How do you tell a client about a change order?

hot to tell a client about construction change orders

Discussing change orders with clients is a critical aspect of project management that can significantly impact client relationships and project success. Change orders are inevitable in many projects, particularly in construction, remodeling, or any extensive project where initial plans may need adjustment. Handling these discussions professionally and effectively can prevent misunderstandings and foster a positive working relationship. Here’s how to approach these discussions:

1. Talk About Changes Right from the Start

The best time to discuss the possibility of change orders is during the initial hiring process, well before any contracts are signed. This preemptive approach ensures that clients are not taken by surprise later on. By addressing the potential for changes early, you set the stage for open communication and make it clear that adjustments are a normal part of the process. Establishing this understanding upfront is crucial to prevent any feeling of deceit or manipulation once the project is underway.

2. Make a Clear Plan for Handling Changes

Before effectively communicating your change order policy to clients, you must thoroughly understand it yourself. This means knowing every detail of how change orders are initiated, processed, and implemented, including any additional costs or timeline adjustments. A clear and consistent policy helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that both you and the client have set expectations about how changes will be handled.

3. Be Open, Honest, and Sure of Yourself When Talking

Open and honest communication is the foundation of trust in any client-contractor relationship. When discussing change orders, do so with confidence. Clients rely on your expertise to guide them through the project, including any potential changes. By discussing everything openly—from renovation timelines to the specifics of change orders—you build trust and establish yourself as an expert who is in control and knowledgeable. Working with a well-informed client with reasonable expectations benefits both parties and results in smoother project execution.

4. Put Change Rules in the Contract

While it’s essential to discuss change orders verbally, this conversation should also be backed up by written policies included in the contract. This dual approach ensures that there is no confusion about the procedures and expectations surrounding change orders. The contract should detail how change orders are handled, any additional costs, and the impact on project timelines. Being as open and honest in your written policies as in your discussions reinforces your commitment to transparency and fairness.

5. Explain Things Well to Clients Buying Their Own Stuff

Clients who opt to purchase their own materials may not fully understand the implications of last-minute changes or delivery delays. It’s crucial to explain clearly how these changes can affect the overall project, including the need for more expensive subcontractors or adjustments to the project schedule. By highlighting these potential issues early on, you can help manage expectations and prevent frustration down the line.

6. Answer Client Questions Quickly

When a client requests a change, providing a timely response is key. This doesn’t mean rushing decisions or approvals but rather communicating promptly about the evaluation process, potential impacts, and expected timeframes for a decision. Quick and thoughtful responses demonstrate professionalism and respect for the client’s time and investment.

7. Don’t Guess—Make Sure Everything is Clear

Assumptions can lead to misunderstandings and misaligned expectations. Never assume that clients understand the implications of their requests or the complexity of implementing changes. Take the time to explain how change orders work, the potential for additional costs, and how they can affect the project timeline and outcome. Clear, jargon-free explanations ensure that clients are fully informed and can make decisions with a clear understanding of the consequences.


In wrapping up, discussing change orders effectively is crucial for project success and maintaining strong client relationships. By introducing the concept early, setting clear expectations, communicating openly, and responding promptly, you lay the groundwork for trust and transparency. Ensuring your policies are in conversation and in the contract while avoiding assumptions helps manage changes smoothly. This approach addresses potential challenges head-on and fosters a collaborative environment where clients feel informed and involved throughout the project lifecycle. Adopting these strategies ensures that you and your clients easily navigate change orders, leading to more successful and mutually satisfying project outcomes.

Streamline your change orders with Bauwise change order management software

Bauwise offers user-friendly change order software that simplifies collecting, tracking, processing, and approving change orders. With its intuitive interface, you can easily create, modify, and manage change orders, ensuring that all modifications are accurately documented and efficiently processed. The software provides real-time updates and alerts, keeping all stakeholders informed and aligned when it is time to review and approve change orders. Try Bauwise for free today!

Written by

Taavi Kaiv: Bauwise customer success manager

Taavi Kaiv

Taavi Kaiv is a construction specialist with over ten years of experience in the construction industry. Taavi is an accomplished construction project manager with many successful projects that have been completed under his guidance. Taavi holds a master’s degree in construction management from the Tallinn University of Technology. View profile

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