Handling your client's "little" changes

January 11, 2016

How often have you heard your client utter these words: "can you just do this one thing..." or "I'm sure it's a simple change..." or "oops, I forgot one - can you do this as well, please?"

Unless doing one more change means you won't be able to deliver the job, then the default answer will usually be "yes, my beloved client (whom I treasure dearly, and do not wish to disappoint), of course I will."

It's pretty much a given that you will do all in your power to accommodate your client's requests, so what is it that irks you when you are asked for yet another "little" change?

Many of our client-agency frustrations (including handling ongoing small changes) result from poor communication and/or false expectations. Fortunately (for everyone) these issues can be solved quite easily, and it's far easier to do so before you begin your projects than when you are half way through (or, worse yet, when your client disputes the invoice). 

A rock-solid quote

Your surest safeguard is to always supply your client with a quote before you start any job (large or small). That way the parameters are agreed to by both agency and client, and a quote gives you the opportunity to talk through your processes - including how changes will be handled.

Smart Account Managers will also include a line in the quote something like this: "Includes two (or one or three) sets of author's alterations. Alterations above this, or alterations amounting to a change of brief, will be charged on an hourly basis." Boom...the agency cost of their plethora of small alterations is now firmly covered! By discussing this charging structure with your client, you can let them know that they can make changes until the cows come home...but they will have to pay for it.


Another frustration can occur when change requests (even "little" ones) start to meander outside the scope of the original agency brief.

Having a water-tight quote is always your first line of defence, however the moment you receive any request that is outside of the brief, you need to have a chat with your client. You'll firstly want to double check that the request is correct. If it is correct, then you may need to adjust your quote or let your client know that they will start incurring additional costs.

Know your client

No-one knows their client better than you do (O, ye awesome Account Manager), and sometimes the charging of small changes will be at your personal discretion.

For instance, your project may be so large, that a couple of "little" changes are really neither here nor there in the scheme of things. You may decide it is easier/better/more prudent to absorb the changes than on-charge them to your client.

You may also find that you can make some small changes yourself (without putting them through your studio) which you may or may not choose to invoice.

Retainer clients

If your client pays your agency on a retainer-basis, and if that retainer includes creative work then you should keep a close eye on all time spent on jobs - including all author's alterations.

It's very common for a client to think that any request and any job can be included under the retainer, and that no amount of change requests is too large.

The best way to avoid any unpleasant retainer discussions is to ensure that the retainer agreement clearly states both what is included and excluded. It's also a good idea to include a clause (similar to the quote wording above) that covers your agency for work that creeps outside the scope of the retainer.

Next time your skin prickles when your client sends through their "little" changes, take a deep breath, then take a look at your processes. If your quoting and communication is solid, then just sit back and traffic the work through, content in the knowledge that your project will still be profitable and that your client will think you are simply marvellous!




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