Have you ever found yourself working extra but not getting paid for it?
I don’t mean over delivering by adding extra value and delighting your clients. I’m ALL for that. In fact I highly recommend frequently delighting your clients!
What I’m talking about is the dreaded… (Cue the spooky music)
Over-needy client who wants “just one more little thing”.
Ever happen to you?
If you’re in business – of course it has! Scope creep can be a natural byproduct of many different kinds of projects (think: design, tech projects, and construction just to name a few). Wanting “one more thing” can be a sign of someone who is thinking through their requirements as they go.
Neither of these things is inherently bad. It’s what you do with them that set you up for success or a spiral of resentment, misery, and lack of cash.
Here are the top 3 reasons why you may find yourself working like a dog but earning less and less and what to do about it.
Wanting to Be “Nice”
Oh the “good girl”/”good boy” syndrome. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with who tell me they can’t possibly charge for the additionally requested work because they don’t want to be “not nice”. Except when you move to this place of servitude, the only person you’re being “not nice” to is yourself and your business.
There is a huge difference between being nice, accommodating, and going “above and beyond” vs. being a doormat. By all means you should always be pleasant, kind, and respectful with everyone you deal with. You should aim to give your clients all the value you possibly can. And, you also need to be able to discern the difference between a little something extra and a change in scope of work. The former should be a joy to deliver and the latter constitutes an additional fee.
Lack of Clear Terms and Boundaries
You have no right to whine about “needy” clients who don’t respect your boundaries if you’ve never set or enforced any. Every time you come to an agreement to work with someone there should be clear terms, conditions, and expectations of that partnership. Ideally in written form, this should spell out what the scope of work is, what you’re delivering, and when you’re delivering it. It should also address what happens if the scope expands. Then it is up to you to enforce the boundaries you’ve set. You may need to put your “big girl panties” on to do so, but the responsibility lies with you. If you aren’t willing to do that, review the doormat description above.
Afraid of Conflict or Losing the Business
It’s so much easier to seethe and vent to your friends about how needy a client is and how little you’re earning from a project than it is to do something about it. However, this does nothing to move your business forward. Let’s face it, no one likes to have difficult conversations or walk into a potential conflict. Yet, done right, the difficult conversations do not have to be adversarial ones. Don’t let frustrations mount. Instead, have clear communications every step of the way. If a client requests expanded work, have a conversation and set the expectation based on the terms and boundaries you set forth at the beginning. It might sound like “I would love to help you do X. This represents additional work from what we originally agreed to. It will cost Y. When shall we get started?” This is not rocket science. Think of the last time you went to the car mechanic – did he apologize for the added cost of fixing a part that was broken? I didn’t think so.
It’s natural to be afraid of losing the business. Here’s the truth – if you’re working only with your ideal clients, you will be able to have productive conversations about your work together. Demonstrate and articulate the value you bring every step of the way (not just when a sticking point arises) and they will gladly pay you what you’re worth.