Revision Requests Getting Me Down

Dear Jodee,

Most of the time when I submit my work to a client, it is accepted the first time. There are times, though, when I have a run where several pieces are sent back. During these times, I start to wonder about the quality of the work that I do and I feel a bit insecure about continuing to do work for clients.

What would you suggest?


Dear R.J.,

I think that to be involved in creative work always involves a certain amount of insecurity. You can’t just show up and expect to get paid; instead, you have to not only produce quality work, but it has to be reviewed and accepted before you receive any money. There are times when it can be stressful – especially when you get a number of requests for revisions in a row.

If you are able to separate your self from your work it can be easier to deal with these situations. Yes, you put part of yourself into what you write (which is why you are good at what you do), but when a client asks for a change he or she is not rejecting you. It’s about the work, and the client has the right to get what he or she wants.

Everyone gets these requests, and in some cases there is more than one round of edits. You may have produced the work, but the request to make changes isn’t about you. As long as you have followed the instructions properly, just put it down to part of the job and make the changes the client has asked for.

Get up and stretch, take a walk, and then come back to work on the revisions. You will have a better perspective on the assignment by taking a break first.


5 responses
  1. Ron Avatar

    When that happens to me, it is usually because the requestor really doesn’t know what he/she wanted in the first place. So the project starts to “creep” and morph into something that is vastly different from what was originally requested.

    I try to nip project creep in the bud as once it starts, it is hard to stop, because so many little changes happen along the way. I’ll let the requestor know that I can change the project, but at an additional cost. Most of the time, that puts an end to it. You may have some agree with the addtional cost and want to continue in the new direction.

    1. Mateen Avatar

      oAWbKJ Walking in the presence of giants here. Cool thinking all around!

  2. bobbi carr Avatar
    bobbi carr

    I agree with both Jodee and Ron. Your time is your money. One revision is fine, but I’ve had clients who wanted a lot of revisions but didn’t want to pay a penny extra.

    When that happens, I evaluate the client and decide if asking for a lot of revisions is their modus operandi. If so, I politely tell them that I can no longer work on their projects and look for work elsewhere. One client, a Japanese translation service, was surprised when I said “no more,” but that’s the way it has to be if you value your time and professional abilities.

  3. Carol | Make a Living Writing Avatar

    This story is why many writers get it in their contract that the fee includes two revisions only, and more are at an additional hourly rate.

    I have taken the opposite approach, an “I work until you’re thrilled” attitude. And interestingly, I rarely find I have to do multiple edits! I think my guarantee conveys confidence that I’m hitting it on the head.

    If I have an editor who keeps insisting on many edits, I usually move on, or look to raise my rates.

  4. Scott Martin Avatar

    I have a client who pays me by the hour. They always provide rock-solid creative briefs and they stress avoiding endless revisions. So we rarely have to revise much. Others…I fire them if they start to drag on. I gently make each client complete a copy “preflight checklist” and this minimizes rewrites and confusion. It also helps the client get their marketing more focused. However, if you’re working with a new client who could become a great client, be patient as it takes a little time to get used to them–and for them to get used to you. But if the work gets harder, not easier, give the client the red card and move on.

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