How to prevent scope creep

How to prevent scope creep by Sarah Palmer COO

During the lockdown, I have had enquiries from lots of new potential clients and I’ve also been in regular contact with lots of existing clients seeking advice about applying for government grants or about furlough claims. I am always happy to help but it’s important to make sure you are realistic about the time services take to deliver.

It can be hard to say no, especially when clients just want to pick your brain and get advice, but it can also be a slippery slope if you don’t. For so many bookkeepers and accountants, the fear of losing a client is often stronger than the will to renegotiate the terms of a fixed fee pricing agreement and this can lead to scope creep. Scope creep is almost always a bad idea for everyone involved. It can lead to arguments around cost and deliverables, sour working relationships and lead to fee deflation.

It may seem ironic as we are used to dealing with figures all day, but bookkeepers often feel uncomfortable discussing finances and charges but if we undervalue ourselves as individual bookkeepers, it risks undervaluing the industry as a whole. Setting fees should be realistic and should never be a race to the bottom. Fixed-fee pricing works well if you are realistic about your value and don’t say yes to every extra request from a client.

To combat scope creep, it is important to know what your services are worth and to ask for what you are worth, but you must also be clear with your client about what services they are going to receive.

My top tips for avoiding scope creep are:

  1. Outline your scope of work in the engagement letter.
    When meeting a new client, make sure you have an in-depth conversation about their business, their growth strategy, what’s working for them and what’s not. You may need to ask probing questions as clients won’t always know what they need from you.
  2. Learn to stick within the scope.
    If a client asks you to do something which is outside of your original agreement, you need to ask the client if they are happy for you to add it to the original agreement before taking on the task. The moment a client asks you to do something and doesn’t expect to pay for your time, they are undervaluing you.
  3. Be realistic about your worth.
    Remember your worth is not just dependent on the number of hours you put in, but on the experience and knowledge, you bring to the role.

    To increase your value to clients, and your income, you should be looking for new opportunities to add value – whether that’s through helping clients apply for government grants, cash flow planning or credit control advice. By doing this you can offer the best service to clients and you will be fairly rewarded for it.

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