Back in ’99 when I started working for myself, a business plan wasn’t something I thought particularly important to have. At that time, I was pretty busy with lots of clients and my focus was exposure and experience. But as time went on, I realized I needed some way to assess my progress, identify areas for improvement and outline future goals. Writing a business plan does all this and more!
I didn’t need a loan or anything, even a grant, but if I was going in that direction, a business plan would be required. You would specify how much money needed to make the business work plus how that money would be spent. For your business plan, you may need staff so you would include their pay for example.
When I began to write my plan, I made it very simple with the sections below. I listed my purpose, the current state of my business, accomplishments and where I wanted it to go in the next five years.
- Mission Statement. This is essential to have because it defines your vision, similar to the Executive Summary on a resume. It is a short statement that states the purpose of your business.
- Current state of the business. Outline the products and services provided along with whether it’s a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, if applicable, employees, contractors, or freelancers. Also, I added years of operation, revenue for the past year (gross and net after expenses) including how I paid myself.
- Accomplishments. This section can include expansion (if you have a brick and mortar business), adding new equipment, computer software/hardware upgrades, awards and recognition received, etc. For me, I listed the contracts I was awarded. I’ve done work on many campaigns like: Star Wars, Star Trek, Community Hospice of Northeast FL and Southeast GA plus many non-profit organizations. I designed many marketing materials and kept them nice and neat in a portfolio.
- Future plans. This section is where I wanted my business to be in five years and sometimes this is hard to know so I gave it a lot of thought. Also, I wrote how I planned to accomplish those goals. For example, I wanted to become a web designer so I knew I would need further training so I researched online education and found a method that I could learn on my own without it costing money, only time (i.e., I spent six months learning WordPress, a year to learn to blog through webinars, YouTube and following sites like WPBeginner.com, etc. I did a LOT of homework as well.)
Laying it out on paper. With the four sections above, I used bullet points for each section much like a book report in outline form that we did in school. I think it’s a great way to stay on point while keeping each bullet point as short as possible. I used plain fonts (Arial for titles, Times New Roman for text), these fonts are easy to read and in 16 point type bold for titles and 12 point type for the body copy.
And, of course a business plan can change as things happen. It’s important to keep it up to date much like you would with your resume. And, I didn’t write it and let it sit for months. I examined where I was at least at the end of every month. I’d make tweaks where appropriate. I was so glad once I had it on paper, because it made me feel like a real business owner. I was taking it seriously. It’s so different from working for a company. As an entrepreneur, these were my goals, this was my business with my name attached to it. And, I cared very much about what I was doing and providing the best customer service possible. I worked hard at retaining my clients. When the needs of their business changed, I changed too to continue servicing them. For example, I upgraded software and got faster computers. My business plan had to be flexible as I evolved from graphics to web design to content management.
Today, my business plan is very different, because of the career choices I made. I had no idea that I’d be married again, no idea I’d be living in Oregon, no idea I would merge my business with hubby’s and choose to work for a non-profit organization. God had other plans for me and that’s why my business plan needed to be flexible and grow with me. When I got re-married, for awhile we had two separate businesses and it was so hard. Neither of us liked it, but we had to do for a few years to survive. Happy that now we don’t. We have one business that we work and I do my day job. I’ve since added my crafting but it’s more of a ministry/hobby. However, it will get added to the plan now that I’m selling locally. I know that I want to create in my retirement when I get there.
To wrap this all up, if you’re a business owner or want to be and you don’t have a business plan, I urge you to create one. And even if you don’t need funding or investors, it’s still a good practice for yourself to have some kind of measurement to know how your business is doing month to month and year to year.
If you want to start a business plan, Nikki from “At Home with Nikki” did a really good video on how she mapped out hers. And she has FREE printables that you can download. Watch the video below or click on this link to view it!