Writing a business plan can be quite daunting. And if you have already written one, when was the last time you updated it?
Your business plan can be one of the most useful and inspiring documents you’ve ever written. It doesn't have to be a perfect, formal, corporate document at all. In fact it should be a helpful and creative place to keep all your best plans and ideas… Something to guide your decision making, grow your business and help you gain clarity when you feel overwhelmed.
I’ve written business plans in the past that have been a total waste of time too but after talking through so many with my clients I’ve become fascinated by the process and now know just how valuable a good business plan can be, particularly for freelancers and small, creative businesses.
So today I wanted to share with you my 8 tips for writing a freelance business plan that’s actually useful along with giving you a free template to help you get started:
1. Get rid of the fluff
Unless you're planning on setting up an ultra professional organisation that needs investment from the bank, your business plan should be written for you only. Most business plan templates aren't designed for small, creative businesses so get rid of anything that's not useful to you (like the fancy executive summary) and focus only on what actually matters!
I'd also recommend using relaxed, easy to understand language that works for you and to use headings, bullet points and lists where you can. This will make it so much easier to read through, finding inspiration and the key points when you come back to it.
2. Use it to free up some brain space!
Think of it as the place for your business secrets and the central hub of all your plans. Get down on paper all those snippets of pure genius that you don't want to forget like; ideas to make your business processes run smoothly; the best hash-tags to use in your industry and; how you're going to get your customers to fall in love with your business!
Creating a place for these thoughts and ideas will help you to relax, give them some structure and free up headspace to start getting more done.
3. Be realistic
Make sure you're honest with yourself, particularly when it comes to the numbers. It's better to under-estimate your forecasts and over-estimate your costs in the long run than being unrealistic. Try to challenge yourself, use well thought through examples, have plans b, c and d, and consider the 'worst case' scenarios so you're fully prepared. If you beat your targets and projections THEN you can adjust and raise the bar!
4. Get specific
As you’re listing ideas, try to consider ‘how’ you will make them happen. For example, when writing your marketing plan, breakdown everything into smaller steps so that you’ve thought through exactly HOW you will make your ideal customers aware of your business first before you map out how you can turn them into paying customers.
5. Be purposeful
The key to a good, useful business plan is in understanding ‘why’ your business exists and who you want to serve! A well-defined business purpose will then help guide your decision-making and help you plan more strategically.
6. Get creative with it
Make your business plan look pretty, draw on it and use your favourite colours, fonts and pictures! Use it as a place to bring your ideas to life and be visual so that you really want to keep looking at it. It should be unique, inspirational and creative!
7. Focus on this year
I’d recommend writing your business plan for one year at a time. Of course note down any longer term goals and definitely dream big but trying to do the actual, detailed planning for more than 12 months ahead can become quite overwhelming.
I create a month-on-month action plan in a dedicated section to keep me focused on my key monthly goals then write down development ideas to come back to when I make a new plan for the next year.
8. Review it regularly
I’d also recommend putting a reminder in your diary to have a quick look through your business plan at least every quarter, to assess your progress then allocate a day or two at the end of each year to do a full review.
This will help you stay focused, keep new ideas logged, celebrate your successes, remind you of any goals you've forgotten about and help you see the bigger picture when you're busy karate chopping your way through the daily challenges involved in running a small business ;-)
I’d love to hear whether your business plan is working for you? Do you have any other tips to add to this list?
To help you create a useful business plan for your business right now I’ve shared the template I use HERE. You can download and use it for free, tweaking it where necessary to really make it work for you!