Have you ever agreed a price for a job with a client, only for them to move the goalposts at a later date – forcing you to work more hours for no extra money?
So-called scope creep is the scourge of many small business owners, a lot of whom feel unable to ask for more money in case they lose clients.
Luckily, however, there are ways to avoid being caught in the scope creep trap.
What is scope creep?
Coined by project managers, the term scope creep refers to any situation when the scope of a project changes and creates more work for those delivering it.
This could be because a client introduces new requirements, changes their mind what they want, or asks for the work to be done more quickly.
What causes scope creep?
There are lots of reasons why scope creep can become a problem – and it’s not always the client’s fault.
In cases where an employee is taking on the job, for example, neglecting to properly explain to them exactly what is needed at the outset can lead to costly misunderstandings.
More often, however, it is due to a lack of clarity around what the client wants.
According to a 2017 survey by the Project Management Institute, 37% of project failures globally are due to poorly defined objectives and milestones.
Common causes of scope creep include:
- A lack of clarity about what the client wants
- Failure to include a strategy for how extra work should be charged
- A lack of understanding on your part about how much work a project will entail
- Scope creep is not always the client’s fault.
- Making sure everyone involved knows what is required is the best way to avoid it.
What can I do when a client moves the goalposts?
Nobody wants to work for free. But nobody wants to lose clients either.
That’s why so many small business owners end up accepting the extra work that comes with scope creep.
However, agreeing to unreasonable requests will devalue your work and may also lead to the client having unrealistic expectations going forward.
So it’s important to take a stand if you recognise the conditions of a job are becoming unacceptable.
Ways to do this include offering to take on a new target but only if another can be dropped, and offering to do the extra work for an additional fee.
- Agreeing to unreasonable requests will devalue your work.
- Offering to replace a less critical part of the work with the new requirement is one way to manage scope creep.