NOW is the time to work on your annual business plan, whether it’s January 1 or mid-June. You see, business changes rapidly, and what you decided six months ago might not be accurate anymore. Perhaps you’ve got a new product to launch, or a new competitor has arrived to shake up the field.
Many people quake in fear at the idea of writing a business plan. They imagine in their mind a 100-page document full of charts and financial figures. Ugh!
While it’s possible to create a business plan of that magnitude when trying to get capital for your business, a typical business plan for self-employed people should be less than 10 pages.
The purpose of a business plan, for a self-employed person who is financing his own business, is to have a central repository for all strategic thinking about the business for the coming year or two. Whether you’re a start-up or you’ve been in business for a while, writing a plan will help you solidify your thoughts, goals, and strategies.
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Here’s what should be included:
- Your business idea in three sentences. If you aren’t crystal clear about your business and your vision, keep crafting it until you get it right.
- Your target audience. Who, exactly, are the people you want to market to? Don’t be too vague. Writing “people in transition” or “small business owners” means a much harder marketing effort.
- The challenges that your target audience faces. What’s going on in their world? What problems do they face as they are trying to achieve their goals?
- The benefits of using your products and services to meet those challenges.
- Your company brand and image. What does your business and brand stand for? What does your logo look like and how does it reflect that brand?
- Your projected revenue and expenses for a year.
- If you project more expenses than revenue for the year, a statement about where the money will come from to pay for those expenses.
- A list of your major competitors, and how you are a different (and better!) choice for your customers.
- At least six marketing techniques you’re planning to use over the coming year, when you plan to implement them, and what results you expect from them. Read my blog post How to Choose the Best Marketing Techniques.
- The preparation work you need to do in order to launch your marketing techniques and keep those techniques up-to-date. How will you manage your marketing projects?
- Any major new products or services you’re launching in the next 12 months, and how these will help your business.
- A list of people who you will need to hire to implement your plan (unless you have the business skills and time to do all the work yourself).
Review your business plan and update it annually. I recommend reviewing the marketing section of your plan quarterly, so that you can gauge the success of your marketing campaigns.