How can Agencies & Freelancers make money from a Scope Creep?

Post by
Yash Shah
Last updated :
July 26, 2023
 | 20 min read
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As agency owners and project managers, we've all experienced the dreaded scope creep - those seemingly innocent additions to a project that gradually snowball into a giant, unmanageable mess. Not only does it impact project timelines and budgets, but it also poses a threat to client satisfaction.

Understanding what scope creep is, its causes, and its impact on projects is crucial for effective scope management. In this article, we will explore strategies and techniques to prevent and mitigate scope creep, and discuss a case study on successfully managing scope creep.

What is Scope Creep?

Scope creep (sometimes known as "requirement creep" or even "feature creep") refers to how a project's requirements tend to increase over a project lifecycle.

For e.g., what once started as a single deliverable becomes five; or a product that began with three essential features, now must have ten; or midway through a project, the client's needs change, prompting a reassessment of the entire project and requirements.

Scope changes are typically caused by key project stakeholders changing requirements or internal miscommunication and disagreements. This lack of clarity can result in a project that keeps expanding beyond its original scope.

Scope creep is quite common among Marketing & Advertising Agency, IT Agency, Consultancy Agencies, and every other line of business that requires a scope of work document to be in place before starting the work.

It has been found that scope creep takes away about 15-17% of an agency or a freelancer's income.

Causes of Scope Creep

Scope creep can have various causes. Some common factors include:

  1. Poorly defined project objectives and requirements: When project objectives and requirements are not clearly defined, it becomes easier for stakeholders to request additional features or changes that were not part of the original plan. This lack of clarity can lead to scope creep. 
  2. Inadequate communication with stakeholders: Effective communication is essential in managing project scope. If there is a lack of communication between the project team and stakeholders, it becomes difficult to properly evaluate and approve any changes or additions to the project scope. This can result in scope creep.
  3. Lack of proper change control processes: Change control processes are crucial in managing project scope. Without proper change control processes in place, it becomes challenging to evaluate and approve any changes or additions to the project scope. This can lead to scope creep. 52% of projects that utilized change control mechanisms through client management sofwtare saw a decrease in scope creep.
  4. Inaccurate initial project estimates: If the initial project estimates are inaccurate, it becomes difficult to manage the project scope effectively. Inaccurate estimates can result in unrealistic expectations and the addition of new features or requirements that were not accounted for in the original plan. 

Identifying the causes of scope creep in project itself is essential in developing effective strategies to prevent it. By addressing the root causes and implementing proper project management techniques, organizations can minimize the occurrence of scope creep and ensure the successful completion of their projects.

The Impact of Scope Creep on Projects

Scope creep can have detrimental effects on projects, affecting both the project timeline and the project budget and resources.

Scope creep is a phenomenon that occurs when additional requirements or features are added to a project beyond its original scope. This can happen due to various reasons, such as evolving client needs, unclear project objectives, or poor project management. While it may seem harmless to accommodate these changes, the consequences can be far-reaching and damaging to the overall success of the project.

Effects on Project Timeline

When additional requirements or features are added to a project, it often leads to delays in project completion. As the project team works on accommodating the expanded scope, the original timeline may no longer be feasible.

Imagine a scenario where a software development project initially had a clear scope and a well-defined timeline. However, as the project progresses, stakeholders start requesting additional functionalities and modifications. These changes require additional analysis, design, coding, and testing efforts, all of which take time. The project team, already working at full capacity, now needs to juggle between the original tasks and the new requirements, resulting in a stretched timeline.

Moreover, scope creep can lead to a domino effect, where the delay caused by accommodating one change affects the subsequent tasks and deadlines. This ripple effect can further exacerbate the project timeline, causing missed deadlines and dissatisfied stakeholders.

Effects on Budget and Resources

Scope creep can also have a significant impact on project costs and resource allocation. Additional work that was not initially planned requires additional resources, which can strain the project budget.

Consider a construction project that was meticulously planned with a specific budget in mind. However, as the project progresses, the client requests changes to the building design, materials, or layout. These changes not only require additional materials and labor but also disrupt the existing workflow. The project team may need to hire additional workers, purchase new materials, or even subcontract specialized services, all of which incur extra costs.

Uncontrolled scope creep occurs when expansion can lead to overspending and reallocation of resources from other project areas. For example, if the project budget is exceeded due to scope creep, the project manager may have to cut costs from other areas, such as training, quality assurance, or equipment upgrades. This reallocation can cause an imbalance in resource allocation and compromise the overall project efficiency.

Furthermore, scope creep can impact resource availability. As the project team gets occupied with accommodating additional requirements, their availability for other critical project tasks, may be compromised. This can lead to delays in parallel projects or the need to hire additional resources, further straining the project budget.

How To Avoid Scope Creep

Preventing scope creep starts with establishing clear project definitions, effective communication channels, and engaging stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle.

Scope creep, also known as requirement creep, refers to the tendency for project requirements to expand beyond the original scope, leading to increased costs, delays, and potential project failure. It is a common challenge faced by project managers and can significantly impact project success. By implementing the following strategies, organizations can effectively manage scope creep and ensure project objectives are met.

1. Clear Project Definition

A well-defined project scope statement and requirements document are critical in managing scope creep. These documents outline the project's objectives, project deliverables, and limitations, providing a clear boundary for project activities. They serve as a reference point for all stakeholders involved in the project, ensuring that everyone is on the same page regarding project expectations.

Chris, a seasoned project manager, shares his experience: "We learned the hard way that setting clear project boundaries is crucial. Once, a client request expanded beyond the initial scope, causing delays and additional costs. Now, we make sure to define project limits upfront, and it has significantly reduced scope creep instances."

Regularly reviewing and revising these documents during the project lifecycle can help prevent scope expansion. As the project progresses, new requirements may emerge, and existing requirements may need to be modified. By actively managing these changes and updating the project definition accordingly, project managers can maintain control over the project scope.

Furthermore, involving key stakeholders in the review and approval process of the project's scope definition can help ensure that their expectations are aligned with the project's objectives. This collaborative approach fosters a sense of ownership and accountability among stakeholders, reducing the likelihood of scope creep.

2. Effective Communication

Open and transparent communication is vital for managing expectations and minimizing scope creep. Project managers should establish effective communication channels with all stakeholders, including clients, the project team members themselves, and senior management.

Anna, an agency owner, shares her approach: "We use weekly project status reports to keep clients informed about progress. This way, we identify scope creep early, discuss it with clients, and mutually decide on the best course of action."

Regularly engaging with stakeholders, conducting status meetings, and providing timely project updates can help identify potential scope issues early on. By keeping stakeholders informed about the project's progress, challenges, and potential risks, project managers can address concerns proactively and make necessary adjustments to the project scope.

Encouraging feedback and addressing concerns promptly can ensure that project expectations align with reality. When stakeholders feel heard and involved in the decision-making process, they are more likely to support the project's objectives and less likely to introduce unnecessary changes that can lead to scope creep.

3. Stakeholder Engagement

Involving stakeholders throughout the project can help prevent scope creep. Engaging stakeholders in project discussions, decision-making, and requirements gathering ensures that their expectations and needs are properly considered.

By actively involving stakeholders, project managers can gain valuable insights into their requirements, preferences, and constraints. This information can be used to develop a comprehensive project plan that addresses stakeholders' needs while maintaining a realistic and achievable scope.

Furthermore, their active participation also increases stakeholder buy-in and reduces the likelihood of scope changes later in the project. When stakeholders are involved from the early stages of the project, they are more likely to have a sense of ownership and commitment to the project's success. This reduces the chances of scope creep as stakeholders are more invested in adhering to the agreed-upon project scope.

In conclusion, preventing project scope creep requires a proactive approach that involves clear project definition, effective communication, and stakeholder engagement. By implementing these strategies, organizations can minimize the risks associated with scope creep and ensure successful project delivery.

Techniques for Managing Scope Creep

While prevention is ideal, scope creep can still occur despite efforts to prevent it. Having effective techniques in place for managing scope changes is crucial to minimize the impact.

Listed below are methods that never failed to work.

1. Change Control Process

Implementing a formal change control process enables project teams to evaluate and manage requested scope changes effectively. This process typically involves documenting and reviewing change requests, assessing their impact on project objectives, and obtaining appropriate approvals. By using this process, project managers can assess the feasibility and impact of any proposed scope change before accepting it.

Ask your clients to fill out a change request form. Call it something nice like - Making <Project Name> better or Upgrading <Project Name> 

This form should have the following questions:-

1. What impact will this change have?

2. What priority should this change take among the existing list of tasks?

3. What are the benefits of this change?
Once you ask your clients to write down the answers, you will be surprised that some changes won't stay as important. If it seems difficult for you to ask your clients to fill out that form, propose a zoom call, share your screen, and ask those questions while filling out that form. This shall do the trick and keep the Project streamlined. 

2. Get Clients To Agree On A Priority Matrix

Get your clients to agree to a priority matrix early on in the Project. At the start of any project, everything is like the ending of a Disney movie. It is just perfect. Annoyingly perfect, I might add.

When things are hunky-dory, ask your client to rank Budget, Timeline, and Scope in descending order of priority. This means that the higher something is on the priority matrix, the fewer changes will be made to the Scope.

Ask your clients What out of Budget, Timeline, and Scope are not editable or non-negotiable later on.

Because even if Scope is not No. 1 on that list and the client says Budget or Timeline as No. 1 priority, and they are not editable later on, you can argue that editing the Scope will impact your budget or timeline, which isn't recommended.

So, no matter what is No. 1 on that list, you can always use the priority matrix to suit your arguments in terms of not making changes to the previously agreed-upon Scope.

3. Regular Project Reviews

Regularly reviewing project progress against predefined project goals, milestones and objectives can help identify scope creep early on. Project reviews enable project managers to assess if the project is on track and whether any deviations from the original scope have occurred. By performing these reviews, project teams can take corrective actions promptly and prevent the expansion of scope.

With Clientjoy's Client Portal, you can embed your project management boards within the portal, find the scope documents, onboarding document, feedback forms, one drive folder which has all assets, weekly reports, drafts of the articles or designs, etc.

Your clients can access all the relevant information in one place, empowering them to make well-informed decisions.

4. Prioritizing Project Requirements

One effective technique for managing scope creep in project management is prioritizing project requirements. By categorizing and organizing project requirements according to their importance, project managers can focus resources and efforts on delivering the most critical features and functionalities. This approach helps ensure that project teams do not spend excessive time and resources on low-priority requirements, reducing the likelihood of scope creep.

Golden Statement: Any Additional effort shall be charged as per the requirement. 

This small line in your email or agreement will help you safeguard yourself from a scope creep.

Scope Creeps usually reveal themselves when some significant progress has been made on the Project; this is when an agency or a freelancer who has invested a considerable amount of time cannot go back on the Project and gets bottlenecked, thereby agreeing to a scope creep. In such situations, only the Golden Statement can save you. 

"The longer a project, the greater the chance for scope creep to occur."

If any other methods have worked for you, please feel free to email them to us at

Case Study: Successfully Managing Scope Creep

Let's examine a real-life case study that highlights successful how to manage scope creep management.

Identifying Scope Creep

In a software development project, the project manager noticed that the project was consistently falling behind schedule. After conducting a thorough analysis, it was discovered that client requests for additional features and functionalities were the main cause of scope expansion.

Implementing Management Techniques

The project team took several steps to effectively manage scope creep. They implemented a change control process to evaluate requested changes' impact on the project timeline and budget. Additionally, the project manager held regular project reviews to assess progress and identify any deviations from the original scope. By involving key stakeholders throughout the project and prioritizing requirements based on their importance, the project team successfully managed scope creep and delivered the project on time and within budget.

In conclusion, managing scope creep is crucial for project success. Understanding its causes and impact, along with implementing preventive strategies and effective management techniques, can help project managers effectively mitigate scope creep's negative effects. By managing and addressing scope creep changes proactively and engaging stakeholders continuously, project teams can increase project success rates and deliver quality outcomes.

About Author

Yash Shah
Co-founder & Chief Executive
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Yash owned and ran a Tech Agency that grew to 55 people team offering SaaS, FinTech and E-Commerce Web & Mobile app Development before founding Clientjoy. He currently serves as Chief Executive at Clientjoy - a platform that helps 16K+ Agencies & Freelancers in 90+ Countries grow their business and manage their clients.

About the Editor & Reviewer

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What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

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How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

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