43: The SOPS I put into place in order to take ONE whole month off from my business (The Systems and Workflow Magic Podcast)

43 The SOPS I put into place in order to take ONE whole month off from my business

You wouldn’t believe it, but this is the first episode I am recording in three months! You probably would have never guessed because the show has been airing consistently, every week, while I’ve been living out my life this past summer.

Are you a solopreneur? This episode is for you if you have wanted to take time off but don’t feel like it is possible. If you are skeptical or have a nagging voice telling you it’s impossible to plan, turn that voice off and listen in!

The Systems and Workflow Magic Podcast is brought to you by Dolly DeLong Education. This podcast is for creative business owners who want to learn tangible steps to automate their business through workflows, systems, tools, and strategies to go from scattered to streamlined with purpose. Because even muggles can become automated wizards.


5 Popular SOPs

Are you a photographer who wants to learn how to incorporate SOPs in your business? I’ve created a free checklist with video tutorials and a Trello template. In this guide, I am pulling back the curtain on how to get started with SOPs for your creative business!

Grab the Guide >>

Review the Show Notes

What led me to take three months off in my business (0:40)

Testing the waters to share the results with you (2:50)

What an SOP is (6:07)

The preface of the planning stages (6:53)

A rocky start to my intended month off (16:50)

The action steps I took (18:24)

Mapping out resources for each recorded episode (22:49)

Preparing SOPs to help me outsource (23:15)

Hiring and training my new hire (25:55)

Five action steps I want YOU to take (28:51)

Links Mentioned

21: Systems for Financial Freedom – Ty DeLong

20: How to Create a Profit First System for Your Creative Business

5 SOPs for Photographers

Strategic Content Batching Masterclass for Creatives

The Blueprint Model

Legal Paige 

Connect with Dolly ⬇️




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The SOPS I put into place in order to take ONE whole month off from my business

Review the Transcript:

Dolly Delong
Welcome to the Systems and Workflow Magic Podcast, where I help entrepreneurs go from scattered to streamlined in their creative businesses. I’m your host, Dolly DeLong, a wife, a mom, and a photographer turned systems educator. Join me weekly as we have conversations centered around creating tactical workflows and automation in your business. Now, let’s make some strategic workflow magic.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Systems and Workflow Magic Podcast. Well, you believe me if I told you that this is the first time I’m recording a podcast episode after taking over three months off from recording, you probably would have never guessed because the show has been still airing consistently every week while I’ve been living out my life this past summer. And there are several reasons why I took three months off of recording and then one month off of work in August. So here are three reasons why. As you may know, if you’ve been following me, I am pregnant with my second baby. And the first trimester of my pregnancy, I was so sick and miserable. And honestly, I needed time to take a little step back. And I feel like I slept all the time. Well, when my toddler would allow me to, and I know other mamas can relate to this statement as well. Um, the second reason was it was summer. So I know my summer schedule always changes dramatically when my son is not in school. And so he wasn’t in school, and I wanted to be able to accommodate his schedule and spend more time with him, especially since little brother’s about to come and change up our lives a little bit. And number three, I just wanted to know that I could do it. Plus, in a few months, Lord willing, I will be having and delivering baby number two as mentioned. So when he comes this past, I guess, like an experiment of putting all the systems in place to see if I could take several months off. This is good practice for me for intentional maternity leave. And actually having prepped ahead of time, for this summer, is helping me prep ahead of time for 2023. So I’m going to be taking a lot of the same steps that I’m gonna share with you in this episode. And I’m going to apply it for my maternity leave as well. So why am I sharing this all with you? So I have been wanting to test these waters out to see if taking the summer off, and taking the entire month of August off from podcasting would be possible. And let me share it I want to give you some SOPs in systems I had to put into place in order to make this happen. And I’m hoping who knows, maybe this will inspire someone like a listener to start to think proactively and plan a one, two, maybe three months sabbatical from your own business with some strategic content batching, of course. And since I just experienced this again, I know this is possible for my business for the show to run itself with correct systems and SOPs in place. So if you’re skeptical, I want you to listen up. And I just want to be clear, I do not have a giant team working for me, like not at all. I literally have one to two contractors who helped assist me on some projects. But for the most part, it’s me. So I want to share that this is possible. And if you have a nagging voice telling you, it’s impossible to plan in advance, then please turn that voice off and listen in. Especially if you’re a caregiver, you’re a parent or whatever stage of life you’re at, I firmly believe it is possible even if it’s like one to two hours per week. It is possible. Okay, so are you ready? Hey, photographers, this one is for you. So if you’re having trouble establishing what the heck a workflow is, what the heck an SOP is, and you’re just wanting to build attraction towards learning how to apply it to your photography business.

Listen up. I have a free checklist complete with video tutorials, and even a master Trello template for you to use on five popular SOPs for photographers who want to learn how to incorporate SOPs and workflows in their business. I am pulling back the curtain on how to get started with SOPs for your business so that you feel more confident and have more clarity about your business. If you’re interested in snagging this free video training, then head on over to the show notes or go to DollyDeLongPhotography.com forward slash five dash SOPs, dash four dash photographers. That’s Dolly DeLong Photography.com, forward slash five SOPs for photographers. And again, the link will be in the show notes. And you can access this free resource today. I hope that you continue to find the clarity and magic in workflows for your small business. I’ll talk to you later.

So first, before I dive into the topic of today’s podcast, I wanted to help you define what an SOP is. So an SOP means a standard operating procedure that you take for pretty much everything within your business in life. And in this episode, I will be using SOPs and systems and workflows interchangeably. Since this is the systems and workflow magic podcast. I do believe that there is a system for everything that you do not only in your business but in your personal life. And so I wanted to share some SOPs that I developed in order to make this happen. And then point two now that you know what an SOP means, like a rough outline. And what I mean by my sop workflow for podcasting example, is that let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of the action steps I made to make this happen. Because remember, this was over three months of podcast batching, I had to intentionally plan out. And yes, it was in the midst of my first trimester of being absolutely sick. So allow me to give you a preface. So about January of 2020, to both my husband Ty who you all have met in this podcast. He’s my only male guest so far, he and I knew we wanted to take a whole month off to go to Montana, this past summer of 2022. Let me clarify not for vacation, but to live there. So a quick fact about me. I grew up between Montana in and India my entire life. You’re like, Okay, those are two very different places. And it’s because I’m biracial. And I have family in both places. So exposing my son to Big Sky Country, summers has been a goal of mine ever since I had Blaze. And now that Blaze is older, I want him to be in Montana, with the people who helped to raise me and for him to experience being outdoors, without humidity and not being like a million degrees outside. I love living in Nashville. It’s been a wonderful blessing to me and my family. But sometimes I just want to be outside without it being so so hot and humid. So anyway, so this dream took a lot of intentional planning. Thankfully, my husband works remotely first company, so he can pretty much work anywhere, as long as he has good internet access. So that was really easy to cover. So the next hurdle to cover was my business. Yes, I work from home too. But I also wear all the hats. And it’s up to me to bring in income every month for my business. So I had to be intentional with how I planned to hit. I not only had to plan ahead for content purposes, like marketing and my pillar content, which is my podcast and blog, and also my photography side of the business. But I had to plan ahead for how I was going to pay myself. For the actual month, we were going to take off because remember, I wasn’t going to take any one-to-one clients, but I still needed to make sure the business overhead costs would be covered. And I would not be in the red in the month of August which is really, really important for me. So as far as planning out content goes, that’s actually very feasible and doable for me because as a systems and workflow editor Later, I have a system down for content creation and content batching. Which, by the way, I have a whole masterclass where I teach strategic content planning and batching. And I will link this masterclass in the show notes. And by the way, I tried to update this master class once a year. So I tried to keep it relevant to what is working for me what I’m doing. And so I tried to update it once a year. And there are just so many resources I attached with that. So check it out in the show notes. Again, going back to the planning stages, Tineye, we’re mapping out what real life would look like, a month in Montana, where we would live how much money we would need to set aside what we would do as a family, etc. That was so much fun to plan out and to see if we could make this happen. And I was actually using the same time to map out the finances of my business. And you all know, I am a firm believer in having systems set up for profiting first. And if you refer back to Episode 21. That’s the interview I did with my sweet husband about our own systems, how we set up systems for our family, financially in our own family unit. And so I share our story in Episode 21. So refer back to that. But I also knew I needed to dig further into the numbers of my business. So around January is when I invested in Shana Skidmore’s blueprint model, which is a six-week mastermind, where she helps creative business owners dig into all the depths and details of running a profitable creative business. And it was a lot of work. Like she has been doing this for over 15 years. She is the CFO, essentially. And so she has all this experience. And so it was an amazing investment. And I’m so glad I did that. But oh boy, it was a lot of hard work. And so I do want you to know that she opens up the blueprint model, at least one if not two times a year. And so I put the waitlist in the show notes, and I get no benefit from mentioning this, I just want you to know that this was a really, really good business-changing and even life-changing program I was a part of. And then in the midst of all of this, I was still establishing a successful system for profiting first because that’s something that I had done years ago, you can refer to Episode 20 with Kelli Mathis, who is my profit first coach. And so I decided one of my goals for 2022 was to dig deeper into my business even more because I want to continue to grow and scale for my own goals. And so that’s one of the reasons why I joined profit first. And then another reason I was even more motivated was that I wanted to see can I actually take a sabbatical and have everything covered realistically. But let me go back, it was a lot of hard work. But hard work sometimes is great for cultivating deeper paths for your business. At least that’s how it was for me. And I needed to really dig in to see that it was possible. So I wanted to share several things that I gleaned from the six-week mastermind that kind of set me up for success for the summer. So I thought I knew my business well. But after this six-week mastermind was Shana. I knew my financials even more intimately. Because I was armed with real data and knowledge-based off on the numbers of my business, not based on the numbers of what some other creative business owner was telling me to aim for. It was actually based on my business. So I was able to apply all this knowledge and take the action steps of saving up for all of my overhead from the month I would be in Montana. Because remember, I didn’t work at all in the month of August. Sure. Like from the photography side of my business. I had people that have found out I was coming to Montana, they reached out to me and they asked me to take photos of them. So I said, sure why not like that is totally fine. But I wasn’t advertising myself all the time I was in marketing. Again, going back to the overhead costs. I wanted to make sure I was set. And so BPM the blueprint model really helped out with that. The second way it helped out as I learned how to actually save up for a VA to help me out with certain SOPs for my podcast because while I was away in Montana I still needed someone to run the workflows, and Shanice. I don’t know if she’ll ever listen to this episode, but I was so grateful. She helped me see I could do this. And with her help, I set aside three months’ worth of money. Before hiring my amazing VA. Hey, Jenny, I know you’re listening to this. So I was able to actually pay her and have money set aside for months at a time. And keep in mind, this VA works for me three, maybe up to five hours per week. So it was very manageable. And then the third thing that I learned from the blueprint model was, I was able to see what expenses in my business needed to be shaved off, which was really hard. And so I started cutting unnecessary costs that helped me out in the long run financially. And so that was really hard as well.

And because as a creative business owner, you just want to keep up with everyone. You might have shiny object syndrome, there are opportunities, it seems like all the time on social media that is being marketed in our faces. And so I was just blown away by how Shana taught the blueprint model. And I just learned so much in this first round. And that’s another reason why I just want to encourage you to dig deeper into the systems or the finances of your creative business. And, again, I linked the wait list of the blueprint model in the show notes. So please check it out. Okay, so that was really from January to April. That’s what I was doing. I was like mapping out content, I was mapping out the finances of my business. And then meanwhile, Ty and I were planning out how we were going to live in Montana. Okay, so let’s backtrack a little bit more. Remember how I mentioned I got pregnant in April, maybe I didn’t mention it was in April, but my first trimester was awful sickness wise. So even though I had a plan of action for August, my intended month off, my second pregnancy kind of took me for a loop with how hard my first trimester was, I was so sick every day, I’m so nauseous, I couldn’t stop sleeping. And just the icing on the cake was I got COVID while pregnant. And it was not fun. And so there were just moments from April to June, where I just wanted to crawl in bed and not show up. It was just awful. But as a wife, as a toddler mom, and as a business owner, the show has to go on, especially with your relationships at home. And I know, obviously, I am not Beyonce, and I don’t have a team of people doing things for me. So I had to figure out how to develop and hone in on my workflows and SOPs, in order for things to run behind the scenes for my business. So that could run and then use my energy to be present for my husband, Ty, and my son Blaise. And then for this growing baby inside of me. And so I really had to dig in. And it was hard, y’all. From April to June, I decided, like when I have the energy, I revamped my content batching and workflow strategies. And instead of just content planning for the month of August that I was going to take off, I decided to batch out three months of podcast episodes, again, including August. So essentially, I could take three months off of recording podcasts. Now, I never want you to think I was MIA for three months, I had to put systems in place. And these were the action steps I had to take. So I just didn’t drop everything and leave for three months actually took the time to map out the SOPs for this to happen. And let me be clear, I was still taking one on one clients because with my one-to-one client work, I was only working between one to two-hour spurts because remember, I serve three different groups. I am a family and branding photographer. And then my third group is systems and workflow education. So a lot of my one-on-one client work right now is branding and family photography. And so I knew like when I was going to be the most sick, and so I had like develop that intuition, I guess you would call that. And so I learned when I could work and had my ideal energy. And so I utilize that time. And also I had to earn an income for my business and so I was still taking on one-to-one clients at this time, from April to June. So late spring, or early summer I had, again, when I had the energy, I would map out all of the content I wanted to produce for the education side of my business until September. If you’re wondering what my strategies are, I have a masterclass on this. And again, I will link it in the show notes. And so three because I had all of my content strategically mapped out. I also knew that in July of 2022, I don’t know if you remember this, I released a new mini-course, on Dubsado for family photographers, because I teach the systems and workflows of Dubsado. And so while I was mapping out content from April to June, I was also mapping out content for the launch. So this meant I was creating podcast episodes, which aligned with the launch, and content of Dubsado for family photographers. And then the second half of that I was trying to be mindful of post-launch content. So I have guests come in, and we pre-recorded their episodes from April to May, which came out in July and August and a little bit of September. But we finished it in April in May, and it was a lot of recordings. But it was so sweet to finish. And it’s just because I took out the time to strategically map this all out.

Are you a small business owner who skips content creation because well, it takes too long, or do you have no earthly idea where to even begin? Well, you need to check out the strategic content creation masterclass. Learn how to go from scattered to streamlined with a content batching framework that saves you both time, and it helps you create more clear and intentional content that aligns with the offers and services of your creative business. So in this masterclass, I’m teaching you my own strategies and systems and workflows I have put in place for my business, and I’m peeling back the curtain for you to learn alongside me, head on over to the show notes and check out the strategic content creation masterclass. And within 90 minutes, you will learn my full framework, complete with a workbook and Trello board so that you can get started with creating content batching for your business, I’m so excited to have you join me in a master class.

After recording all the podcast episodes, I knew that each one had to be strategically connected with a lead magnet, and with a blog post, so I mapped out which lead magnets would go with each episode, because the goal of this podcast is to lead listeners to not only grow my email list but growing awareness of my systems and workflow services. So after handing off my podcast recordings to my podcast manager, so I’m like being super transparent, and honest, my two contractors are my BA in my podcast manager. So I began the task of creating a master podcast SOP Trello. Board for my future VA who keep in mind I hadn’t even hired out yet. Because at this time, around April or May, I was still saving up based on the blueprint model that I had learned from Shana Skidmore. So I use this time to record loon videos for each of my post-product podcast steps. And they normally take me between three to four hours per week. And these steps were part of my sop I wanted to hand off. But in order to hand it off, I had to take everything that was in my brain and transfer it into my project management tool and articulate each step. So just for clarity’s sake, I discovered that there are 10 Yes, 10 different parts of my weekly podcast SOP after it’s been edited and scheduled out. And so I literally made 10 Different loom videos with step-by-step instructions on how to execute everything in order. So I had mentioned earlier that this 10-step process alone has taken me three to four hours at the beginning of each week to work on. But knowing I wanted to take off one whole month and knowing I was pregnant, and I was worried my sickness would burn me out It motivated me to map out this SOP to hand off. So while I was mapping it out, it took me about five hours one week to write out and record each part of this SOP. And after recording all the individual loom videos, I had a training kit essentially to start off my hiring process. Now, I am a firm believer in making sure that there is clear-cut communication because the last thing I wanted to do was hand off this SOP and expect my future VA to know exactly what to do. Here are some vague things I need for you to do, you need to read my mind without any manual. And I noticed that this is a really foolish thing that a lot of other business owners do when they know they need to hire or outsource a part of their business. But they don’t know how to train how to do this. And so this is something I did not want to fall into that category. So that’s why I took the time to create, like map out that one SOP. So after I created my master documents, I began training my VA who is another creative business owner, I knew her well. She actually moved away from Nashville, and she is a photographer based in Greenville. And so we were friends. And then I told her I was looking for a VA and so it just fit up with what she wanted to also learn for her business. So it just worked out really well. I’m glad I asked around before I posted anything on Facebook. And so we worked together and we had a 45 to 60-day onboarding plan to train her slowly through my weekly podcast SOP. And the reason why I did an onboarding plan for 45 to 60 days is that I wanted to give my new hire plenty of time to get to know this one type of workflow intimately. And I wanted her to ask me questions for several weeks before I was officially out of office. Plus handing off my podcast SOP was so new to me. And I wanted to double-check her every week to give her feedback and let her know if she missed any crucial steps. And because we had a great runway, I literally was able to fully disconnect for the entire month of August from that one SOP from that one workflow, which was incredible. And because I had also mapped out and batched out my content episodes, I also had my marketing batch doubt and other SOPs batched out and mapped out. And thanks to the magic of automation, everything was set up to run smoothly while I was away. So few. That was a lot of information I just shared with you. But overall, those were the steps I took to fully hand off my podcast SOP and that’s essentially how I was able to take three months off of recording from my podcast, and one whole month off from work. And it was seriously so needed and so refreshing. I do want to state that yes, even though I was off and out of the office in August actually spent my downtime, aka my son’s naptimes working on a passion project that is in alignment with the systems and workflow side of my business. And it’s coming out in 2023. So I was having fun working again because I was resting my brain. And meanwhile, while I was resting, my brain was buzzing with excitement for September to come so I could hit the ground funny. And this is one of the episodes like I’m hitting the ground running in this episode. This first episode I’m recording after several months. Now I know I shared a lot of information with you. But if you’re wanting to take steps to hand off certain workflows, and SOPs, in order to take time off for yourself, and still keep the lights on in your business, here are five action steps I want you to take. So number one document one SOP you want to hand off and document it with written processes and with videos to clarify each step. If you’re wondering what type of program I use, I use Loom. And I know it’s free for up to five minutes of recording per video number to have a clear contract of expectations in place. If you decide to hire out a VA or a contractor or somebody to help you out with certain workflows and SOPs of your business have a contract between the both of you. So I have linked my preferred contract shop on The Legal Paige in the show notes and I have also named the exact contract I used for this type of work. And it helped out tremendously to have a creative lawyer who works with creatives who laid it out professionally. And it explained everything, all the communications that had to be in place. So it was very, very helpful. Number three, give yourself and your new VA or hire plenty of time to onboard and be communicative and give plenty of feedback. And when I say feedback, just be very kind in communicating and know that there’s a human on the other end. Number four, finally, let it go and trust the VA you hired. Because like one of the reasons why you have an onboarding process is to see the red flags during the training. And so if you see a lot of red flags, then you can go a different direction. Okay. And so, again, going back to number three, give yourself and your new VA plenty of time to onboard, so that you can see those red flags number four, and if you know the difference between a red flag and something, a mistake that’s made once or twice, and then they fix it and they don’t make it again,

you have truly found a great hire. And number five, I know I’ve mentioned this several times, if you are looking for a great financial, I’m calling it a financial mastermind like blueprint model with Shana Skidmore so that you know how to save for a VA or you know how to save ahead for sabbatical or you just want to take control of your finances, you want to know the real data behind your numbers, then you should check out Shanice Skidmore, his blueprint model and the link is in my show notes. Again, I get no benefit from mentioning her I just really want other creatives to learn from her. So this is your permission slip to hand off those SOPs which take up so much of your time. And this is also your permission slip to take the necessary steps to document those SOPs because there’s so much floating around in your brain, so why not document them? And I want to remind you again, that in the show notes there are so many resources and links for you to use, so please take advantage of everything mentioned. And as always, thank you for choosing to listen to the systems and workflow magic podcast. I hope you can find the magic in clarifying your systems this week but thank you so much for listening to the Systems and Workflow Magic Podcast. You can find full show notes from today’s episode at dolly DeLonge photography.com forward slash podcast. If you’re loving the podcast, I’d be so honored if you’d subscribe and leave a review on your favorite podcast player. Be sure to screenshot this episode, share it with your stories, and tag me at Dolly DeLong Education over on Instagram. Until next time, go make some strategic workflow magic.

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