Project Scope Reduced? Make Sure You Still Get Paid

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Three days into the new year, I was thrown a curve ball. A project I’d been working on had been wrapped up—great news! But that wrapping up was, in part, due to the fact that the project scope had been reduced. Not great news. Why not? Well, I discounted my rate for the client on the basis of the size of the project. Over the festive season, the project scope was reduced by more than 50%. And I’d already invoiced for the work I’d done.

Anatomy of freelancing folly

There are a number of elements to this problem. Let me pore painfully over them so that you, smart freelancer, can avoid them yourself. First, when I presented the agreement for this project, I didn’t state the discount clearly on it—although I did explain it to the client. I don’t often discount my rates, so inexperience was the problem here. By the time the new year hit, I was wishing I’d clearly stated the discount in the agreement. Second, as I was submitting my most recent invoice at the end of last year, I had indications from the client that there wasn’t much work left to do. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get paid, I might have spent some time thinking about this, and what it would mean for my remuneration on this job. Third, I turned down a contract that came up after this one, because, since this was booked in, I couldn’t make time to take the second gig on. While I’m not queuing at the soup kitchen just yet, that forfeited income certainly made the sting of my error so much greater.

What now?

These kinds of issues face freelancers all the time—you may even have experienced something similar yourself. As I saw it, this situation left me with two options:
  1. Chalk it up to experience.
  2. Chalk it up to experience and try to recover some of the lost income.
The project I’m talking about here has already lead to other projects with this client, so they’re clearly happy with my work. And those other projects have been charged at my standard rate, which has not been a problem. Additionally, I have a solid working relationship with the client team, and with the individuals I’m working with directly within that team. It’s just as well, because otherwise I might find the thought of trying to recover some of the lost income more than a little daunting. Given all this, I contacted the client early in the new year to discuss an adjustment of my discount on the project. I was hoping that they’d be happy to entertain this request, based on three things:
  • they were aware of the discount up-front
  • they’d approved significantly more budget for this project
  • they’re as eager as I am to maintain a solid working relationship.
As it turned out, the client was keen to resolve the problem. They gave me back some of the work they’d taken in-house, and agreed to rectify the difference in the estimate with me. Another lesson I learned from this experience is to include in my proposals a note to the effect that if the project scope drops by a certain percentage, a given percentage of the estimate will still need to be paid. While this isn’t an issue for small projects, when it comes to larger ones, it can be a really big deal. Have you ever found yourself the unwitting victim of a scope reduction? How do you anticipate these kinds of problems in your project pitches? I’d love to hear your thoughts and advice in the comments. Image courtesy stock.xchng user Ambrozjo.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Reducing Project Scope

What are the key indicators that a project scope needs to be reduced?

The need to reduce a project scope can be indicated by several factors. These include a project running over budget, delays in the project timeline, changes in the project’s objectives, or a lack of resources. If these issues are not addressed promptly, they can lead to project failure. Therefore, it’s crucial to monitor these indicators and take necessary action to reduce the project scope if needed.

How can I effectively communicate a scope reduction to my team?

Communication is key when it comes to scope reduction. It’s important to explain the reasons behind the decision, how it will affect the project, and what changes will be made. Be transparent and open to questions and feedback. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the new direction of the project.

What strategies can I use to reduce the scope of a project without compromising its quality?

There are several strategies you can use. These include prioritizing tasks based on their importance and impact on the project, eliminating non-essential tasks, and breaking down larger tasks into smaller, manageable ones. It’s also helpful to use project management tools and techniques to keep track of progress and ensure that the project stays on track.

How can I ensure I still get paid after reducing the project scope?

To ensure you still get paid after reducing the project scope, it’s crucial to have a clear contract in place that outlines the scope of work and payment terms. If the scope is reduced, discuss the changes with your client and renegotiate the contract if necessary. Always keep a record of all communications and agreements.

Can reducing the scope of a project lead to cost savings?

Yes, reducing the scope of a project can lead to cost savings. By eliminating non-essential tasks and focusing on the most important ones, you can save time and resources, which in turn can save money. However, it’s important to ensure that the quality of the project is not compromised.

How can I manage stakeholder expectations when reducing the project scope?

Managing stakeholder expectations when reducing the project scope can be challenging. It’s important to communicate the reasons for the scope reduction clearly and honestly. Explain how the changes will benefit the project and ensure that the stakeholders understand the new direction of the project.

What are the potential risks of reducing the project scope?

Reducing the project scope can have potential risks, such as compromising the quality of the project, failing to meet stakeholder expectations, or causing delays in the project timeline. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider these risks before deciding to reduce the project scope.

How can I prevent the need for scope reduction in future projects?

To prevent the need for scope reduction in future projects, it’s crucial to have a clear and realistic project plan from the start. This includes defining the project objectives, identifying potential risks, and allocating resources effectively. Regularly monitoring the project’s progress can also help identify any issues early on and take necessary action.

Can scope reduction affect the project timeline?

Yes, scope reduction can affect the project timeline. Depending on the tasks that are eliminated or reduced, the project may be completed sooner than originally planned. However, it’s important to ensure that the quality of the project is not compromised.

How can I handle resistance from team members when reducing the project scope?

Resistance from team members when reducing the project scope can be managed through clear and open communication. Explain the reasons for the scope reduction and how it will benefit the project. Be open to feedback and address any concerns promptly. This will help ensure that everyone is on board with the changes.

Georgina LaidlawGeorgina Laidlaw
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Georgina has more than fifteen years' experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. With a background in marketing and a passion for words, the time Georgina spent with companies like Sausage Software and cemented her lasting interest in the media, persuasion, and communications culture.

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