Scope of Work 101: Definition, Examples, and Template

How to write an effective scope of work for any creative project.

Scope of work definition

A scope of work is the document that summarizes project tasks, assignments, and deliverables, and is an invaluable tool in project management.

According to the Project Management Institute, one of the top five reasons for project failure is poor planning. In fact, organizations waste about $97 million for every $1 billion invested, due to this poor planning.

Producing an effective scope of work can guarantee that projects are properly planned and outlined, resulting in less wasted revenue and a higher rate of efficiency.

Read on to find out how to write a scope of work, as well as an example and a scope of work template!

What is a scope of work?

A scope of work is an agreement of the services you will provide and deliver in your creative project. It brings together all the most important elements of your project foundation, including tasks, assignments, and deliverables. They define what needs to be done in order to reach the project goal.

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Statement of work vs. scope of work

A statement of work (SOW) is an all-encompassing document that lays a foundation for your creative project. The contents include goals, timelines, schedules, payment agreements, etc. But most importantly, your SOW consists of a scope of work.

When it comes to the difference between SOW and scope of work, there is a debate within the creative industry. Some argue that they’re identical documents, and others allege that they’re interconnected but still different.

We like to think of it like this: a scope of work is a section within your statement of work. Your SOW lists out all the criteria to make a project successful and your scope of work describes how exactly you’ll accomplish this. For example, if the project goal is to redesign a website, then the scope of work might include detailed information on how to create a new sitemap or better map out an ideal user flow. 

Regardless of whether you believe that an SOW and a scope of work are the same or not, we can all probably agree that they both serve a similar purpose, to fulfill the project goals and objectives!

How to write a scope of work

Similar to any design document, every scope of work is unique. Let's dive deeper on the elements that should be included in your scope of work, with examples. Already want to start writing? Try out our easy-to-use scope of work template!

Project Tracker

Keep track of your scope of work with Collato's free Project Tracker.

1. Tasks

It’s no secret that task management is a fundamental part of every creative project, especially if your project consists of multiple or outside teams and clients. That’s why, you’ll need to include a breakdown of your project goal into smaller and applicable steps, or tasks, in your scope of work.

To better understand your project tasks, let’s create a hypothetical situation. Say you’re planning a vacation to Australia (uh, wouldn’t that be nice☀️). What needs to be done?

  • Apply for a visa
  • Book the flight
  • Find an Airbnb
  • Rent a car
  • Plan your daily excursions

These are the things (tasks) that you need to do in order to go on your trip (goal).

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🛑 Make sure you don't confuse tasks with deliverables! Tasks are actions that are completed to make up your project goal, while deliverables are quantifiable work.

2. Deliverables

Deliverables are the end-product or service of your tasks. In other words, it is what your client will receive at the end of the project.

Using our last example, if your task is finding an Airbnb, a deliverable would be the booking confirmation. You completed this task, and there is a quantifiable service or product. The completion of your tasks and the accumulation of your deliverables make up a finished creative project.

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Your deliverables can also be “stacked,” meaning that one deliverable can have its own deliverables. For instance, if the project goal is to build a website, your deliverables might be website wireframe and website mockup.

💡You can combine your schedule from your SOW and your deliverables to get a 360 view of your project.

3. Point of Contact

Another helpful element of a scope of work is point of contact. Who will complete each task? By including a person for each task and deliverable, everyone knows their role in the project, right from the start. This leaves little room for miscommunication and unfinished assignments.

If you use Collato to create your scope of work, you can assign tasks to internals and externals, as well as send reminders so your project is always moving forward.

⚠️ Helpful hint: To really complete a scope of work and tie your whole project together, you also need to complete a statement of work, which includes information about payment, terms, milestones, and schedules. To find out more about what needs to be included, read our guide to writing a statement of work.

Avoid scope creep

Watch out for scope creep, the sneaky way a project transforms from one thing to another. Scope creep is defined as “adding features and functionality without addressing the effects on time, costs, and resources, or without customer approval” (pmi.org). It can be the root cause for wasted money, low customer satisfaction, or unreached project goals.

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While project changes are inevitable, there are a few ways to avoid scope creep.

1. Document everything

Keep a track record of your internal and external interactions, whether that’s through a phone call, an email, or a meeting. This may seem obvious, but if you get word that your client wants to change the logo colors from black to turquoise, the only way your team will know about it is if you document it.

2. Make a schedule

Create a schedule to show any requirements, assignments, or due dates that need to be fulfilled. You and your client can always refer back to this schedule to make sure the project is on its way.

3. Get sign offs

Make sure your scope of work (and better yet, your statement of work) is signed off by all participating parties. If you notice a client asking for something more than what was agreed upon, then you can deny the task or create a new project that incorporates it.

That being said, it’s important to add a section within your scope of work called 'out of scope.’ You can add any small assignments or tasks to this section that don’t fit the initial agreement. You can then make a new project or write up a new contact with your client.

Write your scope of work with Collato

Writing a scope of work can be pretty dang difficult, especially since it’s such a vital document to your project success. Collato provides you all the tools you need to successfully create a scope of work that fits your individual project. Beautiful schedules, timelines, and task assignments are just the beginning. With Collato, you can take notes, make comments, and record video presentations to get everyone on the same page.

Oh, and don’t forget that you can view every version of a project so you can look back on past feedback and changes. This eliminates any chance of scope creep. 🎉

If you’re nervous about creating a scope of work from scratch, we have a template to help you along. It’s 100% customizable and it will fit any and every creative project. Try it out!


Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about scope of work

What is a scope of work?
A scope of work is the document that summaries the tasks, assignments, and deliverables of a creative project. This document is used to clearly map out the services you will provide for a project from start to finish, and is given to clients at the start of the contract.
What does scope of work mean?
Scope of work is a term used to describe the document containing key details of a project. It is often used interchangeably with the term "statement of work," although many argue that a statement of work should contain a scope of work as part of the document.
How do I write a scope of work?
A scope of work should contain the goal of the project broken down into tasks, as well as the deliverables which will be provided at the end of the project. A point of contact is another helpful element to include in your scope of work, which lists who is responsible for each task. To write a scope of work, try using our scope of work template, which is linked above.
What is an example of a scope of work?
You can find a great example of a scope of work in Collato's ready-made template.