Posted by Minna Boyle on 20 February 2019
Every client is different.
Remembering this is one of the keys to excellent service.
If you’re providing services to clients in any industry – especially creative and consulting services – you can’t just roll out the exact same thing every time.
You need to make sure your services are tailored to your client’s needs and goals.
Which is great – it keeps things exciting!
But what do you do about the legal agreement between your business and your client?
Using A Contract
Having a Service Agreement in place is a great start to maintaining a healthy client relationship.
A Service Agreement sets out the professional arrangement that both you and your customer have agreed on.
And since every client is different, every agreement will be different.
But who wants to go to a lawyer every single time you get a new client? Especially if your services don’t differ that dramatically each time.
For example, if you do marketing consulting services then you will probably cover the same main service areas with each client – things like branding, digital marketing, content strategy etc. However, the specifics of what you will deliver, the timelines and the prices will certainly vary.
The same thing applies if you do IT services, web development, plumbing, landscaping, cleaning or graphic design. The client is different every time, but the general nature of your services and the risks involved normally won’t change.
This is where a Scope of Work comes in really handy.
What is a Scope of Work?
A Scope of Work is a document that sets out the specific details of the service you are providing to your client.
A Scope of Work – also known as a statement of work or SOW – can include different parameters and different levels of detail depending on the requirements of your business or your client.
In general, a Scope of Work will cover things like:
- The client’s details (e.g. name, ABN, email address, registered address)
- The services being provided
- Any deliverables
- The fees for the services
- The commencement date
- The delivery date
You could have other details related to your services, for example whether any equipment or hardware is included, or whether there are any more key dates like a cancellation date.
Writing a clear and specific Scope of Work is really important.
When both you and your client clearly understand what you will be delivering, what the expected delivery is and the price, you minimise the risks of having a costly dispute.
It also prevents clients from asking more and more from you that wasn’t originally intended to be part of the service.
And if it does come to a dispute, you can demonstrate that you and your client had clearly agreed on their expectations.
While the SOW itself is a really important document for communicating your services to your client, it doesn’t give you full legal protection.
A SOW really needs to be part of a comprehensive Service Agreement.
In fact, it’s important that a Service Agreement and a Scope of Work are designed to work together!
How to update your Service Agreement with a Scope of Work
It seems confusing – how can you use the same contract every time but still make sure it includes all the variables that come with each different client?
The trick is to have a well-written contract that is designed specifically for your business and the services you offer.
If you’ve spoken to a lawyer who really understands your business, they should help you prepare a Service Agreement that you can easily update for each client.
Then you can get a Scope of Work document designed to fit together with your Service Agreement.
There are a few ways to do this. The 2 main ways are:
- Have a ‘Scope of Work’ cover page for your contract, with the standard terms and conditions attached behind it.
- Have a Service Agreement that contains the standard terms and conditions and then has a ‘Scope of Work’ attached as a schedule to the agreement.
How ever you do it, your lawyer will be able to make sure it works properly for your business.
Then, you can fill in the blank sections of the SOW each time you get a new client, and send it along with the standard Service Agreement. Voila!
There is a risk that you include things in your SOW that are not covered in your Service Agreement. If you are going to dramatically change the nature of your services or how you conduct your business (e.g. your invoicing or payment system, or cancellation policy), then you should consider getting your Service Agreement updated to reflect these changes.
Most of the time, you’ll be fine to use the same agreement with an updated Scope of Work. It’s simple, clear and gives you legal certainty. Win, win, win 🙂
What to take away…
Knowing how to write a good Scope of Work is a great business skill that will save you from a lot of headaches and arguments with your clients. It’ll also give you confidence that you know the terms of your business back to front – and save you heaps of time too!
To increase your legal protection, it’s best to have a proper contract in place with your clients.
Having a Service Agreement with a Scope of Work is a winning combo! You get the full legal protection you can from your Service Agreement, along with clarity about each different client’s services with the Scope of Work.
If you need help with a Service Agreement, Scope of Work or both – feel free to get in touch with the legal team at Sprintlaw and we’d be happy to assist.