What Is a Statement of Work (SOW)? With Examples

June 11, 2024

A statement of work (SOW) is like a recipe for a project. It lists all the ingredients (or tasks) and steps needed to complete the work, telling everyone involved what to do and when to do it. It’s the baseline for a successful final product.

But like a recipe, a good or bad SOW can make or break a project. Without distinct instructions, deadlines, and milestones, people might feel lost or start creeping over the original scope. 

Here’s how to write a clear, effective SOW as an independent contractor. 

What Is a Statement of Work?

In business, SOW means a document that outlines the details of a project, including tasks, timelines, and deliverables. This document helps everyone involved understand the details and scope. While the contract itself describes the legal agreement behind the project, the SOW dives deeper into the details.

Before creating an SOW, you need to gather all the necessary information. This includes the client’s needs, the scope of the work, and any specific requirements. It should also outline deliverables or expected milestones to see if the project is progressing as planned. 

The SOW also defines the acceptance criteria for those deliverables. For example, if you’re building a website for a client, the SOW might say that the website has to have five pages. With those details in writing, both you and the client can make sure the work meets the agreed-upon standards.

An SOW makes sure that everyone, from team members to stakeholders, is on the same page throughout the process. It reduces misunderstandings and conflicts. And it helps projects wrap up on time and within budget, leading to better outcomes.

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Statement of Work Versus Scope of Work

The scope of work is a part of the SOW. It describes the specific tasks and activities needed to complete the project. The goal is to make sure the client doesn’t ask for more than what you agreed on.

The main difference between an SOW and a scope of work is their level of detail. The SOW includes everything—from goals to administrative details like payment terms and legal obligations. But the scope of work focuses more on the “what” of the project rather than the “how.” 

For example, for a website development project, the scope of work would list tasks like designing the front end and creating the pages. If the client asked that you also set up an ecommerce system, you could point to the scope and let them know it wasn’t part of the plan. From there, you can either refuse the extra tasks or agree to change the SOW to include more compensation. 

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How To Write a Statement of Work 

meeting with client to agree on sow

Here’s everything you need to include in a SOW:

1. Introduce the Project

Start by introducing the project. Write a quick summary of the basic expectations and who is involved. This shows its scope and goals at a glance.

2. Define the Vision

Next, define the project’s vision. What’s the goal? Who benefits? Make sure everyone understands the purpose and expected outcomes.

3. Set the Project Requirements

List all the requirements for the project, including deliverables or final products and what they should look like. If there are many things to deliver, it helps to itemize them.

4. Define the Scope

Clearly define the project’s scope. What’s included, and what isn’t? This prevents scope creep and keeps the project on track.

5. Set the Deadline 

Set a clear deadline for the project. When does the project need to be completed? Having a timeline helps keep everyone focused and ensures the project stays on schedule.

6. Allocate Key Resources

Identify and allocate the key resources needed for the project. Will you complete the project alone, or do you need staff? What tools and materials are required? Do you already have them, or does the client need to cover a purchase? Getting the right resources is crucial for project success.

7. Create the Schedule

Create a detailed schedule for the project. Break down the work into smaller tasks and set deadlines for each one. It also helps to create a plan in case anything runs behind schedule.

8. Specify the Terms of Payment and Due Dates

Clearly outline the payment terms and due dates. How will the client pay you, and when? This keeps things transparent and helps avoid payment disputes.

9. Include Special Requirements

Include any special requirements for the project. These might be specific standards, certifications, or security measures that need to be met. 

10. Accept and Sign

Finally, get all parties to sign the agreement. This makes the SOW legally binding and confirms everyone agrees to the terms and conditions.

Statement of Work Example 

Here’s an example of a short SOW for a web development project. Use this example as a statement of work template for your own business. 

Website Development for ABC Bakery

ABC Bakery needs a new website to showcase its products, accept online orders, and share its story. Developer Natalie Berkeley will design and launch a user-friendly website. The developer will not be responsible for upkeep after launch.

This project aims to create a modern, responsive website for ABC Bakery, enhancing its online presence and sales. The vision is to have a website that is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and integrates with its existing inventory and order systems.

Requirements include: 

  • A homepage
  • 12 product pages
  • An online ordering system with secure payments
  • A blog section
  • A contact page
  • Mobile capabilities
  • Compliance with ADA accessibility standards 

The project will start on June 1, and must be completed by August 31 by 5 PM EST. 

The schedule includes milestones such as: 

  • Wireframe approval (June 15)
  • Design completion (July 15)
  • Development completion (August 15)
  • Final testing and launch (August 31)

The developer will accept no more than two revisions per milestone.

Payment will be divided into three installments: 30% upfront, 40% after design completion, and 30% upon project completion.

Client signature and date: 

Freelancer signature and date: 

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7 Tips to Make a Great Statement of Work

handshake with client after sow agreement

Here are some tips to help you write a clear and comprehensive SOW.

  1. Be Clear and Thorough. Spell out every detail, no matter how small, to avoid confusion. Use straightforward language to make the SOW understandable to both technical and non-technical readers.
  2. Introduce Critical Stakeholders and the Project. Clearly state who is involved and their roles. This establishes accountability from the start because every stakeholder knows which tasks they’re responsible for. 
  3. Include Examples and Practical Advice for Clarity. Providing concrete examples can illustrate expectations and deliverables, making it easier for all parties to understand the objectives.
  4. Prepare the SOW in Advance. Start early to allow ample time for thorough preparation. Rushed documents can lead to oversights and misunderstandings. 
  5. Be Consistent. Use consistent terminology throughout the document. Repetition is better than confusion in contract language.
  6. Include Procedures. Outline processes for making decisions and handling changes during the project. For example, if you’re creating custom jewelry and the client doesn’t like the original design, you might offer a second option as part of the scope. After that, they have to pay for additional changes.
  7. Include All Relevant Reference Documents. Ensure that any referenced materials are understood and accessible to all. If the client includes a link to their brand guidelines, make sure you can access it before signing the SOW.

Set a Standard of Work With Invoice Simple

A well-crafted SOW sets the stage for successful project execution. This reduces the risk of disputes and ensures the project’s completion. But even after smoothing out the process of your project, the overhead can still be hard to track.With Invoice Simple, tracking expenses has never been easier. The business expense and receipt tracker lets you scan any receipt and capture key info in no time. All your expense data is ready to export into a summary report whenever you need it.

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