There’s a saying that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. A well-written business plan can help you crystallize your dream and stay on track. A business plan helps you define your goals. Also, if you need to get a business loan to buy equipment, your bank will probably want to see your business plan.
As you grow your business, you may change your goals, but your start-up business plan will give you your first goals to shoot for. Once you put those goals down on paper and write how you plan to achieve them, they become more real.
Six Questions to Help You Write Your Business Plan
Before you begin writing your business plan, answer these six questions:
- What service or product does your business provide?
- What needs does it fill?
- Who are your potential clients?
- Why will they want to hire you?
- Your Freelance Writing Business
- How will you reach your potential clients?
- Where will you reach your potential clients?
Components of Your Business Plan
Your initial business plan will be called a startup plan. Every business plan is unique, but most have the following components (not necessarily presented in the order given here):
Executive Summary: You’ll write this last. This is a summary of your entire business plan so that busy executives can scan it without having to read your entire plan.
A Mission Statement: Even small companies need mission statements to help them stay on track.
Your Company’s Description: Tell your readers the name of your business, its legal status (sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation), and your start-up plan.
The Products or Services you’re selling: Describe what you’re selling and what benefits your service will offer clients.
Who You Will Sell Your Products or Services to: Describe the market you intend to sell your services to, what their needs are, who your competition is, and where your potential customers are located.
Your business strategy and how you plan to implement it: In this section, describe how you plan to reach your customers, and what your goals are. You might want to include a timeframe for achieving certain goals, such as a goal to make $50,000 per year or to expand your services.
How Much Money You Plan To Make: This is the section of your business plan that your banker will be especially interested in. Describe here how much you reasonably think you can make with this business, what your costs may be, and what your financial goals are. List your start-up costs (cost of the things you need to purchase before your business starts operating, such as your computer and office furniture), fixed expenses (expenses that shouldn’t change much if any based on the amount of sales, such as the cost of your website hosting), and variable expenses (expenses that will fluctuate according to how many clients you have, such as advertising or transportation costs). Determine how much you need to make to cover your expenses (break even).
Your Bio: This is where you describe yourself and your credentials. If you have partners, include their bios here too.
Keep your business plan simple. Use it as a tool to help you, even if you won’t be trying to find investors or asking your bank for a loan to start your business.
Writing Your Mission Statement
Every business, needs to have a vision. You need to describe the purpose of your business – what you want it to be and stand for. This purpose and vision come together in the mission statement. A mission statement is the starting point for the development of your business goals.
A well-written mission statement helps you clarify exactly what business you’re in (you’re not just providing writing services – you’re providing solutions to problems, for example), what type of business you want to be, who your target market is, and what inspires you.
Your mission statement should provide a vision for what you want your business to represent. It should incorporate the values that are important to you, such as “to be the best” or “to provide the highest quality.”
Your mission statement also should be broad. Don’t limit your area of expertise or service in your mission statement. For example, don’t write “To provide the best user manuals to high-tech customers.” A year or two from now, you may find that you prefer writing instructional materials for manufacturing companies. Your mission statement should be broad enough to allow your company to meet changing needs in the market without having to revise it every year.
On the other hand, make sure that your mission statement is practical and focused. A mission statement that’s filled with superlatives and not much substance doesn’t have much credibility. The best statements are direct and powerful.
You also want your mission statement to be motivational. Even though you’re working for yourself, when you read your mission statement, you should feel renewed commitment to your goals. It should inspire your customers, partners, and funding agencies to believe what your company can do.
As if all of that wasn’t challenging enough, your mission statement should be short and concise. Many experts recommend that your mission statement be no longer than twenty-five words. Management guru Peter Drucker recommends that you should be able to fit your mission statement on a t-shirt. At most, your mission statement should never be longer than four sentences.
Finally, your mission statement should use plain language and be easy to understand. Don’t use Jargon that people outside of the Industry don’t understand. Make it plain and direct. If you can make it memorable too, that’s even better I
One of the best ways to understand what makes a good mission statement is to see what other companies have written. Collect as many mission statements as possible, and then analyze what makes some work better than others.
Don’t copy another company’s mission statement. Use the mission statements you like best as springboards to your own vision, though.
When you’re writing your mission statement, keep these things in mind:
- Your mission statement should be about you, your company, and your ideals. Make sure you actually believe in what you’re writing.
- Don’t limit your vision. Your mission statement should inspire you to greater heights and help you keep your vision when times are tough.
- Keep it short. Try to keep your mission statement to as few sentences as possible and certainly no more than four sentences long.
- Choose your words carefully. Take your time and find the best words to express your vision in the most sincere manner.
Your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office and the SBA website (www.sba.gov) are some of the best resources for helping you start and grow a business. Local SBA offices often are on college or junior college campuses. There’s at least one SBA office in every state, plus there are other resources, such as Business Information Centers and Small Business Development Centers, that are affiliated with SBA and can help you build your business.
One of the benefits of these resources is that they are free. You make an appointment, and then you’ll be able to talk with a person who will review your plans and offer suggestions for how you can succeed.
Another great resource that your SBA representative probably will recommend is SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives (www.score.org). Again, this service is free, when you call them; they try to match you with a retired executive who has experience with the type of business you’re starting. There are many success stories about how SCORE volunteers have helped entrepreneurs start their businesses. They’ll also be able to help you write your business plan and perhaps offer suggestions for building your business that you may not have thought of before.