This article may seem like blasphemy. Especially coming from someone with a reputation for having solid freelance systems like me. But here’s why I think you should AVOID creating “SOPs”…and what I think you should do instead.
I got a great question on Facebook from a Pro-Lancer named Devin.
He asked for advice about creating “SOPs” for his business. (Which is short for Standard Operating Procedures.)
And the answer I gave will almost certainly shock you.
Since it flies in the face of what you’d expect from me, given my reputation for having strong systems in my own business.
It all started with a seemingly innocent comment Devin left me on Facebook. He said:
Right now I feel like I need good SOP’s hard to outsource without them… but I don’t yet have a good template on how to make them.
And when I asked what he tried already, he replied:
Honestly, I haven’t. I’ve looked at templates for SOPs, but I haven’t tried them out.
Now credit to Devin for admitting he’s feeling stuck.
And I also have a sense that he’s not alone.
It seems like a lot of freelancers get stuck creating “systems” or “SOPs” in their business.
So Here’s A Simple Trick That I Shared With Devin, Which Will Make It Easier To Add More Structure To Your Freelance Business
And like I said — you may be surprised by what I’m about to say.
Because by now, you probably know that I have a reputation for being one of the most “dialed-in” freelancers working today.
- I’ve simplified my entire business down to just three essential, actionable metrics that I use to guide my decisions.
- I have a painless method for tracking my time. That way, I know exactly how profitable the different projects, clients, and tasks I work on are. (Since my time is my biggest “expense” as a freelancer.) And I can double-down on the activities that are the most lucrative for me.
- Plus I have rock-solid contracts, sales methods that keep me booked for months in advance, and tons of other “systems” and “SOPs.”
Which is why my advice to Devin is counterintuitive. Especially given my background.
I Told Him To Stop Worrying About Creating “SOPs” For His Business
When most freelancers try to create “SOPs” or “systems,” they think they need to create a masterpiece of complexity.
And they proceed to waste hours building some overcomplicated flowchart with a dozen nested if-then conditions. (Ask me how I know.)
Or they wind up like Devin. Where the idea of creating “SOPs” feels so overwhelming, they don’t even know where to start. So they wind up stuck and never make any progress.
That’s why I told Devin to stop worrying about making “SOPs”…
And Instead, Just Make Some Simple Checklists
Because in my experience, 99% of the time a “system” or “SOP” is really just a fancy way to describe a checklist.
That means a simple checklist allows you to achieve the same goal as creating a “system” or “SOP.” Since it allows you to add organization and structure to your business.
But making a checklist also feels much easier to do than “establishing a Standard Operating Procedure.”
So it removes the tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be. Or to get paralyzed by the overwhelming task of building a “system.”
The Truth Is, Almost All Of The “Systems” In My Freelance Business Are Really Just Simple Checklists
And creating them is easy.
All I do is pay attention as I am working on a task for my business.
I write down each of the steps as I complete them.
Then I turn those steps into a checklist in Trello, which is my project management system. Or in Evernote, which is my notes app.
And from there, I refer back to the checklist any time I need to complete that task.
Also, I Expect To Run Into Errors And Omissions The First Few Times I Use A Given Checklist
So I don’t worry about getting it “perfect” the first time.
As long as the first checklist is 80% accurate, that’s a great foundation.
And each time I use that checklist going forward, I will patch any holes and adjust any mistakes.
So that eventually, I have an iron-clad “system” or “SOP” for my business…
Which is really just a simple checklist. 😉
Now Let Me Show You How To Make Freelance Clients Come To You — Like Clockwork — Using A Simple, 30-Second Conversation…
All the details are inside my free business blueprint 30-Second Referrals.
With this free PDF, you’ll discover how to use a simple, 30-second conversation to get two referrals from every single client you sign. (I’ll even show you exactly what to say during this conversation with my word-for-word script on page 13.)
That way, you can make clients come to you like clockwork. And you can fill your pipeline with more new business than you can handle.
But there is a small catch…
30-Second Referrals is only available to members The Freelance Like A Pro email list.
So enter your best real email below to join us and claim your free copy of 30-Second Referrals now. (And you’ll get my members-only emails to help you run a more profitable and stress-free freelance business, too.)
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Thanks for the freelancing guide and the emails that you've been sending out — the 30-second referral method is so stupidly simple, that it's genius!Connor Inch, Freelance Copywriter