how to avoid scope creep as an animator featured image

How to avoid scope creep as an animator

Is your project deadline getting pushed back again and again? Here’s how to avoid scope creep.

What is scope creep?


‘Scope creep’ is a term animators use to describe when the scale or ‘scope’ of a project starts to ‘creep’ beyond its boundaries. This usually looks like a project that is taking longer and longer to complete. Your client might add suggestion after suggestion, or the project may change until it no longer resembles the original pitch.

Scope creep is a problem for animators because it costs. The time spent making endless revisions on one project could be used to source a new lead, animate other work, or start another project. Scope creep can also lead to awkward pricing conversations where the original budget has been lost in translation. Here are our tips to make sure your services aren’t compromised…

1. Choose your clients carefully


When you’re first starting out, it can be tempting to take any opportunity you’re offered. Most animators have had their fair share of bad clients. Choosing carefully early on can lead to stronger client relationships later down the line. Here are some red flags to look out for:


  • Expecting you to provide more work than they’re paying for
  • Not sticking to an agreed deadline
  • Having an unclear idea of a project

For more tips on how to create lasting client relationships, check out our post on how to ensure your clients return to your animation studio.

How to avoid scope creep as an animator: choose clients carefully

2. Have a clear production process


This tip is especially useful to animators who want to start their own animation studio in the future. Having a consistent production process means you can accommodate snags and provide an accurate timeline for your client. An efficient production process will cut any unnecessary costs, making it easier to discuss budget with your client. It will also prevent any undocumented last minute changes—if it’s not part of the process, it’s not in your scope!


For a list of programs we use to keep our production on track, check out our resource page here.

How to avoid late payments: reminders
How to avoid late payments: reminders

This tip is especially useful to animators who want to start their own animation studio in the future. Having a consistent production process means you can accommodate snags and provide an accurate timeline for your client. An efficient production process will cut any unnecessary costs, making it easier to discuss budget with your client. It will also prevent any undocumented last minute changes—if it’s not part of the process, it’s not in your scope!


For a list of programs we use to keep our production on track, check out our resource page here.

3. Break down your pricing


Breaking down your pricing clearly is key when avoiding scope creep. Unsure where to start? Check out our article on how much animators make.

This means presenting your client with a detailed quote outlining all the costs the project will require. When pricing, include ‘extra’ options, and outline how much it they’ll costs. This way, any additional charges are already accounted for. In early discussions with the client, ask questions about any extra costs they’ll need. Even if an extension, extra file, or additional detail is unlikely, include it as an option. Being petty with your pricing can be frustrating, so balance the services you can accommodate with those you can't afford to. When speaking with your client, be firm and precise about the predicted budget. Any vagueness or uncertainty can lead to uncertain pricing, which will eventually lead to scope creep.

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4. Stick to a schedule


Establishing a detailed schedule is just as important as breaking down pricing.

A clear schedule keeps both you and your client aware of deadlines. Rather than sprawling into the distant future, a project can be carefully contained. The more detailed your schedule, the higher chance there is you can stick to it. Including every step of the production process will leave you with clear boundaries about when your project starts and ends. Having a production schedule mapped out for potential clients is the best way of avoiding scope creep. It gives you a template which you can apply to new projects, keeping your timing consistent.

Studio vs Freelance Animation Calendar
Studio vs Freelance Animation Calendar

Establishing a detailed schedule is just as important as breaking down pricing.

A clear schedule keeps both you and your client aware of deadlines. Rather than sprawling into the distant future, a project can be carefully contained. The more detailed your schedule, the higher chance there is you can stick to it. Including every step of the production process will leave you with clear boundaries about when your project starts and ends. Having a production schedule mapped out for potential clients is the best way of avoiding scope creep. It gives you a template which you can apply to new projects, keeping your timing consistent.

5. Communicate throughout


As you work on a project, give your client regular updates. Before you begin work, sent your client a production timeline. Clearly explain why each part of production will take the time it does. At the same time, outline any potential delays that could occur, and how you plan to accommodate for them. Communicate with your client as professionally as possible. Scheduled Zoom meetings with a relevant objective are much more productive than calling whenever a set-back occurs. Document the details of your meeting and pass them on to your clients to ensure there’s no confusion.

How to avoid scope creep as an animator: open communication

Finally... learn from your mistakes!


There’s a reason the industry has it’s own term for projects that run over—they’re very common. If you run into a case of ‘scope creep’, don’t panic. Instead, see it as a learning process for you and your studio. What will you change to ensure this doesn’t happen in future?

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Interested In Starting an Animation Studio?


Take The Animation Career Quiz

Are you best suited to a studio role, freelancing or ready to start a studio of your own?
Take the quiz and plan your next animation career steps.

Animation Career Community

Sign up for free to the Start A Studio Animator community & network with likeminded artists.


Animation Studio Startup Course

Checkout our award-winning online course on planning and launching a creative & viable animation studio.


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