Contracts – defining the scope of work

It’s amazing but so often I hear of freelancers who end up in dispute with clients over what seems to be obvious – neither party understood what the other understood the work to be. In today’s instalment on freelance contracts I’m going to be short and sweet.

As a freelancer – before you agree to a job make sure you understand what the client expects.

That may sound like a statement of the bleeding obvious. In project management speak it’s called defining the scope. But it also involves creating an agreed process for managing scope changes. It’s often the case that as you show a client progress on a job that they’ll get ideas for different or improved features. That’s OK but you need to firmly, but politely, let the client know when those extras will

a. affect your ability to deliver the agreed work on time; and

b. cause you to incur unplanned costs.

Define the work

I’ll use the example of a writing project I did recently for a corporate client. The job was to write a case study about one of my client’s clients and their business partner. Here’s how I defined the scope

1. How many people was I expected to interview?

2. How many words did I have to write?

3. Did I have to fit into a particular corporate template?

4. Did I need to source supporting images?

5. How long did I think the task would take (and therefore what would I bill my client)?

6. What were the deliverables? Were drafts expected along the way?

Now, that’s a fairly simple example but it covers what services I was offering, what the client was getting and a timeline for milestones and final delivery. If you can get these things right then you’ve gone a long way to also creating a payment schedule.

It also means that if the client, after reading a first draft realises that I need to interview another subject then I can estimate how much extra time that will take and, if required, adjust my quote. We can then discuss it and  I’m not left feeling like the client is screwing me and the client doesn’t suffer from bill shock.

Defining the scope of a complex piece of work can sometimes take as long as the actual work. However, without a good plan you’ll never really know if you’ve reached the right destination.