How I handled scope creep (including what I said)

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I took on a red flag project.

I knew it, considered it, and decided to anyway.

The red flags: The timeline was insane, the project sounded disorganized, and there were a few decision-makers.

Why I took it anyway: The clients seemed nice, the budget was fair, and the subject matter was cool. Plus, it came referred from my old Corporate America boss—and I knew the client could provide more work/referrals in the future.

A slightly disorganized start…

Because the project was disorganized, the scope was a little unclear. I put together as-specific an estimate as possible while realizing there were some undiscovered needs that would become clear only by diving in.

Time wasn’t a luxury here. I sent the estimate, and they paid my deposit before I started (which I insisted on). I dove in. I found some needs I hadn’t expected regarding copy, and handled them anyway, because I wanted to.

I delivered my portion of the project.

Then the scope started to creep…

The client started asking me for things that weren’t included, which made me panic a little bit. After all, my estimate WAS slightly vague in places. Maybe they thought these things were actually included, and maybe it was my fault! I actually considered just doing the first ask in order to keep peace and harmony. But I had already gone above and beyond the scope. I remembered Ilise’s empowering presentation and Jill’s affirmations, and I responded to their scope-creepy questions like this:

When will you re-write all the product descriptions?

This isn't within the scope of what I was hired for. I was hired to polish and enhance copy on the main pages of the site. I'd say we are nearing the upper end of the scope/budget at this point. Here’s what is still included: I will tweak copy, integrate keywords as needed throughout and work to implement copy with the web designer.

I can certainly rewrite the product descriptions, but the budget would need to be expanded. Is there room in the budget for this?

Can you get us the meta tags for the whole site by tomorrow?

I agreed to incorporate relevant keywords into the text, which I was supposed to get before I started. I didn’t, and we decided I should proceed anyway. I am still willing to add in relevant keywords as directed by the SEO specialist, but as far as writing the meta tags, I hope you understand that this is a completely different project...not something I was hired for…not even really something I do!

Of course I want you to have the best outcome possible here, and I feel I went above and beyond the scope of work, even working on the weekend to help meet a timeline, but I just want to make sure we're all on the same page about this.

To my surprise, in both situations, they said:
Makes sense. Can you give us a price?

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. They may have just been seeing how far I would bend, or perhaps they actually thought these items may have been included, but I was glad I spoke up, and super happy with their reactions.

I could have made this even easier by, at every step, saying:

Here’s where we are: __________________.

Here’s what is still included: _________________.

Why I’m glad I took this project…

Putting myself outside of my comfort zone made me do things I don’t ordinarily have to do—like push back on unrealistic time frames, be extra-communicative about the scope and put my foot down. Also, they still really are nice. This might be one of the situations when a red flag client can be made into a good client. We’ll see.

Hi, I’m Deidre. In my posts, I talk about my voyage down the road of self-employment as a web copywriter, my achievements and roadblocks along the way, and what I’m learning as I go (with Marketing Mentor as my guide). To keep in touch, sign up for my un-newsletter here and get my freebie download, 12 Sparks to Write Sizzling, Audience-Attracting Website Words.

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