Learning to Set Limits
Q: "One of my clients keeps expanding the scope of a project I’m working on. It’s getting to be too much for me to handle and still meet the deadline, but I’m worried that if I say anything, I’ll lose her business. Any advice?"
A: It’s a topic we all grapple with at some point: how to say “no” firmly yet graciously. Setting limits is never easy, but as a freelancer, it’s mandatory. A client may not have a full understanding of your workload and, therefore, may be unaware of the impact of his or her requests.
Generally, it’s a good idea to draw up some sort of written documentation (e.g., a creative brief) at the outset of a project that describes the creative objectives and requirements, as well as the scope and range of your duties. This may be a formal contract or an informal memo. The point is to have something to which you both can refer, should any questions arise regarding your initial obligation.
As soon as your client presents additions to the project that are unachievable within the timeframe, say so, and then present alternatives. Perhaps another freelancer can be brought on board to take over some of the work. Or maybe a less time-sensitive portion of the project can be postponed. Be sure to explain in simple terms why the request requires more time. If you do take on increased responsibility, draft an addendum stating the work agreed upon as well as the timeline of deliverables.
Whatever you do, don’t compromise the quality of your work to accommodate new additions to a project. The client will end up with an inferior product, and your professional reputation could be tarnished because of it.