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Esmeralda recently committed the fatal error of letting her client go out of scope. Her original project scope was for the design of a brochure. Part way through the project, the client asked for a “super simple” Powerpoint presentation. “It is just a simple little template that we can use for a 5 to 7 slide presentation,” they said.

Always willing to go above and beyond, Esmeralda said, “Ok, no problem.” And she proceeded to put together the “super simple” template for her client.

You all probably know where this story is headed and you’ve probably been there yourself. The “super simple” template just went through design changes round seven with more to come. It seems every key stakeholder in the company has an opinion.

With bright recollection of her errors and a humble heart, Esmeralda reached out to me, “Help me Mr. More. How do I get this back on track?”

How Can Esmeralda Get Back on Track?

In this situation, I would tell my client, “As you know this whole project is out of scope from the original brochure design project we were working on and now we are on Round 7. I’ll make this last round of changes, and then deliver, but if we go any additional rounds, I will have to charge you by the hour at my hourly rate of $XXX per hour. I hope you understand. I love working with you, but can’t keep putting time into an unpaid project with so many extra rounds. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

This message keeps Esmeralda in her generous position with the client and, at the same time, expresses her side of business predicament. All good clients will be understanding of Esmeralda’s position and will not want to take further advantage of her generously provided service.

The Lessons Esmeralda Learned for the Future…

Esmeralda learned a few lessons the hard way and I suspect she will never repeat them in the future.

Lesson 1: Never do undocumented work.

Every service you provide to your client (even free services) must be documented. My recommendation is to always create a Statement of Work for the project. However, there are some quick turnaround requests that can be documented in an email or in your project management tool.

Lesson 2: Always limit the number of change rounds.

Every service you provide to your client should specifically list the amount of feedback rounds and changes the client will receive. You need this in your documentation so that when the client gets to “Round 7” you can say, “Hold your horses. You owe me some extra money.”

Lesson 3: Before a client goes out of scope, warn them that additional costs may be incurred.

“We are happy to make these extra rounds of changes, but as you know from our Statement of Work, they are not included in the original scope. We estimate that it will require an additional $XXX investment. We will wait for your approval of the additional charges before we proceed.”

Lesson 4: Never hesitate to run your business like a business.

If the client is requesting something extra from you, it will require extra investment. We don’t go to the car repair shop to get an oil change and expect them to throw in a new windshield. We don’t go to the convenience store to buy a soda and expect them to throw in a candy bar for free. Extra things cost extra. Don’t be afraid to hold your ground with your clients.

Michael Janda

I am Michael Janda, an executive level creative leader with more than 25 years of experience in both in-house creative departments and agencies working with some of the greatest brands in the world including Disney, Google, Fox, ABC and NBC. I create books, courses, workshops, lectures and other training materials to help creative entrepreneurs run successful businesses.