How to Prevent Scope Creep in Your Digital Agency

Posted on by Disha Sharma | Updated:
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Did you know that a whopping 44% of projects faced scope creep last year? Scope creep is tricky – it could be as small as your favorite client requesting an additional round of ‘minor’ revisions … or as big as a first-time client expecting a whole bunch of features they ‘thought were included in the project’. No matter what — scope creep is dangerous and you should keep an eye out for any scope creep warning signs. Why should you want to prevent scope creep?

Well, accommodating each request that falls out of the project scope takes time. Of course, you trade your time for money. Each second you spend on tasks that weren’t originally quoted for is a direct loss of revenue. Not only that, if you can’t decline or handle a client’s out-of-scope requests well, things could get ugly; you could even lose the client.

To prevent your agency from suffering from scope creep, we recommend you try the following battle-tested scope creep prevention hack.

Prevent Scope Creep with a Project Scope Document

The best way to prevent scope creep is to define a watertight project scope and get it approved by the client. TechTarget defines project scope as, “… the part of project planning that involves determining and documenting a list of specific project goals, deliverables, tasks, costs and deadlines.”

As you can tell from the definition, project scope includes many things that are documented in the project proposal. However, a project scope creep document should also list:

  • Specific details of what’s included in the project scope
  • Scenarios that qualify as scope creep
  • Your process for handling your scope creep

When a client makes a request that falls out of the original project scope, all you need to do is point the client to the contents of the project scope document and ask them how they’d like to move forward. That’s it!

Besides, when you ask a client to sign such a document before the project begins, you make them conscious of exactly what features are included in their project. Then, when they make additional requests, they’ll know they’re asking for more, and will be more likely to understand that their requests will incur additional charges.

Luckily, you don’t have to create your project scope document from scratch. You can get a head start with this downloadable template.

Project Scope Document to Prevent Scope Creep

While scope creep instances can kill a lot of your time and impact your revenue negatively, they aren’t a complete waste. You can use them to revise your proposals to and reduce future out-of-scope requests.

How to Revise Your Services or Proposals Based on Common Scope Creep Scenarios

You might notice different clients making the same requests that fall out of scope for certain projects – this is an opportunity for your agency. You should use such requests to make your website copy or proposal copy clearer – or simply add this feature to your standard proposal and adjust your prices accordingly. You could also create a list of regularly requested “add-on” features that you can offer to clients as an upsell.

For example, if you run a copywriting agency, a client might expect you to make the design of their legal pages user-friendly. Obviously, this isn’t part of a website copywriting project — it’s an example of scope creep. However, if you are capable, you can offer that service from the get-go for an additional fee – and set the tone for your clients that it isn’t included as part of the main project.

If you take all the measures and yet see scope creep requests, you’ve no choice but to deal with them – but there’s a good way and a bad way to handle such requests. After all, no one wants to lose a client because of a disagreement over scope creep.

The Right Way to Accommodate Scope Creep (without Losing Revenue)

Some degree of scope creep always creeps in – and in some cases it doesn’t make sense to charge more for each request. If you see some out-of-scope requests that you can handle with negligible impact on your business, do them and make sure to tell the client that you have over-delivered on the original project. Doing so will give the client a strong cue about not making additional requests – but will also show your client that their business is important to you. However, if you face a situation where it’s just not feasible to accommodate the new requests, email your client. Here’s a template you could use:

Hey [first name],Just saw your latest requests:

  • Request #1
  • Request #2
  • Request #3

We’re afraid we can’t do these because they fall out of the project scope. Here’s the project scope [link to the project scope document] we had decided on.

However, if you’d like, we’d be happy to send you a quote for doing this additional work.

Would you like to revise the project scope to include these? Also, please let me know if you have any questions or if you’d like to get on a call to discuss this.

Hope you’ll understand.

[your name]

Scope creep is stressful and expensive. When handling scope creep, remember that small requests can pile up fast. You won’t even realize when an hour’s additional work becomes a full-blown exercise spanning across an entire work day.

However, the more confusion you avoid in your project scope, the more scope creep instances you’ll prevent, and the more time and money you’ll save. Even if scope creep prevention doesn’t protect you against every instance of scope creep, it will ensure that you’re compensated for all the extra or out-of-scope work a client sends your way.

Have your clients ever made out-of-scope or simply unreasonable requests to you?

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About the Author

Disha Sharma

Disha is a freelance writer specializing in digital marketing. She helps businesses offer actionable, engaging, and conversion-friendly content. You can connect with her on Twitter: @dishahsharma.

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