Avoid Scope Creep: Writing and Negotiating an Effective Work Contract

by Craig Anthony

2 min read

Scope creep happens when your duties as a freelancer or small business owner increase over the course of a job, but your pay doesn’t rise in concert.

As an independent contractor, you want to keep your clients as satisfied as possible. Sometimes this requires performing peripheral work here and there that isn’t specifically outlined in your contract work agreement.

However, you have to walk the line between being flexible enough to accommodate reasonable client requests, and allowing clients to take advantage of you by constantly expanding the scope of your work without increasing your pay. Find out how to avoid scope creep and ensure you get paid for the work you do.

Don’t Lead With Your Chin

Sometimes in business, particularly during the early stages of a new venture, freelancers are so eager to bring new clients on board that they overpromise and essentially throw themselves at the mercy of potential customers. Customers can sense when you’re desperate for business, and many take advantage of this by paying you less than what you’re worth. The customer might hire you to do one job, but then throw in extra work for the same pay, knowing your pipeline isn’t full enough for you to turn down paying work.

Emphasize your commitment to customer service when pitching clients, but don’t be so obsequious that your customers think they can walk all over you. Know what you’re worth, and have the confidence to stick to that value.

Practice Effective Contract Negotiation

Contract negotiation is a give and take. Success at contract work requires being neither too lenient nor too rigid with your contract demands.

You want the best for your business during the negotiation process, but customers are looking out for themselves. Find a middle ground that keeps everyone happy so you can avoid scope creep and ensure that the customer is satisfied with your work.

Communicate

On occasion, circumstances arise during a work-for-hire project that necessitate doing extra work. For example, you might have a contract with a lawyer to write blog posts about a legal topic. A new bill passes that changes a law, which requires you to go back and edit old information in the blog, replacing it with newer, more accurate information. Because this wasn’t stipulated in your original contract, the attorney might expect you to do this work for free. You, on the other hand, feel differently, as your livelihood depends on getting paid for all the hours you work.

Get out in front of potentially sticky situations by putting them on the table as soon as they arise. Don’t perform any work before coming to a mutual understanding with the client regarding your pay for that work. When circumstances come up that present the opportunity for extra work, explain to your customers why it is worth it for them to pay you to do the work.

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