How to write an effective statement of work

Seal the deal

Writing an effective statement of work is crucial if you want to make sure that the work is performed according to specific guidelines as well as define the responsibilities and expectations of both parties involved in a project. It’s a necessary part of the project and contract management that helps protect both you and your client from potential legal issues.

In this article, we’ll explain what a statement of work is, how and why it’s used, what should be included, and how to write an effective statement of work to protect you from potential issues.

What is a statement of work?

A Statement of Work (or SOW) is a document used between you and your client, buyer or government agency that defines guidelines and expectations that will guide the project execution. It typically includes the scope of work, project objectives, timeline, deliverables and other information needed for both parties to have a clear understanding of how the project and work will be done.

Why and how should you use an SOW?

An SOW should be used in any project where you or your business is using contractors or collaborators outside of your internal team. SOWs are also used when the work required for a specific project can or should be described according to specific instructions.

An SOW usually accompanies a Request for Proposal and can even help you outline your RFP when you take the time to prepare it in advance.

However, keep in mind that the SOW should be sent to a potential client or collaborator after the terms and guidelines for the project have been agreed upon.

Once you’ve delivered your statement of work along with other documents, it can prevent any conflicts during the contract negotiation stage and set the tone for the project execution.

What should a statement of work include?

Statement Of Work Notebook

As we’ve mentioned earlier, a statement of work should include the scope of work, performance outcomes, metrics and other guidelines. In particular, your SOW should include the following:

An introduction

Use the introduction to clearly define the type of work to be performed. You’ll also want to identify the parties involved in the contract.

Scope of work

In this section, provide an outline for the tasks and work to be performed and describe the processes that will be used.

Project objectives

Make sure your SOW includes why the project is being done in the first place and why it’s important to complete it. You’ll make this section more effective if you focus it on the client.

Timeline

You’ll also want to include how long the project will take along with any key milestones.

Tasks and deliverables

If necessary, you can use the tasks section to go into more details on specific things you expect. List all the deliverables that you will provide the client with so they have a clear expectation of what they are getting once the project is completed.

Payment

Use the payments section to outline the pricing for the work you’re contracted to perform and explain the payment schedule. You’ll want to include the entire cost of work such as outside labor, materials and any other expenses that may occur during the project duration.

Expected outcomes

Lastly, you’ll want to include the agreed upon outcomes for both parties and describe which metrics will be used to determine whether or not the project was completed successfully.

Your SOW can also include terms and conditions of the project, specify the requirements, and outline necessary conditions under which the work will be performed.

Six tips for writing an effective statement of work

Now that we’ve covered what a statement of work is and what should be included in it, let’s go over tips that will help you write an effective statement of work each and every time.

1. Use clear language

Make sure your SOW uses clear and precise language to avoid any possible confusion. For example, terms like “reasonable” or “minimum” can lead to potential problems as each person has a different definition of what reasonable or minimum is.

2. Brainstorm first

Before you sit down to write a statement of work, take a few minutes to determine what needs to be included. This will help you determine which details can be negotiated later and identify which additional features will need to be added to the project.

Statement Of Work Brainstorm

3. Use consistent terminology

Make sure to use consistent terminology throughout your SOW. This will help avoid confusion and eliminate the need for extra questions and explanations.

4. Define success and failure

Ensure that your statement of work defines what metrics will be used to determine whether a project was successful or not. Those metrics can be included along with the objective of the project or they can be included in the SOW section that describes the expected outcomes.

5. Include time for revisions

You’ll also want to make sure to include plenty of time for revisions in your project timeline. Define the start and end time of the project and any milestones that will require feedback from the client. This will help you ensure that the project is always on track and give the client peace of mind that you are meeting their specifications.

6. Be concise

Lastly, be concise. Your statement of work is usually accompanied by other documents mentioned earlier in this article such as an RFP, Terms and Conditions, contract and more. This means that any additional details will be included in those documents so there is no need to repeat them in your SOW.

Win more clients with an effective statement of work

An effective statement of work can help you seal the deal after your Request for Proposal has been sent. Use the tips in this article to come up with a statement of work outline that will help you win more clients.

The above content should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.

Image by: Mariana B. on Unsplash

Brenda Barron
Brenda Barron is a writer from southern California specializing in technology and business. When not hunkered over her laptop, she’s spending time with her family and knitting.