How to Manage and Price Client Revisions

“Um yeah…I’m gonna need you to make a few revisions on that video.”

You’ve just finished editing perhaps the greatest video you’ve ever made. You’ve watched it three or four times already and you just can’t get over yourself. Your pride and excitement are beaming. You send the video off to your client and await the praise.

A week later you DO get some praise. The client loves it. It’s PERFECT. Except for just a few changes. (How can something be perfect and still need changes is beyond me.) So the list of changes comes in and they practically want you to edit a completely different video: new song, different sound bites, longer, shorter, hipper, mellower, whatever. But, hey, it was perfect.

This is one of the most frustrating aspects of this business. But, unless you have the power of Paul Rand and can say “You get what I give you, no changes, take or leave, but I still get paid.” you must capitulate to your client’s wishes.

But how do you keep it under control? Chances are, you were underpaid for the gig to begin with, right? Now you have to do more work? If you want to keep your clients happy (and coming back for more), the answer to that question is “Yes.” But that doesn’t mean you have to do hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars worth of work without getting paid. Nor does it mean you have to let the client walk all over you. (I love how Chris Fenwick put it on a recent episode of the Digital Convergence Podcast. “I’ll bend over backwards to please my clients, but I won’t bend over forward.” I’m just the messenger people. 🙂 )

Here are some tips I have found helpful in managing and pricing client revisions (these methods work for wedding and event work as well as commercial work):

  1. Set Expectations. I have a clause in all of my contracts that states up front that the client will get 1-hour of complimentary changes. After that, they will be billed at my editing rate (which is stated in the contract). They are required to initial that paragraph. Also set expectations about how your studio works. In my business, clients are not allowed to sit over my shoulder while I edit. They pick me and my company because of our style. We’ll collaborate with them, but the creative decisions are mine. Some editors (like the aforementioned Mr. Fenwick) work for large commercial clients where sitting in the edit suite is such a common affair, the editor’s office is designed with refreshments and lounge areas for the clients. In both cases though, the client is paying for any additional work required of the editor.
  2. Build it in. Build into your initial fee, the time it takes to make that first round of revisions. You don’t need to break it out for the client, just charge a rate that you feel adequately will cover the revisions you know will be coming.
  3. No surprises. If a client gives you five hours of changes, don’t go ahead and make those changes then send them a bill. There’s nothing like unexpected costs to really piss off a client. Let them know ahead of time how much their revisions will cost then give them the option to approve, amend, or abandon the request.
  4. Use discretion. Just because you can charge for revisions, doesn’t mean you always should. You have the option to say “Even though it’ll take me X number of hours to do this for you, as a professional courtesy I will waive my normal revision rate.”  (Always let them know you are doing this so they understand it’s a special occurrence and not something they should always expect). There could be any number of reasons you may do this: it’s a loyal client for many years and it’s your way of thanking them for continued business; there were some extenuating circumstances regarding the gig; the extra money you may make is not worth the possible aggravation the client may have if you charge it; the size of the original fee was so huge, charging a small amount may appear petty, even if deserved (do you really want to send a $200 revision bill to a Fortune 100 client who’s already paid you $20,000 just because they gave you a couple of hours of revisions?”

The bottom line here is that you are worth the time you put into your craft. You should not have to feel guilty for charging for additional work a client gives you. But you must clearly communicate up front so that everyone is on the same page.

What ways have you handled client revisions?

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