When you run a freelancing business (or any business for that matter), you’ll eventually need to outsource some things.
When you outsource tasks, you need to make sure that the person executing the job is fully equipped with all the tools, instructions, and knowledge to perform the said task.
How do you ensure that?
Simple, you create an SOP (referenced as SOP going forward).
An SOP is a standard operating procedure.
An SOP is a document that contains all of the necessary information for someone to accomplish a task.
It will contain things like, but not limited to:
- Usernames and passwords or where to find them (I recommend using a password manager like 1Password or LastPass)
- How to perform the task in a step by step fashion with screenshots if possible
- Flow charts and decision trees if the process can take many branches based upon previous outcomes.
- What to do when something goes wrong
- How to measure success
A straightforward example of an SOP would be how to categorize transactions in your accounting system. You would create this document so that it could easily be shared with others, such as an online doc like Google Docs or something similar.
Title: Bank Transaction Categorization SOP
- Log into accounting software (
- Username and password will be shared with you over email via LastPass or 1Password. If you do not have it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know that you don’t have it, and I’ll get to you.
- Once logged in, go to Accounting -> Ledger -> Checking Register
- Selected the “Uncategorized Tab”
- For each transaction, please categorize it accordingly to its appropriate category.
- Rules of thumb:
- All restaurants, coffee, and similar: Categorize as Meals and Entertainment.
- All Software Purchases: Categorize as Technology – Software
- For Amazon.com purchases, please send me the $ amount of the transaction, and I’ll send you a screenshot of what it was. You can split this transaction into multiple categories. This situation would happen if I bought a book on consulting sales and a new mouse pad. They would have two different categorizations; therefore, the transaction needs to exist into two distinct categories.
- … etc. (more rules of thumb if you have them)
- If you find a transaction that you’re unsure of how to categorize, please put it into a spreadsheet and share the spreadsheet with me after you’ve completed all the categorization. Then email me once you’re ready for me to take a look.
- I’ll take a look at the spreadsheet and then update the expense it belongs in.
- Once I get this done, please come back to the accounting software so that you can continue to enter the proper categorizations for the items in question.
- All transactions are either categorized or placed into a spreadsheet for review.
- Once I provide clarifications in the spreadsheet, you will then apply those to the accounting software.
If I do not happen to get back to you within 48 hours, please email me again or send me a text here: ___<your number>__.
Please update this document to reflect changes if any of the processes change while working on this task. Thank you!
Why you want an SOP for everything you outsource
The reason is pretty simple – it allows you to get someone up and running on a new process quickly.
If an employee or contractor leaves, you want to get someone started on that position quickly. In other words, you want to hire and promptly train someone to do the job that the other person was doing for you.
When you have an SOP, you can do that fairly quickly.
I know, yes, sometimes the requirements of a job change over time, and the original SOP might not be applicable anymore. This is why keeping your SOP updated is so important. When the requirements of the task change, have the person performing the task up the SOP for you.
An SOP makes your life easier so you can run your business more efficiently.
When this person does move onto new things in their life, and they’re no longer helping you run your business, you’ll be able to hire someone new and hand them an SOP for each task you want them to perform.
Each SOP should read like a tutorial. They should complete the task without any intervention from you (though they will when starting). It should cover any edge cases that exist. If they don’t, they should always know to reach out to you if they have a problem.
Upon resolving a new problem, that same problem and resolution need to go back into the SOP for future reference.
As you build a library of SOP’s, you’ll realize that you’re just documenting and systematizing your business. This will allow you to scale even more than you usually would. Instead of spending a day or two or a week training someone, you cut that back to a few minutes or even a few hours at most.
You also appear much more professional to the people you bring on to help you out. It makes their life easier because they have a system that they can follow. When you eliminate decisions, you eliminate the errors.
This is a fine line, though; you don’t want to eliminate all the decision-making because sometimes others have excellent ideas that you should adopt. However, these tasks, they’re relatively menial. They don’t require much creativity, which is why they’re great candidates for outsourcing to free up your time.
What kind of things should you or can you outsource?
Anything that is not your core focus should is open for outsourcing. If you’re a software developer, you shouldn’t be doing accounting and categorizing transactions, editing photos, or anything like that. If you want to do those things, you can, no harm/no foul, but it’s probably not the best use of your time.
Somethings that I have outsourced include:
- Podcast Editing
- Video Editing
- Brand Style Development
- Software Development for my SaaS products
- Graphic Design
- Video Editing
- Newsletter Management
- Job Board Management
I do advise that you do all of these things first to see what is entailed in them.
I hope that helps.