Good 'starter' SOW or Contracts for Consultant business?


I run a consulting biz on the side (just me), doing odd IT jobs ranging from web development / design / db management etc;

I have typically made small contracts or statements of work for the jobs, but I am curious if there are any free templates / examples (not filled with 30 pages of legal verbiage) that I could use? I want one that I can re-use. Payment terms, estimated time, what happens if I am late on a project, etc.

Anyone run into this before? I don't expect a copy & paste template for a sow or payment contract, but I would like to get something at least to modify to suit my needs.

Thanks appreciate any input.

Contract Legal Consulting

asked Nov 20 '09 at 07:58
133 points
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2 Answers


Disclaimer - I am not a lawyer (IANAL), so don't take any of this as legal advice... this is business advice (and you get what you pay for :-).

Why Has Nobody Answered This Question? I assume that nobody has answered this question (a rarity for this site) simply because contracts/legal documents can be a pretty "gray" area... I see two main paths one might consider...

  1. Spend real money to get truly professional legal documents (Risk? Ending up with 30 pages of legal verbiage)
  2. Get whatever free/low-cost resources you can find and modify them without a lawyer's assistance (Risk? You may miss something that you regret later)

Either way, I'd understand why someone who took either path would be hesitant to share... if I just spent two grand on a set of legal documents for my business, I'm certainly not going to post them publicly for everyone to use. If I created my own documents, I may not be confident in recommending them to other people. They may suit me fine, but I wouldn't foist them on someone else.

So, now that I've got some context out of the way... Here's my answer to your question... Apologies upfront if I took your simple legal contracts question and blew it up into something much bigger. I just thought it was a good question and worth generalizing.

My Answer (Finally!)

  1. Don't Aim for 'Free' - Regardless of what Chris Anderson writes :-) , don't strive to use 'free' resources when it comes to legal documents. This stuff is important! By spending just a little money (especially relative to many other business expenses), you can actually get some peace of mind that you're not totally dropping the ball. Obviously, I'm also considering larger, more critical legal issues (and not just small service contracts).
  2. Online Resources - While I have not used these sites for your stated purpose, I have run across them from a variety of reasonably credible sources over the years. These sites will charge you something, but that's exactly what you want. Fortunately, you should be able to keep the cost well under/around $100 (for a number of documents) depending on what you need. ALL of these sites should give you documents that are modifiable (i.e. Word docs, RTFs), which is important.

    • LegalZoom - This site ( ) is probably the best known for legal 'self-help' (according to Alexa). Docs run about $15.
    • Nolo - This site (Nolo's Online Legal Forms ) is probably the next best legal 'self-help' source. Their books are top-notch, but I was a little disappointed in what their web site offered for downloadable legal docs, until I found this page. Looks like each doc will run you from $6 to $15. Not bad.
    • - This site ( ) is quite good in that it offers previews and a list of key provisions before you actually buy. Cost is $100 for 5 docs. Here's the Consulting Agreement preview, which should allow you to get smarter on what a certain document type might cover.
    • Others... - If those aren't enough, here are two more to check and

    I'd strongly recommend, at first, buying multiple docs (from multiple sources) so you can contrast and compare. After reviewing a couple different versions, you'll probably get a much better sense of what you're looking for.

  3. Here's your 'Fallback' - If you still think you are not where you need to be, use the online resources to put together the best document you can. Then take that draft document to an attorney. Make sure the attorney knows upfront that you want him/her to modify your draft and to not draft an entirely new document. I imagine not every attorney will be up for this, but it should save you a bit of money.

Lastly, I'd strongly suggest using an attorney for things that are really important. At a certain point in your business, you will (fortunately or not) find real value in having a business lawyer in your corner that you truly trust. 'Self-help' legal can only take you so far.

While I am not a lawyer, I do hope this has been helpful.

answered Nov 28 '09 at 12:57
Chris Hagner
881 points


At the risk of appearing self-interested, I will agree with the first answer's recommendation to have a lawyer help you with your Independent Contractor Agreement.

Regarding the length of such agreements, you may find "How detailed should a legal document be?" interesting.

Disclaimer: This post does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

answered Dec 9 '09 at 07:18
Dana Shultz
6,015 points

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