You’ve wrapped up the final draft of your latest blog post. Ahhh! Success!
A few hours after you send it off, you get a message of appreciation in your inbox from your editor.
This is fabulous! Exactly what I was looking for! Since you did such a great job, and know this topic so well, would you mind writing a few quick, witty blurbs to use on social posts across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?
Pleased with your efforts and buzzing from the positive feedback, you open a new screen and start typing away. The minutes are also ticking away. Unpaid minutes. Or, minutes that cause you to work late, yet again.
Before you know it, you look up and have spent the majority of an hour crafting the perfect social teasers, complete with researched hashtags that are performing well in the post’s niche.
Sure, you enjoyed the challenge and love to help out your client, but you’ve just fallen into the trap of scope creep.
What is Scope Creep in the Writing World?
In my experience, scope creep is when the hiring party in a contract-based agreement asks for additional work to be completed beyond the original agreed upon terms of the project — without additional compensation or additional time to meet a deadline.
In the example above, asking the writer to whip up a few social posts was clearly a request for extra work after the core project was complete. There was no discussion of additional pay before the writer started working.
How Does Scope Creep Affect Writers?
I find that new writers tackling their first paid projects often fall into this trap. There’s a natural urge to impress the client and do everything they ask, even add-on tasks that take time and talent but aren’t compensated.
If that blog post writer above estimated two hours to complete the work, then spent an additional hour on the social posts, that’s an hour of the day taken away from their next writing project that could have earned money.
Or, think of it this way. If they were paid $100 for that blog post, they just went from earning $50/hr to $33/hr. That can make a big dent in your income budgeting or earning goals if repeated over and over again.
When working a traditional job, you’d never come into work an hour early at your bosses request and wait to punch-in at your usual start time. Why work without pay as a writer?
How Does Scope Creep Affect Editors?
On the other side of the arrangement, editors may be unaware of this situation altogether! If they work both with employees within their organization and that of a client they’re representing, it’s second nature for them to give instructions and ask for what they need. The employees are on the clock, so it’s no big deal. But a contact-based writer working for a flat rate isn’t making an hourly or salary wage for the work they do, which is often overlooked.
I find a quick reminder is all it takes to let an editor know you’re happy to do the work, but an additional hour of work will be added to the invoice to cover your time. I’ve rarely had anyone question this when it’s brought up before the additional work has been started.
How Does Scope Creep Affect Clients?
If you’re writing via an agency or third-party platform, there’s a good chance the client has no idea what type of arrangement has been made beyond hiring a creative team and completing the project.
The client will, however, notice if their content shifts in quality or tone, leading them to discover their favorite writer is no longer part of the mix.
Note to editors and clients: If a freelance writer feels their services aren’t valued, they will move on and work elsewhere.
Scope creep is tricky. It may be completely unintentional, leaving writers with a need to speak up for themselves. Or, it can be a clever way for unprofessional clients to squeeze more work out of a tight budget.
Be mindful. Are you getting paid for all the work that you do for others?
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