Scope creep is the bane of any independent consultant’s existence. It happens when your client adds things to your to-do list that you didn’t foresee. Or from misunderstandings that occur when you don’t communicate firm boundaries around a project.
Scope creep will cost you money, enthusiasm, and (it often feels like) your sanity. Note that the scope creep affliction isn’t limited to nasty clients who are trying to put one over on you. “Cool” clients, who may not understand the specifics of your proposal or the amount of time they’re requesting, can be culprits, too. Don’t assume that having a good relationship with your client will prevent scope creep – only good contracts can do that.
The way to manage expectations is to tightly define the scope of a project, both within your initial proposal and in the final written agreement/contract. Sample wording for these clauses could include:
This project will include research, writing and editing of one news announcement, one four-page brochure, and one FAQ (to include up to 12 questions). The fee includes two rounds of revisions for each document.
Out-of-scope activities include: facilitating internal approvals at the company, graphical design and layout, and wire service distribution. Additional service requests will be billed at the rate of $X/hour.
The monthly retainer fee includes X, Y and Z. Additional services are available and can be quoted separately upon request.
When working on a project with a portion to be billed upon completion, it’s also helpful to state something like “if two weeks pass without communication from X company, [your PR firm] reserves the right to bill for services rendered to date.” This is important protection for occasions when a client can’t get the final approvals on a deliverable, but your work is largely completed.
Though out-of-control projects can happen to anyone, spelling out the deliverables and managing expectations up front are key to keeping these misunderstandings to a minimum.
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