• How to create effective SOPs for your online business

    It's not too late or early to set up SOPs for your business. Here's a guide on how to effectively set up SOPs for your online business.

    Now that you have been running your online business for some time, there are probably a number of things you have found out that no one told you about. Like all the hats you have to wear and the occasional ‘fall’ that comes with trying to balance all those hats. You know that you need Standard Operating Procedures. To hire effectively and start outsourcing some tasks, especially those which aren’t in your zone of mastery.

    Now it’s time to start creating the SOPs for your online business that will allow you to delegate more, work less and be the CEO that your business needs to be.

    Here are 7 steps to create the most effective SOPs that will allow you to do just that:

    Step 1. Pick 3-5 SOPs to start with

    Overwhelm is the source of inaction. Don’t try to create all your SOPs in one go. Unless you have someone on your team who is designated to do just this for the next few weeks.

    So the first thing you want to do is decide which areas of your business need processes and structure the most. 

    It’s always a good idea to look at the activities that are the most time-consuming. Activities that you want to start outsourcing as soon as possible. Especially the tasks that are necessary for your business to continue running. But are not necessarily high on the income-generating priority list such as; admin, email management, etc.

    You can use these criteria to decide on the next set of SOPs for your online business to work on. However, don’t try to do it all at once. It is a process, and you are better off having two effective SOPs in your business than 5 average SOPs.

    Step 2. Brainstorm & Outline your SOP

    SOPs for your online business should include;

    • Who is responsible for the task
    • How often the task should be completed
    • What are the steps in the task, with sufficient detail and guidelines
    • Where are these tasks performed, e.g. if there is a tool or location in your online workspace where it should be performed for follow up.
    • Any tools or additional resources your team members can use
    • FAQs that you anticipate could be asked

    Remember your SOPs are more than just a set of steps that should be followed. If you compare SOPs to cooking, your SOP is like the recipe that will help you get the right bake and flavour on that cake. So you want to be as specific as possible. But not too specific that you don’t give your team some leeway to apply their minds and creativity in making the outcome even better.

    Step 3. Choose your primary SOP format

    There are so many ways to create an SOP. Word documents are the most widely used format. But you could use a number of alternative formats if typing a document out is not your thing.

    Here are a few alternative formats you could use to create effective SOPs:

    • Record yourself on Loom or Zoom as you perform the task
    • Create a flow chart (try out to create your own flow charts)
    • Take screenshots as you perform the task

    In my view, creating typed documents are still the best way to format your SOPs, as they are the easiest to edit. However, this should not stop you from using the format you are most comfortable with.

    You could get someone to transcribe your video SOPs, and this could be beneficial. As you’ll have an extra pair of eyes trying to follow the process and see if there are any gaps that need to be filled.

    It's not too late or early to set up SOPs for your business. Here's a guide on how to effectively set up SOPs for your online business.

    Step 4. Automate your SOPs

    Once you have created the first few SOPs for your online business, create a Google Drive folder where you will save all your SOPs.

    You can then go to the relevant projects in your task management tool and link the relevant task to the Google Drive Folder where the SOP has been saved. This makes it easy for everyone to know which SOP relates to which task and where to find the fully documented SOP. 

    You also want to create a task template in your task management tool, e.g. Asana, that links to the specific SOP. Instead of having to create a new task and opening up the SOP every time the task is performed, you could create a task from the task template which will already have a link to the relevant SOP and the steps in a detailed workflow.

    You’ll save time and ensure that the task is performed consistently every time.

    Step 5. Create checklists 

    Your SOP will provide the detailed steps to completing the task, but you could supplement these steps with a checklist that should be used before the task is marked as completed.

    This checklist will include a number of items or dependencies that need to be reviewed before the task is completed. For example, if you need to review the work, one of the checklist items could be ‘submit for review’ or ‘request for review’. Once you have reviewed, the person working on the task can check off this item in the checklist and then proceed to mark the task as complete.

    Step 6. Organize your list of SOPs in a google sheet or some form of library

    With time you may end up with a library of 50+ SOPs for your online business. It is good practice to keep a list of the SOPs that you have created so that;

    • You know which SOPs are available
    • Your team can easily look up an SOP they need
    • You know which area of your business needs some SOPs.

    Use Google Sheets to create your SOP library. You can indicate the following on the spreadsheet

    • Name of SOP
    • Date completed
    • Date last revised
    • Personal responsible
    • Software/tools used

    Step 7. Review and refine your SOPs 

    Creating SOPs is not the most exciting activity in your business, and that’s why you could get on a VIP Day with me where we will map out your key processes and create SOP frameworks for you and your team to use. 

    However, you want to review your SOPs at least twice a year to ensure that they continue to remain relevant.

    PRO Tip: Team members asking questions about this task? Add the answers in your SOP under FAQs so you never have to answer the same question twice.

    The bottom line is that process and SOP creation does not have a start and an end in your business. Your business is continually evolving and so should your SOPs. You want to start creating a blueprint that describes how to run your business, NOW, and not when you are on your knees looking for an assistant to help you out.

    You want to cover yourself against the risk of key members leaving your business so that your business continues to run without much business disruption.

    For example, if your VA decides to quit her job or in the last few days before you start your maternity leave, this should not result in being in panic mode. Your team should be able to pick up her tasks with the SOPs that you have created, as you look for a replacement. Make it easy to build flexibility and freedom with SOPs

    Here are a few ideas for SOPs that you could start creating

    • Email organization and folder management
    • Blog/Podcast workflow
    • Social media analytics
    • Lead generation
    • Team member recruitment & orientation

    Even if you don’t have a team, start laying the groundwork now so that managing your team is so much more effective and better experience for all of you.

    Got any questions? Let’s hope on a free systems audit and I can help you map out which areas in your business need SOPs ASAP, and how we can help you.