Protecting Your Boundaries

Amazing, Imperceptible Boundary Creep and Explosion is a problem for most entrepreneurs, no matter what field they are in. For me, it’s a habit I developed as a freelance writer and instructional developer, and that crept into my coaching. I think this is a problem for a lot of women entrepreneurs. See if this rings true for you.

Here’s how it works:

1. Client and Entrepreneur begin working. They determine deliverables, stakeholders, deadlines, budget. Everyone agrees.

2.  Entrepreneur begins to work on the project with great enthusiasm, knowing that pleasing the  stakeholders is possible because we all agreed on the deliverables and deadlines and there is a reasonable profit in it.

stack-of-papers-small3. Client calls. He had a meeting with a stakeholder and the stakeholder, after giving the project some thought, wants a minor change. Could you do that in the time given? Entrepreneur can, and it’s not a big deal, so you agree.

4. Few days later, the client says that there have been more ideas, and could you (the entrepreneur) discuss those for a minute? Sure. An hour later, you have asked a lot of questions, and feel  really clever that you found a solution that is a specialty and  don’t have to charge him more because you are so damn clever. You agree.

5. The solution doesn’t work out quite as planned, and you have to add 10 hours to the project, seriously biting into the profit margin. But you don’t want to go back and ask for more money for [fill in your own Inner Critic driven reason] This is called Scope Creep, and you are not addressing it.

stack-of-papers6. Entrepreneur now feels cheated and angry, but says nothing. What started out as a good idea, a way to show your creative cleverness, is now a time, energy and money drain, unacknowledged by the client.  The client is pleased, that’s enough payment for now, you think.

8. The client calls for the next job and you tell him you will need to charge more, as we have had several episodes of Scope Creep and need to note it out front. The clients gets huffy and tells you that he doesn’t understand why you are nickel and diming him now, when you have always accommodated “minor” changes before.

Boundary Shift, Your Point-of-View and the Client’s
The boundary with the client shifts imperceptibly (to the client) and you accommodate him, because you want to please your client. The boundary keeps changing. What originally was a boundary that left you with a comfortable profit margin and room for three more clients shifted to a pressure-driven job that you began to resent because it robbed you of other clients and left you with no profit margin.

Huge-stack-of-paper-smallThe conclusion: Scope creep happens gradually. It’s always small things that you can happily accommodate. Until one day, you can’t, and the client gets angry, because he wants his result, and you have given in before.

Because the client won all the small boundary movements, he doesn’t see the huge change in the overall scope and you, who did not stop the scope creep, are now stuck with the new boundaries as the new “normal,”–which includes less profit and less room for new clients.

This is the crucial step. If you don’t stop Boundary Creep, you will give up your priorities, your goals, your time, your energy, and your money.

Coming Friday: How to manage Boundary Creep through your journal.

—Quinn McDonald learns her lessons the hard way. But she learns them.