I’m a freelance graphic designer, so mostly, my pricing and what not is pretty casual and I don’t work 24/7 as I have other things to take care of, so when I quote someone, I figure out how long it will take me roughly and also take into account how difficult it might be. I give them the price, get a deposit and start work. I usually tell them that the odd revision or two is included.
In the situation that I’m asking about, I always seem to get people who are really specific on what they want, which is brilliant; it seems nice and simple and I know exactly what I’m doing. But then as the job progresses and I send them samples, they begin to change their mind, they request way more revisions/redesigns that I ever expected etc. Now, I’m fine with this, as obviously I’m happy to work with them until they are happy with their product but when I mention that it’s been more work than they initially stated they almost always get angry and lash out (via email) at how I’m not holding up my end of the bargain.
I always feel awful asking for more money and I almost never get more/they cancel altogether and I’m left with nothing, usually not even the (tiny) deposit that I stated was non refundable (to protect myself from exactly this…)
What is the best way of wording something (anything) initially, whereby this might not happen as much. Or am I just being too polite?
Stefan has several excellent points, which I’ll echo and expand upon:
- Write up a contract. You don’t start anything without a contract.
It took me over a week to write my first contract, but that baby is
as detailed and iron-clad as I could make it, and now I can
slice-and-dice and adapt it to future jobs. The AIGA has a ridiculously detailed sample contract you can use to start with: http://www.aiga.org/standard-agreement/
- In that contract you spell out precisely what you are doing for the
client. Be repetitive to the point where you feel silly, because it
will save your butt later.
- As part of that contract, you specify what amount of money is due
when: deposit of $X or Y%, $X or Y% upon Milepost 1, $X or Y% upon
Milepost 2, remaining $X or last 10% when client signs off on final
product. You want to leave a little at the end so that the client
feels like they can still command your attention, but not so much
that if you had to walk away it would ruin your bank account. I like
10% as my wiggle room.
- You include N rounds of revisions. (I usually have three.) You
specify “after N rounds of revisions, any additional revisions will
be billed at $X per hour.” That gives them warning right up front
that if they want to go ’round the mulberry bush, you’ll be happy to
accommodate them, but they’ll be paying for it.
- As part of this process, when they send you the first revision, you IMMEDIATELY respond with, “Thank you, I am in receipt of your email with blah blah revision. Per our contract, this is the first round of
revisions to this project.” Now, it’s up to you what constitutes “a round of revisions.” It can be “one large design change,” it can be “one hour of little revisions over and over,” whatever. But have an idea in mind BEFORE you open the file.
- You do the same with the second round. At the third round, you
respond, “I just want to remind you before I start that this is your
last round of revisions allotted in our contract. After this,
subsequent changes will be billed on a per-hour basis and invoiced
- Include a Kill Fee or a cancellation fee. The idea is that you always get paid for your time and effort, no matter where they stop in the process. You can pro-rate it to an hourly cost from the last pay milestone to the cancellation point. That will also give them pause.
- Don’t be shy about asking for money. If you’re a professional, act
like one. Would your plumber be shy about sending you a bill? You are
a professional providing a service. It’s not your fault if they don’t
like the service; you still had to do the work. Of course you want
them to be happy, but you also need to pay your grocery bill.
Basically, don’t do more work than you agreed to before they agree to pay you for it. When you’re reaching your estimate, STOP and tell them so.