Shape Up Forum

What is your experience of bringing Shape Up to client work?

Hi everyone,

I’m really interested in learning from individuals who brought Shape Up practices to their client work. Specifically freelancers/solo consultants.

The past few years of client work usually start out the same for me:

  • Do a decent job of exploratory work in the beginning of the relationship.
  • Build some product for the client.
  • Iterate some ideas because some unforeseen supply-side constraint.
  • Eventually start down the path of the dark side with endless email/ticket system of work without wel defined scopes or trade offs.

I am quite interested in how you have:

  • Gotten clients to agree to setting a fixed time and variable scope.
  • Set expectations with clients to consistently participate in shaping/discovery work.
  • Designed systems to hold yourself accountable to avoiding scope creep and facilitate work cycle after cycle.

What else from the Shape Up book did you find difficult to implement in client work? How did you modify the strategy to meet your needs?

Thanks @rjs for putting this forum together


This has been on my mind as well, @marcano. I sometimes take on freelance work on the side and would really prefer to approach all software design and development the Shape Up way.

I haven’t had a side hustle since starting this process, but I have roughed out a plan for what I’ll do when a finally break down and pick up some extra work:

  • Instead of billing hourly, I will bill weekly. I feel that the framework in which a client is paying be should help somewhat in establishing the philosophy.
  • During Shaping, if after any week they don’t feel like we’ve made reasonable progress, we can review expectations and see what’s off.
  • If Shaping has already been done, or if the project is fairly well defined already, my first step would be scoping with an aim of deploying something each week.
  • Again, each week if they feel I’ve not made reasonable progress, we can review expectations.
  • Because I’m always working on shipping tightly defined scopes, they have the freedom to fire me at any point without fear of losing the work. If they don’t like the process, there is product in place for them to build on with someone else.

If and when I actually try this, I will report back.

Excellent question. I have been bringing Shape Up to my client work and I use a combination of Wardley Maps and Shape Up to address the demand and supply side ( I suppose you are familiar with Ryan’s

In terms of how to get clients to agree on setting fixed time and variable scope, I use Agile as a straw man and highlight rituals that are pervasive among startups and orgs claiming to follow True Agile. Using a cultural ritual metaphor conveys the point very convincingly, especially in a country like India. *rituals