Would you accept a project for one-third of your going rate? How about a project for one-half of your rate?
If you’re like most of us, your answer to these questions is “no.”
No one wants to cut their fee by such drastic percentages.
But if you accept a project without verifying the scope you may be doing just that without knowing it.
Scope creep is a huge problem for freelance writers and it can affect how profitable your writing business is.
Even if you charge by the project, your fees are based on how much effort you expect to put into the project. If you don’t understand how much effort a project will take, you’re likely to under charge.
In this post, I explain why scope creep happens and how to avoid it. I also list some scope creep danger areas for you to beware of. This post is part of my series on What Is the Worst Problem Freelance Writers Face?
Why Scope Creep Happens
To avoid scope, you need to know why scope creep happens.
So, what causes scope creep? Scope creep has two main sources:
- Miscommunication and misunderstandings. Nobody’s perfect. Even the best clients forget to share important information about the project. Or, the client may not understand the writing process well enough to give you the information you need to describe the scope of a project.
- Deliberate misinformation. Unfortunately, there’s also another type of client. Occasionally you’ll run into a client who deliberately understates the scope of the project. Their hope is that you’ll quote a lower price and then be stuck with that lower price when you discover what the project involves.
Regardless of the cause of scope creep, you can reduce the impact of how it affects you. Let’s learn how to avoid scope creep.
How to Avoid Scope Creep
To avoid scope creep follow two main strategies:
- Ask lots of questions. It’s a good idea to develop a standard list of project questions to ask for each project. Add to these questions when you don’t understand what the client wants. Ask questions even if you think you understand, but the client hasn’t stated their expectations clearly.
- Get the details in writing. Getting the details in writing protects you from both accidental misunderstandings and deliberate misinformation. If you have the scope in writing, you have something to refer to later. That’s why every proposal I send out lists the project details. A client must sign before I begin work.
Can you predict when scope creep might occur? Sometimes you can. There are some client danger areas that often lead to scope creep problems.
Scope Creep Danger Areas
Do you find the same problems leading to scope creep over and over? If you do, chances are you’ve run into a scope creep danger area.
Scope creep danger areas are aspects of the project that can lead to scope creep unless they’re addressed early in the project cycle. Here are six common scope creep danger areas that I’ve faced:
- Quantity. For writers, this often has to do with the length of the article. It can also have to do with the type or frequency of writing. Is this a one-time project, or will you be writing for the client regularly? It’s important to know before you start writing.
- Research. Not all articles take the same amount of research. Many clients don’t understand this. It’s not uncommon to get the question, “how long does it take to write an article, post, etc.?” Before you can decide you need to know whether the client wants you to go in-depth or prefers a summary type article? If your topic is complex, it takes more time to research.
- Images. It’s common for some blog owners and even some publications to ask you to provide images. Unfortunately, images can take a lot of time to create. If you buy images from a stock site, they can be expensive. You shouldn’t have to eat the cost of that extra time or the cost of purchasing images for a client.
- Meetings. It’s normal to have a few project meetings. But meetings can be a big time drain if they are unnecessary. I was once on a project team that required me to attend a long weekly meeting, even though the topics discussed had little to do with my part of the project.
- Revisions. Another area that can lead to scope creep is the area of revisions. Even if you understand the scope well, you may still be asked to revise your writing. It’s important to spell out what level of revisions you’re willing to do early in the project. What you don’t want is to completely redo your work.
- Add-on projects. Add-on projects include tasks that you wouldn’t normally associate directly with your writing work. These projects can include promoting the project through social media. You could also be expected answer comments, or even revisit the article and update it after time has passed.
Have you faced scope creep? Share your worst scope creep story in the comments and explain how you overcame the problem.