‘Scope creep’ is a common issue in consulting and one of the big downsides of consulting. So what exactly is scope creep?
This is where you agree to do a job for someone else for a fixed fee and they try to expand the scope of the original project or change their minds about the details of what they want done AFTER the job is done. Both scenarios mean that they expect you to commit more time and resources than you originally quoted for.
The reason I mention this is that today I had just such an issue with a job that I finished last Sunday. It was a job that I took on for some online friends and often these can be the worst type of jobs – I didn’t really want to do it but I relented in order to help them. I did what I thought was a great job very quickly for them and now they are returning to quibble about minor issues where they have clearly had a change of heart.
The core of the job was quite tricky and technical, whereas the details they want changing are really elementary stuff that they could easily amend themselves – things like page names and page order.
The only way to combat this is to ensure that the consulting brief is clearly set out from the outset so that you can refer the client back to it and negotiate an additional fee for any extra work. It is important to be quite firm about this because the client will keep pushing for more if you allow them to push you around.
In consulting, you are effectively selling your time and expertise and so it is important for your client to respect the fact that your time has a value – a high value that reflects your expertise!
If you do not communicate that your time has a high value to you, how can you expect your client to respect your time? This is an educational process and also positions you correctly as an expert whose time is in high demand and that they need to optimise the time they have available with you.
Usually it is important to set out the brief in detail, in writing, upfront so you can refer back to it if necessary when a dispute arises. You may also wish to build in some leeway to your project time and price for these kinds of issues so that you do not end up out-of-pocket because ‘time is money’ to a consultant.
Of course, when I took on this job, I quoted a low price, because they were friends, and didn’t put it clearly in writing because I was under pressure with other work. After 13 years in consulting, I’m still learning the lessons that consulting will inevitably pitch at you when you can least afford the time to deal with them.
Thankfully, this was a relatively small job and so not a lot of harm will be done but it would be very different if this were a large project and the scope creep was substantial.
In the meantime, hopefully you can learn from my mistake and be more careful than I have been about the issue of ‘scope creep’ in your consulting jobs!