3 SOP Templates to Make Your VAs More Efficient

December 22, 2020 • By The Zirtual Team

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One of the most critical aspects of managing your virtual assistant is making sure they get up to speed on the various practices and procedures that are part of your regular responsibilities. While it certainly helps to communicate with them on a regular basis, there are going to be times you aren't available. Also, you'll want to empower them to make smart, informed choices on their own, independently. But before they can do that, you need to provide them with the resources and information needed to make those choices. 

That's where a standard operating procedure (or multiple standard operating procedures) can help revolutionize the way your VAs approach their work. By codifying their roles into an SOP, you equip them with the tools they need to do their job on their own, without additional assistance. 

Here are three SOP templates to help you manage your VAs smarter. By implementing these, you'll give them more knowledge and give yourself more time, as they won't need constant guidance. They'll simply just reference the SOP. 

Before diving into the separate templates, however, let's first define what an SOP template is, what it should include, and what role it serves as part of your VAs information environment. 

What is an SOP template? 

Think of an SOP as a roadmap. It should include everything your VA needs to perform their role in a specific area supporting what your work. An SOP template can include: 

  • Detailed instructions on how to complete tasks
  • Checklists 
  • Contact lists for VIPs you'll need to stay in touch with
  • Document templates 

An SOP template should be comprehensive and have a distinct flow to it. In some cases, each section should build on the last. These templates can exist in both hard and soft copy formats for physical and digital storage. It's functioning as a manual on how to do one component of the VAs job, so make it available to them in the format most convenient to them. 

Your goal with an SOP is to take one aspect of what you do and condense everything needed to perform essential job functions into a short, concise document. It doesn't replace the need for on-the-job training, but it can serve as a useful tool for when VAs have questions about a specific task. The SOP should provide valuable context as well as clear instructions on how to carry out all associated job duties. 

Simplicity is the name of the game. Give your VAs as much information as they need, but not one word more. Every SOP should include a table of contents in case your VAs need to look up one specific piece of information quickly. 

Use the templates below as a guideline for the SOPs you create. Feel free to adjust them as necessary depending on the specific kind of work you do. Look at them as providing structure — what's included within each SOP will vary depending on what you input. 

Administrative/Operations

One common area in which VAs provide assistance is with administration and operations. For a VA, this could mean assisting with your daily, personal tasks such as paying bills or setting up appointments, especially if they're an executive assistant. It could also deal with the production of documents and deliverables. These types of tasks are more menial in nature and free you up to adopt a more strategic mindset in your approach to your work. That said, they're nonetheless important to your success and require strict attention to detail to complete. That's where having a detailed SOP will be valuable. 

Include the following sections in an administrative/operational SOP: 

Objective

State the purpose of the SOP. This should be brief and to the point — no more than a paragraph. 

Table of contents

This will include every section as well as the page numbers for each. 

Overview of tasks

This should include all tasks covered in the SOP. This will vary depending on what type of operations you have. For example, if you're an author who writes books, you may have a VA tasked with assisting you in the different parts of that process. A sample overview may include tasks such as: 

  • Research
  • Editing
  • Quality assurance
  • Digital production
  • Submission

In this early section, you won't want to include the steps involved with each task. Instead, you'll want to give a brief description of every task the VA will be responsible for with minimal information on how to do them. The direction will come later, in greater detail. 

Task Instructions

For this portion, you'll dedicate a subsection to each operational task along with clear instructions on how to carry out each one. These sections should have numbered lists. Put yourself in your VA's shoes and explicitly describe each step with details and all applicable information. Your VA may receive training, but write these sections as if you're expecting someone with no background to perform them. The more detail you put in, the easier it will be for the VA when they consult these sections as a reference guide. 

Contact list

This section should include all important email addresses and phone numbers for people your VA will need to be in touch with to carry out these tasks. This may include other freelancers assisting you, other VAs you may have, or anyone responsible for overseeing or reviewing your work. You may also want to include a client list here, though you'll likely be managing all direct communications with them. It still may be useful for your VA to have context on whom you're in touch with. 

For administration and operations, clarity and redundancy is the name of the game. It's not enough to give your VA instructions, you'll have to spell out every part of the job. By taking more time to develop an administrative/operational SOP, you'll save you and your VA a lot of time in the long run. 

Communications

No matter what field you're in, every entrepreneur should have a communications SOP. This is true whether you're working with an entire team of freelancers, multiple clients, or even if you have a small team of dedicated staff at a start-up. Understanding how to communicate effectively will help you get more work done faster, minimizing mistakes. Your VA can play a useful role in this process by adhering to a communications SOP. Your VA's communications SOP should include the following sections: 

Objective

State the purpose of the SOP. This should be brief and to the point — no more than a paragraph. 

Table of contents

This will include every section as well as the page numbers for each. 

Contact Matrix

Push your important points of contact to a spreadsheet at the beginning of the document. Include every person's name, contact info, role and responsibilities within the spreadsheet. This will give your VA an easy way to contact the right people. 

Outline your communications plan

Your communications plan is going to vary, obviously, depending on who you are and the type of work you do. If you're an entrepreneur running a start-up, you may need to have a communications plan in place to respond to business proposals. If you provide a service, you may need to coordinate meetings and dialogue between a team of freelancers assisting you. Your VA can execute your communications plan no matter what it is, but this is where you need to spell it out. The type of information you should include here would be: 

  • Who do you need to communicate with on a regular basis? 
  • How do you meet? Teleconference? Videoconference? What type of software do you use for each, and what instructions will the VA need for accessing them? 
  • What type of password management system do you use for your various software communications platforms? Don't list your passwords within the communications SOP as they could become compromised. 
  • Instructions on how to set up meetings

Social media 

Many entrepreneurs use social media as a way to either build their own personal brand or to help build a client's brand. Either way, you may look to your VA to help you provide you with assistance with your social media presence. Below are sections you should include in your VA's social media SOP: 

Objective

State the purpose of the SOP. This should be brief and to the point — no more than a paragraph. 

Table of contents

This will include every section as well as the page numbers for each. 

An overview of the various platforms you use

This is where you'll list your account information for your various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram. Don't list your passwords here in case they're compromised later. 

You can use this section to discuss what type of content or tone you're striving for with each platform. The tone should match the platform. For example, LinkedIn is for more professional-leaning business posts while Twitter is a great place to engage your audience with short but profound morsels of thought leadership. 

Content samples/templates

Do you have existing templates for developing social media content? Include those here. These can include post templates but also links to sites you use to curate free images as well. 

You may want to go into greater detail here outlining the tone of voice you're aiming to achieve on each social media platform. If your VA is going to help you produce content, they'll need insight into the goals you have for each social media platform. 

Also, don't forget to include any reusable "call to action" messages you can use prompting your readers to take a specific action after they engage with your content. 

Posting schedules

Finally, include an overview of when your VA should post content. If you have a platform for this like HootSuite, include that here and provide instructions for your VA on how to use your preferred system. Otherwise, ensure to include a calendar with dates when you'd like your content to post for each platform. This is particularly important when you're developing social media campaigns with recurring content. 

Developing SOP templates is one of the most productive "life hacks" you can employ as an entrepreneur. It will give your VA the necessary information to do their jobs and allow them to spend less time following up with you for questions. Using the templates outlined above can help you both save time and maximize everyone's productivity. 

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