How Having Project Boundaries Increases Your Value

How Having Project Boundaries Increases Your Value


Want more pricing help? This is day five of our five part series on pricing clients. You can find the rest of the articles on the Pricing Bootcamp splash page

In the final day of the Pricing Bootcamp series, we’ll take a look at how setting boundaries on a project can ultimately increase your value as a designer and keep stress at a minimum.

Prevent Scope Creep

Once you’ve settled on a price, it’s also assumed that you’ve settled on the project definition as well. Scope creep is the slow introduction of “little changes” by the client that don’t fall under the original agreement. It comes in the form of “one quick page”, “also updating this other piece”, and other seemingly small requests. The result is always the same though — more work than agreed on for the designer.

With an hourly pricing model, this isn’t so much of an issue because additional time is still billable. However in a fixed price project model, scope creep can rapidly devalue the time spent on a project.

Don’t Settle, Adapt!

If a client wishes to add more work to the project, be careful before accepting it. If a budget does not support the work required, it does not mean that the designer should take the hit and do the work anyways. Just like a client can choose to spend more money, a designer can choose what work they will provide for the current price tag.

No matter how much money is put into a project, two things will always be true:

  1. There will be services that are covered by the current price
  2. There will be services that exceed the current budget

This may sound obvious, but these are the points that scope creep overlooks. This is also overlooked more frequently when larger sums of money are involved. To better illustrate this point, let’s take a look at a common investment for American families.


A Collegiate Example

College Graduation

For many households, college tuition is one of the largest single investments made. At an average $40,000/year, it is a large sum of money to have to pay. But still, this price has limits. The $40,000 invested goes towards many different smaller funds within the college. It’s easy to say “I’m paying $40,000 for my son or daughter to come here”, but in context it’s more like “I’m paying a series of departments within the institution varying sums of money for my son or daughter to come here.”

Why does this matter? In this example the lump sum gets divided into smaller bundles. The “project price” of $40,000 is actually paying a few hundred for dorm stock, a few thousand for classes, and continues on for each component of a college year. It’s a matter of perspective! As a result it’s often the job of the designer to help a client understand just where the money is going, and why adding that “one extra page” isn’t covered already.

This is why your project prices should never just be arbitrary — they reflect smaller components bundled together, and you may need to know the value of those pieces if a project starts to expand.

Part of pricing like you’re worth it involves standing up to a client when the work required starts exceeding what was agreed upon. This is especially relevant when using the fixed project payment model, because additional hours will only devalue your overall time.

Get it on Paper

Having a contract for the deliverables should not be a frightening idea. A contract does not have to be miles of legal vocabulary and fine print. It can be as simple as a mutually accepted statement defining the expectations of both client and designer. Make it readable, clear, and direct. A contract or written agreement will help insure that both you and the client know your responsibilities and limits.

Do you have advice for setting project boundaries from past experience? Share your stories in the comments!

Want more pricing help? This is day five of our five part series on pricing clients. You can find the rest of the articles on the Pricing Bootcamp splash page

Posted Friday, June 19th, 2009 · Back to Top

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5 Comments 3 Mentions

  1. Montana Flynn Author Editor

    These bootcamp series are great, I hope to see more of them!
    .-= Montana Flynn´s last blog ..SNIPPLR – Social code bookmarking =-.

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  2. Anton Author Editor

    I just wanted to share a tip that I personally use when clients ask about a “quick” change or new functionality which is clearly out of scope. I simply tell them that this falls outside the csope of our current contract and suggest that we take another look at this as a “Phase Two” item.

    I am basically communicating to them that yes we can do that, but in order to proceed on our agreed upon timetable and budget we will need to return to whatever it is that they are asking about at a point in the future. Works 9 times out of 10.

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  3. Kat Hulka Author Editor

    Great articles!

    For smaller projects or newer clients, I like to include a section in the proposal that states specifically what is in scope, and (sometimes more importantly) what is out of scope. I’ve found that clients appreciate this clarity. They are more inclined to ask about the impact of a “little” change or addition to the budget and schedule, and not expect it to be included.

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  4. Berthold Author Editor

    Thank you for these insights, they will help me and other folks quite a lot in the long run. I know from experience how feature creep and miscalculated projects can effectively ruin startups, working 24/7 with nothing to show for it. Don’t let this happen to you, pick your projects with care and don’t be afraid to turn people away. Taking on projects beyond your abilities to handle is the single most dangerous thing you can do as a startup. There are a lot of easy jobs you can do for friends and family first before diving off the deep end, and if you do them professionally you still have something to show for it.

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  5. beats by dre pro Author Editor

    Important information and facts for me. Thanks for seriously competent informative write-up. I’ll be in touch with u.

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