If I am starting out in my field as a freelancer, how can I determine what should be in a scope of work, and how can I decide what is acceptable in the Scope of Work before determining it must be changed?
The Scope of Work is the second essential contract you need signed before you start working; the first is the contract, of course. Let's go over a few small things first:
- You are the expert. Do not forget this. You would not be jumping into freelancing, expecting to make thousands (millions?) of dollars if you didn't know what you were doing. No, this means that taking a "quiz" online makes you a smart realtor; you need experience too. Do not let the customer question your abilities too often, otherwise you will start questioning them yourself, and start looking bad. Again, YOU are the expert.
- Get an understanding of what the client wants. Every client is different, and they all have different needs. If possible, have a tape recorder going as you're talking with them in the meeting, and write down as much information as possible about your project. Include drawings (even on napkins), notes, audio clips, video clips, photos, plans, ANYTHING. No matter how small the detail may be to the client, it could be the difference between a 2 hour job, and a 2 day job.
- Break out the SoW into smaller sections. If you need to, call them Phase I, Phase II, etc. In each phase, describe what needs to be done before that phase and why, and why this phase needs to be done at this time. You should decide which order it gets done in, but have it written down for reference. Do not build the bathroom before building the frame of the house.
- Agree on the scope BEFORE you start working. If the client has questions about what needs to be done, explain to them what they need to know, and nothing else. You need time to get the job done too, but you can't spend 4 days just answering questions before the client says "Yes". When you are meeting with the client, make sure your phone's ringer is off, and you are concentrating on the conversation; you will likely not miss important information this way.
- Do not work until the contract and SoW have been signed and agreed upon. If you are charging a fee upfront, get the money before working.
If this is your first scope of work, I'd recommend a simple Microsoft Word document to start. Write out what you feel needs to be there, then do a role-reversal with a friend/family member: you are the client, and you want Project Y done within this time frame. As the client, what would be your questions? What would be your expectations? There is a lot to be said about role reversal, because it works! If you wouldn't like it if you're pretending to be paying for it, why would the real person paying for it appreciate it?