5 Rules for Creating SOPs for your Painting Business

You know that creating SOPs is a crucial step towards organizing and systematizing your business so that you can grow profitably. To have a business that can fully function without you and be in position to one day sell it, if you so chose. 

The idea of SOPs has been swimming round and round your head like a dirty fish bowl for too long. Like an old tired song on repeat. Leaving you feeling frustrated that you still haven’t tackled this. Many times thinking, if I could get a copy of so-and-so’s SOP’s I’d be set. Unfortunately, this is never the case. You might be able to use a few of their SOP’s, but most of them will be too specific for their company for you to use in yours. 

Documenting your procedures seems like such a daunting project. But it doesn’t have to be– Not if you follow these 5 simple rules that I’ve used to help many of my clients to simply document their SOPs. 

Rule #1: Writing Your SOPs

Don’t let them continue swimming around your head. Just start by scratching an outline out on paper. Check this out: Quick, grab a piece of paper. List out the 3 SOP’s you want to write. 

A few examples:

  • Setting Up An Exterior Project
  • Setting Up An Interior Project
  • Answering The Phone

Really, answering the phone? Yes! What’s simple to you is not obvious to others. Plus, in many cases, this is the first impression a customer experiences. 

Next, take a piece of paper out for each one and title each for the separate SOPs. 

Now, simply outline each SOP, but don’t go into details. 

Now you have your first 3 SOP rough drafts outlined! 

How does that feel? 

Great, eh?

Here’s the key, capture every SOP or any ideas that come to mind on a note on your phone. Get it out of your head. Your head is for creating ideas, not storing them. 

Rule #2: Organizing Your SOP’s

The life of a lead goes through 6 stages in your business. 

You set up and manage your business: Admin

You market your business: Marketing

You sell work: Sales

You hire painters: Human Resources

You paint the jobs: Production

You get paid: Finances

Using our 3 SOP examples from above, here’s where they would fall in. 


  • Answering The Phone





Human Resources



  • Setting Up an Exterior Project
  • Setting Up an Interior Project



Organizing them this way, by the Life of a Lead, will help you recall where the SOPs are when you need to retrieve them. This also helps you to think of which one you need to write next. 

Like this, 

  • Answer the Phone
  • Booking an Estimate
  • Arrive at The Estimate
  • Selling The Job
  • Schedule The Job
  • Loading Jobs into the Project Manager
  • Ordering Paint & Material
  • Setting Up an Exterior Project
  • Paint an Exterior Project
  • Close Out an Exterior Project
  • Collect Final Payment

Remember, just keep getting them out of your head and onto paper or to a document. As you get them out of your head, you’re making progress and making room for your mind to come up with more ideas. 

Up to this point, here are the example SOPs in the 6 Stage Life of a Lead framework. 


  • Answering the Phone
  • Book Estimate
  • Ordering Paint & Material. 




  • Arriving at the Estimate
  • Selling the Job
  • Scheduling Jobs
  • Loading Jobs Into the Project Manager

Human Resources



  • Setting Up an Exterior Project
  • Painting an Exterior Project
  • Close Out an Exterior Project
  • Setting Up an Interior Project


  • Collect Final Payment

By organizing your SOP’s in the 6 Stage Life of a Lead framework, it makes them easy to find and helps you to keep thinking of new SOPs to document, helping you to finally step away from each roll. 

Rule #3: Storing Your SOPs

The key for SOPs to succeed and not die in a binder on dusty shelf never to be seen again, let alone used, is to follow these 3 principles: 

App Principle #1: Use an app that’s not going away anytime soon. 

I’ve learned this the hard way. Not one time, but 3 times. I used the latest app that showed the most promise and within a year or two, another SOP App hit the market making the current app obsolete. 

App Principle #2: Use an app that allows the end user to update the SOP. 

This is key for a couple of reasons. First, nobody’s going to know how relevant an SOP is more than the person executing it. So you must allow this person access to update it to keep it relevant. Otherwise you might still have a SOP “Faxing A Bid” laying around. 

Speaking of updating SOP’s, it’s very important that you primarily use text SOP’s. Text is easy to update. Pictures– not so much and videos are 10X harder to update. 

Here’s the rule for pictures. Only use a picture or video as a reference to the written SOP and only if that picture or video won’t change in the next 3-5 years. 

App Principle #3: Use an app that allows you to retrieve deleted information or even a completely deleted document. Sometimes this is by mistake. This has happened to us. Maybe even myself. And sometimes this is done intentionally. Either way, your SOPs are far too valuable to lose so make sure you have an app that allows you to retrieve deleted documents and or information on a document. Ideally with a complete history of the document. 

Which app do I recommend? I’m glad you asked. 

Drum roll, please… Google Docs. 

Yep. It’s not shiny, nor is it new. But it’s not going away anytime soon. It allows the end user to update easily, and it allows you to retrieve any deleted information with a complete history of the changes to the doc, fulfilling the 3 SOP App principles.

Rule #4: Write For Three Skill Levels

You’ll have painters of varying experience levels. Some expert Crew Leads, some intermediate Painters, and some will be brand new to the trade, Apprentices. 

To make your SOP’s relevant to all skill levels, write them using Tim Francis’ Triple Path Readership. 

  1. Novice users can read every detail they need, to complete the task.  Often novices will read a step then do a step, reading every detail we give them.

  2. Intermediate users can skim just the H2 headlines so they’re reminded of what to do.  Often intermediates will be familiar with what to do, but need a small refresher on a few steps or details along the way.

  3. Expert users can skip everything, go straight to the end “Final Checks” and do a 3-10 point checklist to perform self-quality control. Often Experts will do (almost) the entire task without looking at the procedure, then open a procedure to review “Final Checks” to confirm they got it right. (Reference the book The Checklist Manifesto). Regardless of how much of an expert you are at executing a procedure, you should always review the Final Checks. 

A simple example for:

Painting Interior Walls (H1 heading 1)

Prepare Areas For Painting (H2 heading 2)

  1. Step 1
  2. Step 2
  3. Step 3

Painting The Walls (H2 heading 2)

  1. Step 1
  2. Step 2
  3. Step 3

Cleaning Up Area After Painting (H2 heading 2)

  1. Step 1
  2. Step 2
  3. Step 3

Final Checks (H2 heading 2)

  1. Did you pull all the tape? 
  2. Do all of the walls have a consistent and even sheen? 
  3. Did you do a final walk through to make sure no tools were left behind?
  4. Did you clean up, leaving it looking better than we found it?

Final Checks are vital. Only list the 3-10 items that if missed could kill the whole thing. Regardless of how much of an expert you are at executing a procedure, you should always review the Final Checks. 

Rule #5: Prove It

Congratulations! You have your first SOP documented! But you’re not finished yet. One last step and that’s to prove it. Your new procedure isn’t’ finished until you’re able to hand it to somebody and they are able to execute by simply following your SOP. 

You will often find missed items or steps that need clarification. Once this is done and they can execute by simply following your SOP, you’re done. 

Final Checks

  • Did you get the SOPs out of your head and onto a document? 
  • Did you organize them into the 6 Stage Life of a Lead framework? 
  • Did you store them in an app that’s not going away anytime soon, allows the end user to easily retrieve and update, and keeps a complete history of the doc, like Google Docs?
  • Did you write it for all 3 skill levels, complete with Final Checks? 
  • Did you prove it? 

By following these 5 rules, you too will be well on your way to a fully standardized business, replacing yourself at each stage that can eventually run without you.

About the Author

As a newly single father of two from MI, he struggled to start over as a paint contractor in FL, going door to door. His situation was so bad, even the IRS had mercy on him.

 Feeling completely hopeless, he remembered the story of King Solomon praying for wisdom. Could it be so easy? 

He felt he had absolutely nothing to lose. So, as a bankrupt, divorced, high school dropout, single father of 2 young kids, now living 1250 miles away from all friends and family, started to pray for wisdom.
 And while he continues to wait for the wisdom to arrive, what did come was an insatiable desire to learn and read books… 
Thanks to God for giving him the burning passion to read books, and attend seminars, (oh and winning the wife lottery) he not only cracks the success code and overcomes the struggle, but also streamlines his painting business in less than 3 years, published a how to book, then sold the company. Now he leads a business coaching company for painting contractors so he can help other businesses, like yours, to do the same. Hear more... http://www.DYBCoach.com/01 Or JoinDYB.com