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I'm a one man band business owner, having run my web development business for 11+ years, 8 of which I used no project management tactics at all - other than code like hell and persistence. I also used contractors and employees for 8 years, but have sized back to myself over the past 3 years.

I've adopted risk management techniques - Project Survival Questionnaire as well as switched from fixed price to time and materials.

Currently I have 5 projects between 2 and 12 months behind schedule and I have identified that I need to complete them before accepting new clients. There is a 6 month old project which is for a client of 10 years that will sooner or later become impatient.

All my projects have scope creep, this was by design, as I endeavoured to service clients for as long as possible. However, now I want to move to a more structured approach, where I regularly review client relationships and terminate them if they are not aligned with my strategy. I want this process to be transparent to the client.

I'm looking for advice to get my timeline issues under control: How to temporarily stop scope creep, so the projects can be brought under control and completed. Naturally I would like to work on oldest first, but there are other constraints - cashflow from existing project stalls.

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    Hi jdog. As you suggest, I think it would make sense to divide this up into multiple questions. There's a lot going on here! Some of this is really about business strategy and business development which might not be a good fit for PMSE but scopre creep, risk management and scope creep would all work I think. – Willl Sep 11 '15 at 15:10
  • Further to Willl's comment, I found it difficult to find a definite question here and particularly something that is not seeking opinions rather than answers. – Marv Mills Sep 11 '15 at 15:43
  • Agreed- A wealth of great questions that can help a lot of people. – Joel Bancroft-Connors Sep 11 '15 at 17:35
  • I'll create other questions and trim this question down now. – jdog Sep 11 '15 at 19:47
  • Ok, I have now extracted 3 other questions out of this. – jdog Sep 11 '15 at 20:04
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If you haven't already, you need to document all of the requirements that each of your customers has. Establish a firm fixed cost for the work and let the customer know that costs will increase for any change in scope. Further, establish with the customer what his acceptance criteria are. These things combined will (a) put a clear boundary around what is in and out of scope, (b) will act as a disincentive to changing scope in the future, and (c) gives you clear a clear definition of what the "end" of the project looks like.

But this is as much a change/expectation management issue as it is a project management one. Your clients are used to being able to change scope as they wish, and it will be a bit of a pill for them to swallow if you change the rules on them mid-stream. You need to convince them that this approach is in their best interests as well as your own. That means you may need to do something like commit to a specific delivery date with penalties if you are late.

Long term, given your 11 years experience in the business, hopefully you have a feel for the amount of scope creep that exists. That should translate into how much time and effort you really expect a project to take, allowing you to better manage your workload.

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You need to transform the idea of "scope creep" into "change request".

Having a real CR process will allow you to have a better relationship with your clients, because it allows them to have reasonable expectations of the cost and time implications of the additional work. CRs are usually completed after the original project scope has been delivered, but there can be exceptions.

If the CR is functionality they need right now, you can negotiate the postponement/cutting of other functionality in the project to avoid creep.

Once you have a better idea of what needs to be done when, you can better organize your work to ensure you start/keep hitting milestones. If you keep hitting your milestones, you may find your cashflow issues go away.

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