How to Combat Scope Creep in Freelance Writing Jobs

Ever had a writing client who keeps adding more to your plate?
They want you do to just a few more things—no big deal.
At least that’s how they phrase it.
Can’t you just help them out a little bit? It won’t take long. And they’re paying you good money already.
You start to think…oh, okay, I can do it—I want them to hire me again and I don’t want to make them mad. It probably really won’t take much time. They’re right.
GUYS! No. That’s not okay.
You’re a business owner just like they are—and your time is important and valuable, too.
Scope creep happens all the time in freelance working relationships—and it’s a problem. Let’s talk about how you can establish better boundaries with clients as well as how to handle instances when scope begins to get stretched beyond your original agreement.
Better Boundaries
Each time you work with a client on a new project, you need to put together a few documents that will get both you and the client on the same page about project scope, expectations, and deadlines.
1. A contract
You need a basic legal contract with each client you work with to protect you and your business. Within the contract, you’ll outline your fees for work that goes beyond the project’s scope, as well as when payment is expected for that. You and the client need to sign off on the contract before any work begins.
I use Paul Jarvis’s Creative Class Contract, as it’s a template that makes it easy for me to quickly drop in the details for a new project.
2. A project outline
When you get down into the project details, you’ll want to put together a document that’s focused on the particular assignment—not so high level.
This doesn’t have to be a fancy-schmancy document, it just needs to outline a few key details for you and your client, such as:

  • What tasks you’ll be completing as part of the project
  • What information/assets you need from the client and by when
  • When different deliverables are due

Provide as much detail as you can here and don’t be afraid to ask questions that add clarity before writing this document. It’ll help you and your client better communicate and understand what’s expected—and it’s a good way to reinforce the value you’re providing.
3. A process document
It’s also a good idea to send each new client you work with a document that basically outlines your process and how you work. This is part of a solid onboarding process for your business.
In my process document, I include:

  • Average turnaround time for first drafts and revisions
  • What tool I’ll use for writing content(always Google Docs)
  • My office hours, AKA when I’m available and when I’m not
  • FAQs that help address some of the common questions I get from new clients

Essentially, this piece is a really nice way to show that you’ve got it together. It proactively addresses client questions and makes you look polished and professional.
How to Handle Scope Creep
Now, even with these documents and your efforts to eliminate gray areas around project scope, you’re still going to encounter the occasional client who tries to sneak in a lil’ extra work from you.
Or sometimes they’re not so subtle.
I once had a client call and text me repeatedly on a Friday evening telling me to send him an additional document right away. As you can imagine, we parted ways—and he didn’t get that document.
Here are some things you can say when a client begins to ask for things outside your agreement:

I’d be happy to help you with that. Keep in mind this is outside what we outlined going into the project, so I’ll need to charge the additional rate of $XXX that was noted in our contract for that. I can get started on X date if you want to move ahead.

I noticed this goes a bit beyond what we originally outlined for this project, so I’ll need to charge $XXX for the additional X I’m providing. Let me know if this is an issue and we can discuss if needed.

If the client gets angry at your request for additional billing for the added work, remind them that you outlined these fees in your original contract—and if they need to cut back in another area of the project to keep the budget as is, you can be flexible.
Just remember that both parties need to be willing to compromise.
So often freelancers feel that they owe their clients the world and that they’re just lucky to have been hired in the first place.
Yes, it’s an amazing gig—but it’s still a business—and you need to be business-minded.
Don’t undervalue your work. Your clients will respect you more when you keep more rigid business boundaries rather than allowing people to take advantage of you.

Ever had a problem handling scope creep yourself? Tweet me @kaleighf. Let's chat.

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