“Scope Creep” refers to when the overall amount of work required for a project begins to “creep” beyond what was originally expected and/or agreed upon. It’s simply a reality of life for business owners, and as such, it’s imperative that we know how to protect and take care of ourselves in the midst of it all.
In a perfect world, each and every client project would begin with a plan for exactly how much thought, work, and hours would be involved, everything would go precisely as planned, and all projects would take just as much time as was anticipated – never a minute more.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world, do we?
Just about ANY business owner will tell you that Scope Creep – the phenomenon describing project scopes’ tendency to “creep” beyond what was originally expected – is not so much the exception as it is the rule in entrepreneurial life.
It’s simply what happens.
And while most of us loathe scope creep because it means surprises and more work for us, the goal of today’s blog post is to turn this sentiment around entirely.
When we anticipate and prepare for scope creep as just another normal occurrence in our client working relationships, it doesn’t have to be so bad after all.
If you’re ready to develop an airtight plan for anticipating, confronting, and dealing with scope creep in the future in a way that protects your boundaries and takes care of you, read on.
Tip #1: Always include a Statement of Work in your contracts.
If you don’t have a clear, mutually understood agreement of what your scope of work is to begin with, how will you or your client know when it’s creeping outward? That’s where a Statement of Work comes in (SOW). An SOW goes in your Working Agreement or contracts that you share with clients at the outset of any project. It includes a line-by-line description of all work to be complemented in the project. For example, as a web designer, my SOW typically includes exactly how many pages are included on the new website and exactly what pieces of functionality are included i.e. a search box, shopping cart, etc.
Additionally, I recommend including in your proposals and working agreements your protocol for what happens when extra work is requested i.e. if a price will be quoted at that time or if it will be completed at your hourly rate.
Tip #2: When a project’s scope begins to creep, don’t wait – bring it up with your client immediately.
Have you ever gotten yourself into a pickle where you knew you should be getting compensated extra for the additional work you were doing, but felt it was too late to bring it up, so you just pressed onward? We’ve all been there. The solution here is simple: as extra features, services, or time are requested by your client, bring up the topic of compensation right away – do NOT wait. And how exactly do you bring it up? Try this as a general framework:
It sounds like you’re wanting to add [insert request here] to our project. This sounds like a great idea and I would be happy to accommodate your request. I also wanted to let you know that because this falls outside the scope of our original agreement, it will incur an additional fee of [enter cost here]. Let me know if you’d like to move ahead with this, and I’d be happy to get started.
The “sandwich” of both opening and closing with a positive, helpful statement works every time 🙂
Tip #3: Know that it’s OK to say “no” sometimes.
Of course, there will be plenty of times when a client requests something additional and you find you’re able to accommodate their ask (see script above). After all, we’re called “service provides” for a reason. But also know this: there will be times when the best answer will be “no.” Consider the following situations:
- Your client makes a request that would be better suited as a completely separate project to be discussed, priced out, and begun after this project is done.
- Your client makes a request that, although sounds attractive to them now, will actually not serve them well in the future or be a good use of their money.
- Your client makes a request that simply falls outside the scope of what you offer in your business.
As you can see, there will also be times when scope creep can actually be stopped before it begins. Avoid “accommodating at all costs” and don’t forget to keep in mind what’s ultimately best for your client – and best for you.
Looking for more?
If you enjoyed this post, check out these other quick reads from Janelle (that’s me) at Ellanyze on taking care of yourself in your business: