A significant part of owning a business is learning how to manage project scope creep. Scope creep, for those unfamiliar, is when a client requests changes or services that were not part of the original agreement. Before you know it, you’re doing more work than you initially planned and charged for, drastically reducing your profits.
Most of us have seen it happen: your client contracts for a project, then starts pushing for more work, extra revisions, or additional services at no extra charge. Business owners frequently give in to satisfy the customer, but this unpaid labor can destroy your bottom line. So here are some tips on how to avoid unpaid project scope creep.
HANDLING UNREASONABLE CUSTOMERS
If you’re having trouble learning how to manage scope creep, you’re not alone. It might start innocently enough: a client requests a minor change, and you don’t see the need to create a change order because you have a good relationship. Or it’s something that isn’t worth a change order because it will just take a minute to complete.
However, this kind of behavior can quickly spiral out of control. The client might request additional changes or services thinking they can get more work for no extra charge, or you might end up throwing in free services for multiple clients. As a result, you’ve completed hours and hours of work that you’re not getting paid for.
It really doesn’t have to work like that. Here are a few tips on how to manage scope creep
- Don’t start the job without a contract. Setting expectations with customers from the beginning is essential, so each party knows what to expect. The contract is the place to put these expectations in writing.
- Ensure that you have a solid written agreement in the contract that specifies how the revisions, change orders, and additional services will be handled. Talk about this with your customer. This is not something that you want to try and bury in the fine print.
- Prepare yourself for how you will handle a request to absorb the change order. If you have a hard time saying no and it makes you uncomfortable, come up with a few scripts you can use. Preparation will prevent you from being caught off-guard while in the moment.
- Use project management software if possible. Software makes it easy to track progress for each customer, as well as billable hours. If you notice that a particular client repetitiously keeps pushing for more hours, you know it’s time to have a talk. At MCDA CCG we use Trello to track each client and their respective projects.
- Be clear and aggressive with your communication from the outset. If a customer is clear on every step of the process, it’s much less likely that changes will be needed later. A big part of learning how to manage scope creep is preventing additional revisions from occurring.
- Have a mindset that preserving your rights is not conflict; it is negotiating a solution. Saying no to a client can leave a bad taste in your mouth, but protecting your boundaries is crucial for your profitability. Set the tone from the top, so that employees follow your lead. You do not want your staff giving away free revisions, and allowing hours and hours of un-billed work to be happening.
Figuring out how to successfully manage scope creep is just one aspect of owning a business. To lead effectively, you should constantly strive to learn new tactics. Sign up for our free blog or a complimentary coaching session for more leadership tips from a qualified business coach.
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