January 5, 2023

3 Easy Ways to Prevent Scope Creep in Your Freelance Projects

We’ve all let it happen.

That one client that keeps asking for a few extra things here and there.

We try to be nice, and end up doing more for our client than we probably should. That’s one form of scope creep.

That extra work and time comes from somewhere, ultimately it’s impacting the profitability of your projects and your wallet.

Scope creep is a real problem in any type of project work and is something to constantly be on the watch for and try to recognize when it rears it’s ugly head.

Scope creep in project management refers to changes, continuous or uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope, at any point after the project begins. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled.

Scope Creep – Wikipedia

If you are not taking the time to plan and create a clear statement of work for your projects, you are most certainly doing more work than you’re billing.

We can all do better when it comes to being more aware, accountable, and reflective on the way we work.

While not a definitive list, we can all start with a few, simple areas that can help make sure we’re lining up our client projects properly to mitigate scope creep.

#1 – Prevent Scope Creep by Creating a Statement of Work

Are you currently making a statement of work for every freelance project you create? If not, you’ll want to reconsider. It doesn’t take as long as you might think, especially if you use a tool or pre-built template.

SOW’s are your first line of defense against scope creep.

The statement of work helps to document and define all aspects of your project.

That includes very important areas such as the project’s deliverables.

Defining the project deliverables will clearly state what your client is receiving for your time and work.

By thinking through and detailing this list, it will be very easy for your client to see what is, and isn’t included in the project. This gives you an easy area to point to if additions start creeping up later during the work.

Here is a great start if you’re looking for further reading on SOW’s and some help to get started with a template:

How To Write A Project Statement Of Work: Template & Example

SoW’s provide the extra layer of detail that cost estimates and project plans usually don’t include to describe exactly what’s being done and delivered — and what’s not.

Digital Project Manager

#2 – Setting Proper Client Expectations

When it comes to client communication, there are plenty of simple ways to communicate how you work, what the client should expect while working with you and how your processes helps to keep things moving smoothly.

Lets start with a few real world examples and methods that could have been put in place to avoid them.

Client Changes Project Needs Constantly

If you’ve experienced a client that is constantly changing what they need during the projects development, it can quickly become a nightmare scenario.

The client may not know what they need up front so they feel the need to change it, once they’ve seen what you’ve done. You can easily get stuck into an endless loop of constant changes and requests from your client.

This form of scope creep can be mitigated by establishing a process up front for how changes are worked on.

You might consider doing a limited round of revisions as part of your original agreement which will put the limit on how many changes the client can request.

Future revisions may come with an additional cost. This makes it easier for you to remind the client they have XX number of changes left before you are billing additional time.

With this in place, you’ll find the client is much faster at wrapping up their requests.

Client Continues to Push Boundaries to Get as Much as They Can

If you feel that your client is constantly pushing for more freebies, this ones for you.

Some clients feel entitled to “free work” or they are simply under pressures from their own companies to get more work done for less. Either way, as the freelancer, it shouldn’t be your problem.

We’ve often found this type of client has been around awhile and has some history with you. They can end up feeling that their standing with you makes them special, and start to test the boundaries of the client/freelancer relationship.

Don’t let it get in the way.

At the end of the day you’re running a business like they are. You need to set clear rules so that when clients push their boundaries, you are unwavering.

This is where defining your project details up front is a game changer.

Imagine if you’ve previously agreed on the deliverables of the project (no more, no less) and your client is pushing back for an extra add-on that isn’t on the original statement of work. It’s very easy to reset expectations and go right back to the document that you both agreed on that clearly shows no mention of the additional item(s) being requested.

Stick to your statement of work. It is your guide, it will protect you and your client. If something is being requested that didn’t line up with the original agreement, that’s a new project.

Clients Within Clients

Rather than constantly changing their opinion like in the first example, this type of client feels the need to include a round table discussion and get the opinions of others around them on your work.

This form of scope creep can get out of hand because you may find yourself under the pressure of multiple people rather than just the original client.

You may even start to be contacted by others through various forms of communication. Once a client has included their co-workers, their close friends, even the thoughts of others from social media; they may decide they want something redone entirely or you’ll see many new waves of constant shifts in the projects direction.

If this happens, it’s best to put a project on hold. Don’t agree to do any of the changes coming your way. Establishing the primary contacts on your projects statement of work helps with one part of this problem.

With primary contacts set on your agreement, you have an out if you receive any communication from others who are not on the document and you can feel good about reminding the client that changes only come directly from them.

Having the proper language stating that the client has only XX number of revisions will put a stop the barrage of requests. It can go along way to remind the client they must submit all changes in one document so that it’s clear and concise.

Clear and concise changes in one document, and a limit of a few rounds of those will put an end to the constant requests. The only difficult part now is sticking to the plan and not being afraid to reinforce your original statement of work if things are not going smoothly.

#3 – Watch for Scope Creep Language Warning Signs

The way your clients ask for things is a simple way to monitor what extra work might be sneaking it’s way into your projects.

Here are some common phrases to watch for when it comes to client communication:

  • While you’re making this
  • Just a quick change
  • This won’t take long
  • A few things to add
  • I thought we discussed
  • I thought that
  • A quick update
  • One more thing
  • Since you’re already
  • Please add this
  • I forgot to change
  • Can you also
  • After seeing that
  • Can we adjust

If you see any of these phrases, you may want to monitor your communication more closely.

This type of communication often leads to unplanned additions, changes and requests that were unaccounted for in your project’s scope.

A lot of little requests add up over time which can add hours to a projects total.

Make sure you have a plan in place for how to respond to new requests that are not in your original scope of work. Be firm and direct, but nice about the exchange.

You can easily remind a client that you need all new requests to be held until later in the project work, or ask if they’d like to expand the original statement of work to include these new requests (At an additional cost, of course).

Another approach is to document small, common change requests and compare them to what was agreed upon in your statement of work. If you see them starting to get out of hand, then you’ll know it’s time to act.

We’ve mentioned it a few times, but having a clause about limited revision requests in your statement of work is one of the quickest things you can do to help prevent scope creep.

How LokCRM Helps Prevent Scope Creep

LokCRM was built to help prevent scope creep before the project begins.

After losing out on tens of thousands of dollars over the years, our mission was to help put an end to dreaded scope creep once and for all. That’s why we reinvented how projects are crafted starting with the proposal.

To learn more, check out our page on Statement of Work.