Writing a Bulletproof Spec Sheet

Starting a project for a client without a spec sheet is the easiest way to burn yourself, as a freelancer. A spec sheet will give both you, and the client, a clear and complete idea of what you need to do in fulfillment of the contract. It will also increase the chances of you getting paid substantially.

The formatting is up to you. You can keep it electronic and modify it per-client, or you can make a generic copy with room for writing and fill in details on the spot. But whatever you do, I recommend you have the following key fields covered:

Objectives

You need to have a clear idea of what the client is hoping to gain from you. In most cases, this is simply a presence on the internet, increased visibility, and other benefits. Don’t promise things you can’t deliver.

Target Market

This is a handy reference for your work, and should play a big role in your design. If your clients’ clients are elderly, consider large type and simple navigation; if your target is more youthful, you can feel free to take the easy road and use grunge.

Scope of Work

State, in no uncertain terms, exactly what you are going to do. It might also be a good idea to substitute instead deliverables, which will be more specific. Remember, be detailed.

Estimated Cost

State, item-by-item, the costs for design (web and graphic), development, copy writing, photography, installation, and SEO. I prefer to present this as a checklist, so that a) I remember everything, and b) the client can see all the options.

If you charge by the hour/word/photo, you may make the cost estimated instead of final. I prefer to have a column for a time estimate, and a final amount charged based on this, for reasons I’ve detailed in the past.

Project Schedule

A due date is all well and good, but it’s even better if you can provide specific, realistic milestones for certain aspects of project completion. You’ll be able to pace yourself better, and your clients will have a very specific idea of how long things will take, and if it would be reasonable to contact you now with changes to the copy.

Payment Schedule

You do collect payment up front, right? It will be much easier to ask with an official-looking contract, believe me. Include an area with room for several payment milestones, even if you only intend on half up-front and half on delivery. Who knows, your client might feel more comfortable paying in bite-sized installments as the project is completed.

Terms and Conditions

You may include this as part of a spec sheet, or as part of a separate contract, but definitely have it. It probably won’t come up, but you should definitely, definitely (definitely) have it. A lawyer-reviewed version is best, but if your friends aren’t done law school yet you might look on the interwebs for some terms.

In my spec sheet/contract, I include a summary of each section of my terms and conditions in bold as the first sentence. It saves time in reviewing them.

Examples

My own spec sheet is a modification of the excellent template provided by Shane & Peter here, which also contains more insight on this stuff. If you are looking to create your own, it’s a really good place to start.

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Continuous advancements of IT industry needs it’s pros to be upgraded all the time, taking on 642-533 in addition to the 642-566 is the part of it, where as 642-611 is in pipeline.

3 Responses to “Writing a Bulletproof Spec Sheet”

  1. Sally S. Says:

    “You do collect payment up front, right? It will be much easier to ask with an official-looking contract, believe me. Include an area with room for several payment milestones, even if you only intend on half up-front and half on delivery. Who knows, your client might feel more comfortable paying in bite-sized installments as the project is completed.”

    Good guide for freelance work. I often have a hard time discussing how the payment will go. Makes sense that creating a contract is better. I just have to get used to it.

  2. Fred Homes Says:

    Great post! I couldn’t agree more with what you stated. I also have a lot of online projects, and clients want transparency. As much as possible, they want to be able to monitor the process of the project. And you said: “Don’t promise things you can’t deliver” – that is the best advice to give a project manager.

    Fred Homes
    Tucson architect

  3. Truck Bodies Says:

    Always leaving room to over deliver is one of my biggest goals when setting out to complete something like this. By going beyond what is promised is one of the best ways to get the clients to keep coming back, as well as gain new ones.

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