Scope creep. It’s the dreaded bane of every freelancer. If you’ve never had the scope of a project start to creep on you, though, you may not be aware of it happening because of its subtle foot-in-the-door manner of sneaking in.
Worse, you may not realize how much scope creep can affect your life. Before you know it, you’ve spent more hours on a project than you should, there seems to be no end to the work in sight, and the client comes back with yet another request.
It’s almost enough to make you want to cry.
Scope creep is preventable, and there are clear warning signals that help you head off scope creep at the pass. But before you learn how to stop scope creep dead in its tracks, you need to understand why it happens in the first place:
Were you clear in your proposal?
Even the fastest email you whip off to a client creates a proposal. It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal to become an agreement that you may one day have to point back to and say, “Look. This is what I said I’d do.”
Every time you communicate with a client, be very clear on what you will (and won’t) do.
Did you outline the details?
Little details matter a great deal, and covering all your bases is crucial. Have you indicated the word count limit, the turnaround time, your payment terms, and how you deliver the goods? Did you mention how many revisions you allow, and give examples of what a revision means to you?
Spelling out the details clearly helps you nip scope creep quickly the minute it happens.
Were you firm with your stance?
When the client made a small request – just one last change – did you point the client had expended their allotted revisions? Did you indicate your rates for the extra work (and wait for payment) before revising the work?
It’s important to be polite but firm and ask for fair compensation when it’s due..
Did your own fears influence your decision?
Sometimes we allow scope creep to happen because a client’s request hits a nerve. Maybe you wanted to protect your reputation. Maybe you were afraid of losing the client. Did you worry that if you didn’t comply with the client’s wishes, he or she wouldn’t think well of you?
Most of the time, people respect you for taking a polite stand versus lying down and taking orders.
Keep in mind that it’s very easy to point the finger and blame the client for abusing your good faith. Taking a project too far, though, often has more to do with how you handle the situation than anything else.
How about you? Have you ever had to handle scope creep situations? What did you do about it? How do you protect yourself against it now?