Working on a (tiny) fixed price, art based job. The initial design was fine, but have been a number of iterations of the design since. That number is getting... well, ridiculous for the amount of work done. I'm well aware of "feature creep" & "scope creep", but this, for want of a better phrase is "aesthetics creep".

How do you approach a client politely and professionally on the subject that it may have escaped their notice that you've lost weekends, small hours and afternoons over something that really doesn't warrant that amount of time, effort or attention, and should have been finished weeks ago, yet still isn't and remains in the permanent state of unfinished limbo because they're not happy with any of the results so far, and no matter how many more different iterations of the design are created it may continue to remain that way till all the earth is dust and giant scarab beetles have enslaved the remains of the human race?

  • Are you using a freelance website for this? If so, Peter MV has some good answers and as he said, you're a bit stuck with this... hopefully scarabs will not enslave the human specie! But if you're not on a freelancer website, there's some options. – go-junta Jun 21 '15 at 0:07
  • Maybe some info there: freelancing.stackexchange.com/questions/3226/… – go-junta Jun 26 '15 at 5:18

In the design work working on a fixed-price basis, always, always, always set how many iterations are included in the price. it could be 3 or 5 or 55 as long as the client is aware of it. Along with this rule, you should advise him that he should send changes in a bunch instead one by one so that he does not use all iterations in vain. With this advise, you may have more work, but the client will not feel tricked. After those iterations, all extra work is paid one.

So this is the rule for your next assignments. For this one, you do not have a lot of choices. If you are working over some freelancing service where the client rates you after the work is done, then you have no other option but to make them happy and get your 5 stars. At the same time, this will be a good lesson for the future.

If you are not afraid of the rating, then simply tell him in a polite and professional (!!!) manner that they have overused your policy and that you cannot do any more changes for free. You can continue on the paid basis or you can deliver the result and let him find another person to purify the design.

I know it's pretty much standard to set a limit to the number of revisions a client can have.. however.....

I'm rare... I don't place a limitation on changes/iterations on most of the work I do. I allow my clients to not be concerned that "uh-oh, we've already made 3 changes. Now we have to pay for more or deal with a piece we don't like." My client love this aspect of my business. And I'm almost never "bitten" by it. But then, my clients are not the one-off, get'r'done, type of clients.

The only time I do place a limit on iterations is for projects of a more "art" nature - illustrations, logos, etc. Since redrawing over and over is not something I can do repeated at no cost. But for general layout and design... I don't limit things.

Instead, what I do is include a clause in the contract which states something along the lines of:

There are no limitations on the number of revisions you may request. You are allowed as many revisions as are necessary to complete a piece of which you can be proud to display. In my experience, this generally should take no more than 3 to 5 exchanges. However, a couple more is never a problem. Technical issues such as typographic errors, misspellings, bad alignment, should all be corrected after the second proof.

Although there is no limit to the number of change requests you can make, I ask that you keep in mind that every change requires time and effort, no matter how small it may appear. Any request for changes should be reasonable and delivered in a "bulk" fashion. In other words, please take your time when reviewing proofs, collect your thoughts, and return with a list of desired changes rather than detailing individual changes one at a time. Please be be considerate of my time and not abuse it by requesting an unreasonable amount changes. If at any time I feel the number of change requests is becoming a concern, I will open a dialog to discuss this and hopefully we can come to an amicable solution. In some cases additional fees may be used to offset an unreasonable amount of change requests.

This goes over pretty well.

If a client then starts hitting my limit, which is generally more than 10 requests, or even more than 3 requests if they are "sweeping" in nature. I open a dialog with them:

Hi Client! Thanks for sending the changes. I'm becoming a bit concerned that changes keep coming in and I'm having difficulty determining when or even if this project will be completed. Please realize my original project quote considered a reasonable amount of changes, roughly under 7 on average. This project is now hitting X rounds of changes. If you feel we're close to the finalizing with this last change request, then there's no worry. However, if you feel the piece still has a ways to go to be final, please let me know.

Clients tend to respond well to that. They will stop monkeying around and finalize the piece in one or maybe two rounds after that. Or, they are open to the discussion that they realize they are making a lot of change requests and are willing to either pay a bit more or at a minimum switch to the quote+hourly for changes. This way the amount they spend is in direct correlation to the amount of changes they request.

I try my best to never be accusatory in my dealings with the client. I always want to come off as if "Hey, (smile, smile) did you happen to realize...." Really my goal is to just remind them that my time matters. Most of the clients I've dealt with are very open to this and even if they are against any additional fees, then do reluctantly admit that they are kind of going above and beyond and they need to stop. And most do.

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    In your contract clauses, do you actually say "please be be considerate of my time and not abuse it"? I think this does need to be said in some fashion, especially for subjective work like graphic design, but I guess it must be said rather carefully! "Abuse" and the implication of disrespect is strong language to use in a document that, presumably, must be as non-scary as possible. – halfer Jul 21 '15 at 20:42
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    I don't use "my" or "your" in favor of a more "third person" universal perspective in the writing. But yes, that's essentially the wording I use. And it would be "abuse" so I don't think the language is too harsh. I want to discourage any client from taking advantage. If they actually read my contract, it's overall very friendly and "non-legalese" so a few harder words with respect to what is not permitted or frowned upon isn't a problem here. Of course, your milage may vary. – Scott Jul 21 '15 at 20:47

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