Business operating procedures are relevant irrespective of whether you are a Virtual Assistant who runs a solo VA business, a Virtual Assistant who is looking to take a team of associates or you find yourself as a Lead VA providing an OBM type role to their clients.

If you read any literature about starting out as a new OBM – one of the suggested tasks they say you could do with a new client is to set up (or review) a clients SOPs to see if you are a good fit for each other.

Consider these scenarios:

You just hired a new associate or team member. You hand them a checklist and process to follow. You then follow your own checklist to make sure they have all the information they need.

You start increasing your level of service, number of clients to twice what you had before and you start to take on a team of associates (or employees). However, they all have to have the same high quality of delivery and this is possible since you have a clear process that each person involved must follow.

You suddenly become ill and unable to work, you need your partner / associate VA to take particular actions “in” your business on your behalf.

These examples and there far many more situations where a standard process or checklist can make the difference between chaos and efficiency. Standardizing certain aspects of your business not only ensures consistency of quality and service, it also gives you peace of mind should something happen that takes you away from the business for a period of time.

So put aside your “JFDI” spirit for a bit, and let’s focus on being as efficient as possible moving your business forwards (and that of your clients).  

So put aside your “JFDI” spirit for a bit, and let’s focus on being as efficient as possible moving your business forwards (and that of your clients).  

What Are Standard Operating Procedures and Why Does Your Company Need Them?

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are written instructions that outline and standardize procedures within a business.

SOPs are used in every industry in order to keep business practices in accordance with legal, financial, and industry regulations.

The VA industry is an unregulated industry so this is about best practice and about helping you to standarise tasks within your business.

In more common language, SOPs are how-to’s that cover every aspect of your business. When describing why a client might need them, you could use the following examples: businesses have customer service guides that outline how to deal with customer complaints. Tech companies have troubleshooting guides for when their systems don’t work. An SOP can be anything from a detailed written manual with diagrams to a simple checklist that walks a virtual assistant through adding content to your WordPress blog.

Here are the reasons SOPs are so important:

Maintaining Quality Standards

SOPs ensure that every team member is on the same page when it comes to the delivery of services and levels of customer service expected. This ensures a consistent standard of quality throughout your company.

Tasks can be easily delegated to any associates / freelancers who are brought in to deliver a service.  


When problems arise in your business’s daily operation, SOPs provide you a roadmap for troubleshooting. Manuals describe how to diagnose and solve problems so that any team member can do it.

No Guesswork

When you have clearly spelled out the procedures, this prevents your team or yourself from making emotional or rash decisions.

Problems and conflicts can be solved fairly with no guesswork.

Ways of working and best practice can be shared so that in the future in the event that something goes wrong again, you can look back and see how the issue was managed.

Reduced Learning Curve and Errors

SOPs allow you to train new associates easily. There’s less of a learning curve for them. As they learn about your business, they’ll make fewer errors. They can then settle into your company more quickly and they will know what is expected of them when dealing with clients.

Financial Considerations

Your SOPs make managing finances, handling bookkeeping, making purchases much easier. When you are creating these for clients, levels of authority can be spelt out within the SOPs and remind people where they can make purchases, refund decisions without having to refer back to the client.

Finally, SOPs make your company more dynamic. It’s easy to change company procedures and regulations when they’re all well documented and easily accessible to your contractors.

More Value for Your Company

All of the above benefits offer a further benefit for your company – they make your company more profitable by making it more efficient. This in turn adds value to your company which is passed on to clients and customers.

This added value helps if you choose to sell the company in the future.

SOPs Can’t Cover Everything – Unfortunately!

SOPs differ from one business to another even within the same industry. However, your standard operating procedures can’t cover everything completely (although they should strive to cover all of the key areas of your business).

Because of this, make sure everyone in your company has a good understanding of company vision, mission, and values so that they can make the right decision when one needs to be made.  This includes any freelancers such as your Associate VAs. 

Identifying Key Areas that Need Standard Operating Procedures

Creating standard operating procedures for your business is all about systematizing and documenting its processes. This should be done for all processes possible in all functions of your business. The basics of your SOPs should be in place before your business begins its operations, though you’ll be updating them as your business evolves. The reality is for the vast majority of us – they are not in place and we are scrabbling around creating them once something has gone wrong!

Tips for Creating Effective Business Systems

A business system, or standard operating procedure, is a guide that outlines the exact steps that need to be followed to complete a task. While seasoned team members or employees of a company may already know how to complete the tasks, and think that documented business systems are unnecessary, a set of SOPs can help new members to an organisation or for someone else to step in when illness occurs as said above. 

In fairness, having the business systems documented will help everyone complete their job and achieve proficiency.

I totally get that recording your systems can be daunting but following some basic guidelines can help you find success. Here are some tips for creating effective business systems for your business and then you can look to implement them across your clients business. 

Be the Expert

It helps if you are intimately familiar with the task that you are documenting. Your personal experience completing the job can help but don’t be convinced that your way is the best way. Talk with your others, ask questions in groups such as the VA Help Desk or the VA Membership to find out the ways in which others are doing similar tasks. 

Make it Clear and Concise

When writing down the steps of a procedure, you want to be sure to use simple, direct language. Your business systems need to be understandable to anyone who has a basic, working knowledge of the industry.  At the same time, I liken this to explaining something to a 7 year old – because in an emergency you don’t want someone to have question the instructions you want them to be able to follow what has been written!

Remember the Details

You want anyone reading these documents to be able to complete the task without having to ask questions. Be sure to include helpful hints to the steps involved.

These could consist of specific locations of where documents are stored, access logins to specific tools or software. Or if you are a physical business reading this where valves and switches are located or where needed supplies might be stored. When it comes to the position of valves and switches, consider having diagrams and maps or even making labels that you can refer to in the system documentation.

Link Related Procedures

Whenever possible, you want to cross-reference related procedures. Most business systems require users to perform multiple associated tasks for them to complete their goals. For example, a process for using the Print Preview function in your software should be linked to procedures for the Print function.  This is particularly useful if you do tasks on a routine and regular basis either in your own business or with clients. 

Working with Associates

I totally recommend you documenting all of the steps within your business – you can use this with Associates. I often call this “The Way We Do It Here Manual” and should include everything from templates, signatures, turn around times, fonts, logos, language to use in emails etc etc. 

Well written business systems and standard operating procedures should leave the users feeling comfortable with the experience and confidence in their ability to complete the task without having to ask questions.

As part of the VA Membership we have templates to have you get your business systemized and working more effectively with Assocaite Virtual Assistants. 

The VA Membership is the only UK VA business accelerator that’s designed specifically to help you build and grow your VA business, to help you create recurring revenue and consistent growth through regular and consistent action in 2022.  With over 100+ hours of courses, weekly co-working sessions, weekly group coaching calls, a private support group and the ability to pay as you go – when you’re ready to grow or scale your business online come and join us in the VA Membership. 

The VA Membership has the option to upgrade to more one to one coaching and mentoring support – this is perfect if you are looking to really scale your business.  If you would like to see / learn more about our one to one coaching and mentoring then you need to check out the new One to One Mentoring page.