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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Business Planning: SWOT It Out



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business planning, freelance, writing
What a good day yesterday. Despite a few interruptions, I completed revisions on one project and wrote drafts of two other smaller projects. I've not felt too motivated lately, but it was great to see some headway on the to-do list.

Here's what I love about building a business plan -- you get to delve into those things that you do best, and also look at things that could trip you up. In fact, we call that the SWOT analysis. SWOT means strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and it's long been a tool of marketing departments and company executives for understanding how to better position their company and products. It's an integral part of the business plan.

The beauty of it is it works for freelancers, too.

Here's how it breaks down:

Strengths. Maybe you're like most freelancers and you have a tough time nailing down what you're good at, or maybe you know, but your mother taught you not to brag. Here's your invitation to do just that. Write down all those areas of writing/editing that you know you rock. If you're not sure, ask a friend or family member to help you. What do clients say about your work or your attitude? Those positive comments speak to your strengths.

Weaknesses. This one isn't easy, either. We'd like to believe we're good at what we do. But where are we not quite measuring up? Do you gloss over details and make mistakes? Do you tend to miss deadlines? Are you not a morning person? Do you not edit well? Be honest with yourself -- what are you  not exactly the best at doing? The sooner your admit them to yourself, the sooner you can see what opportunities lie in those weaknesses. Maybe some extra training? Or maybe a partnership with someone who's a fantastic editor but a mediocre writer?

Opportunities. Okay, take the "personal" hat off and put on the "business" hat. As a business, where are there opportunities? Are there areas in which you already work that you could expand in? Are there new avenues you've yet to explore? Where are these opportunities? Write it all down. Then think of ways to take advantage of one or more on the list.

Threats. Again, wearing the business hat, look at what things could prevent you from earning a living. Health problems, lack of effective or consistent marketing, bad economic conditions, lack of a strong network of contacts, or even your own laziness can all get in the way of your business success. Where are these threats? How can you eliminate one or more?

Your SWOT analysis is just one portion of your overall written business plan, but it's an essential step. By knowing where you're strong and where you're weak, you can build ways to compensate. Also, by knowing what threatens to put you out of business, you can work to eliminate each threat one by one, or buy insurance to cover those threats that can't be completely alleviated.

So do your own SWOT analysis right now. What do you see? What's surprising to you? Have you done a SWOT analysis before? If so, how does today's analysis differ from the previous one?

6 comments:

Paula said...

I don't recall hearing the term SWOT before - further proof that I always learn something here.

As I jotted down my answers, the hardest one to face was Threats. Then I realized even people with corporate jobs have many of the same threats, but the one I don't share with them is the threat of being downsized.

Lori said...

True enough, Paula. However, we do have the threat of being replaced by another writer for whatever reason. That one is out of our control for the most part!

Cathy Miller said...

Ah, SWOT - a process loved by many in my corporate days.

I guess I haven't consciously used it in my business although the premise is solid so I use some of the same thought processes.

If you're game, I'll use it when I develop my 2013 plan and share what I find in my guest post for you this month, Lori. Just let me know if that works.

Lori said...

I'd love that, Cathy! Yes, please. :)

Paula said...

Then again, Lori, the good thing about working freelance is we aren't (or shouldn't be) working for only one client. Takes a little of the sting out when we loose or dump a client.

Lori said...

Amen to that!

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