Regardless of the industry, businesses and freelancers frequently undertake new projects, sometimes simultaneously. In fact, nearly 60% of project managers run between two and five projects at once. Thankfully, there are several project management tools available to help you ensure project success. This includes a scope of work document.
Here at Indy, we understand managing a new project and maintaining steady progress through every step of the process can be challenging. In this comprehensive guide, we'll take you through the various stages of creating a scope of work so you can effectively manage a project that keeps all parties involved on the same page from day one.
What is a scope of work and why is it important for freelancers and clients?
Typically written after closing a sale with a client, but before you begin the work, a scope of work is an agreement between yourself and the client detailing what must be done in order for the project to be successful and complete.
A scope of work is an incredibly useful project management tool that ensures that all parties are on the same page from day one.
Here are some reasons you should use a scope of work for your next project:
- It encourages collaboration between project members and clients on objectives, milestones, and schedules. This helps establish the project's tone from day one and guarantees openness, efficient communication, and that all partners agree.
- It helps you effectively keep track of your project's timeline. This helps you keep on top of your project's progress, and prevent backlogs and conflicts with other ongoing projects.
- Allows all parties involved an opportunity to access all the project's information and clearly understand what is required from whom and when.
In summary, a scope of work is a formal document clearly outlining project tasks that keeps all parties involved on the same page from day one.
What are the main elements of a scope of work document?
What information you include in your scope of work depends on the industry you work in. However, there are several important details that must be included no matter the project.
- Adoption plan
We'll break down each element and the basic requirements further in the article!
Should you use a scope of work template?
No matter your industry, there are many scope of work templates available. Having a scope of work template can guide you through the process and requirements, which is helpful for writing one yourself.
By using a template, most of the work is already done for you - all you need to do is fill out the sections with your project details. Here's some you can use for creating yours.
What Is a Scope of Work Document?
A scope of work document is a project management tool used to define and share important business considerations and project goals. Typically, a scope of work explains what the project will include and exclude, project objectives, requirements, and an outline of how these will be fulfilled.
The typical requirements of a good scope of work document include:
- An outline of the project goals and tasks
- A clear project schedule that works for all parties involved
- A list of the project deliverables
- A list of the project's main stages
Scope of work vs statement of work
A statement of work is a detailed legal document that explicitly details a project's plan and expected deliverables, typically including:
- Project introduction and overview
- Project objectives
- Scope of work
- Estimated or final costs
- Payment terms
A statement of work comprises 13 sections, each covering a specific aspect of a project. Depending on your project, and your industry, a statement of work can have fewer or more sections.
A scope of work is a section in the statement of work. A statement of work is much more thorough, and details everything relating to a project. The scope of work outlines the project's work, deliverables, and objectives - and how these will be fulfilled.
Some clients require a statement of work (in which the scope of work is included), while others may only require a scope of work detailing what must be done in order for the project to be successful and complete.
Different types of scope of work documents
Before we go into writing a scope of work document, it's important to consider some of the different types and what they mean:
Fixed price contract
A fixed price contract is a project delivery method in which the contractor or freelancer agrees to deliver a scope of work for a pre-agreed price. This is regardless of the duration or actual costs of the project. This means the freelancer or contractor has more control over the project management, and the client benefits from having a fixed budget.
A fixed price contract is a good option for projects that have a precise scope of work and very little uncertainties. For example, a fixed price contract is more common in content writing jobs (where project requirements are precise and costs are easy to determine beforehand) than in construction jobs (where requirements and costs involved are more complex).
Fixed-price contracts can provide transparency, certainty, and accountability for both the client and contractor.
Time and materials contract
Time and materials contracts define the scope of a project, but are not limited in time. They establish material pricing and hourly labor rates, and the client is invoiced at those rates for the number of hours and amount of material necessary to execute the job. Time and materials contracts typically include a maximum price in the form of a "not-to-exceed" provision to protect project owners.
When to Use a Scope of Work Document
A scope of work serves as the cornerstone of a well-planned project and can aid in its execution. This document can assist your team and project stakeholders in reaching an agreement on project requirements and identifying possible risks that could prohibit the project from being completed successfully and on schedule.
There are several situations when a freelancer may benefit from using a scope of work, these include:
- Working with a new client: If you are working with a client for the first time, you may benefit from writing a scope of work to establish the requirements and client expectations. Every client is different, and some may have higher standards considering what is an acceptable final product. By providing a new client with a scope of work, you guarantee efficient communication, openness, and a formal agreement.
- Avoiding misunderstandings: Misunderstandings within project teams are not uncommon. This typically occurs because of improperly defined project goals and expectations. A scope of work document reduces this risk. By clearly defining the project's timeline, deliverables, and tasks, all parties will clearly understand how the project will be managed.
- Negotiating the terms and conditions of the project: By negotiating the terms and conditions of a project before work begins, it provides clarity about what should happen in any situation during your project's timeline. It also helps team members understand their rights, roles, and responsibilities from day one.
How to Write a Scope of Work Document
Here we have provided a step-by-step guide on how to write a scope of work document, and what you'll need to include:
Step 1 - Gathering requirements and specifications
No two projects are the same, so it makes sense that the first, and most important, step in this process is gathering your client's requirements and specifications. This information will go in the project overview section of your scope of work.
Here are some tips for gathering requirements and specifications:
Begin by identifying all project collaborators, which may be external or internal. Other roles to consider during this phase include designers, testers, project manager, administrators, and developers.
Meet with the stakeholders
Meeting with stakeholders and asking them what their needs are for the project can help determine the project's goals, timeframes, and resources. To begin, you need to comprehend the overall scope of the project. What is the key purpose here for the client? Has the client attempted to develop this solution before? If that's the case, why do they believe it failed? Is the client already aware of the problem that the solution will solve?
You want to understand not just what the client's aim is, but also what the client wants and needs from the project.
Collect and document the information
When discussing the goals and requirements with stakeholders, make sure you write everything down. This information will then be transferred to your scope of work document.
Step 2 - Establishing timeframes and milestones
Now that we have our project requirements and client needs, it's time to establish a timeframe and milestones.
The first part of this step is to establish your project's milestones. Milestones are the most important phases in your project's timeline, and each one should help the development of your project - from start to completion. It's important to note that your milestones should tie up with your client's requirements and specifications.
For example, let's say you have been hired to design and develop a website for a new banking company. Your client specified that the major requirement for the project is that users need secure access to their online banking. Working from this, your milestones could include:
- Initial design of website based on client's requirements of user friendly functionality
- Initial development
- Review from the client
- Final development
- Internal review and revisions
The second part of this step is to establish a timeframe. Here's how you can do this:
Organize the Project Scope - Examine and detail all the actions that must be taken in order to execute the project successfully. This includes the milestones and tasks. Now, assign these to individual team members.
Estimate How Much Time per Task - Once you've determined who will do each step, you'll need to estimate how long each activity will take. It is critical to assign a suitable amount of time, while not overestimating, in order to maintain a successful project timetable.
Define Task Dependencies - Mapping out potential dependencies before any work begins will save you time in the long run. This allows for appropriate completion time for each phase and helps to avoid a backlog.
Build the Project Timeline - The final stage is to actually build the timeline. Begin by deciding on a timeframe—days, weeks, or months, depending on how long you think the project will take to finish. Then, in order of importance, time estimates, and dependencies, begin adding jobs and stages.
Some tips to remember during this step include:
- Be specific
- Be realistic
- Be timely
- Stay within budget
Step 3 - Agreeing on costs and fees
The next step is agreeing on costs and fees with your client. As mentioned in the "What Is a Scope of Work Document?" section, there are two common types of contracts - fixed price, and time and materials. In this section, we'll provide a brief breakdown of what you should consider for each, and some tips for agreeing on costs.
If your client offers a fixed price contract, this may be the most suitable option for your project. Fixed prices are common in content writing, photography, and other freelancing jobs where project requirements are precise and costs are easy to determine beforehand. For example, if you're a content writer, costs for materials and tools are irrelevant - you typically have all required materials such as a laptop or writing software beforehand.
However, you are still allowed to charge for your time. If you feel your client is underpaying you for the service (e.g. a lengthy project comprising several articles, but paying you a fixed price equivalent to one article), here are a few tips for negotiating terms:
- Be professional and show your client that you are a quality freelancer
- Do your pricing homework - if needed, reach out to freelancer communities for advice
- Show your client that you understand their needs
- Have a price range in your mind
- Firmly but fairly state your asking price to the client
Time and materials
Time and materials contracts establish material pricing and hourly labor rates, and the client is invoiced at those rates for the number of hours and amount of material necessary to execute the job. In your scope of work, you need to include an estimated cost of your project.
In order to estimate the cost of a project, you need to break the project down into specific tasks and determine which team members will be responsible for what. This would have been completed in section two.
The method of estimating project costs is divided into five steps:
- Make a list of the tasks and the resources needed to fulfill them.
- Determine and assign resources to tasks depending on your team's capabilities.
- Estimate the work duration to establish a project timeline (with considerable wiggle room).
- Calculate the project cost using the estimating technique of your choice.
- Track budgets in real-time by using project cost estimating tools.
Remember, these are estimated costs and not the final price. When negotiating terms with your client, you want to establish a price that works for both parties.
Step 4 - Writing out the contract
The next step is writing out your scope of work. Make sure you use clear and specific language, address all the project's key information, and avoid scope creep.
Scope creep occurs when a project's completion requirements exceed the project's original criteria. When this happens, the project risks being completed late, beyond budget, and of poor quality.
The next section of this guide goes into greater detail about each section, and what you should include.
Step 5 - Review before signing
As with any project, the final step is to review your scope of work document before you and your client sign. There might be more negotiations during this stage, so remember to work with the client to establish an agreement that works for all parties involved in the project.
What's in a Scope of Work Document?
Typically, there are eight sections in a scope of work document, these are:
- Adoption plan
Here, we'll briefly go through each division separately to determine what must be included.
As with any report, your scope of work begins with an introduction. In this section, you want to summarize the project and its purpose. You also want to identify the parties involved (such as the client, the contractor, and the project team).
In summary, this section of the document aims to focus on the problem that the project is meant to address. It should explain how the undertaking of the project will lead to the problem's execution.
Since introductions rarely last longer than a paragraph, try to be as concise as possible when writing this section.
The aim of this section is to briefly summarize the project's aim that aligns with the client's needs and expectations. The most important thing to consider when writing your project objectives is the problem statement. What will the project entail to address the problem?
Typically, this is only one line, and requires no explanation or solution - that's what the rest of the scope is for.
This section lists all the main tasks and activities required to deliver your project objectives. This includes milestones.
Milestones are important stages in your project's timeline, such as development, implementation, and testing. Working from your client's requirements, and your project's goals and objectives, your main tasks should cover the most important stages of your projects development.
The second part of this section is to specify the required resources, skills, and tools for each task. You will also need to explain how the tasks will be executed, monitored, and controlled.
A scope of work document should also include individual tasks. These can be for yourself or team members (if you run a team for this project). These are tasks that need to be completed in order for the project to move to the next milestone.
Essentially, these are sub-tasks for your main tasks and milestones listed in the section above. Include all individual or team tasks in this section, and assign responsibilities and deadlines for each one. You will also need to include the estimated time, cost, and effort for each task and subtask in this section.
This section is the timeline of your project, and you have to make it clear. Your schedule should include every stage of your project. Having a clear schedule and timeline helps you track the project's progress and ensure it is running smoothly.
If your milestones and individual tasks have deadlines, include them in this section as well. Using project management tools such as a Gannt chart, calendar, or timeline software can be incredibly useful for this section.
Whether you provide a service or product, your scope of work document should clearly define each deliverable and the rationale behind them. Deliverables are the outcomes, products, or results that the project should deliver once completed.
There are two types of deliverables:
- Internal - submitted to your own project team members or to a collaborating department if necessary (such as early drafts, designs, progress reports, etc.)
- External - submitted to parties outside of your company, including clients (such as final article or design).
If possible, provide samples or examples of your deliverables.
Including an adoption plan isn't a requirement, but you may choose to include this information if you feel it to be helpful. An adoption plan explains how the project deliverables will be implemented or used by the client or end-users.
The adoption plan is usually towards the end of your scope of work. You will also need to explain any training, maintenance, or support required for your deliverables, and address any potential issues or challenges associated with your adoption plan in this section.
The final section of your scope of work details the roles and responsibilities of each project team member and stakeholders involved. Explain who handles certain administrative tasks or managerial roles, and the communication methods and frequency among project participants.
This section also details how you will monitor the project. This includes how you will resolve any issues, changes, or risks that arise during the project.
How Indy can help
We aim to make freelancing simple, which is why we try to help freelancers from any industry with everything from tax deductions to contracts. For a more thorough breakdown of a scope of work document, how to write one, and extra tips for writing each section, check out our scope of work template.
How Indy Can Help with Your Scope of Work
At Indy, we aim to make freelancing simple. There are several ways Indy can help you with your scope of work:
- Our Calendar tool allows you to schedule meetings, track time, and see your deadlines. It also syncs with your Google Calendar, so you can keep up to date with everything!
- Our Tasks tool helps you easily manage all of your tasks. Filter, search, and pin your tasks on visual boards and lists that also connect with your calendar.
- Use Chats to send messages or share files with clients. Instead of sending multiple emails, our Chats app keeps the conversation flowing and strengthens communication with your clients and project members.
No matter the industry, Indy can help you manage your project all on one platform. Sign up now and try it for yourself!
Regardless of the industry, managing a new project and maintaining steady progress through every step of the process can be challenging. Creating a scope of work can help you effectively manage any project. A scope of work is an incredibly useful project management tool that ensures that all parties are on the same page from day one.
It helps you effectively keep track of your project's timeline and allows all parties involved an opportunity to access all the project's information and have a clear understanding of what is required from whom and when.
For more information on scope of work documents and how to write one yourself, you can check out our guide on how to write a scope of work with templates and examples!