Business plans aren’t just for tech startups and corporations. They are for anyone who is creating a business. A business plan gets your head in the right space and gets you off to a solid start in your dream business. Below is a step by step guide for you to create an effective plan. You can complete the sections in any order, but I suggest starting with the Brand Summary section. It sets the tone for the rest of the plan. Ok, lets get this show on the road!
Section I: Brand Summary
This section has two parts: the Vision Statement and the Mission Statement. The Vision Statement is your guide for where you want to go and the Mission Statement explains how you are going to get there. Vision Statement Now it’s time to get dreamy with a touch of inspiration. Like you are a teenage girl with the mind of Oprah. This part will keep you on track and be a badass in your business. What are your goals for the next one, three and five years? Where do you see your business? What difference do you want to make in the eyes of your customers? Be super clear. A vague goal is going to get you nowhere. Mission Statement This is where you are going to talk about those big, dreamy, goals you set out in your Vision Statement. Your mission needs to cover the following questions:
- What does your business do? What sets it apart?
- Who is your business for? Who are you going to help with your products or services? Be brief for this part, we are going to dive into your dream client in more detail in the next section.
- Why does your business exist?
Now that we have a direction, let’s move on to identifying your dream customer.
Section II: Your Dream Client
For this part, we are not going to focus on how old your dream customer is, or where they live, or what kind of oatmeal they eat for breakfast. We are going to go deep and get a little nitty gritty. Really think of the person you are trying to help with your business.
- What kind of things do they believe in?
- What are their aspirations?
- What do they struggle with?
- What kinds of things are they pinning on Pinterest? Sounds weird, but we design our dream lives on there. What are they dreaming about?
If you really get in there, you may find that your dream customer is more like you than you think. And that’s totally fine. Let’s move on to the next section.
Section III: Your Offerings
Now we are to the steak and potatoes! What are your offerings going to be? What products or services are you going to sell? If you have a combination of the two, just outline them in this section. Two suggestions in this section: First, if you are a service-based business, it’s better to charge a flat fee for your offerings or create packages for your services. Second, try to create a variety of price points. Some of your dream customers may want to buy from you but can’t afford your premium offerings. Give some less expensive options for them to get on your gravy train.
Section IV: Competition
This section is a little hairy. As a creative, you won’t really have any direct competition because so much of what you are creating has so much you in it. No one else will have your specific cocktail of awesome in their creations. But, you should be aware of other creatives in your area and know exactly what sets you apart.
- Who are the other movers and shakers in your area?
- How do your offerings compare to theirs? Are you missing anything?
- What do you do they don’t? How is your approach different?
- You should finish this section feeling like a badass, btw.
Section V: Operations
This section is all about the tools you are going to use to run your business. Include any software or program needs, accounting, project management, payment systems, etc. Also, make sure you have a process written out for onboarding new clients, guiding them through your process, and ending the project.
Section VI: Blog
I am not going to say you have to have a blog, but I will say that I strongly recommend it. A blog helps you share your knowledge and expertise with your dream customers. Now if writing isn’t your thing, maybe try making YouTube videos or making podcasts. Whichever outlet you decide on, you are going to need a plan.
What are your main content categories going to be? Choose 3 to 7 categories related to your business that you are going to blog about. If you are having trouble defining your categories, make a list of all the topics you want to write about and group similar or related topics together until categories emerge.
- Blog Schedule
How often are you going to post to your blog. You should post at least once a week to keep your audience engaged, but don’t over do it. Think about your schedule and how many hours a week you want to work and then choose a blogging schedule that you can keep up with consistently while putting out quality content.
Section VII: Social Promotion Strategy
This section is about describing how you will promote your business and connect with your dream customers on social media. It’s better to have a plan, than just post random things at random times.
- Which platforms are you going to focus on?
You don’t have to be on every site. For example, if you are a floral designer that mainly designs for weddings, Twitter and Google Plus my not be your bread and butter, maybe it’s Pinterest and Facebook. Think about where your dream customers hang out and be there.
- What kind of things are you going to post about on each platform? Behind the scenes, tips and tricks, favorite articles, etc. They may be different for each platform.
- How often are you going to post for each platform. These don’t have to be hard and fast rules, they are just guidelines.
Section VIII: Email List Plan
Ok, so the blog was highly recommended, but the email list is mandatory. It is the best way to truly connect with your dream customers and sell your offerings. I use MailChimp to host my email list and they have a free package if you are just starting out. After the you setup your provider, you are left with the main question of what you are going to write in those emails.
You should send emails to your email list at least once a week and you should give your subscribers valuable content. You can write an extra blog post every week and send it only to your email list, you can send them inspirational quotes for them to think about, or you can give them pep-talks, it’s up to you.
Section IX: Financials
This section covers your budgets, expenses and sales.
- What is your startup budget? It’s okay if its low. Once you see that number you can prioritize any spending you may need to do.
- What are your monthly and/or yearly expenses? Write them out here.
- What are your sales forecasts? This may be hard, especially if you are just starting out. Take a breath and think about. Be realistic about how much money you think you are going to make, but be ambitious enough to put a fire under your ass!
Section X: Continuing Education
This section is made for you to give some thought on how you are going to keep growing in your business. Are there any ecourses from other creatives that you want to take, books you want to read, or podcasts you want to learn from? Write them out in this section.
Guess what?! You’re done with your business plan! High five yourself and have a margarita to celebrate.
Use your business plan to keep you on track. It’s a guide to help you and your business to be awesome. It is a good idea to review this plan monthly. Plans and priorities change and your business plan will too.
Have a great week!