The following post is an excerpt from my new e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer. The three volumes in the series are designed to be easy-to-use, practical guides to getting your freelance e-Learning career off the ground. Learn more here!
Take a moment with me to envision the perfect freelance e-Learning project. The client is easy to work with, they pay well, the work is enjoyable, you finish it ahead of schedule and under budget, and the work is closely aligned with what was agreed upon in the project proposal. The client even submits payments to you early! Doesn’t that sound like an ideal experience?
Unfortunately, no project is perfect, so this dream situation is one to aspire to while you’re also keeping your expectations grounded in reality. Throughout the Succeeding as an e-Learning Freelancer series, I’ve talked about how to plan and execute your work in a way that minimizes risk and conflict, but because we’re all human, some level of problems are inevitable. Hopefully, by using what you’ve learned from previous posts in the series, your chances of encountering big problems is low—but this week, I’d like to talk about three of the most common problems that sometimes even the most experienced freelance professionals can’t avoid, and what you can do to resolve them.
1. Scope Creep
“Scope creep” is the term used for when projects starts out as planned, but the work involved grows over time, while the price you quoted for the work stays the same. It’s easy to think of scope creep as your client trying to get more work from you than you initially agreed upon, but the reality is less dramatic than that—it’s usually just a misunderstanding about what will and won’t be done on the project. However it happens, your goal should be to do everything you can to eliminate or minimize scope creep on your projects. Remember that if you don’t, you’ll be losing money for every item of work that you do that wasn’t in your project proposal!
Scope creep happens to everyone, and I’m no exception. I remember once starting a small e-Learning project where a client wanted me to revise three interactions in an existing e-Learning course. Over time, it went from three interactions to four, and then eventually to a redesigned title screen for the course, and then to updating some of the audio narration, and so on. By the time that “small” project was over, I had gone well above and beyond my original expectation, and never saw any additional payment for the additional work.
The number one remedy for reducing scope creep is a thorough, detailed project proposal. As I mentioned in my previous post about writing an effective project proposal, the key is always to ensure that the proposal is specific and tailored to the project at hand. Your objective is to make sure that the project proposal doesn’t leave room for interpretation, because scope creep begins when you and your client are interpreting the amount of work needed differently. I encourage you to make sure you’ve read my post about project proposals thoroughly, because skimping on any part of that can directly lead to scope creep.
Most important of all, make sure that your project proposal includes a stipulation for what will happen when unexpected work is added to the project. For example, my project proposals include language that states, “any additional work not stated within the scope of this project is considered extra and must be agreed to by both parties.” This sentence alone is very powerful—it can change the tone of a client conversation from “I thought this is what we agreed upon” to “Let’s discuss what’s involved with this new work, so that we’re both clear about additional costs.”
If scope creep begins getting out of hand, you then have the opportunity to complete a Project Change Request Form, which is a document where you specify what extra work needs to be done, and how much it will cost on top of the original project’s price. Change requests also get signed by the client, so there’s a clear paper trail of commitments regarding what you’re getting paid. Your client may then choose to forego the extra work, which is fine—because it means the form has effectively protected you from doing work that you’re not getting paid for.
To help you plan your next project, I’ve created a sample Change Request Form for you to download and use.
[This topic continues in my e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer.]