How to handle writing revisions – without going insane!

A crazy woman in a straight jacket, representing revisions making one insaneGreetings and welcome back! Today Heather continues her “how to start an SEO copywriting business” video series with how to handle writing revisions… without losing your mind!

Writing revisions are an inevitable part of freelance copywriting – it’s something ALL of us face, from “newbies” to veterans with decades of experience. Typically, you can count on at least one revision of everything you write.

The key is to minimize those writing revisions and to make them as minor as possible so you don’t feel like you’re stuck with re-writing the entire page!

Tune in to learn how to do this, beginning with what a revision is versus what is  “out of scope” of the original agreement with your client.

Revisions versus “out of scope.”

- A revision entails making minor edits to the content. The main structure of the page stays the same.

Revisions are quick tweaks to the content, as when the client asks that you change a word or switch up a sentence. They’re changes you’d make to the content that aren’t all that time-consuming.

- “Out of scope” is when the client changes his/her mind about the topic, tone or feel, or what should be included in the content.

Sometimes, however, a client will change her mind and ask that you change the topic, or the tone and feel of the content, and/or what should be included in the topic.

Those kinds of substantive changes are considered “out of scope”: you had an agreement with the client before you started writing and then the client essentially changed the agreement.

That is not a revision. That would be considered re-writing a page, at an additional page cost.

So this distinction is important to clarify with your client at the outset, before you start writing. The client needs to know that little tweaks are cool, and part of the process, but major overhauls will entail an additional charge.

What’s the best way to minimize revisions?

- Talk to the client before you start work and ask them a lot of questions.

Where a lot of revisions come into play is when the writer isn’t really clear about what the client wants, having failed to nail down the client for specifics. So when the client reads it and thinks “this isn’t right…” the writer is faced with a lot of extra work.

- It helps to send a follow-up email outlining the conversation, the article structure and main points to hit.

After that initial conversation with the client, it helps to send a follow-up email to reiterate: “This is what we talked about, this is the tone and feel, these are the sites that you like that you wanted to use as examples, these are the main points that we wanted in the content…is this correct? Please email me back and let me know.”

That way you have a paper trail showing what everyone agreed on and what you were going to write.

Having that paper trail can definitely help later if the client changes her mind and you have to gently remind her “…this is what we agreed on when we talked on the phone.”

Revision tips:

When you do have those writing revisions come back from a client – as virtually all of us do – here are some tips for dealing with them:

- Ask the client to provide specific feedback in writing.

The phone is helpful if you have any questions, but again, writing provides that paper trail.

Specific feedback means just that: if you get vague feedback like “we don’t like this,” that doesn’t help you improve the sentence or the paragraph or the page. You’ll want to dig in with the client to ask specifically WHY they don’t like something.

- If you get revisions from multiple people, ask your client for help.

Sometimes a page you’ve written will be reviewed by multiple people, each with their own idea of what needs to be changed. So when you get the page back from the client it’s all marked up, and you can’t tell what’s priority, what to change, what to keep…

In this scenario, you’ll want to go back to your point of contact and say, “I’m really not sure how to proceed with this. Can you go through the revisions and make sure they’re all applicable, this is something you want, and give me an updated document so I know how to move forward.”

That is definitely something to put back on the client.

Also, in your contract you’re going to want to:

- Limit the amount of revisions you’ll do at no cost.

Beware of saying that you’ll provide unlimited revisions – sometimes that can mean that the project is literally never done as you find yourself stuck in an endless loop of client revisions!

What a lot of freelance copywriters will do is stipulate “three revisions and then the page is considered final” or “two revisions and the page is done.” So go with whatever works best for your business model – but it is something you will want to be sure to include in your client contract.

You’ll also want to be sure to give your clients a head’s up that there is a limitation to your free revisions. That way, when they’re looking at a page, they know they only have a couple of times to change it before they’ll have to pay for revisions.

Thanks for tuning in – and please check back again next Monday for part 4 of the “how to start an SEO copywriting business” series, when Heather will discuss (more of) what you should include in your copywriting contract!

And as always, if you have a comment or question for Heather, or a suggestion for a topic you’d like to know more about, you can zip her an email via heather@seocopywriting.com, or reach her on Twitter via @heatherlloyd.

photo thanks to Suus Wansink

Coming February 11th: the Copywriting Business Boot Camp for freelance writers who want to learn how to build their business and make more money (without working so darn hard)!

6 replies
  1. Sian Killingsworth
    Sian Killingsworth says:

    What perfect timing. I’m incredibly frustrated by a long-term client who regularly weasels out of giving clear, specific direction and then wants substantial changes after the fact. I’m ready to fire him! This particular case isn’t an issue of payment (he does pay for the additional work), but more of just sheer exasperation… Gah!

    Reply
  2. craig wright
    craig wright says:

    I had this problem a lot in my early days of freelancing. Eventually, I set up terms and conditions that clearly state the quoted price is for a draft plus one round of revisions. But now that you have mentioned it, I am going to specify what can be included in those revisions.

    Which brings up another issue – how to convince clients that they don’t need to fill their content with business-speak and jargon. For me, tone can be formal or chatty, but the content should always be in plain English, using industry specific terms where appropriate.

    Reply
  3. Heather
    Heather says:

    @Sian….I understand your pain. You may have the kind of client who doesn’t know what he wants until he sees the first (or second) draft. That does sound exasperating…but at least he’s paying you for the additional changes. That’s a blessing!

    @Craig…ooh, I like your idea for a future blog post! Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Katherine Andes
    Katherine Andes says:

    You all have just convinced me to stick with my hourly rate … I don’t want to have to start renegotiating every time a client changes his mind. And I don’t have much problem with revisions, maybe my clients realize they are paying for my time. Also, how in the heck can you get people on the phone? I do a detailed creative brief, but getting my clients (usually CEOs or Presidents) to return calls/emails is incredibly difficult most of the time. So I go ahead and write the pages and then they correct them once they see them.

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      Katherine, I totally agree about charging an hourly rate, versus a flat fee. Charging hourly incentivizes the client to get his/her act together – after all, they’re paying for your time. It’s better for you – and better for the client.

      Thanks for your thoughts!
      :)

      Reply
  5. Joseph Gilday
    Joseph Gilday says:

    I’ve got a good one for you. No revisions. Even though revisions are needed.
    One of my clients is fairly accessible and I have grilled him extensively in several 30 minute conversations since we began. He loves everything I do. The problem is there are holes. I see holes but need his input to fill them. I don’t think I’d be doing my job well if I just said “OK. Client likes it. Good enough for now. Check please.”
    I’m not complaining, though. It’s nice to be in control of the revisions. (Not so, with my other current client!)

    Reply

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