How to manage scope creep in your PR agency


If there’s a common operational problem faced by the majority of professional services businesses, and this includes PR agencies, it’s the difficulty of completing jobs within the quoted hours. If you look regularly at these sort of businesses, it comes up all the time.

Sometimes it’s a matter of managing staff time correctly. Sometimes, it’s about quoting accurately in the first place.

But sometimes, it’s about scope creep: the tendency for a job to be extended by the client (and occasionally by staff who are over eager to please) to the point where the quoted price no longer covers the time needed to complete the job. When this happens, profit diminishes, and if the creep continues, the profit will disappear. After that point, the job becomes a cost to the business and you would have been better off saying no to the job in the first place.

It’s worth noting here that this doesn’t apply if you’re simply charging by the hour for 100% of what you do. That said, clients will commonly ask for an estimate of works or more likely these days they’ll be asking for a fixed fee for a particular piece of work or they may simply want detailed account statements each month. Either way you’re going to be forced into being accountable for the time spent on a job and containing scope creep is an important part of this.

Scope creep can be a difficult one to tackle, because it’s ultimately about client relations. The ‘look, we’re now beyond what we originally quoted on’ conversation is a tough one, and the lives of both client and agency would be easier if it never had to take place.

Here are few tried and tested methods for stopping the creep in its tracks:

  • Have a well drafted service agreement in place, signed by the client. This should clearly specify that you’ll charge for additional hours outside the scope of work. This is a bedrock document for you to rely on if needed.
  • Specifically mention in the quote what happens if the scope blows out. That way the possibility is flagged up front.
  • Where additional tasks are requested mid job, point out to the client that they are outside the scope of work. Do this when the requests are made, not once the hours have run out. It makes for a much easier negotiation.
  • Offer the client alternatives to either downing tools or charging more money. Specify what you can deliver for the original quote. Provide clear pricing for each additional element.
  • Maintain good client relationships in case you have to have the conversation about additional hours. Again, it’s much easier if you’re on pleasant terms.
  • Develop good time management and job tracking skills. It’s not the client’s fault if you take longer to do the work than is necessary, or if your processes are inefficient. And never ever say these words: “well, the client didn’t know what they wanted to begin with”. It’s your job to clarify the brief and understand the client’s needs, even if they are unclear of that themselves. You’re their guide through this process, not the other way around.

Don’t let the bottom line of your agency, along with your patience, get eaten away by scope creep on your client projects. Identify where the issue is arising in your agency and put strategies in place to resolve the issue.

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If you’d like to have a chat about how we can help you manage scope creep or any other issue surrounding the profitability and management of your agency please get in touch today. We’d love to help!