At least half of the hands went up in a room of 150 people. And it wasn't the first time (or last time) I've asked the question. Every time I ask it it's in the context of pricing. And the folks in the audience are there to learn how to price better.
They're small business owners and freelancers – each looking to make more money.
And yet, somehow, they've all bought into the belief that scope creep is bad.
Stop preventing scope creep!
Let's step back and think about this another way.
Let's say we were at a really nice restaurant. I'm talking about the kind where you know that two of you will spend over $100. It's one of those super special moments. It doesn't happen often. And you've forked over a lot of money to have a perfect experience.
Can you see it?
So the waiter comes over and asks you what you want. Of course, you're celebrating – but money is money – so you skip the salad and just order your main dish.
But I order a salad and with every bite you start wishing you'd ordered a salad like mine.
So we call over the waiter and ask if you can get a salad like the one I'm raving about.
The waiter looks at you and says, “No. Sorry. You originally said you didn't want it.”
Crazy, isn't it? I mean, seriously, think about it. With everything you've gone thru to save up and get to this special moment, you're likely to be very unhappy.
Thankfully, no waiter in their right mind would say that to you.
Or imagine that you asked for something special with your steak. You know, a special sauce or something.
They might tell you, “That will be a bit extra.” But how do you respond? Likely, you say, “That's fine,” and get ready to eat the best meal ever.
I know it's not exactly the same thing…
Now, before you rush to the comments section to explain to me how asking for an additional salad or some steak sauce is nothing like changing scope on web development projects, let me save you the trouble.
I understand they're not the same. But they illustrate the issue I'm trying to get you notice. And the stark illustration helps you see what I'm trying to tell you.
The reason a waiter doesn't do that – “No, you can't. You said no earlier.” – is because they're in the service business. Sound familiar?
You and I, when we help people with their websites, are in the service business.
Additionally, people go to restaurants like that rarely. But guess what? People pay others to build their website as infrequently as that. And yes, they do save up – a lot more than you might imagine – just for this one chance to get a “professional” site built.
Only to hear us reject them or sigh with an unspoken, “No. Sorry. You originally said you didn't want that.”
3 reasons scope creep is awesome
When you understand scope creep as simply a way for a customer to express new wants and desires, and recognize you're in the service business, you can look at it as simply a request for more work. And more work doesn't all have to be free – if you've managed the dynamic well enough, early enough.
That's reason number one – scope creep means more work, which means more money.
In a restaurant (even fancy ones), you can see what things cost, even when you don't order them. Then, later, when you ask for things from the menu, you expect to pay. When I write proposals, I not only note what's included. I also note what's not explicitly included (with prices) in case they want to add it (now or later). It's an easy way to manage expectations.
Reason number two is that scope creep can help you create partners.
Customers are customers. They make requests and orders and pay for them. That's what makes them customers. Partners, on the other hand, have a longer-term perspective where they collaborate on things. When you cut people off and limit what you can deliver, you're a vendor and they're a customer.
When you learn to embrace their changing needs, changing understanding, or changing requests, you get closer to them. And as you make an investment to better understand their world (not just your own, and what you have to do), you can transform the relationship to a partnership.
And partners keep coming back for more – meaning, that in the end, more money is coming too.
Reason three is simple: you look less like a jerk than if you're always preventing scope creep
I don't know if you've ever been in a situation where you order something (like paying for movers) and every time you ask about something, they tell you it's not included. Oh, it's so frustrating. After all, you're paying tons to move. At some point, the blankets should either be included or just charge me. But simply telling me, over and over, that it's not included and that I should go get them myself, and while I'm there I should pick up tape, bubble wrap and more – just makes me mad.
Theoretically. I'm not ranting about a recent move. 🙂
My point is that if you're preventing scope creep, you can end up looking like a jerk. And I know that some folks will say that if you present change orders for every single thing, you can look like a jerk too. Which is 100% right. But that's because the timing looks wrong.
We're currently getting a pool for our new house and they showed up with a full quote, and tons of extras I might want, with pricing attached to them all. And they said, “Don't worry, you don't need to make every decision right away. You can pick these tiles later and if it's beyond the initial price we quoted, we can just charge you the difference.”
They're prepping me months before the decision. So that I'm anchored on that potential reality. And I don't feel nickeled and dimed later.
So in conclusion – embrace scope creep!
When I'm standing in front of that audience, I often put it (crudely) like this (imagine two people talking):
— Tony Perez (@perezbox) June 14, 2014
Let your customers change their minds. In the end, if you've managed expectations and do it right, you'll make more money and have a better relationship with them.