A Proposal And An SOW Are Not The Same Thing!

So many design, marketing, and even web development agencies do not have a clear understanding of a project scope of work vs. a project proposal. Many companies include only one of these in their pitch or never get enough information together to complete both. Others combine the two or otherwise consider them to be one and the same.

I’ll admit, I use to think they were (pretty much) the same thing. At first glance, it looks like they are pretty similar. I probably can get away with skipping the project SOW if I just write a killer proposal, right? I learned the hard way that was not the case.

In fact, most people I know learned about the importance of writing a thorough scope of work the hard way. The majority of agency owners learn by trial and error, which means screwing things up at least a few times. That’s no fun and it’s bad for business. So, I wrote a book. My Comprehensive Guide to Website Design, Web-App, and Development Project Scoping is your free 100+ page guide to what you need to do and how.

That’s the full story. This article is a little intro for you. So, let’s get to it.

What happens if you try to combine a project scope of work with a project proposal?

You might get the client on board and things will probably be going smoothly at first, but odds are your project is in for a bumpy ride. Your proposal might be an attractive introduction to your client, but it’s not going to carry the project forward. In the end, you’re almost surely going to end up pushing back your timeline, running into unexpected costs and hours, frustrating your client and your team, and ultimately making less money than you could have.

Be forewarned!

A project scope is NOT the same as a proposal!

A project proposal helps you win a client.

A project scope helps you stay profitable.

So, let’s see exactly what goes into each of these.

What is a Project Proposal?

A project proposal is:

An attractively designed document summarizing how you will solve one or more problems your client is facing. It also serves as an introduction for your client so they can get a feel for who you are and what you do. This often includes items such as:

  • Recommendations and options
  • Testimonials
  • Confidentiality statement
  • Company values and applicable experience
  • Explanation of processes
  • Estimated costs

This is like a movie trailer. It is an easily digestible, compact, and visually appealing summary of the big picture.

If you’re a designer, or you have one on your team with some free time, you can build your own proposals with Adobe In Design. But, thankfully you don’t have to be a designer to create a beautiful proposal. If you’re looking for a great proposal building tool, there a lot to choose from out there. Our favorite is PandaDocs.

Alright, so that’s the low-down on proposals. So, now what about this project scope, scope of work, statement of work, SOW, or whatever you call it?

What is a Project Scope of Work Document?

Project Scoping is the combined art and science of creating a detailed roadmap, especially for a website, app, or other digital design or development project. It includes exactly how, when, and what work is being agreed upon. It’s crucial to have all the details mapped out and presented in a clear and manageable format before the contract is signed so you know all your costs.

This is a document, most often created by an information architect (fancy). It provides a detailed and complete breakdown of every individual step of a project. This often includes items such as:

  • Expenses for software, materials and other direct costs.
  • Deliverables
  • Milestones
  • Hours and rates for each task
  • A Gantt chart or project timeline
  • An explanation of each team member’s role and responsibilities
  • Payment details and schedule
  • Resources such as inspiration links, screenshots, documents, and other files
  • A summary of what is NOT included in the project

That Sounds Like it Might be a Lot of Work…

Yeah… I won’t lie to you. It’s faster to skip this whole SOW thing. But, I assure you that you’ll make more money and spend less time in the long run if you put in the extra effort on this step.

Though you may write up a preliminary proposal outlining the major goals of a project, you should always write up a scope of work document and review it with your client and your team before starting work on a project. Depending on whether you’ve done a project like this before, this may start with a project scope template.

Writing a project scope might seem like a lot of work, and for a complex or custom project, it may be. But whether you spend 20 minutes or 20 days scoping your project, it’s always worth it. If you wait to sort out the details until after your client has signed a contract, you are going to end up with lost time and money. Not to mention a frustrated client.

If every member of the team follows a detailed plan, the project is more likely to remain on time and on budget – a crucial consideration for turning that hard-won proposal into a repeat client. In short, proposals may win you clients, but proper scoping can help you keep them.

Do you really need a project proposal AND a project scope?

In many cases, yes. However, we have seen a lot of web development agencies and design agencies alike who are able to skip the proposal step with returning clients. And it makes sense. After all, a proposal is more of an introduction to help a client get to know your company and what you offer. A scope document, on the other hand, is project-specific and is not to be skipped, even when working with returning or long-term clients.

While Brainleaf can be used to outline a proposal, it is primarily a project scoping tool. If you or your company tend to take on large projects involving multiple steps, teams, and tens or hundreds or thousands of hours of work – Brainleaf and its scoping tools could make a major difference in your team’s operational productivity. This is especially true if either your team is okay without specialized proposal software or if your budget allows both.

To see a few project scope examples, check out the introduction video on the Brainleaf homepage (link in the green section near the top) or hop over and peruse the Brainleaf Blog. There are also a few screenshots of the program on the feature tour page.

Understanding Your Project Proposal vs. Project Scoping Needs Will Make You More Money

Seriously, it really really will. Knowing the roles of project scoping vs. project proposals, especially for design and development, and even digital marketing projects, helps you sort out what your business needs are so you can focus on what matters to you, your team, and your bottom line. If you have issues or concerns, especially in regards to profitability or efficiency, take a closer look at your processes. Odds are you could be charging more, closing more deals, and getting projects done faster if you spend more time scoping!

Ready? Try scoping with the best. Start using BrainLeaf for free!