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If you haven’t been there yet, you will be. You’ve gone through the full design process and just when you think you are heading for final approval of the final, final, final version of the design, the client says, “Actually, we don’t really like how this turned out. We want to start over and go back to the drawing board.”

A good client will realize that “going back to the drawing board” will come at a price. A bad client will think it should be included in your original price. Either way, it is traumatic and frustrating and can easily derail your business.

Let’s look at how to prevent “going back to the drawing board” and empower you to control the project and AT MINIMUM be able to charge extra when the client wants to start over.

The Reason Clients Want to Go Back to the Drawing Board

When a client wants to start over on the design project, it often comes as a surprise to the designer. Things were going well and then all of sudden they want to redo the work.

The most common cause of this conundrum is that you were under the false pretense that you were working with a decision maker and you were not. Your primary contact at the client’s business led you to believe that they had the power to approve the work along the way. Sometimes they may even think they had the power to do so. As such, they approved the various deliverables throughout the project flow and both you and your primary contact thought things were going smoothly.

Then, at a later stage of the project, your primary contact finally showed the work to the REAL decision maker and that person had strong opinions on the project and a desire to start over. Let’s prevent this from ever happening again using the following two rules.

RULE #1: At the start of the project you will ask, “Who is the final decision maker on this project?”
RULE #2: When the client provides feedback on each delivery you will ask, “Has the final decision maker had a chance to see this and provide feedback?”

Phased Production Protects You

There are so many benefits from using a phased production strategy in your business. One of those is that it will empower us to charge more money if the client wants to repeat an already approved phase. Let’s explore this as it relates to a logo project.

Below are the project phases I used for a lot of logo design projects at my agency.

Phase 01: Research and Concept Sketches

During this phase we would research the clients business, competitors and audience and take at them through some mood boards. Following approval of the mood boards we would proceed to “rough logo” concept sketches to establish a direction for the project.

Phase 02: Main Logo Design

With approval of the design direction in Phase 01, we can proceed confidently with designing the main logo. This process includes a few rounds of revision, exploration of color usage etc.

Phase 03: Logo Production

After approval of the main logo in Phase 02, we would create the logo family and deliver the final production files in usable formats for the client.

Each phase of the project will also have a specified price that relates to the associated tasks.

RULE #3: Break your projects into phases with a clear breakdown of the tasks that happen in each phase.

(By the way, if you want to learn more about phased production strategies, check out my freelance course.)

Put this Clause in Your Contract

With your project phases in place, you can gain the power to control the project flow and charge the client if they want to “start over” after a phase has been approved. All you need now is to add the following clause to your contract.

PROJECT PHASES: This project is broken into phases to help manage project approvals and tasks. Once a project phase is completed and approved, any requests by the client to repeat a project phase will require a change order with an increase in price and adjustment to timeline. All change orders will be submitted by the agency and discussed with the client prior to incurring additional fees or extending the timeline.

This clause is your power to push back on your client. If they want to “start over,” it will come at a price in both money and time.

RULE #4: If the client wants to “go back to the drawing board” you will exercise your contract clause to charge more money for re-opening a previously approved project phase.

Truth be told, you can’t prevent some clients from wanting to start over. It will happen (even with the best contracts in place). However, the strategy I’ve outlined for you here will put the power to push back in your hands when you choose to.

Michael Janda

I am Michael Janda, an executive level creative leader with more than 25 years of experience in both in-house creative departments and agencies working with some of the greatest brands in the world including Disney, Google, Fox, ABC and NBC. I create books, courses, workshops, lectures and other training materials to help creative entrepreneurs run successful businesses.