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We’ve all been there. Your client emails you three weeks into a project and requests a major change. This isn’t the kind of change that requires some minor copy edits or design tweaks. No. This is the kind of change the necessitates a complete redesign or a total revision of the project scope.

The bad news is that you can’t stop this from happening. All clients will inevitably change their minds at some point during a project. But, you can set expectations and mitigate these changes so you keep your sanity and save your time.

Here are four ways to deal with client change requests:

Set Expectations Early On

Make sure to clearly articulate scope before you start doing work. Ensure everyone understands the deliverables and the amount of time it will take you to complete each task. Many times, when customers ask for changes mid-project, they just don’t know how long that change will take, so educating them about the process will help reduce big changes. Write down all these details in a scope of work and have your client sign it. It’s also a good idea to add a clause to the document about your change process. Perhaps you have a rule that you do not accept any changes after a certain date or that you only accept three rounds of revisions.

Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate

Your client’s change request does not mean that you have to do it. If the client really wants something added, you have some leverage. You could trade one task for another, letting the client know that he or she cannot have both things. You could also increase your payment for the project, so that if you do have to do more work, you are benefiting from it. You don’t have to make a big ask if you are worried your client will walk away — just make sure that you aren’t getting taken advantage of.

Make More Work for Yourself

If the project’s changes become too big and time-consuming, suggest a “phase two” for the project. Work with the client to identify the top priorities for the project within the original timeframe, then suggest that you delay the less urgent features until the next phase. Tell the client that you want to make sure he or she is happy, but you don’t want the project to go over deadline, so you can do the other tasks later once phase one is complete. This is a win-win for both of you — your client gets exactly what he or she wants and you create more work for yourself!

Be a Consultant

Your client hired you because you are in expert in your field, so don’t just do great work, share your expertise and knowledge. A common reason that clients ask you to change a bunch of stuff is because they are just clueless. They don’t know the best practices or what is the most realistic to maintain. You need to guide them. Take responsibility for being the expert, not them, and educate your clients about why the suggested change is not the best idea.

Next Steps

Clients will always have feedback and request changes to a project. However annoying the changes may be, always focus on the solution, rather than arguing over who is right. When your client submits a very large change request, take the time to ask questions and truly understand the root cause. Talk about why you disagree and your proposed alternative. If you make it a discussion about creating the best project, together, the changes won’t seem so daunting.

Do you have a plan for dealing with client change orders? If not, let’s talk! We can set up a process that results in happier clients, peace of mind for you, and more revenue for your agency.

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