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6 Ways to Avoid Scope Creep on Freelance Projects

  • By Sophie McAulay
  • November 25, 2020

Do you find yourself putting more work into a project than you bargained for?
Client’s revisions and additional requests can quickly add up, and suddenly your hours on your project have blown out from what you had planned.
Scope creep is an enemy to efficiency and profitability—so getting used to dealing with it early on can help ensure your success as a freelancer.
Here are 6 tips to help.

1. Get it documented

Let’s start from the beginning: the terms of the contract you hand your client at the inception of a project. It’s imperative that you clearly define your service on a project and draw a line on where that service ends. It may help to include a limit on the number of revisions a client is allowed, as long as the job meets the initially stated brief.
Give a copy of the terms to the client, and have them review and agree before any project begins. This will be a reminder to both yourself and the client when a project’s scope starts to stretch too far.
Many freelancers fall victim to scope creep because of the amount of work they’ve already put in—they don’t want to lose the client and not get paid for the time already spent on the project. To avoid this, you can also consider getting paid at regular intervals or at certain milestones during the project.

2. Contribute to creating the project brief

In order to be able to recognize when you’re doing more than the brief requires, you first need to have a clear brief. For this reason, it’s a good idea to work with the client to create a detailed outline of what is required to make the project a success.
Some clients may not be able to visualize all of the elements that are needed in order to complete the project you’re working on. As a professional who works on these kinds of projects all the time, your active participation at brief development stage will help ensure that everything essential is included. At this stage you can also point out what hasn’t been included in the brief so there are no surprises during the production phase.

3. Have a price list for additional services handy

If you know the kind of additional work your clients often ask for, you can have a standard price list for these additional services. For example, if you’re creating a website and you know clients often ask for help with SEO during the website launch, you can have a standard price for assisting with this additional work.
Make the client aware of these extras at the beginning of your engagement. This will take the awkwardness out of asking for money if they request something outside of the scope, as you can simply remind the client of the stated cost. It also offers an opportunity to upsell them if there’s something on the list that they hadn’t realized they wanted.
Asking for more money for more work isn't rude; it simply recognizes that your work has value, just like anything else that is bought and sold. #FreelanceIsntFree #ScopeCreep Click To Tweet

4. Include extra work on your invoice even if you give a 100% discount 

If you find yourself already in the middle of a scope creep, it’s a good idea to make your client aware that you have a charge for the extra service the project demanded, even if you aren’t charging them for it at that time. Including it as a line item on the invoice with a 100% discount applied communicates that you typically charge for the extra work you have put in and they shouldn’t expect it to be included the next time.

5. Stand your ground

The Freelancer’s Union predicts that within ten years, more than 50% of the US workforce will be freelancing. And already, competition is fierce in the freelancing world. Every job is a chance to prove yourself, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to please your client at all costs.
The problem with this is that clients can come to expect that you should add these extras without them having to pay for it, and you in a way teach them how to demand more than the agreement called for. Asking for more money for more work isn’t rude; it simply recognizes that your work has value, just like anything else that is bought and sold.
If you must throw in extras, let the client know that it is an extra and not a part of the status quo.

6. Speak up if it is happening

When you find yourself on the border of a scope creep, let the client know. Before they get the chance to tell you they’ll come back to you with their third round of feedback, remind them that the work you’re providing is the final copy. There’s a chance that they’ve forgotten exactly what was specified in the contract and it’s your job to remind them.

Preparation is key

Every freelancer comes up against scope creep at some point, but ensuring that both you and your client are aware of it can go a long way to avoiding overreaching on a project. If everything is communicated clearly from the beginning, you’ll find yourself ending your projects on good terms with your clients because everything has gone as expected.

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