Get scripts for responding to clients who ask for things that are outside the project scope of work or are unrelated to the existing contract.
What’s the comeback for when a client makes requests that are outside the contract’s scope of work?
When I started out as a freelance designer, I knew I needed a contract to establish expectations, boundaries, and clarity for the work sold and I thought having a signed contract in place was good enough but I was wrong. I didn’t know that I also needed to use change orders!
Freelance business contracts can’t be documents you create, get signed, and file away to forget about. They need to be positive reference tools that evolve as the project evolves, otherwise, you’ll have to deal with scope creep.
Scope creep is the term for when the scope of work expands, often due to extra client requests, and the work gets out of control. Most references to scope creep are negative because they’re about the scope of work growing without the budget also growing — and no one wants to do unpaid work.
That’s where change orders come in.
When the scope of work or terms of a project change, the contract needs to change as well and that’s the job of a change order. A change order is an addendum to a contract that is already in place; a document that references and details changes to the original contract.
A new request that is separate from or unrelated to the existing contract’s scope of work is handled with a new separate contract.
A new request that expands or changes an existing contract’s scope of work, is handled with a change order that references the original contract.
So, when a client changes their mind about what they want or makes an extra request that falls outside the agreed-upon project scope of work — changing feature requirements or functionality, adding new features, changing or adding deliverables, asking for more design revisions, adjusting timelines, or even downsizing the project — you must document the request with a change order.
Here’s a simplified look at how changes orders work:
- The client makes a request that is outside the scope of work you were contracted for.
- You acknowledge the request and book a quick meeting to discuss the existing agreement, the new request, and the relevant details.
- You write up a change order that references the original contract and scope, the new request, the budget impact, the timeline impact, and any related known expenses.
- The client signs the change order to either approve the change or deny it and stick with the original contract scope.
- Everyone is on the same page, the entire experience is documented for reference, and the next steps are clear.
Want some help crafting a response to a client who is requesting work beyond the scope of their contract? Below are scripts you can use to respond to clients.
If the request is unrelated to the contracted scope of work…
Thanks for reaching out about [REQUEST].
It sounds like this is pretty important and I’d love to help.
I know [REQUEST] and [PROJECT] seem related but [DOING THESE THINGS] are separate projects and this new request will require a new contract and additional investment.
If you’d like to move forward, let’s meet to go over exactly what you need and talk through all the details so I can put that contract together and you can review the scope of work, budget, and timeline. Here’s a link to book that meeting: [LINK]
Or, if you decide [REQUEST] isn’t an immediate priority, that’s okay too! Please let me know either way.
I look forward to hearing from you.
If the request expands the contracted scope of work…
Thanks for reaching out about [REQUEST]. I’d love to help!
[DOING THESE THINGS] aren’t included in our current project contract, so we’ll need to get a change order in place that documents the change/addition to the scope of work and its effect on the existing budget and timeline. Before we can do that, however, I need some more details and I’m sure you have some questions.
Let’s get a short meeting on the calendar to explore, discuss, and clarify the details about [REQUEST]. Here’s a link to book that meeting: [LINK]
I look forward to chatting!
If the request could be done as a post-launch initiative…
Thanks for reaching out about [REQUEST]. I’d love to help!
As [DOING THESE THINGS] aren’t a part of the current project agreement or scope of work, we can tackle this one of two ways:
- Expand/adapt the existing project scope of work, budget, and timeline to include [REQUEST].
- Maintain the existing scope, budget, and timeline, and slot this in as a separate post-launch project.
If you want to talk through these options, I’m happy to book a short meeting to iron out the details, go over the new budget and timeline requirements, and help you choose the best option. Here’s a link to book a chat: [LINK]
If you know how you want to proceed and are ready for a change order or a new contract, let me know and I’ll send you a few questions to gather the details I need to get this taken care of.
I look forward to hearing from you!
These scripts are three you’ll find in Confident Comebacks, a collection of professional client service scripts that will help you quickly and confidently craft firm, fair, friendly responses to sticky client situations.
The Magic Of Change Orders
When you don’t ignore signed contracts and instead use them as ongoing client reference tools, it normalizes talking about terms and money.
Making change orders a normal part of the creative process, especially when delivering flat-fee projects, creates a more positive experience for stakeholders. It eliminates misunderstandings and confusion, sets clear expectations, and normalizes documentation.
A strong change management process ensures that all changes to the scope of work — even those with no budget or timeline impacts — are documented in writing and approved or declined by the client in writing.
Here’s what I want you to remember:
- Change orders are an opportunity to be a great partner and accommodate client requests while increasing the value of the relationship.
- Change orders ensure you are paid for your work.
- Change orders protect your time, your profit margins, and your clients’ outcomes and investment.
- Change orders reinforce your professionalism and commitment to quality.
- Change orders help clients feel comfortable and confident in what’s happening with their project.
It’s time to embrace change orders, establish a change management process, and get comfortable talking about getting paid for extra requests and additional work.
If you can do that, you can prevent the negative side of scope creep — a growing scope without a growing budget — and instead leverage extra client requests to grow the relationship, provide better support, and increase the lifetime value of the client.