designer process / revisions

A few weeks back, I spoke about the initial design phase of the creative process, but haven’t yet touched on revisions. There are so many ways to go about revising a design project and I have yet to feel settled within my own process, so I look forward to discussing that part with you all in the comments section, that’s for sure! The most important thing I can tell you about this step is to create boundaries and be clear with your clients up front about how everything works.

For example, after the initial designs have been presented, I allow for two rounds of revisions*. In my case, a revision is a list of changes or edits that the client suggests and discusses with me in order to move forward with the right design direction. These can be simple things like spacial issues or more complex like composition and typography reconfiguration. Either way, the point is to make thoughtful edits that help move closer to the final design solution.

The reason that I have a set amount of revisions is not only to protect my time, but also to help clients focus. Because if there weren’t any rules in place, we could literally go back and forth with edits forever and quickly lose sight of the original strategy. When a client KNOWS that they have two rounds of edits, they tend to carefully consider everything and craft a thorough list of changes. Ultimately, set revisions help prevent haphazard edits and fast decisions.

Now, I haven’t always worked this way. When I first started out freelancing, I had a ten hour revision limit in place. What that means is that after I presented the initial designs, the client had ten hours of my time to make edits. Almost immediately, I realized that I was receiving a stream of consciousness from my clients. Instead of sitting on the designs and carefully crafting their changes, I would often instantly get five ( or more ) emails in a row of unorganized thoughts, contradictions, and possible edits. This way of working opened the door for a crazy work environment that I just couldn’t sustain. This was nobody’s fault but my own, so I made sure to make revisions to my revision process ( ha ) right away.

Like I said earlier, there are so many ways one could go about handling the editing process. Maybe you offer up more revisions or prefer working at an hourly limit. Who knows! Over time, though, I think you’ll figure out what works best for you + your clients. It takes time to perfect the process … I’m sure I’ll be changing my own for years to come.

* Side note : If a client needs more than two revisions, that’s totally cool too – I simply charge hourly when we go above the limit.

  1. JACLYN says:

    Oh Breanna! Every time I read your posts, it is a constant few minutes of smiling and nodding at my computer. I identify with this series on every level and have to laugh at my old designer self. How I wish I could have known then what I know now! :) I guess that’s all part of the designer process though…. live and learn! I hope that new designers are reading this, because if they aren’t, they SHOULD BE! There is so much wisdom here. haha

    • breanna says:

      Thank you! Oh man do I wish I would have known more when I was first starting out, but we live and learn. :)

  2. Jo says:

    I was looking forward to a post on revisions, because I’ve wondered about how to define them. I usually keep making changes until everyone’s happy, but I’m realizing that that’s just no way to go. I’m definitely going to try it your way. Thanks for this.

    • breanna says:

      It’s important to make your clients happy, of course. But there HAVE to be rules so that you’re protecting yourself in the end. If you work for however long they want, chances are you’re not getting paid appropriately for your time. Clients usually understand. :) And if they don’t, they aren’t the right client!

  3. Toni says:

    I go through a similar process. I give my clients a set of 4-5 designs to start off with then offer three rounds of revisions and anything that goes beyond that is charged at an hourly rate. I copied this process from the agency I work for and it works just as well for freelance clients no matter what size their company :) – In the past clients ended up taking advantage of the fact that I had no set rules and ended up sending me never-ending sets of revisions :(

  4. Angela says:

    I like the idea of charging an hourly rate beyond the two revisions. I’ve found that a lot of clients look at the revisions clause in our initial contract and get very nervous (“what if it takes more time than that?”). I’ve never really been able to perfectly define revisions either – obviously there is the first email or two with meaty stuff, but later, when they want to do something like tweak a color that will just take a minute, I don’t usually count it as a revision. I also find that when that third or fourth revision comes, I’m not very good about saying “hey, this is beyond the scope of the initial contract.” How do you handle that?

    • breanna says:

      Yeah – it can get really tough in terms of WHAT is a revision and all that jazz. I always make sure I’m letting my clients know where I’m at within the process. So for example, after revision one, I may say something like “do note that we now have one revision left.” – – That helps keep them in the mindset of how much is actually left. And then they’ll know and expect anything out of scope. When I DO tell them that something is out of scope, I let them know before I begin and try to be nice + give them an estimate of how much time I think it will take, so they can budget.

      It’s hard and sometimes feels weird, but they should be respectful. :)

  5. Rebecca says:

    I know this is just a sample for the actual lesson, but I just love those top couple logos. I don’t work freelance but I think this could be a good example to apply for myself at work. I’ve started the moodboards and they have helped me flesh out my ideas and stop from making multiple versions before I decide on one (time waster) but I tend to drag on with my revisions and editing. I think a limit might help with the focus and just getting stuff done. And seriously, if anyone ever offers you a teaching job, even online, for design take it! At Parsons they taught us the how to use the software but there was no good “conducting your business, etc” class. Thanks for more invaluable info Breanna; I can’t thank you enough!!!

  6. Breanna, I really love this post. I was just pondering this exact topic this week. I am in the process of launching a freelance biz but have had many clients already contact me for work – meaning I wasn’t prepared yet and it was wide open on revisions. As a newbie, I wasn’t sure if it was because I didn’t ‘get’ what the client was asking for, but after a few design jobs I am realising setting limits is not just about our valuable time, but also good for the sanity of the client. Boundaries really do keep focus. It was a steep learning curve for me.

  7. I love setting the two revisions then going hourly after that. One client expressed some concern over this strategy saying, well if I think of something else I don’t want to hesitate to ask you to try more things… but it’s kinda like that is the point! THINK first. Think a lot! And then that won’t happen :) and no one’s time will be wasted.

  8. fathima says:

    Great post once again, Breanna! Really love this series. The whole thing was oh so familiar and I use the same system now that you do. I think being able to do that comes with experience and confidence. In the beginning I think I was afraid to give clients limits and let them know that they might get charged more, but as I got more experience I also grew more comfortable with stating boundaries. Haven’t had a single client complain about those terms, so it works well :)

  9. Oh man great post!!! I am super happy that I learned about revisions from smaller freelance projects when I was first starting out and from working in a studio for the past year or so. I know on one of my very first logo/branding projects that I did freelancing while I was in school I had nothing like this set up and definitely learned my lesson (luckily the client was easily pleased) but the option for numerous revisions were there which is a scary thought! When I started freelancing out of school I put a similar set up in place offering 2 revisions after the initial designs and hourly for anything after that. I’m so glad to hear your point of view and that more people are doing it this way!!

  10. Ilana says:

    I love hearing about someone else’s process! I’d love to see a post on how you handle emails, and conversations with your clients!

    Such a great series!

  11. This was so helpful! I have a graphic design business that I started a couple months ago and have been offering unlimited revisions because I really want to make sure my clients love what I create for them. I think my initial thoughts about having a certain amount of revisions were that the design might end up not being exactly what they want. BUT after designing a lot of blogs and websites since then, I completely understand the need for a set amount of revisions. I was reading through the comments and one commenter mentioned that a client was a little peeved because they were worried that if they thought of something in the middle of the process that they wouldn’t get to voice their opinion and this is the exact problem I run into…I’ve already created their designs which have been approved and then they see a random design somewhere that they liked and expect me to redo certain things. Anyways, thank you so much for this post!

    I have ONE question about revisions – if you are designing a blog for example and there are specific things included with it (header, signature, etc), do you design ALL of those things and create a mock-up and then send it to the client? And then they give you their revisions? One thing I like doing is creating a few initial header images and seeing what they like and then creating some designs from there and gradually sending them over, maybe half at a time and with a few options for each thing. Is this totally crazy? haha I don’t know how other people do it, so I am really curious if you have any advice or comments.

    SORRY THIS WAS THE LONGEST COMMENT/ESSAY EVER DEAR GOD! And thank you. :)

    • breanna says:

      Hey! Yeah, sometimes I run into the problem where a client will see something they like AFTER they’ve approved a certain design direction, which is always a little treat. ;) Not. In that situation, I try my best to bring them back to our strategy and ask why they like it so much. Usually, 9 times out of 10, they just “like” it so much – but it doesn’t end up being what is right for their business.

      I tend to design anything website related as a WHOLE. So, I don’t offer “just” blog headers, signatures, etc. It’s the whole package or nothing, basically – but that’s just how I choose to work. I typically will fully design two web options, each including about three pages to show them how it works. Then, once they choose a direction, I will implement the design into the rest of the pages. Hope that helps!

  12. […] couple weeks ago, we talked about revisions within the creative process and just how many ways there are to tackle them. While I love […]

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