How to write a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)


Now I know this is really boring stuff and I can see you yawning over there in the back of the class, but trust me, this will become really important when you’re ready to hire that VA and have to give her instructions on how you would like things done. I will go as far as to say that you will be kicking yourself for not having a process for documenting your workflows.

Ask me how I know ?. I’ve been talking about SOPs for the longest time and creating SOPs for my clients (like Sarah) has been critical to the success of her launches and the day-to-day operations of her business. But we didn’t start off with SOPs in fact we started off with nothing. Sarah would show me what she needed me to do (usually with a video because we’re like a gazillion miles away from each other). I made notes and stored the videos to reference later. But what I soon realized is that processes change and that is when I started diving into how to create a great SOP. What I also realized was that the company owner (that would be YOU) is not necessarily the right person to be creating the SOP in the first place. Want to know why I think and who I think SHOULD be creating SOPs? WATCH THIS!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you high and dry fumbling around in the dark. Let’s dive into the nitty gritty of SOPs.

What is an SOP & How do they help?

These days, no matter what product you are buying, it’s safe to say that it usually comes with an instruction manual and if you’re anything like me, you read it cover-to-cover before assembling or using your new toy (and if you’re anything like Warren, you chuck the manual aside, fumble around for a few hours and then grudgingly read the manual when I point out that there are in fact instructions – it’s a man thing he says). It’s the same with a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Think of it as the instruction manual for your company. The formal definition: a guideline for an organization to follow in order to accomplish a specific task. They are often used in businesses and other organizations to ensure that the same steps are followed when carrying out different tasks.

An SOP can be used as a checklist to make sure that the necessary steps have been completed, or it can be used as a guideline for how to complete a task. The goal of an SOP is to make sure that employees are following the same process, with the same standards, each time they carry out a specific task. This ensures that there is consistency across all tasks being carried out by employees of an organization.

An SOP can also be referred to as an Operations Manual, which is typically longer and more detailed than an SOP.

Read all about the 5 reasons why you definitely need standard operating procedures in your business

Important sections

There are many different ways to structure your SOPs. Here are the important sections that need to be included:

  • The Title – start with a title – what is the SOP for
  • The purpose
  • The start
  • The steps
  • The stop
  • Tools required
  • Good example
  • Bad example
  • FAQ’s

Steps Involved in Writing an SOP

When writing up an SOP it is important to follow a specific procedure so that all of your SOPs are structured in the same way and everyone on the team knows exactly how and when to write one up.. You will find my very meta SOP on how to write an SOP when you grab my FREE SOP templates ?

These are the steps I take when writing up my SOPs

  1. Define the purpose of the SOP
  2. Determine when it starts & stops
  3. Record the steps in between
  4. Determine who is responsible
  5. Once you have written all the steps out go back and elaborate on each one, upload pictures or videos to demonstrate

Creating a workflow

After creating the individual SOPs for each task, I go ahead and create a visual workflow of how all the tasks fit together in the overall workflow. I use Whimsical to create a visual overview of exactly how all the processes fit together in the overall workflow.

Here is an example of a workflow I created for a client who is running a certification program. When there is a large workflow like this one, it is always important to make sure you create this workflow step so that you and your team can get a bird’s eye view of the whole process.

SOP Management Software

A question I get asked often is: “what should you be using to create your SOPs?” My recommendation is always not to overcomplicate things by thinking that you need fancy software to create SOPs. A simple Google Doc will work really well. You can also use ClickUp, Airtable or Whimsical to record your SOPs and workflows.

My criteria for evaluating software to use in documenting SOPs are

  1. Is it cloud-based
  2. Is it easy to use and update
  3. Is it all in one place and easy to find

These are my top recommendations for SOP software:

  1. Airtable – One source of truth for all of your SOPs
  2. ClickUp – If you’re using a project management tool like ClickUp, my advice is to store all of your SOPs in there for ease of access
  3. Whimsical – for workflow mapping
  4. Tango – for capturing your workflows
  5. Berrycast – screen recorder
  6. Google Docs – for documenting your SOPs

My top tips for writing or documenting better SOPs

Here are my top tips for creating and documenting SOPs that won’t take you or your new hire hours to complete.

  • Keep it short and simple – This is a document that needs to be read by a broad category of people, not just the experts. Therefore, it should be written in plain English and avoid industry jargon.
  • Use bulleted lists to group similar topics – This makes the document more user-friendly and organized. It also helps people who want to find specific information quickly and easily without having to scroll through all of the text looking for it.
  • Include pictures or diagrams where possible – In many situations pictures are worth a thousand words, so they can make complex procedures easier to follow since they display what is being explained in detail rather than using
  • If your process takes longer than 90 minutes to complete then you should probably break it up into more than one process/SOP

In this article, I have discussed the importance of Standard Operating Procedures and how to write them. I have also given some tips on how to write better Standard Operating Procedures.

Need some help with writing your SOP’s grab our SOP toolkit HERE