Freelance: What is a Statement of Work?

What is a statement of work? It is “a formal document that captures and defines the work activities, deliverables, and timeline a vendor must execute in performance of specified work for a client.”

So you’ve started your freelance career, why should you have one with a new client? Wait, let me back up a bit. If you’ve worked with a client for a long time and you have a good relationship, you may not need a statement of work. However, if you are starting work for a new client, a statement of work isn’t a bad idea to have. It prevents scope creep (“Can you work on this while you’re doing that?”) And it can save some grief especially legal ones.

So what should a statement of work contain, especially for a freelancer? It should at least contain the following:

  • The deliverables on your end
  • The deadline for the deliverables
  • The number of editorial rounds during the process
  • The resources for the project
  • Number of meetings for each party
  • Where and when the parties will meet
  • Who pays for what – the budget
  • When payment is due
  • Out-of-scope – this means what you will not do and are not responsible for during the duration of this project.

I learnt the hard way. I did some work for a new client a few years ago and didn’t prepare a statement of work. I spent three days writing a 1,500 ghost written piece for the client that really needed at least two weeks and gave the client a good deal. Look, I was new, learn from my mistakes.

I hit my deadlines but guess what happened? I didn’t get paid for 18 months. Eighteen months. I had finally given up when I ran into my client at the bank. She paid me half of what I was owed and paid the second half about a month later. Still, that experience taught me ask and detail all the questions before starting a project.


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