Every Freelancer Needs a Statement of Work (Even You)
Here’s how to create one.
Any freelancer or service provider should know how important it is to have a contract in place with your clients before you start any work. There’s also a second document that’s arguably just as important as your contract — The Statement of Work.
What is a statement of work?
Essentially, it’s a way of setting out exactly what you’re going to do for the client. It states the work you are going to complete and the various details of how you’re going to complete the work. Think of it as a high-level project plan.
Why does a statement of work matter?
Because it sets expectations with the client — They know exactly what they’re going to get, when they’re going to get it, the time scales you will deliver to, resources needed, budgets you’re working to, and any other essential information.
How does it differ from a contract?
There’s a slightly blurred line between SoWs and contracts, and in some cases, an SoW and a contract can even be combined. A contract sets out the terms and conditions you and the client are working to — It’s the “How”. A Statement of Work sets out what you are actually going to do — It’s the “What.”
What should be in an SoW?
There are a few areas any SoW should cover:
- High-level description — A high-level view of what the project is and what is being covered.
- Planned end result — What you are planning to deliver — The physical or virtual deliverable at the end of the project.
- Client requirements / needs — The business requirements that the final deliverable of the project needs to fulfill to be considered successful.
- Acceptability criteria — How will you and the client agree that each part of the project is “completed?”
- Timescales, deadlines, and milestones — The specific phases, milestones, and other timed areas that you’re planning to meet.
- Reviews and revisions — Your responsibilities to review and make updates to the deliverable, either at individual milestones, or as a project progresses.
- Communications — Communications expectations from you and the client — For example, if you need feedback within a specific amount of time, include it here.
- Quality standards — The quality standards you will meet, both in terms of your professional approach, and the standards of what you’re delivering.
- Budget — Any agreed budget you’re working to. This can also include your rates and fees, if they’re not included in your contract.
- What you will do as part of the work — Your roles and responsibilities in producing the deliverable and working with the client.
- What you won’t do as part of the work — What is outside scope.
- Intellectual property and copyright — What happens to the deliverable, work produced, and supporting files while you are working on it, and after the final invoice is paid.
- Ongoing support — Any ongoing support, maintenance, or other activities you will provide after you deliver the finished product.
Note that some of these areas are entirely optional for your SoW, and some areas definitely won’t be applicable depending on the type of freelancer you are. Essentially, use your common sense and expertise when deciding what to put in an SoW.
Wow… That looks like a lot…
Well, it can be, and for a longer, more complex project you’ll want to cover off these points. However, for smaller, more discrete projects, you can just focus on a few key areas. Many of my SoWs (I’m a writer) typically only run to one or two pages.
Get your SoW signed off
Just like a contract, you should get your SoW agreed and signed off by the client. It then becomes a common reference document you can both use to get things done.
Links to SoW templates
Here are some handy links to SoWs.
Remember, an SoW is there to manage expectations with the client. Having one shows your professionalism as a freelancer, creates trust, and makes sure everyone is working to a common goal. It might seem like some effort to get one in place, but after a while, creating an SoW will seem like second nature.
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