Systems for Self-Employed Business Owners

small business systems
All businesses need to create standard operating procedures (S.O.P’s) to document their systems. Even when you are a sole operator without any employees, having S.O.P’s will increase your efficiency and make it easy to grow your business if and when the time comes.

You can read about the what, why, when and where of S.O.P’s here.

Here are a number of reasons your one-person operation can benefit from documented business systems.

  • Standard processes improve your organization, efficiency and effectiveness.
  • S.O.P’s ensure a consistent level of quality in your business.
  • As we spoke about in our previous blog, the sales process can be standardized to make it smoother and effective.
  • When you need help, your procedures will already be outlined for them.

These benefits lead to a more profitable and sustainable business.

Getting the Ball Rolling

While SOPs are highly recommended and will help you in running your business, you do not have to create them before you get your 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 as you’ll need to draw on that experience to write good procedures. You will also need creativity and flexibility to get started as a freelancer so wait until things settle into routines, and then you’ll understand what needs to be outlined and exactly how.

Having said that, it is important to develop standard operating systems as early as possible to improve your efficiency and effectiveness. I strongly recommend that right from the start, you create a standard procedure for any process you have do on more than one occasion. I guarantee it will save you time and frustration when you need to follow a process that you have not done for some time.

Your S.O.P’s do not need to have the same amount of detail as when others need to follow them, but they will still be useful.

Where to Start

Ideally, you want to create systems for everything you do more than once. But this is not always possible because of time constraints on sole-operators.

Here are some common S.O.P’s you should consider:

Accounts and Billing

This is the area to focus on first. It makes your business much easier to run when your financial processes are clearly defined.

  • Invoicing customers
  • Collecting payments
  • Following up accounts receivable
  • Paying business expenses
  • Processing financial transactions, and
  • Paying taxes

The Sales Process

  • Pricing
  • Presentations
  • Communicating with customers, and
  • Accepting jobs or turning them down


  • Advertising
  • Newsletter
  • Email marketing
  • Website updates
  • Blog posts
  • Social media activity
  • Flyer distribution, and
  • Networking


Many self-employed people work on multiple jobs simultaneously, so it is important to have standard operating procedures to manage workflow. Whenever you work on a task that will need to be done again, and especially if it might be some time before that happens, create an documented process as this can potentially save you hours of time.

Common processes for Workflow include:

  • Establishing priorities
  • Handling deadlines
  • Time management e.g., regular jobs, and
  • Repetitive tasks

Writing and Reviewing Your Standard Procedures

When it’s just you, create simple documents that describe the essential processes of your business. When it comes time to take on employees or outsource to others, add the extra detail needed to make sure they’re clear, accurate and easy to follow as documents that make sense to you may not make sense to others.

Content Options

Standard Operating Procedures are often text-based. However, they can also include flowcharts, audios and videos. In some cases, it can be worthwhile to provide your assistants with videos or audios accompanied by text to provide them with the best understanding.

Keeping S.O.P’s Up to Date

Larger businesses regularly review and revise their system documents. As a self-employed small business owner, you may not want to devote much time on this. However, when you become aware that a procedure has changed, make sure it is updated.

When things are going smoothly, you won’t need to give them a lot of attention. However, if your business is not going as well as you’d like, it may be time to review your business systems.


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