You Need a Business Plan

 

Don’t worry, it’s not that difficult

By Susan Johnston Taylor

 Photo by  Brooke Lark  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Are you:

Dreaming and sketching things on the back of a napkin?

Five years into your business and feeling stuck?

Wondering if you can take on a new project for a big client?

Good news! You could benefit from creating a business plan. A business plan can help you analyze where you are, where you hope to go, and how you’ll get there.

 Photo by  Helloquence  on  Unsplash

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

Don’t get intimidated. You don’t need an MBA or an understanding of complex accounting to write a business plan. You have the vision, so the point is to capture that vision on paper or in pixels. If the idea of writing a business plan makes you nervous, name your document something else.

Don’t worry about the length- you can keep it short. In most cases, you’ll want to include an overview of the following:

Executive Summary

An executive summary is a high-level explanation of who you are, what you offer, and what problem(s) you solve for your customers.

For instance, maybe you’re an interior decorator who helps young families in New York City make the most of their small urban space on a budget as their family grows. Or perhaps you’re a nutritionist who creates nutritious and easy to prepare meal plans busy professionals in Seattle so they can eat healthfully without spending lots of time cooking. Both articulate who you are, what you offer, and what problem(s) you solve.

If you can’t explain your business in a few sentences (or one page tops), then you probably need to get more clarity yourself on what you offer and who you serve.

 Photo by  Thought Catalog  on  Unsplash

Business Description

Next, you’ll go into more detail on your industry and the current industry conditions, as well as the future outlook. How big is this potential market? What are the potential opportunities in your niche? Is there huge demand for Spanish tutoring or caterers who can make delicious gluten-free muffins? What are the possible threats? Could some students start using a foreign language app instead of a human tutor? Or could demand for gluten-free goodies wane? How might you adapt to changing market conditions?

A SWOT analysis looks at a business’ internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external opportunities and threats. If you’re unsure what to put in this section, a SWOT analysis might help you generate some ideas.

Competitive Analysis

This section looks at how you stack up against your competitors. Who is your competition and what do you offer that’s different? Do they cater to a slightly different clientele? Is there a service that customers need and can’t get from competitors? How does your pricing stack up compared to the competition?

Marketing & Sales Plan

How will you reach potential customers? Will you use word-of-mouth referrals, social media (and if so, which platforms?), blogger outreach, email marketing, something else? How often do you plan to use these marketing channels and what’s your plan for following up with prospects? Include all these details in this section.

 Photo by  Brooke Cagle  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Operations & Management Plan

Here, you’ll outline how your business will run operationally. Will you meet with clients in their homes or perhaps virtually? What tasks will ensure that your business runs smoothly and who is responsible for those tasks? Will you outsource some of these administrative tasks? Or will you use a platform like Prefer to handle invoices and scheduling?

Financial Factors

What are your business expenses? Do you have any business-related debt (perhaps if you put some equipment costs on a credit card)? What are your expected sales over the next 3, 6 and 12 months? Business plans for bigger companies might project sales five years or more into the future, Soloists likely want to think in shorter time horizons.

Get Where You’re Going

As a Soloist, you might not have to show your business plan to anyone. But having gone through this exercise and thought about these key business areas, you’ll have a firmer grasp on where your business is now and where you’re headed.

Get started on your Soloist Business Plan Worksheet