Managing projects in a creative agency can be both fun and rewarding, especially when everything goes to plan. However, more often than not, project managers and their teams will find themselves at risk of scope creep.
Scope creep occurs when a project’s objectives, requirements, or vision shifts from what was agreed upon at the start. Even when a client adds on smaller tasks one by one, it can still throw off your project’s schedule and lead to cost overruns, missed deadlines, and a frustrated team.
So, how can your creative agency push back on scope creep and help clients respect your time? We’ve shared our top tips below.
Set Clear Project Expectations and Ensure Clients are On-Board
In order to keep your project within scope, you must first determine exactly what the project will entail. The best way to do this is by creating a Scope of Work (SOW). This document should outline the project’s expectations, including the:
- Type of work being completed, and the people involved
- Project’s objectives
- Tasks that must be completed in order to fulfill these objectives
- Task list that divides the project into manageable steps
- Project schedule that defines when, where, how, and by whom the work will be completed
- Specific list of project deliverables
- Project management report outlining any measures that must be taken to keep all parties satisfied
- Success criteria and sign-off, signifying when the project is finished
Consider your SOW to be your project’s roadmap. Taking a wrong turn along the way could lead your project astray or derail it completely.
That’s why it’s also vital that your creative agency clients are on-board with the project’s scope. These objectives and expectations should be written down and discussed with your client at the start of the project. You’ll get off on the right foot this way, lowering the likelihood of future problems.
If you don’t establish clear scope guidelines, clients may take advantage and pressure you to complete more work than you initially agreed upon.
Put Your Terms in Writing
Speaking of objectives and expectations, it’s also important that you outline your general working terms to your client from the get-go.
When you’re creating boundaries with clients, write them down in a formal contract and have them sign it before you begin working together. This is one of the most effective methods for encouraging a client to respect your time.
Outline elements such as your working hours and methods of communication. Additionally, set expectations for response times, how long your calls are supposed to last, and turnaround times.
The written contract should also specify exactly what you must deliver. So, if a client attempts to persuade you to produce something that isn’t covered by the contract, you may politely decline or ask them to pay an additional fee.
The payment conditions should also be included in the contract. This includes information such as the amount owing, the payment method, the due date, and any additional terms that apply, such as late penalty fees. After all, chasing up late invoices is a further waste of your precious time.
Address Boundary Breaches Immediately
It’s one thing to set boundaries, but unless those boundaries are enforced, a client won’t take them seriously. Therefore, when a client breaches one of the elements discussed above, politely follow it up to prevent it from happening again.
Some client boundary violations may be easier to resolve than others. For example, if the contract specifies the scope of your deliverables and the customer requests additional work, you may quickly schedule a call to discuss the added expenses.
Similarly, a late penalty clause in your contract can help you deal with situations like late payments.
If a demanding client calls you after hours on a regular basis, you must sit down with the client and respectfully remind them of your working hours.
Most clients will happily comply with such a request. However, if the client’s demands have shifted to the point where they require extra hours, you’ll need to negotiate a new agreement.
Know When to Say No
You and your team want to give each of the stakeholders, as well as the end-user, the greatest potential result. You can only accomplish this if you have defined duties, boundaries, and timeframes that everyone understands.
You’ll have to learn to say no from time to time if you want to keep control of the scope of your project. It’s never easy to say no to your employer, manager, or a key project stakeholder. However, it’s the strongest approach to safeguard a project’s quality, and that is precisely how you should think about it.
If an employer or client asks you to take on more work, explain that it goes beyond the scope of the original SOW and will inevitably affect the project’s budget, timeframe, and resource allocation.
If a team member is contributing to the project’s creep, refer to your personal workflow. Explain that there’s simply no additional time left in order to hit the project’s objectives.
Use a Time Tracker to Manage a Project’s Timeline Effectively
If you want a client to respect your creative agency’s time, then you must also respect and be in control of your own time. Time management is crucial to your project’s scope, as failing to hit deadlines is one of the quickest ways to make a project’s timeline and budget blow out.
Thankfully, time tracking software can help you manage your project scope, so you can understand how the project is progressing at any given time and keep clients in the loop.
Time Tracker by eBillity, for example, gives you complete transparency over your project budgets, tasks, and team. With detailed real-time reports, you can easily avoid scope creep and over-run. This is because you can track what team members are working on in real-time. Then, you can instantly see if any project is going over its hours or budget.
Time Tracker also allows you to monitor estimated hours against actual time spent. This not only helps you and your team to remain accountable for your efforts but also provides clients with concrete proof of the time you have put into their project.
Take Control of Your Time
As a project manager, time is your most precious resource. Let time tracking software handle some of your day-to-day tasks, so you can spend more time on your client’s important projects.
Ready to take control of your time? Start eBillity’s free, 14-day Time Tracker trial today.