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Navigating the delicate balance between satisfying your clients and maintaining professional boundaries can be a real challenge. As we all know, our primary goal is to make our clients happy and deliver excellent work. However, it's crucial to remember that we shouldn't just follow every single directive our clients give, especially if it leads to an overwhelming number of revisions or excessive work beyond the original agreement.

One of the biggest struggles we face is managing clients who are unsure of what they want or lack knowledge in our field. In these situations, it's important to take on the role of an educator. Guide your clients toward the best possible outcome by using your expertise to suggest what will work best for their project. Always be polite and professional in your communication, ensuring that they understand the value of your advice.

When it comes to revisions, it's essential to set clear boundaries from the start. Specify how many revisions are included in your package and stick to it. If a client requests more than what was agreed upon, politely remind them of the initial terms and discuss additional fees if necessary. This helps prevent exploitation and ensures that your work remains manageable and fair.

Moreover, steering clients towards your best product is not only beneficial for them but also for your reputation as a seller. When a client doesn't know what they want, they're relying on your expertise. Take this opportunity to showcase your skills and recommend the most suitable options. By doing this, you are not only providing a service but also educating your client, which can lead to a more satisfying experience for both parties.

Remember, your time and skills are valuable. It's important to assert yourself professionally and not be afraid to stand by your work agreements. By guiding your clients respectfully and maintaining clear boundaries, you'll create a positive working relationship that benefits everyone involved.

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Really well said. Especially in a field like ours (I am in the composers market as well), dealing with changes of hearts over night and undecided customers when it comes to the final soundtrack can be very consuming. 

About informing the customers about the revisioning process, when writing them the offer, on the line that specifies the number of free revisions included, I use an * and then follow it up with: 

* Revisions stand for modifications of the delivered files. If the number of free included revisions is exceeded, a tax of X% of offer’s total value will be imposed. The modification of the initial work request is not considered a revision, but a totally new task, and it will be charged accordingly (e.g. If the video file you've sent me is changed after the files are delivered, and the audio needs to be redone to match it, this operation is not considered a revision request).

Since I've been doing this, customers have been much more attentive to what they request in a revision, and also did it in one session, instead of a revisioning loop of small changes. Mentioning what happens if the number of free revisions is exceeded (they have to buy additional revisions) and mentioning what's considered a revision and what's not, it's really effective for me lately.

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Posted (edited)

@hzsmith Wonderful reply! Your method of defining modifications to the initial work request as a new task rather than a revision is particularly smart. It’s a clear way to ensure clients understand the difference between minor tweaks and substantial changes that require more time and effort. This undoubtedly helps in avoiding the endless loop of small revisions that can be so time consuming.

Edited by manuelmarino
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Very well said, @manuelmarino and @hzsmith.

I would like to add my two cents as well:

The client is the client. He is not your friend.

The communication should match that.

I don't care if you have done 5, 10, 20 orders together.

If the relationship has not been tried during conflict, it does not mean anything.

Which means that if a client considers you a 'friend' and is emotionally involved, they may strike even worse during a dispute. And, that depends on the individual's character.  

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All right, since we've gathered here, the audio united freelancers @manuelmarino & @sunboatrecords, and since we've talked about prevention, I raise you a question. Let's take, the following examples that are happening to me quite a lot, and I'm sure it does to you as well:

 

  • @manuelmarinoThe customer contacts you, and asks for a soundtrack to be composed for their film scene, where the protagonist is returning to the throne room after an epic battle. They specifically ask for french horns and tenorhorns as the leading instruments. After you deliver, they press the "request a revision" button, and say something along the lines of "I like it! But can we try cellos & violins as leading instruments?". In this situation, theoretically, you can simply just change the VST that's playing your MIDI from brass instruments, to bowed instruments, right? But as we know, the legato & sustain techniques present in the current VSTs are quite a pain to implement, as well as the mixing & mastering process of the track, since the newly required instruments don't hold the same place in the frequency space as the ones initially agreed on. It's not like the customer is asking you to change the BPM from 110 to 120, which I'd consider a revision request, but he's asking to change the leading instruments that you've build the whole track arround. Therefore, you've got to put in at least 1-2 more hours before delivering again.

 

  • @sunboatrecordsThe customer contacts you, and asks you to sound design his 25s product commercial video with foley & sound effects, as well as mixing the voice over file with the audio track you'll design. They send you the video file and the voice over file, and some specific indications about what they'd like to hear and what's the main focus of the video. After you delivered, they press the "request a revision" button, and inform you that they changed the voice over artist and it's got a new audio file for that, and also, the video has a new animation in it that overall drags the timeline 2.5 seconds to the right, making the video to be 27,5 seconds. You could just simply remove the old voice over file, add & mix the new one, sound design the new animation and drag the whole audio timeline to fit those 27,5 seconds, right? But we know it's not that easy, since every voice over file needs to be edited, cleaned and mixed differently, as well as moving the timeline to the right might cause some inconsistencies to the already synced audio files to the video's timeline.  Therefore, you've got to put in at least 1-2 more hours before delivering again.

 

Now, the questions: how can we approach this situation, where the revision is clearly not a "revision" but an unilateral modification of the initially agreed terms? What do you say to that customer? How do you handle situations like these? Do you have any practical experience with something like this & can you share some tips with me on this? 

 

I am particularly asking these examples, since I had those kind of situations very often, and still have them from time to time, and I sincerely haven't found an effective way to deal with them. I am struggling hard when customers ask me for "a small request" that in their eyes seems very easy to do, but actually is very time consuming. I know that theory says something, but when it comes to implementing it, the fear of negative private feedback, the continuous collaboration with that customer, or the reputation that could be tarnished in one second comes in mind and I find it very hard to follow the theory. How is your practice on this?

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I see your point about the complexities involved in changing leading instruments. So, we can say, this isn't a minor tweak like changing the BPM; it involves rethinking the texture and balance of the entire track.

However, from my experience, while such a revision does add a few hours of work, it's not excessively demanding. I've handled more complex requests in the past and managed to deliver satisfactory results. So, in this hypothetical situation, I would accept the client's request and proceed with the necessary adjustments, ensuring the final piece meets their expectations.

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17 minutes ago, hzsmith said:

@sunboatrecordsThe customer contacts you, and asks you to sound design his 25s product commercial video with foley & sound effects, as well as mixing the voice over file with the audio track you'll design. They send you the video file and the voice over file, and some specific indications about what they'd like to hear and what's the main focus of the video. After you delivered, they press the "request a revision" button, and inform you that they changed the voice over artist and it's got a new audio file for that, and also, the video has a new animation in it that overall drags the timeline 2.5 seconds to the right, making the video to be 27,5 seconds. You could just simply remove the old voice over file, add & mix the new one, sound design the new animation and drag the whole audio timeline to fit those 27,5 seconds, right? But we know it's not that easy, since every voice over file needs to be edited, cleaned and mixed differently, as well as moving the timeline to the right might cause some inconsistencies to the already synced audio files to the video's timeline.  Therefore, you've got to put in at least 1-2 more hours before delivering again.

First, I really appreciate the time you took to create a forum post for the ages. Through this, I hope we can help others in the future and express ourselves effectively.

For this reason, I will be completely candid and speak with the best interests of future sellers at heart.

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Currently, I have a perfect success score of 10, which allows me some leeway for a hiccup, whether that is a cancellation, an order gone wrong, a 1-star review, or anything else.

Given this, I would uphold what is fair and inform the client that they are scope creeping and have changed the order requirements. Of course, I would do this in the nicest way possible. Then, I would assess the amount of work needed and send a gig extra to cover the additional effort.

In your example of a commercial, business people are generally understanding. They would most likely accept the gig extra, and we could move on. However, if their communication deteriorates, I would refer to the terms offered in the gig and the initial offer and proceed from there.

To date, I have only had two cancellations, both initiated by me. So, I am not very experienced with conflict.

I have heard stories of experienced sellers who hit a wall with a client and keep delivering the initial project repeatedly. I am unsure if this is within the ToS, and I would definitely check with CS and my SM before doing anything drastic like that.

 

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Then there is scenario B.

Someone might not have a perfect success score. Maybe it's a 6 or 5, or they have half a review and are still building their profile.

Would they risk their shaky footing on the platform or their dream of becoming a full-time freelancer for a couple of hours of work? The office chair at the dead-end boring job is always there, 9-5, every day.

At this point, you have to see the bigger picture.

Despite my faults, I have a good sense of that. Many times, I offered more than what was ordered when I was building my profile. This was out of fear—not fear of conflict or a bad review, but fear of what a negative outcome would mean for my life.

This is why a freelancer must have multiple streams of income, so our footing is always steady. Don't forget that we travel this path to be independent.

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  • Kesha featured this topic

I see! Thank you both @manuelmarino and @sunboatrecords for the answers! It indeed shows that it's not black or white, but always grey, managing a balance between the workload and the opportunity of working with each individual customer. I will keep doing this, following both of your advices! Thank you for being open and willing to share your personal opinions on this.

If any new seller reads this, listen to those advices! These 2 guys know what they're talking about!

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  • 2 weeks later...

🙂I believe that by putting these tactics into action, I can provide our clients with a professional and fulfilling experience, all while upholding important boundaries.

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