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Monday, December 10, 2012

Business Plan: Write It

What's on the iPod: Trash Tongue Talker by Jack White

freelance, writing, business planning
How was your weekend? Mine was a mixture of a great time and a frustrating situation that kept us from our plans, but I'll get into that tomorrow.

Continuing this month's theme -- business planning -- let's turn our attention to the plan itself. Despite your best intentions to commit it all to memory, I highly suggest you go through the motions of writing it all down. Not only will it help you to remember your plan, but it will serve as a great reference for when you've lost track a bit. 

I've written one in my life, and it's one I revise on occasion. Even though it was devised for a now-defunct side of my business (print newsletters), I used the information in it, revised it where needed, and keep it handy to keep me on track about my current and future goals.

First, know this about business plans:
  • It should fit your business's needs
  • It should be realistic
  • It should say exactly what has to be done and who's going to do it
  • It should be specific in its goals and your benchmarks for measuring those goals
That's as complicated as it needs to get. Now, how do we get there?

State your purpose. Why are you in business? It's not enough to say "Well hell, because I want to write and make money at it, Lori!" That's a given. What isn't a given is the other reasons for your business existence. Do you want to help nonprofits? Do you want to provide better content for corporate marketing departments? Do you want to become a specialist in one particular genre of magazine work? Spell it out.

Describe your operations.  This is the meat of your plan, and it's where you'll flesh out how you're intending to earn money. It's also where your marketing plan, SWOT analysis and all those necessary details get mentioned. What are your operating procedures, meaning what hours do you intend to work or how many hours per week will you devote to this? Also, spell out your competition. And you have competition -- if you look closely at what you intend to do and who else is doing it, you'll see the competition. Don't ignore it. It doesn't make it easier to handle later on after you're running to catch up.

Financial plans and info. So how much start-up money do you have and how much will you need? Will you need a loan? What supplies do you need? What insurance have you purchased or intend to purchase? This is the section for all that. List your equipment needs (and what you have already). Also, here's where you'll make your earnings projections. They're educated predictions on what you think you'll earn this year, next year, and the year after that. However, these aren't just numbers you're tossing out. You're going to show yourself how you're achieving these numbers and how you'll be going about growing the revenue.

Licenses, incorporations and LLCs. All legal paperwork needs to be referred to in this section (and attached to the business plan). Also, attach a resume to it. This will help when you're going for any business-related loans. In fact, if you intend to seek a loan, make sure to include your tax returns or other financial statements to the business plan.

That's it. It shouldn't be a hugely complicated document, but should serve as a template for how you'll operate and conduct business. Keep it simple, but do include enough detail to get specific on your goals and your plans going forward.

Have you written a business plan before? What would go into your business plan that would help you narrow the focus of your business?

5 comments:

Cathy Miller said...

My weekend was holiday decorating time and somehow I remember it being much easier. Either I'm getting old or the decorations are having babies, making for longer & longer time decorating.

I admit I do not have a written business plan. I have the goals & marketing plans, but not a "business" plan. I know. I need to put on my big girl pants and think like a business owner. :-)

Lori said...

Cathy, that may be enough. You know your goals, and you have at least one plan to get you there. Sometimes simpler is better. The reason I suggest this is it gives you a broader sense of all aspects of the business, it makes you think more like a business owner (and less like a "freelancer", which helps with the clients), and it keeps you focused on making decisions that affect the finances.

And I hear you on the decorating. Half our stuff is still in boxes. I decided to do things differently, and I think it actually looks better!

Devon Ellington said...

As I'm working on the new brochure, I'm reworking my business plan. I want to go in some new directions later. I have my quota of private students for at least the first few months, and, although I've got two classes going in January, I want to cut back on teaching next year.

It's time for more direct marketing and local proposals, now that people are getting to know me a little better.

Jennifer Mattern said...

Great topic Lori.

I've started overhauling my own business plan for 2013, and oh what a chore it can be. This is the first long-form business plan I've written in years.

Normally I just do my updates using some of my own one-page templates -- the biz plan template, marketing plan template, and project plan template for bigger projects.

This year so much of the business is changing. And with three separate segments of the business moving forward, I figured a more comprehensive plan was in order.

I just hope I can finish it up between this week and next. I'm so looking forward to time off before jumping into the new year. And of course I'm looking forward to that too. :)

Lori said...

Devon, I think that's a great time to redirect your focus. good for you.

Jenn, I agree. it can be a huge amount of work. Worth it, though, once the plan starts to work. You of all people certainly did need a more comprehensive plan! I don't know how you keep up. :)

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