Handling indecisive clients

Indecisive clients are no fun. Here’s how to handle the problem diplomatically… and profitably.

If you’ve worked at an agency for more than a week, you’ve had at least one indecisive client… They approve your work, and then change their mind—and often expect you to make the revisions for free. If you go along with their “free revisions” request, you’ve just given away your time—but if you refuse, you risk straining the relationship.

Once a client has approved a deliverable, I caution against making free changes after that. It’s risky to set a free-change precedent—especially when you don’t know the true scope of the changes. It could look easy to the client, but be time-consuming for your team. At minimum, there will be a new round of PM and client service back-and-forth—but there may be more.

Sometimes an agency can do things that are “strategically free.” This is when you do something as a bonus and let the client know the service isn’t usually free, and it improves warmth (from the Warmth & Competence model).

If a client asks for free changes, you can show warmth by confirming the request and showing empathy to their team about making the changes. Show that you’re there to support them, even if you won’t do it for free.

For example, you may say something like:

“Thanks for the heads up; I know things can change based on new team feedback. Feel free to send the edits whenever you have them. Based on that, I can share an estimate on any budget and timeline impacts. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help in the meantime!”

If you want to make the changes for free, be sure to set expectations for next time it happens. However, you should see what the changes are first.

If a client requests free changes regularly, find a solution where you’re supportive but also get paid. When things have to be changed multiple times, chances are your client is as frustrated as you are, so position yourself as a Helper on any internal problems.

In any of these situations, focus on finding the best solution for the client while still making sure your agency gets paid.

Question: What happened the last time a client asked you to do free work?