How to Handle Client Revisions as a Freelance Writer
A step-by-step guide to making this process (mostly) pain-free
Once, a freelance writing client returned my work splashed red with revisions. Self-doubt sunk in. Am I even qualified to write for a living? Should I even be charging? I asked myself.
Needless to say, I was devastated.
I eventually realized freelance writing revisions are part of the process. Nobody is perfect — that includes your writing, ever after self-polishing. Here are a few tips for how to handle client revisions in a (mostly) pain-free way.
How to Handle Freelance Writing Revisions
1. Don’t take it personally.
Nobody is perfect. Even with the right preparation and training, you sometimes miss the bulls-eye. Also, writing is deeply subjective — “great” writing will often fluctuate by the client and industry.
Revisions a fine-tuning process. You have most of the legwork done with the first submission. Now it’s time to do some final tweaking to perfect the piece, together with the client.
Use the revisions process as an opportunity to showcase your professionalism. Rarely your client intends to offend you. This is a product of their company and it’s your responsibility — literally the terms of your contract — to deliver on what they’re paying you for.
Tackling revisions with the right attitude and professionalism looks impressive and may position you for recurring work with that client.
2. Review the revisions.
Before pulling your sleeves up and getting to work, review all the issues. This will give you an overview of what’s being asked of you and how to improve on future freelance writing jobs.
- If you get multiple comments saying “this doesn’t sound like me,” it’s a signal that you should take more time to study your client and their brand.
- If the client has a difficult time making sense of your language or flow, you might need to spend more time during your outlining and editing phase on the structural integrity of your blog post.
- Complaints regarding unproven assertions should tell you to spend more time backing up your claims with data. (Remember to rely on references from reputable sources.)
Ask for clarification, if necessary. It’s best to take a few moments to understand what you’re being asked before getting started than to assume and potentially make things worse.
3. Apply the revisions.
Tackle each revision at a time and move to the next one. Be sure to execute all that is being asked of you — missing the mark slightly the first time is fine. Making avoidable mistakes is sloppy and unprofessional.
When you complete all the revisions, do a final editing sweep. Edits can sometimes change the flow of your article, which may require you to move things around.
Also, remember to run your article through spell check and consider using Grammarly (it has a free version).
4. Study your revisions.
I started making a copy of my revision requests and storing them in a separate document for studying. I would put the original version and the approved revised version side-by-side to understand how they differ and how I can improve.
This is useful for understanding the client’s style and brand voice. It’s also helpful for sharpening your writing skills — with enough practice and constructive feedback, you gain greater mastery over language and structure.
Here are a few examples of notes I take when studying (using Google Docs):
Tips For Minimizing Revisions
Below are a few tips for helping busy freelance writers save themselves from another (often time-consuming) round of revisions.
- Create a content brief and outline. Unnecessary revisions arise when the writer and client aren’t clear about goals and expectations before going in. By creating a brief and outline and getting the client’s sign-off, you better understand the direction of the project you’re taking on.
- Charge extra, when applicable. If a client decides to shift the topic, tone or overall direction, that’s typically outside the scope of work you agreed to. Ideally, you outlined your freelance writing rates in a proposal and contract prior, with a clause that you charge a revision fee for additional rounds or work outside the scope. When the client crosses those boundaries (sometimes unknowingly), enforce your terms — an additional revision fee may cause the client to rethink their request.
- Keep requests in writing. The client should be making requests either directly in the document or an email. This keeps both parties protected — you each have written documentation to reference when applying and reviewing the revisions. If you speak on the phone with the client, send a follow-up email summarizing what you discussed.
- Limit the number of free revisions. Unlimited free revisions are generally a bad idea. With most (good) clients, you’ll knock out the project after one or two rounds. With bad clients, they may seize this opportunity to tweak again and again and again. Generally, two rounds of free revisions is a good idea (plus politely letting client know that extra work costs more).
- Disagree, when appropriate. If a client makes a request you feel is unfavorable for their brand or their audience, explain your position. For example, if a lawyer insists on using hard-to-understand legalese but is targeting everyday consumers, explain the importance of easily understandable language. The client may agree with you and respect you for your insight and direction.
Freelance Writing FAQs
How can I improve my freelance writing?
While a college degree is not necessary for freelance writing, some forms of education can help you improve your writing skills. Online courses and books are great resources for studying how to write on the internet.
Can you make a living off freelance writing?
Yes, some freelance writers earn enough income to support themselves full-time. Self-starters who can dedicate the time and energy to studying writing and business skills are most likely to succeed.
How do I break into freelance writing?
Building your freelance writing portfolio is typically the first step for beginner freelance writers. Also, studying sales and marketing will help writers market their services and secure clients.
Dan is a freelance writer specializing in small business and personal finance. He works with FinTech and B2B companies and has written extensively about small business, from startup guides to payment processor reviews. Hire him to write for YOU at danmarticio.com.