The Blog

June 21, 2022

When a Client Wants More Than You Agreed On (aka Scope Creep)

When a Client Wants More Than You Agreed On (aka Scope Creep)

You start working with a new client and things are going swimmingly. But then, you notice certain things happen. The client’s goals for the project change. Another person gets thrown into the mix. You get requests for more edits, more features, more work — within the original budget and timeframe, no less. What’s happening here is called “scope creep.”


Scope creep happens all the time to service providers, freelancers, and small business owners. It can be a huge buzzkill, but it doesn’t have to completely kill your passion for what you do. Follow our tips on how to handle scope creep below.


What is scope creep?

First, let’s talk about project scope. Project scope refers to all the work required to complete a project on time and within budget.


Project scope includes details like:


  • The start and finish dates of your project
  • Important phases of the project
  • Individual tasks
  • Who will get what done and when
  • What successful project completion looks like

If project scope is the boundaries of the work involved in your project, then scope creep iswhen those boundaries change unexpectedlyafter the project begins.


Scope creep might look like a client pushing their new ideas during calls, too many rounds of edits and approvals, changes to deadlines, unreasonable requests of your time, and more. In other words,  it looks like a nightmare for a freelancer or small biz owner.

How scope creep happens

How do service providers and biz owners even get roped into scope creep? It can happen more easily than you think. 


Scope creep is caused by:


  • Lack of communication
  • Vague project requirements
  • Lack of research or resources to begin work
  • Not including the right team members
  • Underestimating the time or resources required for the project
  • Too many last-minute ideas
  • Changes to deliverables
  • Too many rounds of edits, revisions, and approvals
  • Lax deadlines
  • Uninvolved or unaware team members

You can see there are a lot of possible reasons for scope creep, but if we had to pinpoint some common themes, we’d say lack of preparation, poor boundaries, and bad communication are the big ones.


If projects wentexactlyas planned 100% of the time, we wouldn’t even be discussing scope creep, would we? But change is inevitable. Projects can get derailed. Partnerships can be messy. You may not be able to fully prevent scope creep, but you can handle it with grace and professionalism. That’s part of  being a great service provider.

How to handle scope creep

Keep in mind that every client is different and every project is unique. Some of these tips may work for one client but could make things way worse with another. Try not to get discouraged if you have to try more than one tactic!

Check your contract

You have a contract, right? Not only do contractsestablish those oh-so-lovely boundaries, but they also help you get paid and set expectations for your clients. If you notice scope creep…well, creeping into your work, the first thing we suggest you do is check your client contract to see what you’ve both agreed upon.


In clear terms, you should have the goals of the project and any deliverables included. If the wording is clear, share that with the client and explain that you can renegotiate terms. 


If you’re worried the wording is too vague, make sure to communicate with clients and see if you can come to a mutually beneficial agreement. Yes, this means you will have to have hard conversations and then update your contract!


Don’t have a contract?Get one for your business now! 

Review your project requirements

Do you have everyone’s roles and responsibilities in one clear, easily accessible document for your project? If not, it may help to jot down your project requirements in a new doc and share it with everyone involved. This way, you can get clear on what everyone wants and what everyone has to do in order to reach the finish line.

Revisit your project schedule

You absolutely need a project management tool, even if it’s just for you! We love using Asana and Airtable to break down our work into smaller, more manageable tasks with deadlines. 


Use a tool to outline every step of your project. Assign tasks to the appropriate team members. And don’t forget to add deadlines! Leave enough cushion in case changes are made or work is late.

Speak up when needed

Tired of getting Slack messages at all hours of the night or random requests for “just one more thing”? Be proactive when you notice scope creep starting to happen. Bring it up with your client in an email, phone call, or Zoom chat — whichever works best for you. The most important thing is to talk about how scope creep is negatively impacting your work together.

Say “no”

Saying “no” can be downright terrifying, but you know what? Your boundaries are important and shouldn’t be ignored. It can be a really powerful way to prevent scope creep and help your client get what they want.


You don’t have to literally say “no” in an email and bounce (unless you want to). If someone requests something unnecessary that will derail your work, explain how that will happen and include an idea for what to do next. 

Lay down the law with a contract template for your biz

We know that handling scope creep can be a pain in the booty, but remember that in most cases, clients aren’t even aware that they’remaking things more difficult for you. (If they are, that’s a red flag, and it’s time to say bye-bye within whatever contract term you have.)


The best way to tame and avoid scope creep is to establish boundaries from the get-go with asolid contractfor your business. Your contract should outline the scope of the project, as well as policies like your office hours and how to best contact you. A solid contract will protect your businessandmake your client feel more confident in choosing you for their project.


Don’t have a contract yet?Browse our shop now and find the perfect one for your business! Have a contract but you’re not sure if all your bases are covered?Get our FREE Rock Solid Contract Blueprint and see if your contract checks out! 

Previous  / Next