5 Ways to Prevent Scope Creep When Working With Freelancers

Chloe Brooks
6 min readApr 10, 2019

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Stay on schedule and on budget with these tips

Scope Creep: It’s the bane of every project manager’s existence.

If you’ve been a PM for very long, we’re willing to bet you’re no stranger to this all-too-common occurrence. For the lucky few who aren’t yet familiar, here’s what we’re talking about …

Scope Creep: noun — Changes, continuous or uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope, at any point after the project begins.

Traditionally, scope creep often gets blamed on the client who commissioned a project — they want to add another function to their app at the last minute, or they request more revisions to their logo than the designer bargained for.

But scope creep can stem from anyone on your team for any number of causes, which means it’s even more important to take a preventative approach to the issue. Below, we’re sharing our best tips for keeping your projects on schedule and within budget.

1. Create a clear project scope

The first step to preventing scope creep is to clearly define what the project should and should not include. You’ll document this in a written project scope statement and distribute it among your team so that everyone is on the same page.

Project scope statements typically include the following sections:

  • Objective: What is the purpose of the project?
  • Deliverables: What specific items will the project produce?
  • Milestones: What are the main phases of the project?
  • High-level requirements: What specifications must the project meet?
  • Assumptions: How will you address uncertainties during the project?
  • Exclusions: What work is not included in the project?
  • Known risks: What issues might arise during the project?
  • Stakeholder review and approval: How will decisionmakers sign off on the project?

This doesn’t have to be a giant document, but the more thorough your initial scope statement is, the less likely you are to experience scope creep later on.

Remember, too, that you can ask your team for help creating this document, especially if you’re working with freelancers. More than likely, they can offer some valuable insights from their own expertise, and it helps to make sure you’re both on the same page from Day 1.

2. Create a clear project timeline

With your scope in hand, you need to develop a clear timeline that the project should follow. If you like, you can incorporate this into the Milestones section of your scope statement.

Take a look back at your past projects to see how much time your team typically spends on something like this. Look at the individual phases of these projects, too, not just the grand total.

Next, consider the complexity of this project compared to other projects you’ve completed. Does this one require more features or greater detail than past projects? Are there any steps from other projects that you can skip on this one?

Considered together, these will give you a good estimate for how long the new project should take.

Still, even the best-laid plans can change at any moment, especially when you’re working with a team of several people. Budget in some extra time as a cushion for when (not if!) one of the phases takes longer than you planned.

3. Have a detailed quote and contract

One of the easiest ways to prevent scope creep is to have a detailed quote and contract in place before ever starting work. In fact, you’ll need this for everyone you work with outside of your company to get this project to the finish line.

So if you’re completing the project for someone outside of your company — for instance, if you’re an agency creating a deliverable for a client — they’ll need that quote in order to budget correctly. The same thing goes if you’re contracting freelancers to help on certain phases of your project, only this time, they’ll be the ones supplying you with the quote.

In either case, you’ll need a contract so that everyone is on the same page about what’s expected and required. And on the off chance that things go badly awry, that contract gives both parties the legal recourse they need to set things right.

The key here is detail. Your contracts and quotes should specify exactly what is expected of the concerned parties when each item or task is due, and how much it will cost. You’ll also need to consider copyrights, non-disclosures, and late fees.

And if the initial quote and contract a freelancer sends you isn’t detailed enough, don’t be afraid to request changes before you sign.

4. Hold a kickoff meeting

Once the contracts are signed, it’s go time! You can now officially start work on the project, and there’s no better way to start than with a kickoff meeting.

The kickoff meeting is a prime opportunity to go over the project scope statement as a team so that everyone understands the requirements and timeline. This gives you a chance to address your teams questions or concerns right away, saving you both time and money later on.

This is also your chance to introduce any freelancers you’re working with to the rest of your team so they can start to develop a good working relationship. It’s likely that freelancers won’t be able to attend the meeting in person, but you can still loop them in via video chat.

Being able to match faces to names helps both your internal and external teams communicate better, and the better your team’s communication, the more likely your project will stick to the criteria outlined in your project scope.

5. Communicate regularly

As your project moves forward, it’s important to touch base regularly with each person involved. Staying in the loop means you can identify and correct problems head-on instead of waiting for them to get even bigger (and take up even more time).

You may be able to check in with individuals via a quick Slack message, or you may need to hold weekly check-in video calls with the entire team. How you communicate will depend largely on the scale of the project and the personalities of the people on your team.

If you’re creating this project for a client, you should also be prepared to give them periodic updates on the project’s progress. Follow up with them after each team meeting to let them know how things are going. Clients who feel you are being proactive on this front are less likely to bombard you with questions and requests that eat up the time and funds you’ve allotted for the project.

We’ve got project management on lock

The absolute best way to prevent scope creep is to outsource it to the professionals. Here at Collabos, the best project managers in the field coordinate carefully vetted freelancers to ensure that your work is delivered on time, every time. Want to know how it works? Click the button below to submit your first project.

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Chloe Brooks

Helping you heal and prevent burnout with the #AntiBurnoutLifestyle. More about me: www.chloerbrooks.com