When a client asks for work beyond what you are originally contracted to do, there’s always a delicate tap dance required to keep the client within bounds and happy at the same time.
Even the smallest change requests can lead to huge ramifications to project timing, resources, and costs. Often times, clients don’t realize the effort that goes into every requirement of a project so it’s not always fair to assume they’re out to “rip you off” for more than you agreed to do. They also may not realize just how much everything else is impacted by the slightest change.
Unless the client has a strange habit of adding onto projects, you should at first assume a change request is an innocent question. However, if the client actually does tend to stray outside the lines more often than you’d like, you may need to rethink how the projects are approached.
Set Clear Expectations from the Start
First, protect yourself going into any project by clearly stating (and both parties agreeing to) all deliverables. At first, it might feel uncomfortable and seem like overkill to spell things out so deliberately, but this is to protect both you and your client.
The clearer you are upfront, the easier the conversations will be if tasks are added to the project.
This actually gets easier the longer you’re in this line of work because, sorry to say, you learn from your mistakes and some of those lessons are tough ones. Just remember they’re very valuable ones and use them to improve your process.
Never Say, “No.”
Don’t panic. I’m not saying to automatically agree to do the work; I’m simply suggesting that you don’t use the word no.
First, look at this as an opportunity to expand the project. And that’s the way you should present your response.
“I’d love to help you with that too! Even though that isn’t listed in our current scope of work, I’m sure we can work out an agreeable fee. Let’s talk about your requirements and I’ll be able to give you a more accurate estimate of what that would cost.”
If that’s not appropriate, approach it from the timeline angle.
“That’s a great idea! I’d love to help but if we add that to the project, we’ll miss your deadline and I know meeting that date was your main priority. If you feel strongly about adding this, let me know and I would be happy to revise our current agreement.”
That may not work either if your hard-core client just insists this is included.
“Absolutely, we can add this request. If you think this is more important than the current obligations of the project, then let’s take a look and see what can be removed. Or, we can revise the agreement altogether to get this added to the list of deliverables.”