Please Steal My Scope of Work. I want you to have it.

By | Business / Economics | No Comments

I started freelancing at the ripe old age of 13. I knew nothing about running a business, had no idea how to pitch or bid a project, and my knowledge of contract law was lacking to say the least. But that was all fine. I was just happy to have any work from people who were willing to pay me. But, after a few projects with massive scope creep, and, more than a few times, when I did work and I didn’t get paid, I started figuring some things out. I got better at choosing clients and started researching contract law.

It took me almost 7 years of freelancing, two jobs with ad agencies, countless hours of watching law classes on iTunes U, and, most importantly, a fair amount of failed projects and lost income. Because of that, I want you to have my scope of work. Please take it. I hope this template can help you.

Free Scope of Work and Matters Service Agreement Template

This file includes:

  • A SOW Scope of Work Template
  • A MSA Master Service Agreement Template

Please customize to your own needs.


Why I Only Use a Scope of Work and Not a Contract

Free-Contract-TemplateA contract is nothing more than a set of promises and can be written or oral, unless the contract is required to be written by law. Written and verbal are equally binding in theory, but not in practice. The main problem with verbal contracts is a lack of  clear understanding of what is being agreed upon. Clear understanding creates happy clients. Happy client means you get paid.

For example: If someone says, “I will finish a website for you,” what does finish mean? …code the site, FTP the website to the server, or write all the content for the website? Do the vender and the client have the same meaning for the word “finish?” If not, this means not only is the verbal agreement useless, but both you and your client will become frustrated when working together.

Not having a clear understanding of my role led to my most frustrating experiences as a freelancer, and was at least in partly responsible for each time I went unpaid. For the work I was doing, long form contracts are more trouble than they were worth. All I needed was to set a clear understanding between me and my client of what I was doing, how long it was going to take, what I needed from them, and how much and when I expected to be paid. Most importantly, I needed to have that in writing, because verbal contracts are not worth the paper they are printed on, or something like that.

Since all I needed was a scope of work and a basic service agreement that is all I use. As a matter of fact, most of the time I don’t even make proposals. Instead, I will sit  with the prospective clients and identify a list of goals and requirements for each of us. I then write up the cost and time line and send a ready-to-sign SoW.  It’s faster than a proposal and, in my mind, much better.

Let me know if this helps, and what other resources you have found to help the down-trodden, work-a-day freelancer.

***Disclaimer ( The only part of this blog post written by a lawyer)

Information and forms are provided “as is” without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of merchantability, noninfringement of intellectual property, or fitness for any particular purpose. In no event, shall  Mason Pelt, or his agents, officers, attorneys, etc…, be liable for any damages whatsoever (including, without limitation, damages for loss of profits, business interruption, loss of information) arising out of the use of or inability to use the materials, even if Mason Pelt has been advised of the possibility of such damages. They are for guidance and should be modified by you or your attorney to meet your specific needs and the laws of your state or jurisdiction. Use at your own risk.

Photo by Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Do We Need Laws For Net Neutrality?

By | Business / Economics | No Comments

sb10069274b-003I’ve always supported the ideas behind Net Neutrality. A free and open internet where internet service providers would serve all sites at the best available speed and not charge websites for preferential treatment (faster speeds). For the record, I also support Santa Claus serving ALL children with the best toys his elves can churn out, and not giving preferential treatment to the kids whose parents were able to buy them a slot on the “Nice List.” In my perfect world, there would be fast internet and free toys for all! But this isn’t a perfect world.

No matter how much I want an internet run by agnostic service providers. I’ve never supported government regulations that attempted to ensure the openness of the internet. I was glad when the FCC’s Open Internet Act passed in 2010 was struck down.

As consumers, some people want regulation to prevent internet service providers from giving preferential treatment to some websites. Many media companies want regulations to prevent piracy. Some of those regulations (SOPA and PIPA for examples) would make it difficult for websites like Reddit or YouTube to exist. The result of government regulations and the threat of their solutions come at the expense of how copyright law is supposed to work. To quote those great philosophers, The Rolling Stones… You can’t always get what you want.

Photo by Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Photo by Chris Jackson / Getty Images

A few weeks ago, I, as a T-Mobile user, was thrilled to see that a number of music streaming services would no longer be counted against my bandwidth. Yet, even with Pandora, Spotify, iTunes Radio, iHeart Radio, Slacker, Rhapsody and Milk Music listed, T-Mobile’s decision may screw over the little guys like RDIO and Deezer. So, should we put a law in place so they can either provide unlimited bandwidth for all or can’t provide unlimited bandwidth for any?

The decision T-Mobile made may not be fair to all, but it allows for consumer choice. If enough people want to use Deezer radio, T-Mobile could well be put in a position where they would need to add Deezer to this plan. Or partner services like this could be a new part of the equation when it comes to choosing a network. It’s possible that we could all end up picking our networks based on the services we already choose. For example: If you are a Pandora and Netflix user, you may want to choose one carrier. If you use Hulu and Pandora, you may want to choose another.

Even the underdog companies I mentioned are a lot larger than most websites. I run several personal sites, as well as client sites, that fall into this category. All are much more likely to be de-prioritized by ISPs. After all, none of my sites are capable of generating the kind of consumer and media backlash that Netflix got with a simple banner blaming Verizon for slow load speeds. We’re like the unfortunate and misunderstood kids on the “Naughty List.” With no consumer backlash, how will the little guys be protected without a law?

We are the consumers and companies need our money. If we demand an open internet, not by writing our congressmen, but by spending money elsewhere and telling ISPs why, we WILL get what we want. If we legislate, we may or may not get what we want right now, but we lose freedom. No law, however “necessary” it may be, will make us free. If we restrict, we aren’t simply restricting bad business practices; we are restricting innovation, as well.

I’m aware that not everyone has a choice yet. I grew up in a place that only had one internet option. Well, I guess there were two options if you count take it or leave it as options. I currently have a big city address and I still only have two ISP options. The good news is that the parts of the U.S. that are limited to only one internet service provider are becoming fewer and farther between. More are coming! I can easily see a company coming along to be disruptive.

It’s not hard to see a neutral provider coming along and advertising equality to all sites. Regardless, as more competition is introduced, the only market stronghold will no longer provide a substantial advantage. With no legislation, everything is left to consumer choice, and companies will have to provide customers what they want—be that price, speed, service quality or net neutrality. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 9.56.01 AM

Facebook Remarketing Using The Native Pixel

By | Marketing | No Comments

Facebook remarketing is one of the most effective tactics I’ve used. having  done retargeting on Facebook, for several years now, using Perfect Audience (Acquired by Marin Software) or Adroll. But now the barrier to entry for one of the best Facebook marketing tactics has gotten a lot lower thanks to Facebook’s native pixel. This is how you can set up Facebook retargeting using Facebook’s native tracking pixel.

Go to your account in the Facebook ads manager  and select “Audiences” on the left. In the Audiences section you have several options to make a custom audience. You can upload a data file (emails, user IDs, phone numbers or mobile advertiser IDs), connect MailChimp, build a custom audience from your mobile app, or create a custom audience from your website (website retargeting).

Facebook ads manager - Create Audience


Click on “Create a Custom Audience from your Website” and name your custom audience something meaningful. Now click “View Custom Audience Pixel” to view the tracking.

Facebook Marketing Code

Take this bunch of Java Script and place it in your website before the closing tag, on every page you would like to retarget.

Placing Facebook Remarketing Code in your siteIf your CMS’s theme allows you to place a code in the your site you can apply it to every page easily. Or  even better if you use Google Tag Manager  you can apply the tag and define firing rules.


Search Engine Usability — Stop Thinking of SEO

By | Marketing | No Comments

Search engine optimization is not just about bringing traffic to your site. Fundamentally you are helping to solve a usability problem for the search engine. Most marketers think of SEO the wrong way. Spend 15 minutes at a Digital marketing conference and you can hear dozens of people talking about SEO from the perspective of a site they manage. If you work in marketing, you should focus on ROI for your client, but that can’t be the only thing you think about.


Screenshot of the Google Homepage

Google is not out to make you money. Google’s goal is to acquire robotics companies… Just kidding. My point is that Google has money–a lot of money. That’s because Google is also focused on ROI. For Google.

Search Engines, almost across the board, make money by selling advertising inventory. So, how much a search engine can earn is tied to how many users and how many searches they have. It’s no surprise that their business goal is to keep searchers happy by  showing what they are looking for. Help Google with that goal and you will rank.

Stop viewing SEO as a matter of you appearing in search results. Ask the question, if someone searches this and finds me, am I what they are looking for? If you are, why aren’t you ranking? Think about why you’re not ranking the way a UX team at Google would.

Framing the Search UX problem

It’s the same problem any good UX team thinks about when they build a product. If someone goes to your website looking for a blog post you wrote called, “How to Build a Car for $1.99,” and can’t find it by searching, “How to Make a Car for $2.00,” they are not going to be happy. The same goes for any search engine, thereby making your marketing problem Google’s usability problem.

From a searcher’s perspective all you want is relevant results . Unfortunately, there are a few limitations:

  • Too many websites to manually index and tag
  • Words that mean different things, i.e Oklahoma (State, City, Musical, Song, Movie)
  • Misspelled words
  • Synonyms
  • Never before seen searches
  • Bad human memory. (“I can’t find tickets to that ‘Sergeant USA’  movie.”)

The Google Solution

In a paper written by Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, while they were still at Stanford, about how they built Google, they seem very  focused on giving users the best experience possible.


… we want our notion of “relevant” to only include the very best documents since there may be tens of thousands of slightly relevant documents. This very high precision is important even at the expense of recall (the total number of relevant documents the system is able to return).

They focus on the idea of relevancy and tackle the problem with a primitive version of PageRank.

This automation quality and relevance scores determining the results are  the core of how a search works today. These principals are used by every major search engine.

Take Aways

Even though you should focus on what Search Engines care about, at the end of the day, you have to make a living. So what should you do? Well, following the same user experience approach as Google isn’t a bad idea. Focus on relevancy.

That’s what keyword research is really for anyway. Long before the Google keyword tool (may he rest in peace), copy writers did research. You want to make sure you use words people are familiar with and use. To learn more, check out Copy Blogger’s free keyword research and content marketing ebooks.

I would also focus on UX  beyond the quality of your content and the words used. A slow site, bad font, poor color scheme, auto playing videos and sound, etc…, can create a user nightmare. If images have no alt text, or irrelevant alt text, it’s not only bad for SEO. If a site visitor has a vision impairment, it’s an empty cavern left in the heart of your content.   

Although human experience is over half the battle, it’s not all. At the end of the day, search results are just a mathematical equation and you need to be usable for both humans and  bots. There are lots of usability problems that can you may be causing for bots (including search engine spiders). Take a looks ate this technical SEO Check List  made by Bruce Clay Ink.