Sick of scope creep? Here's some ways to stop that m'trucker in its tracks.

Let’s talk about scope creep.

When I actually wrote that first sentence my computer automated ‘scope’ to ‘stop’ instead, making it ‘stop creep.’ That is also super appropriate because scope creep is something you’ll want to stop.

What is scope creep?

The ‘scope’ is the amount of work in a project - the tasks and time required to produce the project outcome. I.e the scope of work.

Creep is getting a fright - much like when someone is sneaking up on you and you have NO idea until they tap your shoulder. 

So scope creep is when the project sneaks in some extra changes or tasks, over and above the price paid for, and you get a fright. You’ve suddenly gone from being on track with your deadline and price, to being way passed deadline and way over budget, which means you’ve lost time you’d have spent on other client’s work and probably upset this current one with their pushed deadline.

It often comes in the form of “Hey I had an awesome idea we HAVE to add in!” Or “While you’re doing that, can you do this and this for me?” Or “I only have a few small tweaks so can you please just make them, this once?” Or “How hard would it be to do this…

Sometimes these little scope creepers sounds like a good idea. Sometimes scope creep sounds like normal feedback changes. Sometimes it’s revision, changes, new ideas, or just flat out extras.

The big hairy problem with all of these is they add both time and tasks onto a project, which will 10 time out of 10 annihilate the budget and the time allocated. They blow out the ‘scope of the project’ in other words. 

They made the creative on the other end of them cry frustrated tears, or go and grab something sugary to calm them down.

It probably happens in every industry. 

In construction it’s the homeowner wanting to swap the facade they’d decided on for one that needs way more installation time.

In design it’s the marketing manager wanting extra rounds of changes on top of what they’ve already had. 

In photography it’s the client asking for some extra shots thrown in ‘while you’re here.’ 

It happens to all of us. So how do we deal with it?


Dealing with scope creep as business owners/ freelancers/ agencies.

Set shared expectations from the get go.

When you start your project with your client or agency - in fact way before that, like when you first started chatting - you need to agree on what the outcome will be. Write out the deliverables, aka what the client is actually going to be given at the end of this project. Agree together that the cost for these is the cost for these, not for any new ideas or add ons. You can also let them know whether you charge an hourly rate for anything above and beyond the deliverables or whether you’d quote as a new project. As long as everyone knows what’s happening and agreed on what will be delivered at the end, you’re good to start the project.


Cha-cha-cha-changes shouldn’t change.

We always have a set number of revision rounds for our clients and let them know that before we even shake hands. This number of revisions does not change. Okay that’s a lie, occasionally we’ll add one lot of changes when we’ve made some kind of mistake on our part, but that’s the only time. The problem with excess changes is they always start with just one, then another “last one” sneaks past you, and then another until you realise you’re drowning in changes but it’s too late to say no. Our advice? Stick to the allocated amount and stay afloat.  

Track yourself before you wreck yourself.

This is for all you service-based businesses out there. Track. Your. Time. Sometimes you’ll be merely working away on a kick-ass project, tinkering, adding extra love just because you’re having fun, making a few extra client changes for the same reason, and realise you’ve spent an entire week on a one day job. Track your time and keep yourself accountable. 

Even better Babe - tracking your time has the bloody great bonus of letting you know if you’re charging enough. For example if there’s a project you always spend longer on, like Mary’s damn weekly newsletter, you’ll realise you’re well undercharging for the time spent and can use clear numbers when you bump the price up.

Don’t be an egg.

You can be a nice person about it. Often people don’t even realise their creeping on that scope until you mention it. It’s not their fault they’ve had a brilliant idea to add in or realised they wanted to change everything. It’s your job to guide them, to work out if these actually add enough value to their project to be actioned. If they do, you can nicely say with smile “Hey that sounds great! I can totally help you with that, I will just have to quote it separately as it’s over what we’ve agreed for this project.” Then give them an idea of price, or use an hourly rate if it’s a few extra changes instead of a big idea. Just don’t be an egg about it, then nobody wins.

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Megan RaynorComment