Every creative professional has had one of those projects. The one that just. Won't. Die. The one stuck in an endless cycle of nitpicky or vague revisions. Tons of conflicting feedback from people who only seem to know what they don’t want.

Sure, you have to address major concerns, but getting stuck in endless revisions is detrimental to your business. So how do you accommodate change requests without losing control of the project (or losing your mind)?

Here are a few revision process tactics that’ll keep projects moving without ruffling too many feathers:

Step 1: Put your creative brief to work

A thorough creative brief helps you fully understand what your client or internal requester is trying to achieve with a project — and deliver on expectations the first time around. Yet a 2017 survey of more than 375 in-house creative leaders revealed that 15% of in-house creative teams still don’t use creative briefs.

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” creative brief, these are the key questions every creative brief template should answer:

  • What are the parameters of the project (i.e., timeline, budget, format, dimensions, etc.)?
  • Who is the audience for this project ( i.e., demographics, concerns, desires, etc.)?
  • What is the main message or tone that the requester wants to get across? What do they want the audience to feel from the final creative?
  • Can the requester provide visual examples of the style they want?
  • Who is the competition? Do they have similar assets? How should this be different?
  • What is the goal of this project? Is there a specific action the requester wants the end-user to take (i.e., request a demo, make a purchase, watch a video, etc.)?
  • Is there a particular metric that’ll gauge the success of the initiative (i.e., sales, clicks, downloads, etc.)?
  • Who are the stakeholders? Who has final approval?  

When someone requests a revision, reference the creative brief and the project’s goals. Do these changes align with the goals? Or do they undermine them? Framing revision discussions around the creative brief prevents mission creep and changes based solely on personal preferences.

Step 2: Hold a kickoff meeting

After you receive a creative brief, schedule time to review it with the requester. This will help highlight and address any misunderstandings or miscommunications before the project design officially kicks off. This step is especially important for new or complex project types.

During this meeting, thoroughly discuss the project goals and clarify expectations. Don’t assume requesters, whether internal or external, fully understand the design process. How is a revision round defined? How many are included in the project timeline or contract? How will they be billed for extra work?

Step 3: Present your designs with confidence

Your designs aren't thrown together to serve your personal whims; they're products of your expertise, research, and creative talent. Every decision is carefully and strategically made to fulfill the client's needs. So when it's time to present your work, don’t send an email with your designs attached that says, “What do you think?”

Restate the project goals as identified in the creative brief, then confidently explain how your work achieves these objectives. Take time to walk through your carefully crafted design metaphors and explain any significant challenges you encountered during the creative process. A better understanding of the thought and effort that went into your designs will give clients a deeper appreciation for your work.

For actionable tips on how to confidently present your design work, check out this helpful blog post.

Step 4: Control the feedback loop

Requesters are relying on your design skills to achieve their objectives. With that added pressure, they’re compelled to give quick feedback often. They may think they’re being helpful, but poorly timed or unnecessary feedback overwhelms and wastes time.

As Upwork’s Executive Creative Director Jonathan Cofer relates in this informative blog post, it’s important that designers guide the feedback process. For example, “If you’re showing wireframes, the client may not understand that you aren’t looking for feedback on visual design details at this stage, so clarify that for them up front.”

People often have a knee-jerk reaction to visual designs, so save yourself some trouble by giving requesters a two or three-day window to collect their thoughts and provide feedback. Initial gut reactions often change after clients spend more time with designs. Make it known you will not respond to or take action on any feedback until that window has closed. This way, you're more likely to receive a complete set of detailed comments rather than a trickle of emails with snippets of high-level or conflicting feedback.

Step 5: Use a collaborative proofing tool

One of the most stressful, time-consuming parts of the revision process is consolidating feedback across comments, chat, email, etc. Important pieces of information go missing. Key stakeholders unknowingly conflict with one another. Designers can feel more like puzzle masters than creatives.

A proper review and approval tool lets clients provide clear, specific feedback directly on digital images and documents. It keeps all comments and suggestions in a single, contextual view, as well as allows key stakeholders to see one another’s feedback. With faster reviews and approvals, you get the job done quickly — which means clients are happy, and you can move on to the next project (and paycheck).

Streamlining your design revision process

The design revision process ultimately reflects your relationship with the requester. Do you fully understand their needs? Do they trust your expertise? Can you set personal interests aside and work together toward a common goal?

Follow these five steps the next time you receive a creative request. You won’t stress as much when it’s time for revisions. More than that, you’ll get your relationship with the requester off on the right foot. This helps lay the foundation for future projects and revision cycles.

Want more tips to improve your creative team’s processes and performance? Download the Definitive Guide to Building a World-Class Internal Creative Agency.

Sources: CreativeBloq.com, ProcessedIdentity.com, YourFreelanceCareer.com, Millo.co