New to scope of work templates? Read our guide below.
So you’ve sent your proposal, you’ve won the pitch, and you’ve got the thumbs up from the client to get started. What do you do next?
If your instinct is to leap into work-mode, you should know, you’ve missed an important step.
You see, the very top 1% of freelancers understand that, before you rush headlong into a new project, you need to set expectations, determine milestones, and make sure every single stakeholder is on the same page. And you do this with a scope of work (SOW).
This is a document that outlines the services or deliverables that underpin your agreement with your client. Sometimes called a “statement of work”, it’s used to describe (in detail) each aspect of the work you’ll be carrying out. It’s then signed by you and your client to demonstrate that you both agree that what you’ve described accurately reflects your proposal. Simple.
Now, you can draft an SOW from scratch every time you start a new project, but ask yourself: Why? Don’t you value your time?
Well, you don’t need us to tell you that time is money, and that by using a scope of work template, you’ll save a lot of both. But before you dash off and download the first template you see, here are a few things you need to know.
What is a scope of work template?
Generally speaking, a template is a standard document used to form a new, edited version of the same document. It can be utilised over and over again.
When producing a template, you should save a master copy using the information that you require every time you share this particular document. For example, this could include your contact details, certain deliverables that span all projects (such as research or client interviews), onboarding activities, and your payment terms and conditions.
A scope of work template is, therefore, a document that’s pre-saved, ready to go with this important info. It saves you the time and effort of writing it from scratch whenever you’re outlining a new project’s timelines and milestones.
Instead, you’d simply open the template, make a copy, type in anything that’s relevant to the project (such as dates, budgets, and details of the work to be completed), and then save it with a unique identifier, before sending it to your client.
Why use a scope of work template?
There are some obvious reasons why you should use a templated SOW document:
- Creating a document that can be used over and over saves precious time and energy;
- It allows you to be consistent with your tone and messaging;
- You can add your branding to the document, reinforcing your professionalism;
- It provides clarity to your client, laying out exactly what you will do, how long it will take, and how much it will cost;
- And you can track and monitor the success of each project, fine-tuning your SOW as you go, rather than starting from scratch each and every time.
But a scope of work is so much more than a simple list of dates and activities.
Firstly, it’s your opportunity to establish your credibility as an expert freelancer. By using a scope of work template, you can guide your client through the process in a professional and efficient manner, offering peace of mind that you know what you’re doing and that every step is accounted for.
Put yourself in your client’s shoes for a moment and consider the alternative. An aloof freelancer who doesn’t use an SOW, rarely responds to emails, and offers little-to-no insight into their process or progress. That’s just not going to work, is it?
Then there’s the fact that to deliver a successful project, it’s just as important to outline what you won’t be doing as part of the scope. This will save you from the dreaded “scope creep” — where additional tasks are piled onto your original remit and the project balloons in size (but not budget).
If you have a document in place where you can confidently point to it and say “that’s not what we agreed” then it should (in theory) help things run smoothly.
And that feeds into the final point: A solid scope of work template can help you mitigate client disagreements — and do it with relative ease. Given that you’ve both signed the document, there’s not a lot of room for manoeuvre if your client tries to pull a fast one. You just need to ensure that there’s no ambiguity in how you’ve written it.
Types of scope of work templates
Besides a standard scope of work template that address the most general needs, there are a few specific kinds of scope of work templates:
Simple Scope of Work Template
Use a simple scope of work template for projects that don't have complex requirements. Make it easy to understand for both you and the client.
Sample Scope of Work Template
Starting from a sample scope of work template is a great way to build your own. Analyze all of the section and tweak based on your needs and requirements.
Project Scope of Work Template
For big projects with multiple milestones and complex requirements, the best option is to use a project scope of work template.
Detailed Scope of Work Template
A detailed scope of work template is used whenever the extra details are required, for example how the work will be completed or what is the order.
General Scope of Work Template
A general scope of work template is flexible and can be adjusted for any type of work. Tweak it to your needs and send it to the client for approval.
Standard Scope of Work Template
A standard scope of work template is the perfect starting point for when you don't need to over-complicate the documentation.
Scope of work templates vary by industry
7 common mistakes to avoid while using a scope of work template
While it’s unquestionably true that using a statement of work template can speed things up when you’re starting a new project, there are still some things you need to avoid.
By knowing what these are, you can tweak your template to ensure that you’re not making common errors. That’s the downside to a template — if one mistake slips the net, you’ll end up repeating it every time you make a new SOW.
Luckily, at Bonsai, we’ve worked with over 150,000 freelancers, many of whom are firmly in the top 1% when it comes to earnings and reputation.
We’ve asked them to share their top mistakes, and how best to avoid them:
Being too vague with your language.
A mistake that’s all-too-common across freelance documents in general, if you’re too ambiguous with your language when you draft your statement of work, it could come back and bite you.
You need to use plain language, avoid jargon, and make it abundantly clear what’s being delivered and when. If you don’t, you’re leaving wiggle room for interpretation on the part of your client, and this could lead to confusion, conflicts, or the entire project being derailed.
Leaning too heavily on the client’s input.
Another mistake most freelancers will come across at least once: Putting too much faith in the client to hold up their end of the bargain. By this, we mean assigning clients important responsibilities within the SOW to help successfully deliver the project. This could be something as simple as liaising with other contractors for materials, or something more involved, like writing web copy or taking photographs.
Whenever you delegate responsibility to your client, you’re jeopardizing your deadlines because, in addition to contributing to the project, they also have a business to run. Instead, you should make provisions for delays in the SOW, or find a way to take these tasks off their plate (and bill for them, too).
Failing to specify the number of revisions.
This harks back to mistake #1 and being vague with your language. But it’s especially important to specify the number of revisions when you draft your SOW template because, if you don’t, it could cost you a great deal of time and effort in the long-run. To protect yourself from eating into the budget, clarify that a set number of revisions are included as part of the scope, but anything over and above will need to be paid for.
Forgetting the ‘Out of Scope’ section.
Something that’s often overlooked in the haste to produce a scope of work document, the ‘out of scope’ section could be the safety net you need. As you walk the tightrope between keeping your client happy and delivering your project on time, the last thing you need is to be tripped up by additional demands.
‘Out of scope’ gives you an escape if you’re asked to provide web copy for the website you’re designing, or take photos for the brochure you’re writing — and all without an increase to the budget. It’s also a great way to clear up any miscommunications and remind the client of your responsibilities.
Trying to squeeze everything into one SOW.
This is a common mistake that catches out new freelancers time and again. Failing to recognise that the huge project you’ve landed is actually a number of smaller projects all strung together. So, instead of trying to fit absolutely everything into one statement of work, break it down into its requisite parts. Tackle it in stages, and prepare an SOW for each one.
Not including a detailed schedule.
Yet another mistake where a lack of detail is the culprit (are you noticing a theme?), failing to include a clear schedule in your SOW can wreak havoc with your project. While the temptation to be broad and sweeping with dates and deadlines is there when you’re hastily pulling together the document, it pays to pause and consider precisely when you can deliver each stage of the project. “X pages by Y date” just won’t cut it. Remember: For any freelance project to be successful, both you and your client need to be on the same page throughout.
Failing to consider the target audience.
It’s all-too-easy to get swept up in trying to simply please your client when drawing up a statement of work, but the best freelancers know to resist this urge. Often, clients will want to see additional details added to the SOW before signing it, but if these don’t add value to the end-user (i.e., the customer) then this needs to be communicated. Otherwise, you could spend time and resources delivering extra pieces of work that do nothing to move the project forward.
We’ve baked in a lot of the best practices mentioned in these tips in our own tool called Bonsai. It costs $19 per month and used by 150,000 freelancers. Give it a try with a 14 day free trial.
What should a good scope of work template include?
(whether you use our template or not)
Now that you know some of the benefits of using a template, and some of the most common mistakes you need to avoid, let’s take a look at the key elements of a scope of work template.
To begin, the template will require certain information that will remain the same, including:
- A title page, with your logo or business branding;
- A list of the sections within the document (more on those below);
- A reminder of your payment terms, such as accepted forms of payment (i.e., do you accept credit cards?) and when you expect to be paid (15 days, 30 days, etc.);
- Terms and conditions, including late fees, confidentiality, and copyright, etc.
Next, you need to include sections for the information that you’ll adapt as per the project. This ensures that your format will remain consistent, even if this info changes from one job to the next.
Typically, you’ll add the following information as you flesh out your statement of work:
This is a broad introduction to the task at hand. Before you get into the specifics, describe the type of project you’re undertaking, and identify the key parties involved.
After you’ve covered the basics, drill down into the primary goal of the project and highlight the goals you’re hoping to achieve.
Outline of Services
In this section, you need to describe the services you’ll be providing.
Break down each deliverable (the “thing” the client will receive at the end of the project, i.e., a website, poster, article, etc.) into smaller, actionable steps.
Create a timeline for each deliverable. When will each deliverable be ready? How many revisions will be included? When will the client need to respond in order for the project to remain on track?
Provide more detail into what you and your client are looking to achieve with the project. Is it an increase in sales? Web traffic? What is the business objective, and how will you report it?
This section is vitally important. Determining the criteria by which a deliverable is accepted will help you and your client remain on the same page throughout the project. You need to agree on what success looks like, and who gets the final say.
Out of Scope
Finally, the out of scope section is here to save your bacon if the client starts pushing for additional work outside the terms of the agreement. Specify deliverables or tasks that won’t be completed or provided at the end of this project.
When to use a scope of work template?
How you manage your projects can make or break you as a freelancer.
If you’re happy to fly by the seat of your pants without agreements, contracts, or a scope of work, you’ll only get so far. Eventually, client conflict will trip you up and damage your reputation.
That’s why, if you use a well-structured, clearly defined SOW template at the beginning of each new project, you can maintain control, stave off scope creep, and avoid an unsatisfied client or worse: potential legal or financial risks.
A note on scope of work templates vs statement of work templates
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, some freelancers tend to view the scope of work as a section within a much larger and more comprehensive document called the statement of work. In this case, the statement of work acts as an in-depth description of everything that needs to be completed to deliver a successful project — and the scope of work is how it will happen.
Some companies can be very particular about what they call these documents, so it’s important to understand why different names can be used. However, in truth, whether you call it a statement or a scope, it exists to achieve the same purpose: To set and manage expectations with the client, establish your professionalism, create trust, and ensure everyone is working towards a common goal.
Advantages of scope of work templates
There are a number of clear advantages to using an SOW template. For example:
- Templates offer consistency. By using a template, you can produce a number of SOWs in quick succession, and tailor each for a specific project.
- The fact that you can turnaround templates quicker than if you were writing SOWs from scratch means you can get to work faster. And the sooner you start, the sooner you can bill for a deposit.
- You won’t miss any important info, like the out of scope section or acceptability criteria that might come back and bite you. If it’s in the template, you’ll fill it in.
- They help free up your time — time that can be better spent on other important freelance tasks.
- You can use a template to express your brand. From the colours you use to your logo, font, and tone of voice, you can position yourself in whatever way you want to be perceived.
- A quality scope of work template also sends a positive message about your business. It lets your client know they’re in good hands; that you’re professional, reliable, and capable of managing a project from start to finish.
- Finally, using a template becomes a repeatable process. And it’s one you can tweak and enhance with each one you draft. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you share a new scope of work. You’ll soon have an idea of what works, and what doesn’t.
Disadvantages of scope of work templates
However, there are some downsides to using a scope of work template, too. For example:
- Choosing the wrong template could lead to you repeating the same mistakes over and over again. A poorly structured SOW template can be misinterpreted, and you could end up facilitating the miscommunication you were trying to avoid in the first place.
- If you continue to use the wrong template, you could waste countless hours clarifying things with confused clients or vendors. It’s vital that you choose a clear, high-quality freelance scope of work template, and that you have it checked over by someone you trust before sending it.
- Then there’s the fact that templates can appear basic, unoriginal, and outdated to many clients who now expect a streamlined workflow. They don’t want to search their bloated inboxes for attachments when they need clarification on something — instead, they’re looking for a software solution that can be accessed from anywhere, at any time.
- And finally, many templates can be difficult to edit. If you try to add a new section — or move or remove an existing one — you could throw the whole design out of whack. This makes templates restrictive when you’re trying to grow and improve as a freelancer.
Why are Bonsai’s automatically generated scope of work templates better?
Once you’ve got to grips with creating and writing a freelance scope of work template, the next step is to join the top 1% in using a dedicated online system.
This will do much of the heavy lifting for you, including adding and removing sections with a click, sending client reminders, and tracking when the document is opened.
And if you’re looking for an all-in-one freelancing tool for professional-looking SOWs, you’ve found it! Bonsai offers a 14-day free trial.
There are several key elements to note with Bonsai's scope of work template:
- The company logo and banner image, which establishes professionalism and reinforces the company’s branding.
- The title of the project, which clearly states what the scope of work is for (“Website Redesign”).
- The business name and address (FROM) and the client’s name and address (TO).
- A clear structure, incorporating each important section with a natural and easy-to-scan flow.
- An easy-to-understand fee summary.
Why is this better? It’s crystal clear, easy to read, and looks professional. But that’s not all. If your client is happy with the scope, they can accept it from within the document. No need for unwieldy email chains or time-consuming back-and-forths.
How to create scope of work templates using Bonsai?
Easy as pie. Bonsai makes creating, saving and sending SOW templates simple. Here’s how:
Create an account
First, set up a Bonsai account. The only information you need to enter is your name and email address.
Once you’ve signed up, you’ll arrive at this screen:
Click on "create a contract"
Next, click on “Create a contract” from the options in your freelance workspace, and you’ll be able to create your new SOW template.
Make sure to select “Blank Contract”
Choose “Blank Contract” to build out your Scope of Work template.
Build your scope of work
The contract template will open, and you can then build your scope of work. First, you can add a logo and banner to show off your brand to the client. Then you can add the necessary information:
Use the Quick Insert button (+) to add sections and build out your template:
Choose more options from the drop-down menu, like duplicating the template or downloading it as a PDF:
Sign your scope of work
When your SOW is ready, click “Sign Contact”. That brings you to a confirmation page where you can add your signature. Then you simply click CONFIRM SIGNATURE:
Once signed, you’ll see the option to send the SOW:
Finally, once sent, you can track the SOW in your dashboard and see if it’s been accepted.
Using Bonsai is simple and intuitive. Let us make your life easier while you focus on the work that you love.
Sign up for your free trial and send your first SOW today.
Bonsai vs generic scope of work templates
While it may be free (and time-consuming) to download an online scope of work template, customize it, fill it out, and send it, you really do get your money’s worth when you use Bonsai to handle your SOWs (and all those other admin tasks).
Having worked with over 150,000 freelancers over the years, we’ve found that they all agree on the same thing: you’ll waste countless hours dealing with client conflict and scope creep if you use a generic scope of work template.
If you’re serious about your freelance or consulting business, it’s time to take your project management to the next level.
Here’s what you get for spending $19 / month on Bonsai:
Create, customize and send great-looking SOWs in minutes.
Add your logo and branding, and impress clients with a streamlined software solution.
Add, move, or remove sections in seconds.
Get notifications when clients view or accept your scope of work.
Optimize automatic reminders by choosing the right time to email each client.
Add single or multiple options to your scope of work that your clients can choose from automatically.
Never stop selling! Offer your clients the chance to upgrade on certain elements of your solution.
Make accepting as easy as possible with electronic-approval.
At Bonsai, we recommend ALL freelancers to protect their time like it’s the most important thing in the world. Otherwise, it’ll consume you.
How to write you own scope of work template
Writing a scope of work template takes time and discipline. And it should — it’s one of the most important documents (beyond a contract) that a freelancer can use with a client.
To that end, we recommend avoiding any temptation to rush writing it.
Creating an SOW template can be a lot of work, but there are a few benefits to pacing yourself and making sure you’re covering all the bases:
- You’ll refine your approach to project management;
- You’ll remember things you may have otherwise forgotten to highlight;
- And you may find opportunities to adjust the budget and/or timeline in your favor.
What’s more, by providing your client with the right level of detail, you can offer reassurance that things will run smoothly and that you can be trusted to deliver the solution you pitched in the first place.
Other scope of work template categories
Running a freelance business means embodying a number of different roles. And being your own project manager and finance director — in addition to being a designer, developer, or writer — takes time and energy.
Those all-important admin tasks, in particular, tend to steal time away from your more enjoyable creative work.
But if you don’t nail down your approach to the scope of work, you run the risk of your projects veering out of control.
Using a streamlined online SOW system can free up precious time for other tasks while making sure that you stay on track with your bill-paying work. It also shows professionalism on your part and builds trust and confidence in your abilities.
So, now that you know why scope of work templates matter — and how Bonsai can help you make it easy — we’ve only got one thing left to say: Your 14-day free trial is waiting!