A few rounds of revisions

I have many conversations in my line of work — research, building strategy, developing culture, learning and developing myself, our team and the teams of others.

These conversations are sometimes to learn something new, and other times they exist to teach and to share knowledge.

Other time they're in the spirit of negotiation. 

As a business owner, it's my responsibility to work with potential clients who are interested in working with us — to understand their challenge and, eventually to work out a price for the engagement.

And it's in this small sliver of daylight that I'd like to focus on today.

A few years ago I had an interesting conversation with a prospective client which I'd like to share with you today.

It was around the time we re-evaluated our values, and I was adamant that if we were to build a business that was values-driven, we'd have to draw that line in the sand and ensure we were aware of it in every conversation we were having.

Including with new clients.

In this instance, we were asked to do a large piece of brand strategy and corporate identity work — multiple stakeholders, multiple deliverables.

I submitted my proposal and was quite transparent around our pricing — I outlined everything, line by line. Nothing hidden. Scaling costs. The works.

The prospect came back to me and asked me the following question:

"How many rounds of revisions are there in each line item?"

I responded with "None."

I was reminded of the many years of toiling for work when I had started out. Revising work whenever feedback came through and losing track of time, and most of all, budget.

I explained my answer to her.

"Each round of revision is clearly listed as a single line item, as you can see each round cascades after the main body of work. You're welcome to add or remove any round you like."

She followed by telling me that her expectation was that each line in my proposal was to have 'three rounds of revisions baked in' simply because "that's what everybody else I've worked with does." 

I was interested in this. I already knew this was a lost cause, but I asked anyway....

"My apologies, just to be clear, you'd like us to revise the work up to three times, but only charge you once?"

"Yes!" She seemed excited as she agreed.

Her excitement waned as I politely told her that our proposal had to remain without anything hidden and we would charge for anything that was revised, redone or done over. 

We didn't win the work — we were too expensive.

It's an interesting dilemma though — what would you do?