This article covers scope creep in web design. Scope creep, the pushing out of the project specifications by the client, has happened to practice every design firm out there. In this article I will cover the more basic ways to deal with scope creep in a manner that pleases the client and keeps you profitable.
The first aspect to consider for controlling scope creep is the need for setting out very clear design specifications for the project from the outset. The client needs to agree to a set web project and what will be included for what cost. The very worst thing you can do as a designer is say you'll design site Y for X amount, period. If Y is not specified the client then has free rein to request improvements, changes and add-ons ad infinitum. And you're limited to X in fees, not a good result.
But even if you stipulate what is to be provided expect scope creep to happen. When the client first approached you they probably had little idea of what they wanted apart from a completed website. As the project continues and they become savvier, they will ask for changes, be it extra pages, an email newsletter, a blog or some such. How you deal with these requests is important. We will discuss the two main alternatives below.
Give them the change for free
This is fine if the change will be quick to implement. If it's less than half an hour's work, say, then go ahead and do it. But you should let the client know it is outside the scope of the project however. That gives them their first warning about adding more demands later but it also shows them that you are prepared to do something for nothing (they do not need to know how long it really took). These adds value to them and can cement your relationship with the client whether they are new business or existing clients.
You may also consider doing larger changes in an initial project for free if there is the possibility of more work down the track. Again, it may be good for business. But bare in mind that such behavior can create a precedent in the client's mind. They may then expect other, larger changes for free too.
Charge them for changes regardless
You may decide that any changes outside of the scope, regardless of the amount of work involved need to be added to the final bill. That's fine of course but you need to be ready to handle such an event. Once the request comes through, analyze the work involved and price it up. Then you can contact the client by email or letter and simply state that improvement Y is outside of the current project specifications and will cost X dollars to complete. You will undertake the changes as soon as you have confirmation from them to proceed. It's that simple. The negative side of this approach is that new clients may not appreciate your inflexible attitude and look elsewhere.
Either approach can work though I tend to use the first method. Good customer relations can be worth far more than the immediate revenue forgone. One last word of warning: be consistent across all projects with any strategies you employ. Clients can easily talk to one another and if one finds out they're being treated differently (worse), they're leave you and then then on the only time they will mention you to warn others away.