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What Is a Scope of Work?

As a business or organization looking to collaborate with people outside of your own team or as a freelancer, it is always important to have a document known as a scope of work (or, SOW). A SOW helps define the whos, whats, whens, wheres, and hows — becoming a go-to reference for a project. It should bring together things like work details, terms, and expectations to help protect you from additions beyond what your project was initially (also known as scope creep) unless talked over otherwise.

At its core, a scope of work is the foundation between two working parties. It is a working agreement between you or your business and your collaborating partner which could be another business, vendor, contractor, or any kind of client. A well-written SOW is used to make sure expectations are clear and fully agreed-upon, so both parties know exactly what is being done.

SOWs can be a powerful tool as long as it has all the necessary information needed to help guide and structure a project. All scope of work documents vary, but effective ones should always include:

  • Objectives: The objective of the project should be discussed in advance and they should be reasonable and measurable. Reiterating the goal is important, so the objective should be answering: what is the issue you are facing, and/or what do you want to achieve with this project?
  • Statement or Scope of Work: This statement would be what defines the work as completed, encompassing the steps to get you from the start till the end of the project. You should include individual tasks needed to be completed as well.
  • Expected Outcome: This should be the answer to your problem statement.
  • Deliverables: These are what you will be handing off to the client once the project is completed.
  • Schedule: This is where you would set the timeline for the project. It would include things such as milestones or phases, with specific dates for each project to be completed.
  • Price: How much the project is going to cost and how you are going to pay the team.
  • Terms, conditions, and requirements: Defining the terms for the SOW and any other conditions or requirements needed. Be clear in what is included and what is not included in the project.
  • Acceptance: Part of the document that will include you and your representative collaborator’s signature to clearly state both parties are in agreement.

Putting together a comprehensive and clear scope of work document can be hard work, but an effective one can help you establish good working relationships with clients as it is only a resource used to help keep everyone accountable and on task, and only benefit you in completing a successful project.

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