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How to Avoid Changes to Project Scope When Working as a Temporary Consultant

As a consultant, especially if you are just starting out and working as a temporary consultant or freelancer, you may find that when you are hired by a firm for a particular project the work you end up doing is very different than what you initially signed up for.

Often, firms hiring consultants assume that little “extra’s” are part of the deal, and while, of course, you want to do a great job, and have a happy client, you may end up losing money in the long run if you don’t handle this issue with care.

Here are a few ideas to help you avoid changes to project scope, and manage them when they do happen.

  • Create a detailed consulting proposal that outlines specifically what work you will provide and the costs for any additional hourly work or items the client may want to purchase. That way, any extra work you do agree to do can be charged.
  • Likewise, you may want to include a clause in your terms that states that any work completed that is not listed on the initial agreement by charged as additional work.
  • When a client does ask you to do something extra to the agreed scope, instead of just agreeing, find out whether they are willing to pay for the additional work or time. Often, clients don’t realize that when you work in the consultants industry, the old saying “time is money” rings truer than ever.
  • Another important point to remember is never to simply give a cost “off the cuff.” If you are asked to perform an additional service, or a task that does not fall into the original scope, tell your client that you will get back to them right away with what the additional cost will be and then do so. It’s easy to get it wrong when put on the spot, and it could end up costing you money.
  • It may be tempting, particularly when you are hired by a large or important client as a temporary consultant, to let small and insignificant changes slide. Use your prerogative, but remember, if a client has succeeded once in getting a “freebie”, chances are they’ll ask for more, and you’ll look worse suddenly asking for more money the second or third time around!
  • Make sure that the company that has retained your consultant services has identified the person you report to, and take instruction from. You may find that sometimes, requests for additional services come from someone who is not actually authorized to do so.
  • Never allow extra work to interfere with the core priorities of the project. When companies hire consultants, they do it with a specific goal in mind, and if you allow extra work to interfere with that goal, you may affect the project success, your reputation, and even your payment.

Many times, when working with consultants, executives and companies can forget that the consultant’s core business is the service they provide, and that proposals are often based on a very fixed scope.

If your contract as a temporary consultant is flexible, and you can charge for additional hours, then by all means, feel free to accept additional projects, as long as you make it clear that it will carry an additional cost. If you are bound to a lump sum contract, and you accept extra work, the only person losing time and money will be you.


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