Scope Your Work

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Updated September 19, 2022
Art for Money

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Often omitted from a proposal, to the detriment of everyone involved, is the scope of work, or SOW.

Sometimes the SOW is present, but lacking. Your SOW should be broken into two sections:

  • Scope In is the list of services that the client is asking for.

  • Scope Out is the list of services that you are capable of, but the client is not currently asking for.

As you likely already know, there’s a 75% chance that the client does not know what services they need at the time of hiring you, and to save money, are erring on the side of “as few as possible.” This is OK with you, because you’re equipped to deal with the panic that will arise a few weeks into the project, when the client realizes they need more of your services. You say: “No problem! Let’s revisit the SOW, and we’ll work this out.”

You can now sit with the client and move the additional services from “Scope Out” to “Scope In,” and kindly explain the cost of each service. That cost, of course, is now a bit higher than it would have been if the client had asked for them as part of the original package. (It’s best to explain this at the beginning, not right now.) The reason for this is that you are now in a rush.

As Seth Godin says, “panic costs extra,” so you need a standard “rush fee” ready to apply whenever a client adds work without adding time. It’s not because we’re mad that the client added work—we love work! But losing sleep in order to deliver your best work should be an exception, not a norm.

The purpose of “Scope In” and “Scope Out” is to give your client the chance to order all the services they need up front, rather than waiting until the end to pile on. You’re doing this to help yourself (to avoid panic, or at least be compensated for it) and to help the client (giving them a fair chance to reduce their cost and their stress).

In many cases, it’s difficult for the client to foresee every single service that they will need, and flexibility on your part is always expected and appropriate. Being clear about this upfront will plant an understanding in the client’s memory that, although they are perfectly welcome to do this, it will cost money, and that’s OK because it’s agreed and understood beforehand.

If the client requesting a late-add of services is a friend or a VIP who, for whatever reason, you feel should get those additional services for free, no problem! Still, you will ceremoniously move the additional services from “Scope Out” to “Scope In,” list the price for each service, cross out the price, and itemize each service at $0 as “complimentary.”

It’s important for your client to know that these services are valuable. It won’t be OK for them to pay you a flat fee and then milk you limitlessly for the term of your contract. They know this deep down, but they need your SOW to show them. They will appreciate the education and they will appreciate being in the hands of a professional.

Final Fees

The very end of the proposal is a short list of the fees we haven’t addressed yet.

Day Rate and Hourly Rate

The likelihood of a client causing this project to go overtime is high, and you do not want to eat that cost. That’s why you have a day rate in your back pocket—the amount of money you require for a full day of dedicated overtime work. (If the work takes the majority of a day, you’ll charge your day rate. If it takes less, you might bill a half day.)

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