Brand Design Photography & Styling Clarity Consulting

Lesson Learned: Revising As You Go (Designer Contracts)

With Freelancing, It’s super important that you have a document that keeps both you and your client accountable for your actions and process throughout the entire project. The “contract” is that guiding piece of paper that can do just that. When I first started out on this whole adventure, my contract was pretty weak. It included what I thought were the necessary things like timelines, payment and top line expectations. It wasn’t later that I realized you really have to get into the nitty gritty to save yourself.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way…
1. Late Fees: Within your contract, you need to state when the final payment is DUE and what happens if that payment is not received. I’ve found that the stricter your policy, the more likely your client will pay on time.
2. Rounds of Revisions: Your contract also needs to state how many rounds of revisions are allowed before a penalty is applied. Abiding by a certain amount of revisions helps guide your client in making thoughtful design decisions and prevents them from abusing their email correspondence with you.
3. Hourly Rate vs Flat Rate: I have learned to state that “any design element outside of the design brief/contract” will be billed at an hourly rate. This also keeps your clients honest to the original contract or agreement.
4. List of Deliverables (both parties): This may seem like over kill, but I’m telling ya…if you don’t say EXACTLY what you expect, clients tend to lose sight of what was in the original plan. I learned this the hard way and ended up doing a lot of work for free.

I’d love to hear if you’ve made any discoveries along the way. I’m always trying to improve my process and love hearing from you guys!

16 comments on “Lesson Learned: Revising As You Go (Designer Contracts)

  1. Couldn’t agree more with all of the above! You need to do your work and deliver things on time but so do your clients otherwise it kills the whole timeline/workflow.

    1. It’s amazing how much time is spent corresponding with the client and managing expectations. Best to have a good contract in place to help guide the process 🙂

  2. Such great advice! I find that the rounds of revisions point can be especially important; otherwise, you’ll get stuck emailing back and forth countless times with “Can you change this one little thing?” forever.

    1. Oh, For sure! I usually also send a curtsy email to the client when they are approaching the allotted rounds of revisions or if I think they are abusing the “send” button in email, I’ll suggest an email with bulleted list of concerns.

  3. All good points — particularly with the revisions! It’s amazing what people think they can squeeze out of you (even if the contract has clearly stated how many rounds of revisions are included in the flat rate, and how much per hour additional design rounds will cost).

    Also, clearly outlining ownership and usage of the deliverables was an oversight of mine before…I always provide a style guide when handing over assets now. And I make sure to state that the artwork is my property and so forth on every presentation now. It’s extremely upsetting to have clients distribute, or worse, actually implement initial concepts you’ve provided them. Without paying you.

    You live and you learn! 😉

    1. YES!!! Forgot to mention the ownership aspect. That’s huge and something I’ve learned along the way. It’s especially important when you are dealing with BIG name clients. I’ve also found that I’ll present a concept and because of “budget” reasons, the client can’t pay for that aspect anymore…Months later I find out they just implemented my design into the elements themselves. Definitely a frustrating aspect.

  4. These are definitely things you learn from experience. I think it’s very important to make sure clients understand the original scope of work and how to prevent excess changes. Change orders are the best thing I’ve added to my contracts in the past few years.

    1. Could you explain to me and my readers how you’ve went about implementing change orders and what that might include. Would love to learn more. Thanks!

    2. @Angel Y.,

      Hey Veda,

      Generally when changes outside of the allotted number of revisions are proposed, I process them as change orders which include a separate hourly fee, usually higher than the original hourly fee. The client usually signs a change order form before the changes are processed and the amount is added onto the final invoice.

      Changes to the original scope of work which includes services being taken away also can be processed as a credit change order where the amount is subtracted from the final invoice.

      1. Thanks for stopping by again and explaining your process. I might have to look into adding that process to my system. Seems like a helpful tool!

  5. You are so right with the revision thing I swear if I did not mention stuff like okay this is your last revision or you have one more left then people would keep pushing and pushing.

    1. Yes,
      I think the contract is a really great too. It allows to you step in and be authoritative without feeling pushy. I’m not a fan of conflict, so the contract is kind of like my side kick.

  6. I’ve learned to include things about communication and work hours as well. Because I freelance outside of a full time job, I HAVE to make sure my clients understand and are OK with that. I have a line that goes something along the lines of “although speed and quick turn around are a priority, I am a part-time enterprise and cannot promise next day or rushed delivery.”

    I’ve also laid out really basic email etiquette and my expectations of client communication- I find that a lot of people don’t take into account the amount of work THEY’LL have to do in the process. Things like figuring out what they actually want, copywriting, and giving feedback….

    And something about how I bill meetings – I generally only bill if I think the meeting is unnecessary. Nothing like driving an hour to waste 2 listening to a client hum and haw only to finally agree with your original proposal :D.

    1. Laura,
      This are all really great amendments to a contract. I’ve been considering implementing a piece about “work hours”. Just because I’m freelance, doesn’t mean I work at all hours of the day. All about setting expectations right?

Leave a Comment