How To Create An Operations Manual

As a small business owner, you’ve probably had someone tell you that you should create an operations manual for your small business.

You haven’t started yet because you’re not sure why a small business would need an operations manual. Or maybe you’re not sure how to start creating an operations manual or what you should put in it.

Great news! I am going to help you create your operations manual. Right after I tell you why it’s important to have one.

Why You Need an Operations Manual for Your Small Business

Never Miss A Step –  We’ve all been there. We’ve completed one of our workflows only to realize we missed a step and now we have to go back and fix what we missed.

Remember that time you scheduled your blog post only to remember you forgot to create and add the Pinterest-ready image. Or maybe you’ve scheduled out your social media for the week but accidentally skipped your Instagram account. An operations manual helps you make sure you never miss a step. Saving you time and unnecessary stress.

Prepare to Outsource – If you’re like most small business owners you don’t plan on being a small forever. As your business grows, you know you’re going to need help. Creating your operations manual now will ensure you’re ready to outsource tasks as soon as the need arises.

Imagine if you decided next week you needed a social media manager. Most small business owners start panicking or spending hours deciding what to delegate. Not you. You’re going to open your operations manual and locate all the social media related tasks that someone else could handle. Easy peasy.

Take a Vacation – No lie. Creating an ops manual allows you to hand off your business to someone else while you take a break. Much like delegating duties to a freelancer or employee an ops manual allows you to delegate duties to a stand-in while you enjoy a little R&R.

What to Include in Your Operations Manual

Your small business is unique and your ops manual should be too. My ops manual wouldn’t work for your business and vice versa. Below are a few ideas and suggestions to get you started.

  • A list of links to all the systems you use
  • A brand style guide
  • Your why, mission statement, and values
  • Client Avatar profiles
  • A list of your affiliate links
  • Copies of any business document templates (contracts, terms, and conditions, etc.)
  • Clearly documented step by step instructions for your workflows (social media scheduling, blog post workflow, new client onboarding steps, etc.)
  • Testimonials
  • Featured in/on links
  • Course/Membership Info

Where to Create/Store Your Operations Manual

When it comes to where to create and store your operations manual, you should use one of the systems you are already using if possible. Using something you’re already comfortable with will make creating your operations manual a much easier process.

That being said here are a few options that work great for ops manuals if you don’t already have a workable system in place.

Google Drive or Your Hard Drive –  Create a folder titled operations manual with subfolders for each of your sections and you’re off and running. Google has all the options you need to create and upload folders, documents, sheets, and slides.

Trello – Trello is one of my FAVORITE tools. I even recommended it in my post 6 Free Tools I Use To Run My Business. If you’re already using Trello, it’s easy to create a board for your operations manual. Now fill it up with lists and cards related to your operations and systems.

Evernote – The notebook style setup of Evernote lends itself to creating an operations manual fairly easily. Set up an operations manual stack and start adding notebooks for each of the areas of your operations manual

Not into electronically formatted ops manuals? You can also grab a binder and some dividers from your local office supply store and create a paper-based operations manual.

Do You Need Help Getting Started?

I’ve created an easy to use checklist just for you. Need more help than a checklist can offer? Check out my Operations Manual Starter Kit in the EKO Treasure Chest.

Ops Manual Checklist



Kelli is the COO or Captain of Operations at Even Keel Ops. Her passion is helping overwhelmed entrepreneurs get their operations organized. When she’s not busy helping others unload their overwhelm you can find her on the beach with a book.
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