A short pencil is better than a long memory
All businesses, whether great or small, need standard operating procedures (SOPs) to document their business processes. If you’re a freelancer, you are a small business of one. Although you don’t have employees that need to be kept on the same page (although in the future you may), it’s still good to have SOPs in place to increase your efficiency and make your freelancing business more established and legitimate.
The Benefits of SOPs for Entrepreneurs, Sole Proprietors, and Freelancers:
- There are a number of reasons your freelance business can benefit from SOPs.
- Get more ROI out of your marketing efforts.
- SOPs ensure a standard level of quality for your services.
- Standard procedures help you get the work done in an organized and efficient way.
- With SOPs, the sales process is smoother and all of your clients and customers will be treated equally.
- When you find yourself ready to hire employees or outsource, your procedures will already be outlined for them.
All of the above benefits lead to a more sustainable and profitable business. Creating SOPs isn’t something you have to do before you get your freelancing business off the ground. In fact, even if you have outlined a few basic processes beforehand, they are bound to change after your business has been operating for a while. Your freelancing experience is going to inform your standard procedures, and you’ll need to draw on that experience to write good SOPs.
Also, clearly defined procedures can stifle the creativity and flexibility that you need to get started as a freelancer. Wait until things settle into routines, and then you’ll understand what needs to be outlined and exactly how.
Areas to Standardize
The best possible scenario is to create SOPs for everything you do. But for freelancers, time is especially precious, so this is not always possible. Here are some areas in which you may want to create SOPs.
The Sales Process: Your SOPs can cover standard rates and pricing structures and guidelines on how to communicate with customers. You might want to create procedures for accepting or turning down jobs.
- Marketing: Any regular marketing you do can be outlined in SOPs. This could range from things like email marketing broadcasts, blog posting, and website updates to social media activity, posting of ads, and so on.
- Workflow: Many freelancers manage multiple jobs, so creating procedures to manage workflow is very important. You may want to create SOPs for handling deadlines, establishing priority, or what times you work on certain regular jobs.
- Accounts and Billing: If you’re going to standardize only one area, this is the one to do. It’s much easier to run your freelancing business when all of your financial processes are clearly outlined. This includes taking payments, financial transactions, business expenses, managing recurring payments, paying taxes, audits, and so on.
Writing Freelancer SOPs
Even if you are a sole proprietor, with no staff quite yet, you should still create simple documents that describe your company’s essential processes. As an entrepreneur and business owner, you wear so many hats and are responsible for every aspect of your business operations. Keeping track of things can be challenging, but SOPs can help with staying organized and moving forward with more momentum. With technology moving so fast, it’s important to make notes along the way, so you don’t have to re-learn things that may be difficult to recall and grasp easily. It may feel at first like it’s an inconvenience to document things, but it will save so much time down the road.
When you are ready to hire someone, you will be ready to train your staff quickly and efficiently. Also, keep in mind, that documents that make sense to you, may not make sense to others. So, when it comes time to outsource or hire others, touch up these documents, adding detail and making sure they’re clear and accurate.
SOPs don’t have to be exclusively text-based. In fact, they benefit from visuals and other added content. You can create your SOPs in whichever format you like or in multiple formats, such as audio or video. When outsourcing, you can give your assistants these videos to use as tutorials along with the text for reference.
Reviewing Your SOPs
Businesses review and revise their SOPs on a regular basis, usually quarterly or bi-annually. As a freelancer, you may not want to spend a great deal of time on this. When you become aware that a procedure has changed, update the SOP. Before outsourcing, review everything. As long as things are going well, your SOPs don’t need a great deal of attention. However, if your freelance business isn’t running as smoothly or efficiently as you’d like, it is probably time for review.