Freelance Mission Creep

When it comes to defining a project—and avoiding mission creep—the freelancer’s best defense is a good offense. Get the specs in writing, agree to the payment terms and outline the ramifications if the original assignment begins to sprawl beyond the bounds. Set the rules early, and stick to them.

Sometimes, however, it’s not so easy. One of my newer clients, a custom publisher, happens to produce a magazine for one of my very oldest clients. The publisher is on the lower end of my acceptable pay scale, but it’s OK because most of the articles are pretty easy to write.

That is, until last week. They gave me an assignment that would require several hours of driving and interviewing before I even started writing. I accepted it, knowing that the subject of the story is an important and high-visibility entity for my longterm client, whom I need to keep happy.

I long ago learned that you can’t negotiate after the fact. But in the background, I was kind of stewing over the fact that it wasn’t really worth my time. So I called my longterm client and asked him for advice, because he knows the editor a lot better than I do: Should I call and ask for a higher per-word rate?

He agreed that my plight was unfortunate, but his opinion was that I should address it after the story was turned in. In the meantime, he’s going to put in a good word that I went above and beyond the call of duty on the assignment, and lobby for a higher pay rate.

That’s where we left it…I’m still not sure how the “soft sell” is going to turn out. But I’ll let you know!

In the comments, please share any tips you have about avoiding freelance mission creep.

Jake Poinier blogs as Dr. Freelance and runs a freelance writing and editing business called Boomvang Creative Group.