If you’ve ever been catfished (aka your date is completely different from what they represented to you on Tinder or social media), then you know the importance of being honest and laying all the cards out on the table before you start any endeavor. It’s not much different with web design – neither your clients nor you will be happy on launch day if there was no clear and accurate description of your work at the start. This description is usually referred to as a “Statement of Work”, “Scope of Work”, or just as an “SOW”. It acts as a roadmap of your project, setting forth the expectations of each party and other important information. In this guide, we will take you through what a Statement of Work is, what it should contain and how to write one, some common mistakes made with Statements of Work and will even provide you with a template that will be a great starting point for you in drafting your own Statement of Work. 

What is a Statement of Work?

A Statement of Work is generally defined as the narrative description of a project’s work requirements. It defines specific activities that need to be completed, deliverables, timelines, and other important points. While certain terms may be included in the Statement of Work (for example, the second payment is due upon the completion of the second milestone), an SOW is (or should be) usually accompanied by a Master Services Agreement or a Web Design Contract. The contracts state most of the terms whereas the SOW talks about the actual work that will be performed. 

The best practice is to have a Statement of Work for every project, no matter how small. The SOW should be presented to the client at the time of bidding for the project. If you are unable to fully define the scope of the work at the time of bidding, you should have a drafted SOW by the end of the Discovery phase at the latest. The SOW should be signed by the client, showing their agreement to it. 

You may be thinking to yourself, “I have a good grasp on what this project is and what I need to do. Do I really need to spend my time writing a Statement of Work?” Yes. You may know all of these things, but does your client know them as well? Are you on the exact same page as to what you’ll be doing and when? Clients who are not experienced in your industry may think that you just build a website right on WordPress without any prep work. Imagine their surprise when you bill them for wireframes if you did not disclose this as an important part of your work. You’d be surprised by how many misconceptions there can be in a website design project, from deciding the page layout to adding the graphics. A Statement of Work will help you clarify those misconceptions and will lead to a smoother relationship with your client. Win-win! 

How to write a Statement of Work

Let’s say you’re ready to write a Statement of Work. Where should you start? The following steps should guide you in the right direction: 

  • Step 1: Have a good understanding of exactly what you are going to do. Are you building a website and then providing maintenance? How many pages will the website have? What features will the website have? Are you building from a template or custom coding? 
  • Step 2: Go through the project with a fine-tooth comb, setting forth exactly how you are going to do it. Will you be providing your client with a design guide before working on wireframes? What themes will you be using, if any? What integrations will you be making? 
  • Step 3: Plan a realistic timeline for yourself. See where and how this project fits into your schedule. Do you need to coordinate with the schedules of other coworkers? Are there any events that you are attending or any other projects that may interfere with your schedule? 
  • Step 4: Look at dependencies that may affect your work or your schedule. Do integrations require working with a different company? Are they quick to respond to your questions and support requests? Do you need the approval of the client to move forward to the next stage of the project? Which parts of the project could go wrong if all the parties do not participate? 
  • Step 5: Write down every detail and be specific in exactly what will be happening, how and when. 

Make sure that you are considering every part of the project and that all items listed above are considered. 

Statement of Work checklist

Here are some examples of the items that you may want to put into your Statement of Work: 

  • Goals and general overview of the project; 
  • Number of pages on the website the purpose(s) of each page; 
  • Functionality; 
  • What the client needs to provide to you and when; 
  • What approvals are needed and who will be giving those approvals; 
  • Number of hours the project will take; 
  • Your rate; 
  • Total project cost; 
  • When payments are due; 
  • Timeline; 
  • Check-ins, review sessions and meetings; 
  • Milestones; 
  • Points of contact for both you and the client; 
  • Tools and resources that will be purchased by you or by the client; 
  • Quality assurance – what devices and platforms you will test on; 
  • What must happen prior to launch (e.g. client must provide a Privacy Policy); 
  • Whether you will be providing a staging link to the client; 
  • If you are including maintenance and/or hosting; 
  • Assumptions – what is included in the project and what is not; 
  • Project completion criteria. 

Statement of Work template

When writing important documents such as a Statement of Work, starting may be the hardest part. That’s why we’re including a template Statement of Work in this guide to help you take that first step. Enter your email below to get your copy! 

Download the Template SOW here:

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Don’t forget to change the blank fields with project-specific information and brand it to your needs. Remember, when writing a Statement of Work, the most important part is that you and your client are on the same page as to exactly what work you’ll be doing, how you’ll be doing it and when the client should expect it to be done. Defining the expectations at the beginning of the project will help you foster a wonderful relationship with your client and will help protect you in case something goes wrong. 

Protect yo’ self, 

Team Termageddon