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How to kill scope creep, complete projects faster and make clients love you for it

By Rob Williams

It’s human nature. There’s was a point in the project where progress stopped — a rabbit hole appeared, a feature bloated out of control, communication tired — and suddenly my two very experienced friends had blown their budget and deadline.

It’s a complex problem. I’m not claiming I have all the answers. But here are some ways to complete project faster.

  1. Stop jumping into rabbit holes immediately when you find them.
    When you’re about to spend 3 hours on something you initially thought was going to be take 30 minutes — stop. That’s when you need to ask yourself if what you’re doing is really worth it. Skip the rabbit hole and look for a solution that takes 20% of the time but delivers 80% of the results.
  2. Work on the the most important things first.
    I’ve been known to get lost in details before I have the basics in place. This puts me in a bad position once a deadline approaches because I’m stuck. If I had started with the most important part of the project, I’d be in a position to trim some of the other stuff and still ship a functioning project. Speaking of which…
  3. Cut the scope down!
    I’ve never regretted cutting unessential features out of a project. Focusing 100% on what truly matters will lead you to build a strong foundation of profitability for both you and your clients.
  4. Hard deadline, soft scope.
    I got this rule from Jason Fried. He says you should have a hard timeline but soft scope. That way, the people you work with can trust that you’ll deliver on what you say. Use scope cutting to gain that trust.
  5. Focus on the project before the project.
    This is always a bigger deal than I realize. Implementation is the thing I focus on but always ends up being the smallest part of a project. Instead do yourself a favor and focus on carefully laying out the project before you dive in. Think deeply about timeline, features, number of people, and monetary investment before I start.
  6. Bake in 30% more than you need for “unexpected” emergencies.
    Let me spoil the ending of your next project. Something “unexpected” will happen — and it’ll make the project take longer than you thought. I use quotes around unexpected because it’s really not unexpected. It happens in every. single. project. With those odds you can guarantee you look like a wizard.

About Rob Williams...

I run Folyo which helps freelance designers find the work they were meant to do. I also host Freelance a podcast about how to be more effective at independent work featuring remote companies like Disney, Basecamp, YNAB, ConvertKit and more.