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Scope Creep: 5 Ways to Avoid The Never Ending Project

Mar 14, 2014

Every project has a scope.  Scope creep  is loosely defined as a situation where the client and you agree on the deliverables as well as the overall scope of the project.  Then, the client begins to expect additional deliverables without increasing budget, schedule, or timelines to completion.

We have all dealt with the client that seemed like they were a perfect client for us to work with.  At the beginning of the project, everything seems great.  Everyone seems like they are on the same page and the project should go very smooth and easy.  Then, as milestones are met, the client starts to ask questions about things like “Can we do this too?”  Or “How much trouble would it be to add…”

I can feel the bullets of sweat running down your forehead as you read!  No worries.  We are going to talk about 5 ways to stop scope creep and minimize the possibility of getting in over your head.

    1. Document all scope creep with existing clients.  Before you can effectively address an issue, you have to understand the issue from every angle.  The more information you can document about prior scope creep, the more you will begin to see trends and patterns.
    1. Create a questionnaire that addresses the trends and patterns you found while completing #1.  I have numerous questionnaires for different types of projects to minimize scope creep.  I see no need to share them here because they are specific to my business and my clients.  There are many example questionnaires you can download online to give you a starting point for developing yours.
    1. Do not overwhelm the client with your questionnaire.  If you overwhelm them with too many questions, something will slip through the cracks and pop up as scope creep later on in the project.  I recommend using the concept of progressive profiling applied to gathering pertinent information from your client.   Start with the basics.  Have a few different conversations and build their profile as you go.  This also sets the expectation with the client that you will have more of a relationship that just completing the project and moving on.  It suggests that you are establishing a long-term business relationship.
    1. Outline limits in your contract.  Some types of scope creep can be addressed up front in your contract with the client.  Things like number of revisions, number of concept drawings, etc. can all be addressed in the contract.  In addition, make sure you build in a stipulation for what happens if the client exceeds the limits.  For example:  If you are designing a logo and a client wants more revisions than the contract allows at the quoted price, charge them a per-revision fee after the original limit is reached.
  1. Last, but definitely not least, stand your ground.  If you truly focus on getting the right information and setting the proper expectations with the client up front, you have earned the right to stand your ground.  There is a proper way to do this without jeopardizing the relationship.  Simply remind the client of your prior discussion involving a stipulation for this situation.  Then, follow policy.  In addition, when a client asks for something not included in the original project scope and/or deliverables, simply say “Yes!  I can definitely handle that for you.  There is a fee involved with that.  Would you like to know more?”  This is called an “I can” statement.  Clients will respond differently when you answer with …”what I CAN do is…” rather than “No.”

The main concept here is to get pertinent information, set proper expectations, and stand your ground in a professional way.  No matter what you think, it is very bad for your business for you to constantly bend on your rules.  There are isolated situations that may warrant adjusting a policy, however, it should not become a habit.

If you do not stick to your guns, you will work yourself to death trying to please clients that will always feel like if they fuss, you will do more for free.  You are creating a bad situation for yourself where they lose respect for you.  If you politely and professionally stand your ground, it will ultimately strengthen your relationship, their respect for you, as well as the image of your company.

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Josh Smith 2023I would love to hear from you. I am open to Full-Time Remote positions, specific client projects, and consultant work.