter our concepts or stick to their ideas, that’s their business. They’re paying us to provide a design solution THEY like. Show them what they want and also offer other ideas. Some clients will see the difference and choose our ideas. Others will dig in their heels and stick to their ideas. Clients have egos, too, and often a vision they want us to bring to fruition. We have to respect that and remain professional. If your ego prevents you from accepting any of that, good luck in your design career. You’ll need it. I hope you have another source of income or a trust fund. We are not fine artists painting and sculpting what WE want, selling to a collector to whom our vision appeals. We are professional designers working for clients. I have a lot of projects I would never showcase, definitely not my proudest design moments, but the clients LOVE them and they give me repeat business and referrals because of that. Those less than designerly projects feed and shelter me and most importantly, the client is happy. Also, one of my most “embarrassing” project clients has given me referrals to other clients that generate some of my proudest pieces.

  41. Wow, Preston, this guy is WAY off the mark. Terrible customer service…he sounds lazy!

    #1: You can certainly try to persuade your client to ‘see it your way,’ but it’s poor customer service to outright say you won’t be changing it.

    #2: Grammar mistakes definitely need to be fixed!

    #3: He offers no alternatives that he believes will solve the problem from a different approach.

    The only way I’d ever refuse a client’s requests would be because of ethics or morality issues – (wanting to steal designs, content I’m not comfortable with, etc.).

    I’ve disagreed strongly with a client and told them as tactfully as possible I think they’re making a poor choice, but ultimately it’s their money, and if they’re that adamant, I do it.

    Love to hear your response and how the project finished up.

  42. Amazing. That’s about as bad as it gets. Our job as designers is to design. Our job as business owners/freelancers is to help the client be as successful as possible. And we do that by putting ourselves in the correct positions. In the client’s position and in their clients/customers position. What this guy basically said is “I know more than you and I don’t care about your project and the success of it. I’m just tired and don’t want to work anymore.” That’s just unacceptable and a horrible practice for business success.

  43. You are right Preston. There is a fine line between doing what a client says even if it is wrong and educating them along the way as to what good design is or isn’t . I try to involve my client in what my process is, talk EARLY about author’s alterations, and create good work that meets both goals. Look at my website where I talk about working with my client. (weareyourtype.com) for more information on how I do what.

  44. This was very well written and truthful. When we are creating for another who is paying us, we must honor their input – and guide the process with a deft mix of empathy, research, active listening and an appreciation for looking at things differently. Honestly, there can usually be a compromise that creates a stronger solution when we honor this, and allow input without swatting it away and negating other views. Thank you for this post!

  45. hi
    I agree with Luke. Its seems more and more clients believe they are the designers and make very poor judgments. I spend allot of time researching and thinking through a design. Logos are a good example, I create a logo specifically for them, about them and to project an image that makes them look good. I feel it should always and have some meaning and purpose to the design. But often it just becomes a meaningless group of shapes with poor typesetting. usually with an explanation of how each logo is created it convinces them of its validity etc.

    I have had 2 clients recently wanting to sit with me to design a logo. I think design has been dumbed down so much now that its really difficult to reason with clients

  46. I think your correct. I’m similar to the guy you’ve describe. I’ve fortunately learn how to craft my messages back to the client. If at anytime I feel like me words may be taken wrong in email then my email to the client is simply a request to call the client to receive a better explaination as to why changes are needed. For me I goal is to become an extension of the client and not a slave to change request so I like to know as much as a client can give me so few changes are needed in the future.

  47. No Preston you didn’t miss the mark at all. The old adage that “the customer is always right” are words that everyone in the service industry (which in my mind includes designers) should live by. Let’s be honest, we’ve all had to to include elements in a project that we didn’t agree with but at the end of the day it’s their dime. Creatives, of which I am also one, need to keep in mind that every project you work on isn’t necessarily going to be a portfolio piece… sometimes we need to be content with the fact that we get to eke out a living doing what we love. On that note… perhaps he wasn’t happy with what he was doing.

  48. In my opinion (and after over 2 decades dealing with clients graphic needs, I do have more than a “rough” idea), you are 100% correct! well put!

  49. hi,
    I have subscribed to u r blog although I am not from your field. In any business – selling does matter and presentation is the first step towards it.
    I do read your blogs regularly and find them quite interesting and insightful. But this one provoked me to commend you and I could not resist my temptation. great post!!
    It is indeed an art to handle client and convince / goad him into something you feel is right. one of my ways to achieve is to do a right + left analysis ( I coined it). what I mean is be prepared with your convincing replies (often with real life illustrations) as to why you did not do it in a particular fashion (right or left) and chose the your way. if you are convincingly ready and able to defend with live examples (of why not go that way) – I have found more often the client is likely to accede to your idea.
    A great post and thanks for sharing your views.. I appreciate.
    Rajesh Gajjar

  50. the hard part is of being a graphic designer is that, you already give your best then he told you he want something like this and that.. change this to look something like this one.

  51. Justin Miller says:

    Revisions and changes are part of this crazy business, and its been my experience that my clients revisions are reasonable. One thing to keep in mind is that you are always working for the client, you dont force your solutions on them. But when I see clients ask for a change just to change something that makes no sense in what we planned or from a strategic point, I ask the client “Would you let me know what you are thinking on this?”

    Sometimes it will make sense, other times it doesn’t. You can make recommendations to clients all day long…but the client does not have to implement them.

    I have disagreed with clients too, and I never take it personal. I let clients know I am looking out for their business interests and not just doing something that “looks cool”

  52. I couldn’t agree more – when I worked as an account manager in an agency, I had to deal with both ends. I often had to talk the designers down and come up with ways to phrase the changes that needed to be made in ways that didn’t hurt their pride, then negotiate with the client to come up with the best product in the end. That’s one reason the agency model works; creative minded people aren’t always interested in the back and forth that needs to happen with a client. With freelancing, you have to be willing to act as your own project manager and everything that goes with it.

  53. You are right that taking a stone-wall stance only hurts the freelancer in the end. The relationship that is built over time between designer and client should be able to withstand some pushback. How much? depends on the RELATIONSHIP. My personal rule is to try for as much in-person contact as possible. The reasons I give for what I do never sound as powerful in an e-mail. Setting the style and tone, setting the criteria firmly in the beginning, asking about all the little nits up front and the all-important “Who will be the final approval and how many people/committees are involved?”, alleviates a lot of hassle. Sounds like this guy didn’t do all the pre-lim homework.

  54. Wow. Unbelievable. I assure you (as you already know quite well) that this guy was WAY out of line.

    It’s funny how some companies/freelancers miss this obvious fact: Clients will only occasionally give glowing recommendations or referrals when they are completely and totally satisfied with their experience, but they will almost ALWAYS make a great effort to spread the word far and wide when they are mistreated (as you were in this instance).

  55. If someone tells you they won’t make the changes because it’s too much of a hassle, I don’t think that’s right.
    As the client, you are paying the creative to deal with the hassles of creating a great product that meets your expectations.
    Apple didn’t say they wouldn’t bother with making computers ultra thin because it was too much of a hassle to fit all the hardware in them…

  56. That response was completely out of line. Believe me, I’m often tempted not to make revisions if it’s a small or unnoticeable-by-the-public error, but that’s all out of laziness, which is unprofessional.

    Sometimes I get the feeling that creatives and clients see themselves in an “us versus them” kind of relationship, which is a huge shame. I consider my clients to be my partners. We’re all working towards the same goal, which is making their project and their company successful. Sometimes we’ll disagree on how, but whatever conversation we have about it, it has to be with the same goal in mind. If the client is making requests that go against their goal, I try to talk them through it (thank you, conflict management training!) and usually they’ll realize that they were working off assumptions/emotions/etc. and we’ll arrive at a good solution together.

    The great thing about this process is that when their business thrives, mine does, too!

  57. Of course you’re right! is this a test? I wonder if that video person has some difficulty in dealing with people. It is not a reasonable response. Keep up the good work.

  58. I’ve got to say, I’m surprised that there are individuals out there that conduct themselves in such a way. When an arrangement between a service provider and client (particularly in graphic design) is entered into, it’s supposed to be a partnership. Completely disregarding requests is unprofessional, ignorant and really immature. Client’s opinions are always valid, because often, they are aware of elements of the project which haven’t been discussed (because they’re deemed unnecessary to discuss or are confidential). They have a more holistic perspective of the project. I believe that designers should always respectfully acknowledge a client’s perspective, show that we understand why they want to make that revision, and offer an alternative if we disagree with that perspective. And we should always have supporting reasons/evidence. The customer isn’t always right, but their opinion should be respected.
    As designers, our first instinct is that we need to “teach” our clients about graphic design. We don’t. That’s why they’ve employed us. We need to speak their language, show that we understand their needs, their business and their users. The end product needs to be a successful result of compromise and collaboration.

  59. Preston, Thank you for the post. I cannot imagine simply being told no to revisions. The person did not say, “In my professional opinion I do not believe this revision would be necessary, however if you still think it is necessary I will do it, just remember this would mean more billable time.” As a designer I am always looking to fill more billable time, so revisions are basically like money knocking on my door. It sounds like the vendor had another deadline to meet with another project, or he was just tired of working on your project. He should have set your expectations ahead of time for what the revisions would have cost you instead of telling you, “no.”

    I do prefer that this post were a little less hype and a little more substance.

  60. You’re certainly not off your rocker. I’m just surprised you were not more incensed about the guy’s reply. His attitude, in my experience, was beyond crazy, and I guess my reaction is more surprise that this would even be a topic of discussion. It is not possible to maintain a business with an attitude like that. We are, after all, a service industry, bottom line.

  61. Nope, you’re not off your rocker at all. That guy (A) sounds like a total jerkwad and (B) he obviously has no sense of working with a client on edits for a piece they’re paying for. His no. 3 remark is the only one that may have any merit to it at all (since at least he thought it couldn’t be done, even if it really could be — I can give him the benefit of the doubt, I guess), but he needs apologize or state some kind of reason why it can’t be done (such as, they don’t offer the services necessary to complete the request, etc.). I honestly would not work with him on any future projects if I got this kind of response.

  62. You got it!
    “What do you think?” Lets the client feel the project is a collaborative project.
    AND
    ‘”Please comment and let me know” values their opinion.

    If I have the time, I will show them 2 options. Usually they go with my favored with minor content changes.

    Only once did this not work. The client’s family member was offended that I gave advice on layout. The person who had died became second as they wanted to make a football logo huge compared to his picture. I told them, the memorial is about the person first and we could show the football logo, but not let it overpower the death of the loved one.

  63. The picture of the kid says it all. Made me laugh, thanks!

  64. Agree! Being creative is not an exception not to be polite! It puts you on a win-win situation plus if after giving all logical explanations why, he still insists and the outcome is disastrous,
    you can always fold your arms and give him the “did I not tell you” look.

  65. Well put indeed. A grammar mistake not worth re-rendering is one of the worst excuses ive ever heard. Some people just have their head up their own ass

  66. I’m also a designer and and entrepreneur, and recently a person I delegated work too said they didn’t know what to do in terms of design, didn’t have ideas for a certain section, and came back too me in order to ask for help.

    Although I do help and orient, I would expect that the design would understand that if I am hiring them to design something, it probably shouldn’t be me doing it. I guess that the work wasn’t perfect in terms of briefing, but this is just a thought I had and wanted to share :)

    You’re not on the wrong :)

  67. First round of edits, I completely agree. Make the changes, move along.

    1500th round of edits, you gotta push back a bit. It becomes ridiculous.

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