What is Statement of Work (SOW)? (It’s Types & SOW Sample)


Say you are a video game company, and you are in need of contracting independent character modelers for your game. As most independent game artists live all over the world, how could you ensure the character was modeled and rigged to your specifications, and delivered on time? The answer is to write a Statement of Work between you and the animator.

A Statement of Work (SOW) is used to keep the project with sync with the initial plan. This is a formal document which is part of the procurement process and often accompanies an RFP, or Request for Proposal. This document serves to ensure that your work does not go off track, or deviate from the original, agreed upon plans. In other words, this document is a contract between those who will perform the work, and those who have hired the workers. A properly written SOW is also legal protection for both you and the vendor should any disputes arise.

If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail

Let’s be clear from the start on one very important issue regarding a SOW: A Statement of Work should never be open to interpretation. If it is, then you risk not obtaining your true vision for the project. For instance, if you do not make specific dates for milestones clearly known to your vendor, then you could find yourself going past a vital deadline, which means catching up could mean more money spent. Also, if you are not clear on the exact materials to be used, then the vendor can purchase what they like, and it might not be up to specifications. Finally, if you do not specifically dictate process, both time and money will be lost in ‘do overs’. By not creating a solid SOW, you risk the project becoming a mess, and arguments between client and vendor will ensue.

As can be seen, an effective Statement of Work serves as a detailed plan to ensure your success. This document is designed to help you determine what will be needed for your project to succeed. The SOW needs to be as detailed as possible in accordance with the project. A Statement of Work includes all deliverables, milestones, important dates which a vendor must complete for their client. There is no set rule as to what will be included in a SOW, since it depends on the individual project. In general, your SOW should include the following elements:

  • Deliverables
  • Milestones
  • Place of performance
  • Duration of work
  • Acceptable criteria
  • Scope of work •Expenses

Three Basic Types of SOW

SOW’s can be one of three basic types: Detail, performance, level of effort. Which type of SOW is used is usually the preference of the company’s project manager. Some managers careers depend on the exact procedure, process and materials used, while others do not. Whichever category your project falls under, you are free to choose between one of the three. In our ongoing example of the ACME Game Studio, they would use the Performance based SOW, as it is the vendor who shoulders the majority of the responsibility for the project.

Design/Detail SOW

This SOW alerts the vendor to how you want the work done based on exact details. For instance, how many pounds of mortar will be used, quality controls involved, exact materials required. The vendor understands he/she must comply with completing the project exactly as specified by you, they cannot interpret, they cannot substitute, they cannot do as they see fit in any way. This type is used when the client holds the majority of the responsibility, not the vendor.

Level of Effort SOW

This SOW is designed to be applied to any project. Basically, you are concentrating on the hours involved in completing the work, and supplies needed to complete the work. For example, you’d select this SOW if you are involved in a project which pays workers by the hour. So, it would concern hours worked and materials used.

Performance Based SOW

This is for the manager who is not concerned with the details of getting the job done, just as long as it conforms with company or government rules/regulations, you’re good. This type is used in projects where it is the vendor which bears the brunt of the responsibility. The vendor is totally responsible for the quality of work provided as well as the materials and process. Here, end result is more important than the process used.

What Determines Success or Failure?

Goals or objectives are at the heart of your project, so you want to ensure they are as detailed and specific as possible before the project begins. When you are not specific enough, you risk your vendor assuming that he/she is responsible for interpreting much of the SOW. Thus, the SOW functions to alert both parties to what elements contribute to a successful project, and what elements contribute to a non-successful project.

Both client and vendor must settle on what the acceptable criteria will be for a successful project. In our example, it is the responsibility of ACME Games to state the acceptable criteria clearly, so the animator is not left with a vague sense of purpose. For instance, ACME needs to state that a successful character model will have 500 polygons, and an unsuccessful model will have more than 500. When you alert the vendor to what you think is a successful project, you end up saving both time and money.

Statement of Work in Agile

Today, more and more companies are adapting the Agile method of project management. The Agile method of writing a Statement of Work, is slightly different than the standard Statement of Work. In Agile, it is recommended that maintaining excellent communication and collaboration with the client out weighs the Statement of Work contract itself. In other words, the client’s first responsibility is to create a rock solid relationship with the vendor, then concentrate on the Statement of Work. Agile is most widely used for projects involving digital deliverables.

Statement of Work Sample

[mks_highlight color=”#eae877″]In our next article, “How to Write and Format a Statement of Work (SOW)“, we’ll go into greater depth with regards to formatting and writing your SOW. For right now, we’ll get you started with a basic example of a Statement of Work between our fictional game company, ACME and an independent contractor artist.[/mks_highlight]

Statement of Work

This Statement of Work (SOW) is between Acme Animation Studios and 5 different Character Animation Modelers.

SOW Effective Date: March 3, 2018

Scope of Work

The Scope of Work for Acme Animation Studio Project ‘J’ involves creating a friendly, fuzzy character companion for our upcoming game, “ABC”. Each stage of character development is to be approved by our project manager before continuing. All files must be submitted before due date listed and in ‘XYZ’ format. Specific deliverables, character milestones are listed in ‘Work Requirements’ section of this SOW.

Period of Performance

The independent contractor will perform their work at their own home or office, and transfer the files when completed. The contractor will have one meeting via Skype each Monday morning, 9 a.m.

Work Requirements

Contract animator is responsible for one fully rigged, textured, animated character.

  • Concept Art
  • Animator will present ititial character art for examination and approval.
  • Modeling Phase
  • Once approved, the character is to be modeled in 3 phases. Low poly count.
  • Model to be created to exact specifications to size, poly count and texture
  • Model to be rigged
  • Model to be animated


  • Concept art: April 3, 2018
  • Low Poly Phase: May 15, 2018
  • Basic Sculpt: June 30, 2018
  • Rigging: August 1, 2018
  • Animation Test Reel: September 3, 2018

Acceptance Criteria

  • All models must be 500 polygons or under •All models must be rigged and able to be animated immediately upon acceptance •All models must be in the design of the agreed upon concept design •Textures optional


In short, a Statement of Work is a legal document between client and contractor where both must agree as to process, materials, expenses, expectations, milestones, and deliverables before actual work begins. Basically, who does what when, where, and how. The SOW will include tasks needed to complete each deliverable, and the time each deliverable is due. Any and all meetings are to be scheduled, and where, such as in person, Skype or via phone. Where the project will be completed, either on site or telecommute. Finally, in a well-written SOW both parties are made aware of what constitutes a successful project, and what constitutes a failed project. This is a legal document that protects both the client and vendor in case a dispute arises, so it is extremely important that it be composed properly.

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