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Step by step: How to write a scope of work

A scope of work is a document or a clause in a contract that describes a job in detail, including the parties involved, lists of tasks, timelines, deliverables, and costs. In this article, you’ll learn how to write a scope of work that you can use in contracts and proposals.

Two people working on a scope of work

A scope of work thoroughly describes exactly what you are going to do for your client. The scope lists each part of your service as well as the materials used for the job, the steps you’ll take to complete it, the timeline, and the full responsibilities of each party involved in the project.

A good scope leaves no question about what you are being paid to do and how you are going to do it. It should set the expectations for everyone, showing your client what they’ll receive and when. It can be used as a reference in the rare case of disputes afterward. It can also help you to do a good job for your client so you get repeat business.

In this article, you’ll learn step-by-step instructions on how to write a scope of work, or SOW document, for your contracts and business proposals

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What is a scope of work and why is it important?

A scope of work is a document or a clause in a contract that describes what a service provider will complete within a project. Independent businesses can use SOWs to fully describe their work in a service proposal or similar document for their clients.

As part of your sales process, you can use detailed scopes in your proposals to show clients exactly what they can expect to see in the project. Seeing these details laid out in a document can help assure the client and make them feel more confident about moving forward and booking with you.

You can also include the project budget in your SOW, which the client can use for budgeting purposes. Finally, scopes can communicate to clients when they can expect the results of the job.

Once you have a contract with a client, a scope sets the expectations of all parties so there are no surprises. The client can see the project planning in detail. The SOW should detail what will be completed and when. At the same time, you have a plan of action written down that you can easily follow to get the job done.

Pro tip

Be very specific and detailed in your scope so your client is fully informed. Leave no question about how exactly you are going to do the project and when the results will be delivered.

What to include in a scope of work

You can include the following sections in a typical scope of work document or contract clause. They describe the job, the parties involved, the steps you will take to complete the job, the timeline, and the costs. Included are the timelines, materials, and any other obligations you have to finish the project.

1. Project title

This is the first element of a scope document. Write a descriptive title for the project.

2. Parties involved

Include yourself, your clients, and any other vendors or project stakeholders involved.

3. Project objectives

Describe the project requirements and summarize what you are going to do. If you are providing a service, indicate the client’s problem and the solution you’re providing.

4. List of project tasks

List each task step by step. Be descriptive.

5. Project timeline

List out each task and the completion date for each. Also, include the deadline for the entire project.

Will there be any milestones along the way, and will they require approvals from the client? If applicable, mention them and whether the client will be notified.

6. Project deliverables

Deliverables are the different components that will be provided to the client through your work.

7. Project costs

Note any costs that will be incurred through your work, including expenses for items such as materials that may be passed on to the client.

What does a scope of work look like?

Your contracts or proposals may not always look the same, but there will likely be some common elements. These include a scope clause among other common contract clauses. Your scope should appear early in your contract after the basic details of the parties.

Scope of work inside a contract
HoneyBook contract including a scope of work

Example scope

This scope is for a fictional graphic design business.

Title: Designing a new logo, one website banner image, and one advertising background image for [Your Client]


[Your Name],

[Your Partner],

[Your Subcontractors, if any],

[Your Client’s Name]

Project objectives:

To complete a new logo for [Your Client] and design new branding elements such as choosing a brand style with new colors and fonts on website images and advertising.

By the end of the project, [Your Client] will have a new logo and one website banner image that will get attention on [Your Client’s] website and packaging and one image for advertising that will get them noticed in today’s crowded market and stand out in social media content and ads.

All images can go through one revision each before final approval.

List of tasks:

  • Logo redesign
  • Website banner image
  • Advertising background image


  • The logo redesign abstract by June 1, 2023
  • The logo’s final draft will be submitted for approval on June 10, 2023
  • The logo will be completed on June 20, 2023
  • The banner image for the website abstract by June 2, 2023
  • The banner image final draft will be submitted for approval on June 11, 2023
  • The banner image will be completed on June 21, 2023
  • The ad image abstract will be done by June 3, 2023
  • The ad image final draft will be submitted for approval on June 12, 2023
  • The ad image will be completed on June 22, 2023
  • All images emailed to the client by July 5, 2023


After approval, the logo and images will each be delivered as PNG files and SVG vector files in a zipped folder via email by July 5, 2023.


All costs incurred by [Your Name] are built into the overall price of the project.

What can happen without a scope of work?

Imagine a construction project where contractors are trying to build a house without a blueprint or individual tasks. No one would know where to start or how to price out the cost of the house. 

The same is true if you try completing a project without first outlining your schedule, expectations, and boundaries. 

One of the biggest risks is scope creep. Scope creep is what happens when there’s no system in place for sticking to the initial scope of a project. Expectations tend to get larger and larger until a once-achievable project becomes a monumental task. As a result of scope creep, project managers may find: 

  • It’s impossible to meet agreed-upon deadlines because of egregious project schedule expansion, or they have to work overtime to meet deadlines
  • Customers are dissatisfied with the work produced because they expect more
  • They may have to charge clients more money than initially quoted, which risks alienating the clients, or make less money per hour worked than originally intended

Your scope of work also ensures everyone is on the same page about project expectations and payment terms. For example, a freelance writer might charge clients per word written. However, a project scope would outline things like: 

  • Whether they are charging for the exact number of words written (1043 words) or for a range of words (900-1100 words, for example)
  • Whether they count the words before or after any edits
  • Whether there are any edits included, and if so, how many

Having clear project boundaries allows your team to knock client expectations out of the water while managing time effectively. 

How to stick to your scope of work

Once you know how to write a scope of work, the next step is knowing how to stick to it. This means being firm about holding yourself and your clients accountable for the agreed-upon tasks. 

Holding yourself accountable to your scope of work

Once you have your scope of work, you are responsible for keeping the project moving — and that starts with keeping yourself on task. 

Start by outlining how long each project milestone will take you to complete. Remember to include a buffer window of about 20% of the length of the milestone. For example, if the first leg of the project will take you about five days to complete, give yourself six days. If the first leg of a project will take you about a month, give yourself a month and a week. This buffer time helps ensure you meet your deadlines, even when unexpected barriers pop up. 

Once you know how long each milestone will take you, use project management software to set up your timeline and create task reminders to keep yourself and your team on track. A good rule of thumb is to consider three reminders for key milestones: one when you’re supposed to start the task, one about halfway through the task so you can evaluate your progress, and one on the day the task is due. 

Pro tip

With HoneyBook, you can keep track of your project status at a glance and set up automated task reminders to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. 

Holding clients accountable to the scope of work

One of the most efficient ways to hold clients accountable for their portion of a scope of work is by including a written clause in your contract outlining the consequences of clients being late on their contribution. 

For example, if a client is supposed to provide you with information by a certain date and fails to do so, are you still expected to complete your portion of the project within the initial time frame? 

One option is to frame your contract so you always have the same amount of time to do work. For example, you might create project milestones, and instead of giving a particular date by which you’ll complete the milestone, you could instead say, “Within 3 business days of receiving X from the client.” This makes it clear that your ability to stick to your initial deadlines is contingent on the client sticking to theirs as well. 

Another option is to incorporate fees into your project scope. This way, the client knows that, while you’re willing to stick to your initial schedule, you may have to charge extra for your time if their inability to meet deadlines forces you to work late. 

Regardless of which way you choose to hold your clients accountable, it can be a good idea to set up automated email reminders when client deadlines are approaching. This pairs well with other established boundaries and shows you’re willing to take initiative while still holding them accountable to their commitments to you. 

How to use an all-in-one clientflow platform to send proposals and contracts

Ironclad contracts need to be clear and thorough. You don’t want your client scratching their head about what you’re going to do for them. One section of the contract that must be especially detailed, organized, and clear is the scope section. Scopes lay out the services that you are offering and the project details.

Scopes help your client because they get to see a detailed outline of every part of the job they are paying for. And a good scope helps you stay organized and on schedule.

With an effective scope, you and your clients can feel confident that you’ll end up with a successful project. You can count on a more organized workflow, less difficulty when working with clients, and a great client experience overall. 

When your client hires you, send them proposals and legally binding contracts with online software such as HoneyBook. When they can sign the contract, you will get notified so you can start working right away. Then use HoneyBook to send invoices and accept payments. It’s super convenient for everyone!

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