If you’re a creative, tell me if this sounds familiar:
You book a discovery call with a potential client who’s perfect for your services. Afterward, they sign your contract, get onboard, and participate in the first call to go over deliverables information. Then, you work your creative magic, provide them with the initial draft, and ask for their feedback to make any necessary revisions.
Suddenly, the client doesn’t respond, and you find yourself stuck in an endless cycle of follow-up emails. Without their feedback, you not only can’t move forward with the project, but it also starts impacting all of your other projects too.
So what’s the best way to handle this situation? Implementing some contract language and additional communication procedures should put you in a better position to manage the drafting and approval process with clients. I talk about how to do that in today’s episode.
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In this episode:
[03:14] – Are you specific about how many drafts are included for the price?
[04:28] – Carefully review your process for providing clients access to view drafts.
[05:07] – How do you want to receive feedback from clients after they review drafts?
[06:50] – Make sure you include this section about reviews in your contract as well.
[08:18] – Danielle discusses scenarios when it might make sense to include delay fees.
[09:38] – As a business owner, you need to prepare yourself for this possibility.
[10:37] – Look for these great opportunities to reiterate your policies outside of the agreement itself.
[11:52] – You might want to remind your client of this as well when there are delays on their end.
[12:13] – Using a product management system with your clients in this way can alleviate the need for spending a ton of time on follow-up.
[12:52] – Danielle goes over today’s action steps.
Links & Resources:
- Marketing Queen
- Businessese on Facebook
- Businessese on Instagram
- Liss Legal
- Liss Legal on Instagram
Welcome to the Simplifying Legal podcast, brought to you by Businessese. I’m your host, Danielle Liss.
Many years ago, someone told me I was the least lawyer-y lawyer she’d ever met because I helped make legal easier to understand. To this day, it’s one of the best compliments I’ve received in my professional life.
If you've ever felt legal was too scary, too overwhelming, too complicated, or just plain incomprehensible, you're not alone. The Simplifying Legal podcast was created to help.
In each episode, we’ll do a deep dive into a legal topic and give you concrete next steps so you can apply it to your business.
My goal is for you to walk away from each episode thinking, oh, that was easier than I thought it would be.
Let’s get started.
Hey there, I’m Danielle. Welcome to episode 28 of Simplifying Legal for Small Business Owners. This is the last episode before taking some time off for summer break. I’ll be back at the end of August with new episodes.
In this episode, we’re talking about how to manage drafts and client approvals.
Disclaimer: As always, before we get into today’s topic, a quick disclaimer. This podcast is meant to provide you with legal information only. It’s not legal advice and does not create any type of attorney-client relationship between us. Please don’t take any action without consulting your lawyer first.
Now, let’s get started with today’s discussion. If you are a creative, this might sound familiar to you:
- You book a discovery call with a potential client. They are a perfect fit for your services.
- They quickly sign your client agreement and you get them onboarded.
- They participate in the first call to go over information for deliverables. So far, they are engaged and everything is going according to plan.
- Then, you work all of your behind-the-scenes magic and provide your client with the initial draft. You ask for their feedback so that you can make any necessary revisions.
- Then, nothing. It’s crickets. No response from the client and you are in an endless cycle of follow up emails.
- Most frustratingly, without feedback from the client, you can’t move forward with the project and it starts to impact your overall calendar.
This situation is hopefully not something you’ve had to deal with frequently, but when it happens, it is a nightmare situation for many service providers.
So what’s the best way to handle this type of situation? I think it’s all about communication.
I want to be completely transparent during this discussion – I don’t think there is a perfect way to ensure that every client will respond when you want them to. However, by implementing some contract language and additional communication procedures, you should be able to better manage the draft and approval process.
Not surprisingly, you can probably guess that I am going to start with how to address drafts and approvals in your client agreement first.
First, you need to specifically address drafts, edits, and approvals in your agreement. As I’ve said many times in past episodes, get specific. By listing this in your contract, it clearly sets your policies out for your clients from the start.
When it comes to drafts, you need to know your own policies. There is a lot to consider.
- First, are you specific about how many drafts are included for the price? This is usually going to be applicable for flat fee projects. If you are working on something at an hourly rate, you may do multiple revisions and simply bill for the full amount of time you spend.
- In a flat fee package, you should say something like, this package includes X rounds of edits from Client. If additional edits are needed, Company will provide an estimate for the cost of completion.
- By listing the number of drafts, you can be sure that there won’t be confusion about an unlimited number of drafts.
- Next, how will you share the drafts? From the start, make sure that the client has easy access to view the drafts.
- For example, if you are a graphic designer, check on your client’s software before sending a psd file. They may not have access to photoshop and this could delay the review process by not giving them a file type they can easily access.
- This ensures that you can avoid any of these hurdles and it cuts down on the overall time that will need to be spent.
- Once the client is able to review the draft, how do you want the feedback from them? Do you expect them to review and then simply list out the changes in an email? Or do you want them to answer a set of questions?
- Create a process for this, whatever it is. For a number of my designer clients, feedback is often easiest with short videos through Loom. Most importantly, make sure your client is comfortable with how you are asking for them to provide feedback. If they aren’t comfortable with loom, what can you use instead?
- Another thing to consider – does it make sense to schedule a follow up call or video conference with the client to go over their feedback.
- I recently completed a website redesign on Liss Legal and my designer and I met several times on screenshares to go over certain feedback that I had on the design. We also used loom throughout. Big shout out to Crystal at Marketing Queen for making the communication such an easy process.
- Once you’ve thought through these areas, include a section in your agreement to cover all of the applicable policies. This might be a section in your scope of work that gives an overview of how drafts will be reviewed and how feedback should be provided.
Next, include a section about the expectations for the client’s review. Do you provide deadlines for the responses? Here’s an example of what this could look like in your agreement:
Client understands and agrees that Designer will require feedback from Client during the course of the Services. Client agrees to provide all requested feedback in a timely manner. If such feedback is not provided, it may cause delays in completion of the Services. Any delays to the project caused by Client will not, at any time, be deemed a breach of contract by Designer.
Additionally, rather than saying providing the feedback in a timely manner, you may want to include the specific designer turnaround time. For example, Client agrees to provide all feedback within 5 business days.
Please remember to be realistic about the timing, especially if you don’t know exactly what dates you’ll be providing the drafts to your client and your client won’t have ample time to clear time on their own calendar. They may have meetings or their own obligations, so asking them to review and provide detailed feedback in 1 business day may present a challenge for some clients.
As you incorporate your drafts and review policies into your agreement, you may wonder about delay fees and whether they are a good idea. Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer for this since it really depends on your business and the types of clients you work with.
A delay fee would typically be applied if a client is late reviewing their drafts. For example, your agreement might state that if the client has not provided feedback in 5 business days, there will be a set fee for each additional business day that it takes for them to provide feedback. If a client’s delay could potentially cause significant issues with your ability to serve other clients or would potentially cause you to lose money, then it might make sense for you.
If you do decide to incorporate this type of fee, you want to be very clear in your agreement about when it is applicable. For example, what if the client has provided you with 90% of the feedback, but you’re still waiting for them to respond on one small issue. You can still get to work on those other pieces, so is it fair to charge them for that? Or will you pro-rate the fee? Or waive it entirely?
To deal with this, you may decide that the delay fee is only applicable if the client goes completely silent for a period of time and you have received no feedback.
When it comes to drafts and managing approvals, these are some of the ways that you can address it within your agreement.
However, while this is not something I agree with, I’ve heard that there are people who don’t fully read their contracts. They verify the important bits, like the price, and they skim the rest. You know my advice is always going to be to read the full agreement, but as a business owner, you need to be prepared for this type of client.
You could have a beautifully written client agreement that is extremely specific about drafts and approval timing, but if your client doesn’t read it carefully, they may not recall the exact policy.
Or, you may have a client who just doesn’t retain those details. Sometimes, I feel like this. I can remember allllll of the dinosaur names I’ve had to learn from my son, but I don’t remember if I agreed to a 2 day or 2 week turnaround time on a design project.
So, in addition to your agreement, look for opportunities to reiterate the policies and guide the client interaction. This can help prevent frustration for both you and your client.
The first great place is in any formal onboarding documents that you may have. For example, after a client signs their agreement, you may send them a welcome letter.
This is a perfect place to reiterate your expectations for the timing of feedback and the form that you prefer to receive feedback.
Additionally, it’s ideal to continually reiterate this when you share your drafts with the client.
For example, you could send an email with files attached that says, here are your drafts. Please review these in the timeline listed in our company policies. But, let’s be honest, they might not immediately go to find your company policies.
Instead, you could send an email with the files that says, here are your drafts. As a reminder, you have agreed to review these within 3-5 business days. If you will be unable to review them in this timeframe, please contact us as soon. Please remember that delays in your approval may delay the overall project.
Also, if you use a project management system with your clients, if you assign them tasks, add due dates and schedule reminders to give them an extra nudge without having to personally send a ton of reminder and follow up emails.
When it comes to managing drafts and client approvals, clear communication and specificity are critical. Your client agreement will help you set expectations and then you should regularly reiterate the process throughout your client relationship.
Now let’s talk about today’s action steps.
- First, do you have a policy for drafts and managing client approvals? If you don’t have anything set, consider what you want this to look like.
- Next, once you know what your policies are, make sure your client agreement reflects the policy. It is key to ensure that you are communicating these policies from the start of your client relationship.
- Next, when do you have the opportunity to reiterate your policies to the client as reminders to help the process? This might be in an email with drafts, or with due dates in your project management software. Great client communication is going to be key to ensuring easy draft and approval management.
- Last, as always, if you have questions on how to adjust your client agreement to incorporate your company’s process for managing drafts and client approvals, please talk to a lawyer. Especially if you are not sure about how to incorporate delay fees. This is something I work on regularly with my legal clients, so I’d love to chat with you to see if Liss Legal would be a good fit to help you with your contracts. Visit lisslegal.com for more information.
Thanks for joining me for today’s episode.
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