Helping creative small business owners learn to tackle operations.


A 3 step guide to tackling documentation in your small business

A 3 step guide to tackling documentation in your small business

This is my actual reaction anytime someone says they need help with documentation.

Now if you’re like a lot of people, documentation is not your favorite thing and can quite frankly feel less important, overwhelming and a ‘nice to have’ rather than a need.  In fact, most people wait until after the project is completely over to even consider any documentation only to realize when they move to the next project, that documentation could have saved them time.  Maybe you’re too busy, you don’t have enough people to complete it, or you’re just not sure where to start with documentation.

But what if we could make it simple???

I’ve put together this easy to follow 3 step process for documentation to help define, organize and complete it without feeling overwhelmed.  I’ve included time saving tips and free templates to keep you on track every step of the way!

Step 1: Define the documentation needs.

This is often skipped because most people assume it’s clear what needs documentation and what doesn’t.  Like any other project, documentation needs to be defined to outline the purpose, goals and audience.

1. What is the purpose?

  • Is it an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) or Policy?
  • Is it educational only?
  • Is it onboarding material?
  • Is it Legal or HR related?

2. What is the goal?

  • Create internal knowledge base
  • Compliance
  • Education
  • Process/Workflow documenting

3. Who is if for and how do they access it?

  • Is this internal or external facing?
  • What level of definitions need to be included?
  • Who will help in creating/updating?
  • Where will it be stored and how can they access it?

Step 2: Organize and setup the process

With a well outlined process will make it easier to visualize the extent of documentation needed and help setting up a timeline for completion.

1. Create a templated naming structure for storing documentation

  • Use color coding and tags to help with additional organization and search features depending on where you are storing your documentation
  • Folder Name -> Onboarding SOP -> Document Name -> 1_First Day -> 2_HR -> 3_Software access

2. Create a database of all documentation needed and include:

  • Create/include a template for format
  • Status for process
  • Priority
  • Date for completion
  • Responsible individual(s)
  • Goal
  • Access
  • Purpose

3. Setup a schedule based on the priority of the documentation and the responsible individual

  • If you don’t make documentation a project it will never get accomplished.  Treat assigning tasks as you would any other project and time block when needed.
  • Start with highest priority, existing documentation first.
  • If it exists, tackle the existing documentation first adding in the details needed to get to some sort of SOP/Template to use for moving forward with the documentation that needs to be completed.
  • The caveat here is if you have a more urgent documentation need from the team.

Step 3: Writing the documentation

1. Record the process and use the transcription to help you get started with documentation.

  • Often the easiest way to complete accurate documentation is to walk through the process as you write.  Save time by recording the walkthrough and using the transcription as your documentation starting point. (Loom paid account is great for this)
  • This also allows you to then grab screen shots you might need to help explain complex or technical processes.

2. Use templates whenever possible.  

  • Go back to Step 2 and start with your template to ensure you keep formatting consistent.

3. Write for the intended audience

  • If it’s a technical writeup for non-technical individuals, add in glossary or use screen shots.
  • Consider making two separate documents but only when absolutely necessary.
  • Create standardized formats for communicating technical processes to non-technical individuals using definitions as needed.  For example: "Data from X website moves to Y website via API/Script/Automation every Z minutes/days/weeks. This data is extracted and kept for..."
  • Outsource the creation of the technical glossary if time is of the essence.

4. Ensure each responsible individual has access to the templates and is adding in their contributions or completing the documentation as relevant.

5. Proof read and review!  It takes time to review the documentation before you hit publish but it’s the best thing you can do to ensure it’s accurate.

Tools and Templates!

Here are some tools and templates to get you started!  Keep in mind the easiest way to get started is to use what you have.  Limit how many new processes, tools and templates you’re introducing to a team as it could be a more difficult rate of implementation and adoption.

Documentation and Storage Tools

  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive
  • Notion
  • Coda
  • Airtable
  • Evernote
  • OneNote

Recording and Transcription Tools

  • Loom
  • Cleanshot X
  • Descript
  • Zoom
  • Adobe Premier Pro


Notion Documentation Template

Now you’re ready to sit down and tackle documentation!

With this simple 3 step process you can finally create a systemized approach to documentation.  Whether it’s catching up on documentation you’ve put off or implementing the process from the start of a project, you’re ready to start documenting!

That's it for now!

Check back soon for more blog posts on how you can incorporate operations into your creative small business! In the mean time, click below to check out our other resources

Back to Resources

Rather have someone else take over your operations?

We're here to make your life easier and business run smoother.
Just click below to get started.

About Helping Creatives

In December 2019, Sara quit her cushy corporate job in pursuit to become a paid full-time freelance creative. After years of exploring her creative side she realized she needed to bring her operational skills to creative small business owners.

After a TON of failure Sara started to openly talk about her journey on Twitter and her podcast, Talks With SaraNoSocks and saw a theme emerge, business operations was holding creatives back. After lots of trial and error, pivots and pitfalls, she realized a productized service was the answer.

Helping Creatives is a way to bring all those creative small business owners the support they need to hand off some of the operations setbacks and get back to what they really love...creating!