How to Write an SOP That Will Save You Time

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Once you’ve completed Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the SOP series, all of the foundational work is done and it’s time to write an SOP! Are you ready to start building your own shiny SOP Library?

Let’s take it one step at a time.

Write an SOP for Your Small Business

Here’s the example we’ll use throughout the rest of this article:

You are writing an SOP for sending out your monthly newsletter. The content changes from month to month, but you have an overall formula that you like to use to keep your subscribers up to date. You include new blog content, a review of a product or course you love, and a call-to-action at the end of every newsletter

Step 1. Get some help.

If someone else regularly performs a task, has more training than you, or you just feel like two heads will be better than one, you should definitely recruit them for creating SOPs. Either work on it together or delegate to them.

For the solopreneurs in the room, if there’s an SOP you don’t feel qualified to write, you will probably want to hire some help. It will save you a ton of time (and money) to bring on someone who is an expert at certain tasks (for example, social media) to create SOPs for you. The alternative is spending houurrrssss combing through the internet and piecing things together yourself.

Step 2. Set a goal.

What do you want to accomplish by the time you reach the end of the SOP? Are you just trying to mark something off your to-do list or do you have something bigger in mind?

You can even have more than one goal per SOP, but they should be connected. If they’re not, then you need to be making separate SOPs.

Example Goals:

  1. Draft and schedule the monthly newsletter
  2. Keep the formatting consistent each month
  3. Update subscribers on recent activity
  4. Increase sales via a call-to-action

When you know the goals, it’s easier to work through all the steps. Each one should lead you towards successfully achieving those goals.

Step 3. Provide the resources.

What is needed to accomplish this task? Equipment, supplies, software, forms, passwords… the list goes on and on.

One resource I recommend you include with all of your SOPs (if possible) is a video tutorial. Record a video with a screen capture tool like Loom so that anyone following your SOP (now or in the future) can easily watch and learn about the process. 

This is especially helpful for training new employees or contractors. It’s also helpful if you’re super forgetful or don’t perform the task very often.

Example Resources:

  • Link to Loom video tutorial
  • Link to ConvertKit
  • Login info for ConvertKit*
  • Link to monthly newsletter email template
  • Link to the folder in your cloud storage where you store your email newsletter drafts
  • Link to the folder in your cloud storage where you store your email newsletter graphics
  • Link to a course you purchased that has tutorials for ConvertKit
  • Login info for that course*
  • Link to the Guide page on ConvertKit‘s website in case you need further instruction

*Note: You will probably want to store this using a tool like LastPass. You can reference the login information in your SOP by stating “Request the login info from [Name].”

Having all the resources in a single location makes the entire process much faster and easier.

Step 4. Build an outline.

The purpose of the outline is to give someone an overview of what it takes to complete the task. It’s a simple list of the main, overarching steps. You don’t need every tiny detail listed here.

Example Outline:

  1. Sign in to ConvertKit
  2. Duplicate previous monthly newsletter
  3. Update newsletter with this month’s topics
  4. Format the newsletter
  5. Review the newsletter
  6. Schedule the newsletter

See? Short and sweet and easy to browse through for someone new. It doesn’t matter if you use a numbered list or bulleted list. Use whatever is best for you. But, I do highly recommend using lists for the ENTIRETY of the SOP. 

Paragraphs of text can be really difficult to follow. You don’t want to write a novel, and you don’t want someone ruining their keyboard with drool after your SOP puts them to sleep.

Step 5. Detail the workflow.

Here’s the basic process:

  • Copy and paste the outline
  • Fill in all the steps
  • Walkthrough the process as you create the workflow
  • Take screenshots if something might be confusing to someone who is new or not very good with tech

All you need to do to start listing out the process is to copy your outline. Ctrl + C. Ctrl + V. Done! What I love about copying the outline is that it makes it extraordinarily easy to fill out the workflow. If there’s one thing we all love, it’s easy!

Now it’s time for the more time-consuming part though. After each step of the outline, you need to fill in ALL the details to make this task happen. AND include screenshots if needed.

Step 6. Testing Your SOPs

Did you think you were finished after you typed in the last step on your SOP?

Mwahahaha… there’s more! But I’ll make it short for you.

Before you start using your fancy-schmancy new SOP, someone needs to test it. Either you, someone on your team, or a contractor.

The best way to test your SOP is to actually use it. Whenever it’s time to perform the task, pull up your SOP and follow along. Make sure nothing is missing or recorded incorrectly before you delegate the task to someone else.

Step 7. Updating SOPs

This step is highly underrated but cannot be neglected!

From time to time you’ll need to update your SOPs. The frequency varies based on the task, but typically every 3 to 6 months will keep your processes current.

Create a system for tracking the dates of your SOPs (like with a Master SOP spreadsheet) so that you don’t lose sight of this important step.

And now…

Take Action

Reading this article is great, but it’s completely useless unless you decide to do something about it.

It’s finally time for you to venture out on your own and start building an SOP Library that will take your business to new heights.

  1. Write your first SOP
  2. Continue writing SOPs, or delegating them, until you’re done! It’s perfectly fine if this step takes months to complete.
  3. Start updating regularly

I know this can feel overwhelming. We’ve covered a lot of information in this series. I want you to just take it one step at a time. 

The worst thing that can happen is you burn out, give up completely, and continue on your current trajectory of wasting time. You can do better. You will do better!

With an SOP Library at your side, you will scale your business to meet your biggest goals.

Here are the previous posts in case you missed them:

Part 1: 8 Reasons Why You Need SOPs for Your Business

Part 2: Everything You Need to Know to Start an SOP Library

Part 3: The Best SOP Template for Online Businesses

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