How do you handle revisions when working with picky clients?

I’m working with a rapper that I’m recording, producing, mixing, and mastering a song for. I charged a flat fee for all this work, which is what I normally do. He keeps coming back to me for revisions and at this point, the edits he’s asking for are just ridiculous and a waste of time. Nobody is going to hear that the kick was turned up 0.2 dB or that the top-end of the hi-hat was boosted 0.3 dB—per his request. Factoring in all the time I’ve already spent making revisions, this project wasn’t worth the money.

I want to see the project through to the end but I think I need a better way of handling revisions in the future. How do you guys typically deal with picky clients and revisions? Do you set a revision limit? Do you charge by the hour? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

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You have three options:

  1. Charge by the hour.
  2. Charge a flat fee and work with a revision limit in place, charging for additional sets of revisions.
  3. Charge a flat fee and work without a revision limit in place, quoting a higher upfront fee.

If you go into a commercial brick-and-mortar studio, it’s common to rent studio space and pay an engineer by the hour. When a client is in the studio with you, they’re paying for both your time and the experience of being in a nice studio. For this reason, you’re not going to get too many clients complaining about paying an hourly rate.

Doing work for clients online is a different story. Since they have no way of monitoring the work that you’re doing, it’s in their best interest to pay a flat fee. If they pay X amount of money, they want to know that they’re getting a finished product back.

Revision limits exist to protect engineers from overly-demanding clients. Clients don’t like revision limits. There’s always the underlying stress of “If my engineer doesn’t get this right, I’m going to have to pay more money.” For this reason, I’m not a huge fan of working with revision limits in place—they can potentially damage relationships.

With this in mind, you simply need to charge appropriately for your time upfront. I charge a flat rate but I factor plenty of revision time into my quotes. More often than not, I find myself exceeding my hourly rate as a result, which more than makes up for the picky clients that I run into.

That being said, I once had to explain to a client that the amount of time I had invested into their project (as a result of never-ending revisions) was no longer worth my time. I told them we could continue working together at my hourly rate, or I could give them a full refund and we’d go our separate ways. It’s important to cut your losses and value your time.

I’m not sure where you’re at in your engineering journey but here are some general flat-rate pricing guidelines that you can use (these numbers are based on an ASCAP article called “How to Choose the Right Mixing Engineer”):

Average Mixing Engineer: $200-300 per song
Mixing Engineers with Recognized Credits: $400-600 per song
Grammy-Nominated Mixing Engineers: $600-1,500 per song
World’s Top Mixing Engineers: $5,000-10,000 per song

I hope this helps!