Managing scope creep on any project can be challenging. It can happen on both sides. Many clients push the boundaries of the contract and/or ask for things that seem simple and quick to implement. Our the other side, you want the client to be happy and/or want to try something new to learn additional skills. Regardless of the reasons, letting project scope go beyond what is outlined in the contract will impact your profit margin.
Pushing the Boundaries of the Contract
When a client asks for something beyond what was outlined in the contract, you should consider these four things.
- Would the request be simple or complex to implement?
- Is the client easy to work with?
- What type of long term relationship do you want with the client?
- Did you miss something important in the contact?
I’ll be honest, if the client is easy to work with and reasonable with their requests, I will jump through a few hoops to get it done. If that same clients starts asking for more and more work though, I’ll let them know what the extra work will costs. If they push back, I can reference the earlier “free” work I already did.
If the work is more complex and would take more than a few hours, I’ll go back to the client with an estimate for the extra work.
If the client has been difficult to work with, doing extra work on any level could lead to more and more requests.
I try to consider what type of long term relationship I want with the client before making any decisions. Doing free work sets a precedent. Charging for every little request sets one as well. Finding the perfect middle ground will be different for every client and every project.
Every so often, I miss something in the contract. Sometimes there are things we talked about that didn’t make it into the contract. Other times, I didn’t account for a key piece of the project in the contract. Either way, I do the work. It isn’t the client’s fault I missed it in the contract.
Learning New Skills
Sometimes, I’ll spend extra time to try new things are beyond the scope of the contract. I rarely share this with the client though.
A Slippery Slope
Once you start doing extra work for free, you open the door to more and more requests. In most cases, it is best to stick to the contract. There will be times when it is in your best interests to let things “slide”. When those times arrive, consider the four items outlined above.
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