Staying in Scope
Congratulations, you just closed a deal with a new client! Now all you have to do is draw up a contract. Easy, right? After tackling the legal-ese components of your agreement it’s time to set the deliverables, or scope, of the contract. Hopefully, you discussed these with the client and can easily outline what is expected of you, but what happens when a random project outside of the scope appears? And then another, and another, and suddenly you don’t even remember what your original job was. Read on for our take on “scope creep” and how to set proper client expectations and boundaries.
To begin, let’s all get on the same page. According to Investopedia, scope refers to “the combined objectives and requirements needed to complete a project.” For example, a typical scope in a Honey & Hive contract includes a specified amount of social media posts, emails, and paid ads. Additionally, according to Techopedia, scope creep refers to “a project that has seen its original goals expand while it's in progress". As the term suggests, scope creep is a subtle process that starts with small adjustments and ends up resulting in projects that take far longer to complete or even fail before they are finished.”
Now that definitions are out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the situations that may arise in relation to scope and in turn, scope creep. It’s important to remember that (most) clients aren’t acting maliciously when assigning tasks outside of the scope. However, as a small business acting within the parameters of “the customer is always right,” this can lead to easy burnout, as resources are scarce! Thus, managing your scope of work is vital to protecting yourself, your employees, and to maintain a positive working relationship with your clients.
One way to avoid scope creep is by setting clear expectations within the scope itself. Leaving deliverables open ended leaves a lot of room for interpretation by your client, and communicating set guidelines is an easy fix for potential miscommunication. For example, adding a line item of “flyer design” to your contract may equate to a few flyers per month in your mind, but you could soon find yourself pumping out a flyer every other day! Outlining this item as “up to 5 flyer designs” is more helpful to both you and your client.
A general way to avoid scope creep is maintaining effective communication. Difficult conversations may arise when discussing boundaries, however they are essential to protect you and your resources. Continuous communication ensures everyone is on the same page and that all of the client’s needs are met within your contract’s reason.
As service providers, we all want to do whatever we can to make our clients happy, however complying with the client over complying with the contract and scope of work is a recipe for disaster. Set direct and clear expectations both in your contracts and with your clients, communicate, and don’t be afraid to speak up to set these boundaries. Scope creep doesn’t help anyone. Avoiding it from the beginning of your engagements will save you and your team time, money, and possibly tears.