Managing Scope Creep: Navigating the Fine Line Between Client Requests and Practicality

As designers, we’re tasked with translating our clients’ dreams into tangible spaces, all while ensuring that projects remain on track, on budget, and aligned with the original vision. Oof, that is no easy feat! Let’s also not forget the delicate balance of accommodating evolving client requests while maintaining the practicality of the project. If scope creep has been the biggest challenge for you, you’re in luck because, today, I’m sharing a few tips for navigating this fine line!

From setting clear project boundaries to fostering transparent communication, harnessing the power of change order systems to finding the right balance between professionalism and personal connections, we’ll delve into a wealth of knowledge aimed at streamlining the nuances of scope management.

Define Price Structure

When defining the pricing structure that governs your project’s revenue, ensure absolute clarity by listing your provided services with concise action verbs. Rather than stating “floor plans,” emphasize “create personalized floor plans harmonizing functionality and aesthetics.” Likewise, swap “initial programming consultation” for “ascertain client preferences, vision, and lifestyle.” This approach highlights the uniqueness of each project phase, contributing to an exceptional client experience throughout the design process.

When utilizing a flat fee structure, outline the specifics: the number, frequency, and duration of meetings, presentations, installations, and other project elements covered by the fee. Recognizing that clients may swiftly scan contracts, consider organizing a festive kick-off meeting to revisit these details in person. This step ensures your client retains a deeper understanding of fee structures that persist throughout the project.

Genevieve Trousdale

Pro-tip! Polite, yet professional reminders might be necessary along the way, and are recommended to be as clear as possible.

Manage Relationships, Professional and Personal

Designers frequently develop close friendships with clients, more often than not, taking on the role of confidants for family dynamics. It’s prudent to consciously choose between maintaining a strictly project-centric relationship or venturing into a more personal connection that extends beyond the professional sphere. Opting for the latter – forming bonds beyond business – can indeed be fruitful, though it’s important to note that success is possible either way.

Set Consistent Reviews

Arrange a brief monthly or quarterly review with your COO or CFO to ensure alignment between the project activities and scope discussed versus what was initially agreed upon in the contract. Over time, the momentum and details can easily blur, making it challenging to recall contract stipulations from years past. 

Pro-tip! Engage a consultant or an in-house team member to conduct thorough checks, safeguarding against potential revenue losses for your firm.

Plan a midway meeting with the client to comprehensively assess the project’s status, encompassing services, deliverables, potential gaps in their needs, and scope additions as progress becomes evident. This meeting also serves as an opportunity to candidly discuss the quality of service provided by you and your team. While it might feel uncomfortable to initiate, asking for feedback is a vital step in ensuring your firm’s success, particularly when it comes to addressing concerns and negative feedback.



Take Charge of Change Orders

  1. When a clear addition to the project scope arises with a flat fee price structure, such as adding a new room, it’s crucial to issue an addendum to the contract that outlines the associated fee. This approach ensures the client’s understanding and agreement. Whether the new scope aligns with a flat, hourly, or hybrid fee structure, upfront communication about costs is essential.
  2. For situations where the scope additions are less defined, it’s wise to include specific contract language. This stipulation clarifies that any services beyond the contracted ones will be billed at an agreed upon hourly rate. This practice prevents any ambiguity or surprises in billing.
  3. In cases involving change orders that require general contractor implementation, endeavor to secure an estimate from them. This estimate can then be factored into the project’s overall design fee, providing a comprehensive view of the potential costs involved. This approach enhances transparency and collaboration within the project.



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