By Jake Poinier
“We have just a few more changes.”
OK, if I haven’t scared you off with that skin-crawling, please-shoot-me-now, 7 Scariest Words in the Freelance World phrase, stick with me. It’s a horror story with a happy ending. (For the background on the client relationship, please see “Your Digital Triage Kit.”)
My design partner and I had delivered everything in the contract for a Fortune 500 company. The incremental changes during the editing/approval process had been tedious, but the files had been appended with “_FINAL.docx”, and we were ready to invoice.
Only FINAL didn’t mean final-final. We started receiving a steady stream of “we have just a few more changes” emails—with the requests now coming from a third-party PR firm that I’d love to name, but I’m too much of a gentleman. (Barely.)
I was floored. I disagreed with most of the comments, which were a combination of silly and this-would-take-another-100-words-to-explain. My partner took the position that we needed to stick to our guns, and I agreed: Either we were done, or additional changes would come at our hourly rate.
She wrote a pleasant, logical, and firm email that explained our position. And guess what? The über-boss of the project gave her a call…and ended up seeing it our way. Which, again, left me floored. This time in a good way!
For me, there were three takeaways:
- We were right to stand our ground, knowing that it could have backfired—they could have said we were breaching the contract unless we made the changes. Clearly, that could have been a never-ending process.
- We were remiss in not defining the word “approved” in the contract, which was provided from the client end. I’ll confess, specifying the number of rounds of changes has always bothered me, and in my almost 12 years of doing this, I’ve rarely had someone abuse the privilege. I may need to rethink my position.
- Third parties, trying to prove their value by criticizing your work, are toxic.
Please share in the comments: Do you specify rounds of changes in your agreements? Does it work? Has it ever backfired?
Jake Poinier runs Boomvang Creative Group, an editorial services firm, and blogs regularly as Dr. Freelance.