Setting Up Processes in Your Web Design Business | Digital Masters

Episode #36

Setting Up Processes in Your Web Design Business

creating standard operating procedures

It’s the first week of 2022 and chances are you told yourself this is going to be “your” year. This is the year your business grows. This is the year you start to scale.

This is the year you’re going to get your shit together.

Look, if you’re a web designer or even a developer, chances are that you might be a bit on the creative side. And creatives, well, we’re not so great with the whole organizational, processes thing.

In the years I’ve been in business, not being great with the processes and or treating my business like the actual business it is is the reason I’ve failed before. I tried to freelance years ago, and I could never get to a consistent revenue.

Because I wasn’t treating my business like a business.

One thing you can do to improve all that? Implementing some processes – or Standard Operating Procedures – into your business.

Clean Up Your Work Habits

Boring! Why do you need standard operating procedures? Do you really want to do something the same way, every single time you do it?

Um, yea, long and short of it is you do.

Think for instance about some of the largest businesses in the world. McDonalds, love them or hate them, grew so rapidly and so massively in part because everything was so consistent across the board. While a franchisee could come in and buy their own location(s), they still had to do it the McDonalds way.

If you ever worked fast food or for a larger corporate chain, chances are you went through some kind of corporate training in your first few weeks. Every single employee that starts goes through the same training not because companies love to waste time or ease you in, but because they want those things done the same way by all of their employees.

SOPs in a Web Design Business

You may be wondering how that applies to web design. Aren’t you creating a unique product for every client? Why do you need to do the same things the same way?

The long and short of it – it helps you to do things more efficiently and with better precision.

When you take the time to think through the process and write it all out, you’re removing any of the guesswork. When you have a process to follow, you know exactly what the next step should be and you don’t get mental blocks because you’re just not sure.

Scaling Your Web Design Business

SOPs also help you to scale your business, simple as that. You can only do everything in your business for so long and then you’re capped at what income you can earn. There has to be a way to scale, and often that means bringing on some kind of help.

Creating an SOP means that it’s easier to train that new person and they can come in and get started without you having to take a huge chunk out of your day to teach them the nitty gritty.

A few months ago, I hired my first junior developer. I knew I wanted her to help me with specific tasks, but I wasn’t sure exactly what all I could get over myself and trust her with. But for those things that I knew she would be doing, I created detailed SOPs.

Having those SOPs created before she even started meant that I could hand off those assignments pretty easily. We reviewed them, I showed her a few things through screenshare, and away she went. She also has those to refer back to every single time she helps with those tasks, so she not only has the process to follow but it cuts down on her having to ask me questions.

Creating Standard Operating Procedures

You might already be thinking of some SOPs that you can implement in your own business now, but let’s talk about creating them.

The first thing to remember is that an SOP doesn’t have to be a crazy complicated eBook with everything under the sun. Personally, I use just simple Google Docs that have step by step instructions (one of my SOPs even includes my phone number and a TEXT ME note if something goes crazy wrong).

I have clients that have created a set of SOPs by recording a series of Loom videos. Others that have documents with screenshots.

When you’re creating your SOPs, you want to first focus on what makes the most sense for you and your business.

Writing Your First SOP

When I know that I’m going to have a new SOP to create, I bring up a Google Document on my second monitor. Then, I start the task.

Every time I click, login, or otherwise do something different, I notate it in my SOP. Remember, you do this all of the time but you might be sharing this document with a new freelancer or employee. They don’t know your business, so someone with 0 knowledge for how you work needs to be able to come in and understand it.

Break it down into as simple steps as you can. You also want to break it out into any sub-steps that might fall under that. Think of it as an if/else loop. If it’s not that, then do this. Make sure to include everything through to the very end of the task, including how to mark off or notify someone that the task has been completed.

Which SOPs Do You Need?

How do you select what to take the time with to create a standard operating procedure for that?

Creating SOPs can definitely take time, so you can approach it in a couple of different ways. If you want to hire someone soon, have just hired someone, or are trying to justify bringing in help – create SOPs for the tasks they would help you with.

Not only will you make it easier on yourself when they join your team because you’ll already have those SOPs created, but you’ll know exactly what you want them to do and how you want them to help you and your business. Knowing the tasks they’ll be helping with will help you hire the right person. It’ll also let you see the gaps and help you to prepare for those.

In a web design business, you might need standard operating procedures that cover:

  • The client onboarding process
  • The sitemap, copy, design, and development processes
  • Templated emails to send to clients at different phases
  • How to update websites
  • How to perform security updates and maintenance
  • Even how to create content for your business’s marketing

My junior developer only helps me with specific development tasks, but the SOPs and templates I’ve created for other parts of my business help me to work faster, smarter, and consistently.

Sample SOP

One of the first SOPs I wrote was the one for updating my hosting clients’ WordPress websites. As part of their hosting, I promise to update their WordPress core and plugins once a month, do a general sweep of the website to ensure all looks good, and take a full backup of the website and save it in a secondary location.

Because this process was a bit more involved, when I brought in my junior developer, I knew that having an SOP would help her to do the work the way I did, without missing any steps, and provide the same level of service I would myself.

In this case, her first few steps look like this:

  1. Check that daily backup was taken under Production > Backup Points
    1. If not, click Create Backup
    2. Title backup “Pre plugin updates”
    3. Enter your email after mine, separated by comma
    4. Hit Create Production Backup
    5. Once notified backup has been completed, refresh Backup Points page
  2. Click WP Admin at top middle
  3. Log in with WP Admin account
    1. If asks to confirm my email is admin email, hit “The email is correct” button
  4. Go to Updates page under Dashboard > Updates and check for a WordPress update
    1. If one is waiting, update WordPress
      1. On the WP Engine – Create a Restore Point – pop up, click “No thanks, I already did this”

The SOP continues with the rest of the steps to update each plugin, checking the website to ensure there are no conflicts, and how to take the final update and where to save it. When I hired help, I was literally able to just give her this document and away she went. Easiest training ever.

Growing Your Business, Easier

Standard operating procedures are all about making your life easier, but it’s also about growing your business easier.

Think about every time you have to train someone. Contractors may only stick around for a short length of time, and if you’re having to teach one person who then quits and then teach another, what’s the point of hiring in the first place?

Having written processes and SOPs allows you to bring on help as needed, but it also helps to keep your business consistent. This makes it far easier for you to scale your business but also makes you more efficient overall.

And honestly, you know that when you’re more efficient that just means you’re able to get more billable work done. Isn’t that what we all want?

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