Understanding the Statement (or Scope) of Work

As the on-top-of-it business owner that you are, chances are you have a pretty solid creative services agreement for your customers/clients. During the negotiation/proposal process, you probably include a Statement (or Scope) of Work detailing the work you’ll be doing. These are sometimes called Purchase Orders or other more fun and clever names. For simplicity, we’re going to refer to it as a SOW for the purposes of this article.

No matter the name, this document should be the place where the details of your services live–no, not the details like payment periods and where you go to court if there’s a dispute–because that’s what the services agreement outlines. Confused? We hope not. But either way, keep reading to see what kind of details we think you should be including in your SOWs.

What Services Are You Providing?

We know, this can sometimes be super broad. But try to be specific here and avoid overly general and vague descriptions. The more you can drill down on what you’re doing for your client, the more they will understand the value of your work, and more importantly, it will reduce how much they argue with you that you didn’t do what they expected.

When Will You Deliver Your Services?

By this, we mean your services or deliverables, if you are ultimately agreeing to provide actual deliverables in addition to your services. These should be labeled as “Estimated Delivery Dates”, giving you leeway and flexibility if you don’t deliver on the dates listed. We totally get it: why pigeon hole yourself into specific dates, right? Well, it’s important to provide general dates to keep everyone on the same page and, so long as you list them as “Estimated” in the creative services agreement language, it will give you an escape route if you miss the date.

How Much Does Each Aspect Cost for the Client?

This is oh so important and we know you know that. But listing the cost per service, per expense, per deliverable, and per revision? As lawyers, we don’t see that nearly enough! It’s a great way to avoid disagreements later on.

What Assumption Will the Performance of Your Services be Based on?

If you think this is a weird one, let us explain further. We are referring to things like an assumption that the branding you create will be vetted for infringement by the client’s law firm instead of yours, or the assumption that, although you are creating the website, you won’t be hosting it on your servers. You can see where, if either of those is assumed differently by you and your client, it could be a recipe for a pretty nasty disagreement (and worst case, more expense or less payment for you). Which is, of course, no good!

Who Will Your Point of Contact be?

How many times have you received instructions from 10 people at your client’s office only to find out later, after implementing all of their instructions, that the only person permitted to give you instructions was Bob in the sales department? Designating a specific point of contact and notifying your client that they are the only one that can give you instructions that you have to follow will definitely avoid disagreement over the final product later.

What You Need From Your Client to do Your Work.

If you need your client to deliver any materials, content, direction, approvals, or virtually anything else that you need to do your work, this should make its way into your SOW. If it’s in writing (outside of just an email or text) it will be far easier to point to the requirement and avoid the blame when you were prevented from completing your work due to your client’s failure to do their homework.

Wrapping It Up

Ultimately, all of this might not make it into your SOW, but you should be thinking about each engagement through the lens of what needs to be clear between you and your client. Even better, try thinking like a lawyer when you create your SOW (we know, what a total drag) and trying to think up everything and anything that, if not outlined, could cause issues with the relationship later–and then put that in your SOW.

We realize that most of the time people don’t want to read any more than they have to, but providing a detailed and comprehensive SOW will do everyone a big, big favor in the long run. Need more help? Feel free to reach out to your lawyer peeps for more guidance.

By:  Sam Mazzeo –  05/01/18

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