Day 8 – Case Study 3: The Something for Nothing


Welcome to Day 8 of the Conquering Client Conflict course!

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scotty-somethingfornothing_emailHave you ever taken on a project that has gotten out of scope? The consultations appeared to be in order, both parties knew the project’s expectations, you began the work as arranged, the finished product is presented to the client, and you hand over the bill… and then they tell you that a certain feature shouldn’t have been charged for, or they want more work done without paying the corresponding additional fee.

You, my friend, have just witnessed scope creep in action, perpetrated by a Something-For-Nothing client.

Scope creep is defined as the uncontrolled changes in a project’s scope that result in the work taking much longer to complete than originally planned. Add the fact that some clients may demand the additional work to be done at no extra cost on their part — or may refuse to pay for features that you allegedly did not tell them would warrant additional payment — and you have a common freelancing scope creep dilemma on your hands. It’s an odd dilemma, for sure – presumably these clients wouldn’t expect the local grocery store to simply give them additional food items for free, and yet…they don’t think twice about asking us to take food right off of our children’s plates.

So what should be done if this happens to you? Well, let’s walk through the steps I outlined in Parts 1 – 5:

1. Presume goodwill in the face of scope creep

Don’t automatically assume the client is dishonest or greedy.
If you have a scope document detailing the particulars of the project, go over it, and think back on your previous discussions. There may have been statements made that were missed or misinterpreted, and they may have really no idea that the additional work would incur more costs.

Be empathetic – this might be their first freelance experience – but be firm
Your client may not have a clear picture of how working with freelancers goes, so it’s your job to help them understand the process. Make sure your hands are clean with regard to holding up your responsibility to properly educate & enumerate at the start of the project.

Allow them to explain what they want and why they expect scope creep for free.
Your client may believe that the additional feature isn’t substantial enough to entail added costs, or they may have thought they still had a window for making changes to their original request. Hear them out and explain how your work should go.

2. Create (or clarify) Two-Way Accountability

Educate them on the importance of their responsibility to the project.
In this case, orderly and paid-for change requests reduce variability in the project. They have a responsibility to clearly communicate with you when it comes to modification requests, and to do so with respect to the project schedule. This allows the finished work to meet all the specifications.

Enumerate the consequences of failing that responsibility*
In this case, the scope creep demand may result in work stoppage or a schedule slip, among other consequences — all of which will mean inconveniences for everyone.

3. Hold the line

Re-communicate the original boundary; in this case, work is done only in exchange for payment. Be patient yet firm with helping them to understand that freelance work, just like any other agreement, entails proper payment for services rendered.

Discuss a mutually-acceptable alternative. Perhaps they can trade off an un-built feature to get the one they’re asking for immediately, for example. This would be a good way to minimize hassles and still produce the desired project result.

Remain consistent in your efforts and responses. Emphasize the fact that all additional features would cause the project costs to increase, and also be mindful of informing your client at the time of their request that these additional fees will be upheld.

Always remember – when push comes to shove, “no” is a complete sentence. You don’t owe the client a justification for why you require payment in order to do work; that’s simply what business is. If you find yourself in a debate with a client over this matter, having your talking points used as ammunition to argue against you:

1) Stop giving justifications.
2) Reiterate your boundary regarding the matter
3) Politely excuse yourself from the conversation
4) Try to say “no” by saying “yes” – let the client know you’re happy to proceed with the additional work at the quoted rate.

The basic steps never change – only the application of the steps changes.

Homework Assignment – Post Your Work To The Comments Below!

1) How often do clients expect additional work for free?

2) Do you find that this happens less often as you gain more time & experience in the business?

3) Tell me about a time when you convinced a client to pay for something they initially expected for free.