Do you get upset when your client asks you to do extra work on a project? This is called ‘Project Creep’.
What do you think is these situations (is it this)?
Do you find yourself thinking,
‘They are just trying to get free work. I delivered what we agreed upon already!’
Then you do the extra work anyway because you are afraid they’ll give a bad review or won’t pay you.
This is called project creep and it sucks. There is nothing more emotionally draining than working hard on a project only for the client to come back tell you:
*It needs work
*I want to go in a different direction
*I don’t like the tone
Every freelancer deals with this. You aren’t the only one. So if you have had these thoughts,
1:’It’s just me. No other freelancer has ever had this happen!’
2: ‘I’m a phony. I’m an awful freelancer and I should quit.’
Know this. It’s not just you and you are not awful. Don’t think working harder is the solution,
Project creep usually happens for three reasons. I’m going to share those reasons and the strategies you can use make sure it doesn’t happen. After that, as a bonus, I am also going to share my exact script you can copy and past when a client tries to get you to do work for free.
The Startling Truth About Project Creep
You aren’t charging enough.
Here’s the thing you don’t understand. When a client hires you they don’t hire you with the idea of ‘hours’ in mind. A client hires you to finish a project. In their eyes, they have hired you not for a fixed time but for a fixed deliverables.
This is where a majority of issues come into focus. When you price a project you price for the amount of time it takes to deliver what you agreed to. In your mind, that means a final draft cut and polished on their desk by 9 AM.
The client sees it different.
Most clients see deliverables as works in progress that they have the final say over. To them, it’s natural to ask for changes, adjustments, etc.
This is the line between side hustlers and business owners. Side hustlers set their prices on what they perceive a client wants. Business owners price their deliverables based on how a business works. This brings us to project creep type 1:
Project Creep Type 1: The Full Project Deliverable
This type of project creep results from a misunderstanding of expectations. Traditionally the client expects to have the final say in how the project looks.
There are two different solutions to this situation.
1: You add extra time to the contract for adjustment-
If you think clients will want a final adjustment price it into the project.
2: You inform the client that your final deliverable completes the contract–
If a client knows that your final deliverable is the end of the contract then they shouldn’t be surprised if you ask for more money when they request changes.
I’d avoid this method because I don’t believe in nickel and diming clients.
Project Creep Type 2:The New Information/Direction Problem
If you are freelancing for non-enterprise level clients don’t forget you are working on someone’s dream job/product/hustle.
One of the biggest lessons I learned when working on The Freelancer Success Summit was from Natalie Mcguire. She said,
‘Build your contract so a client has room to dream.’
Natalie’s advice was to negotiate a contract for different levels or options of service. This is different from pitching different price levels in a proposal.
When you pitch price levels you are letting the client purchase at the level they are comfortable paying. When you negotiate contract options you are giving the client space to dream.
This is useful for two reasons:
1 : It lets the client know the expectations of them in regards to price–
When a client has their expectations laid out for them to see they understand the cost each level carries. If they ask for you to do ‘x’ they already know it will carry a cost.
2:It doesn’t leave money on the table-
Clients don’t know the scope of what you do. Telling them everything you can do opens up the door to a larger contract. This is also why I teach you to treat ideas as currency.
When a client knows that you can do both ‘x’ and ‘xyz’ they will extend the contract to include everything.
Project Creep Type 3:Yeah Your Client Is Stealing From You
You are going to run into bad clients.
When you do you have to make a judgment call.
Is the extra work they are asking for not much? Will it ensure you get paid quickly and get a good review (if you are on a job board)?
….Consider doing it.
I know this isn’t the answer you want but if it takes thirty minutes then run with it and never work with them again.
‘But what if the client is asking for a lot of work?’
Last month I went through this twice.
No joke. I freelance full time, handle big accounts, and still find this happening to me. Don’t freak out if it happens to you. It will happen at some point. Your best defense is a good offense. Here’s what I did.
The first thing I did was check my contract and work. I wanted to make sure I had not made a mistake. Both times I was in the right. Both clients wanted free work. I sent them the following. Feel free to copy, paste, and use this yourself.
‘I reviewed your request and found it was beyond the scope of our agreed upon deliverables. Our agreed upon contract has been fulfilled in full with my last submission. If you require more work I’m happy to price it into a new contract once the current one is paid, the contract closed, and reviews are given.’
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Back On Topic: Note what I am doing.
1:I refer back to the deliverables they agreed to.
2:I refer to the contract, which they agreed to, as being completed based on the deliverables.
3:I offer to do the work they want, but not before the current project is paid for.
My response is tailored off advice from Stuart Diamond in ‘Getting More’. Stuart is an expert in negotiation. The book focuses on the fact that negotiation isn’t about who is right, it’s about goals.
My goal was to get paid for the work we agreed to. I didn’t get emotional, I didn’t threaten, swear, nothing. I reminded them of the standards they set with the contract and asked them to stand by their standards.
Why This Works
People hate contradicting themselves. Reminding the client that you did what they asked for you put them in a position to acknowledge that you did what they asked.
Let’s dig deeper and consider two things.
1:Clients don’t understand deliverables written in contract form. Clarify the deliverables in the contract. If you have it is easy to remind them that you fulfilled the contract.
2:If the client persists that they are owed more work you can ask them to clarify how what they want still fits into the contract. Sometimes the client is right. You either didn’t do a good enough job, you forgot something, etc. If this is the case you get the exact information you need to fix it.
Bonus:Position Yourself To Get Paid, A Good Review, And Not Do Extra Work
2:You are right
3:And they want free work…
You can point out that you fulfilled what they asked for in the contract. If they want more work outside the contract you are happy to supply it in the form of a new contract.
This is useful if you feel the client is stringing you along. You let them know you are happy to do the work once the original contract is complete in full.
In this case, one of two things happen.
1:They demand you finish the work without extra pay–
If this happens refer back to the contract and politely and consistently request payment. If they refuse you can pursue other options for getting your project paid in full. Job boards have freelancer protection. If you encounter this outside job boards you should have stipulated in your contract to have been paid in full before this point.
2:They agree to pay the extra work but want to finalize the new contract before the old one is paid-
Clients often take this opportunity to load you down with a lot of work at cut-rate prices. They assume they can leverage the new contract by withholding payment on the old. This won’t happen often (if ever). But if it does politely tell the client you can’t think about a new contract until this one is paid in full.
NOTE-Do not agree to more work, discuss the contract, or talk about future payment until the previous contract is paid in full. Also, if you are on a job board, mention you’ll also need a review.
There are different types of project creep. If you study this post and apply the methods included you will:
*Land Bigger Contracts By Fully Serving A Client
*Charge More For A Finished Project And Not For Hours
*Have The Exact Script To Dealing WIth Problem Clients
Most project creep stems from misunderstanding. Cut these problems out by clarifying expectations before starting a project.
Your Phone Game Sucks And It’s Costing You Money
Do you dread client calls? Do you do everything you can to avoid getting on the phone? You are going to love next week’s article. I share everything you need to know to crush phone calls, land more clients, and position yourself ahead of everyone else being interviewed!