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The Consultant’s Biggest Headache

Here’s the common scenario. You the consultant are out at a client on a consulting assignment. You and the client have mutually upon what the scope of the work is to be to complete your consulting work.

The problem is, whatever the agreed upon initial scope was and what the client now wants are now two very different things. How do you deal with this? The initial scope, schedule, timetable and deliverable were signed off by the client and yourself as well as your fee structure for the work to be performed.

The answer is a change order. This is an addendum to the agreement which specifies the scope of the additional work, the process, deliverable and the fees for this extra piece, as well as anything that would be in addition to the initially signed off agreement. This addendum as well as any subsequent ones is presented to the client for their sign off too. After all this represents new work and you have every right to be compensated for it.

I would always advise against doing this additional work, until this change order is signed off. From my own consulting experience, I can attest that it is really tough to get any additional fees paid after the work is done. Sign off first and then perform the work.

Most clients are shocked when first presented with a change order document. They cannot believe that you have the gall to ask for more in fees over and above than the initial agreement. This becomes a delicate situation. The client must be made to understand that this new work represents scope creep, where the scope of the initial work has increased beyond its original boundaries.

I have always tried to explain this to a client by relating it to their own business. For example, asking the client what they would do if one of their customers increased their order and did not expect to be charged anything in addition to the terms of that order.

Once the change order has been signed off, proceed with the work. I have noticed that scope creep halts after the client signs off on their first couple of change orders. They somehow get the message that your time and effort are valuable and will cost them. This makes the client really think about what they really want from you.

Naturally the whole change order process is meaningless if the terms of the initial agreement are not completely solid in the first place.  Also the consultant must be vigilant and monitor the scope at all times for any signs of scope creep. 

Mark Bergman

Meet the Author Mark Bergman

Mark Bergman has written 44 Articles on Small Business Delivered.

I have spent the last 25 years in business. I have worked for some of the largest companies in different parts in the world. Over the last 15 years I have been working for myself, having set up a few small businesses which I built up and subsequently sold off.

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