Project scope creep is a term commonly used to describe what happens when additional tasks are added to a project not agreed on or planned for at its inception. It can result in the project overrunning, being delayed or, in some cases, not even being completed.
For a freelancer, scope creep can cause major problems. You could end up doing more work than agreed or planned and, in a worst-case scenario, not getting properly paid for it.
Here are 5 ways to avoid scope creep in a freelancer project.
Agree on the project deliverables at the beginning
At the early stages of the proposed project, before work even commences, it’s helpful to ask the client lots of questions so you can include all the relevant project deliverables in your freelancer proposal.
Consider creating a checklist of project questions to ask at the beginning of every project so you fully understand, and both parties agree to, what’s expected. These include project details such as the duration and who is responsible for what, when and how.
As an aside, it’s worth including a buffer in your price proposal to take into account minimal scope creep.
Once your proposal is agreed upon at the very beginning of the freelancer-client relationship, you can then further nail this down by putting in place a written agreement/freelancer contract.
Some suggestions as to what to include in your freelance contract can be found in our article here. You can, if you wish, include the project details in a separate statement of work, but just ensure you refer to it in the contract. The point is always to have something in writing so you can refer to it throughout the project’s duration.
A rock-solid starting point from the get-go will help mitigate scope creep.
Include a revision policy
If your work allows for revisions, consider including your revision policy in your written agreement.
For example, you could cover up to two free revisions and then charge for the rest or say you will provide an estimate once you’ve gone over the two free revisions.
It may be that you don’t allow for revisions, but the key is to have it in writing and ensure both parties are clear about it.
Endless revisions can impact a project and take up a lot of your time.
Be clear about project meetings
Some projects include weekly or regular meetings.
If so, as well as being clear on the purpose of the meetings at the outset (e.g. ideation, strategy, project status, etc.), you should ensure you are being compensated for your time. A ten-minute client call to ‘pick your brain’ might turn into an hour’s strategy call that could introduce new time-consuming elements to the project.
Always consider if a) a meeting is necessary (could it be an email instead) and b) if you really need to be an attendee. You should be able to excuse yourself from a group meeting if your presence there is unnecessary.
All these details need to be covered in the initial written agreement.
Review the nature of the work
If you are experiencing scope creep, it could be because the nature of the work has changed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and can open up more opportunities.
For example, you may have started out providing one particular service, which has morphed into another valuable service or add-on for your client. Once more, ensure any add-ons (and appropriate increases to your project fees) are recorded in writing.
To cover this eventuality, especially at the start of a long-term client relationship, you could consider offering a three-month trial period and increasing the contract period as you go. Each time you agree on a new project duration, you could add or take away services (and bill accordingly).
It’s worth noting that for some freelancer relationships, especially sales and marketing performance-related projects, it could take up to twelve months to show results.
When asked to perform an additional task, a helpful attitude will go a long way to enhancing your freelancer-client relationship. If it’s a skill within your wheelhouse, confirm that you can do that task, but it will have an impact on the current budget and/or agreed time frames.
Otherwise, consider referring the work to another freelancer.
And, of course, if need be, make use of the magic word and learn to say “No” to add-ons that will have a significant impact and/or you would find challenging to achieve.
Track time spent on the project
Keeping track of your time spent on a project means you can easily identify areas or project specifics that take up most of your time. You can also accurately invoice your client for time spent on the project if you charge by the hour.
Always add details of the work you’ve performed on your invoice – even if you are giving a discount.
At Invoice Ninja, our tasks and project features allow you to create projects and tasks and track time spent on billable work. You can accurately record every second spent on each individual task and quickly transfer timed data to the relevant invoice.
When you’re done with a task or series of tasks within a project, simply click and send your work time to an invoice with just 1-click!
We have also created our own Kanban boards, which can be used to plan, update, analyze and maximize the efficiency of your workflows.
Try it for free here.
Successfully avoiding project scope creep is largely about maintaining good and open business communications with your client and raising issues and potentially mutually beneficial arrangements as and when they arise.