How to Prevent Scope Creep


Ladies and gentlemen, I have seen some scope creep.

Quoted one month-long projects drag on and one. If they ever even finish, that one month would look more like one year.

Would that additional time lead to additional payment? Very often the answer was “no”, bringing my effective wage below the $1/hr. mark.

Why exactly does scope creep happen?

Scope creep is simply an issue of taking on projects with undetermined scope.

You can know how long something takes until you’ve done it. Estimating a project like this is either the act of a masochist, or someone with a very active imagination.

So ideally, you only accept projects you’ve done in the past. If that’s a paradox, then I recommend only accepting very tiny projects, and rigorously logging time and processes.

Eventually, you can combine these well-known mini-projects into something bigger…but maybe you won’t want to; tiny tasks can command big fees, too 😉

What separates practitioners from vendors?

Expert firms, by definition, have experience solving specific problems for specific audiences. And they get paid well for this rare expertise.

Vendors, on the other hand, can afford smaller per-client profit margins experts demand, because they sell at scale. Generalist firms usually get lumped into this category—even if they don’t want to, or they can’t afford to be.

If your firm is small, and planning to stay that way, you likely want to develop highly valuable intellectual property and processes. That means mastering how to solve one problem for one audience.


Finally, I’ll note that because you solve just this one, expensive problem:

  • Assigning hours (even for project management) ahead of time should be consistent
  • Pay should be high (because you’re the best at lowering risk, right?)
  • Discovery meetings might be valuable ($) for the client, too.
  • Regardless of whether you do paid discovery, with no client should you be taking a negative profit margin.

Experts command high fees, and in doing so, provide a meta-demonstration of their expertise.

Working for cheap (or letting your clients dictate terms and solutions) pigeon-holes you as a vendor—a replaceable commodity. Commodities don’t get to lead, and they certainly don’t get paid well.

Leave a Comment