‘It can easily spin out of control’: Confessions of a freelance creative on the rise of scope creep

Digiday 10 Jun 2021 04:01
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June 10, 2021 by Kristina Monllos

For freelancers on retainer, managing clients’ expectations while also staying within the bounds of the agreed upon job can be a delicate balance. For the sake of the relationship, freelancers have to find a way to navigate repeatedly being asked to do work outside of the scope — a common occurrence in advertising often referred to as “scope creep”; freelancers as well as agencies deal with it — and getting paid for that extra work without upsetting their client. In the latest edition of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor, we hear from a freelance creative who works for brands, agencies and individuals, about scope creep, why it can be an issue and how to manage it.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

What is scope creep? How can it affect your relationship with a client? 

It’s a huge issue for a lot of freelancers. It’s a [bigger issue] if you’re on retainer.  Scope creep is when you agree to doing something and your client asks for something more like, “Oh, can you just throw this in? This will just take five minutes.” Or maybe they’ll say, “This wasn’t what I imagined. Can you do this instead?” The reason you have a scope and a contract is to be able to fall back on those documents. That way you can tell the client that you can certainly do what they ask but it will cost X number of dollars. At the beginning of a relationship, when you’re finding your footing of how you’ll communicate with a client it’s easy to allow some scope creep. But it can easily spin out of control. 

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