Last year I wrote my very first business plan.
Yesterday I launched that business: Bawdy Bookworms. Full circle.
For many years, I operated my blogs without a business plan. Not because I didn’t think I needed one. I’m a creative entrepreneur. I didn’t need a business plan that didn’t give me any leeway. I moved where my business took me! These were just excuses.
You know the real reason I never sat down to write a business plan?
I was scared. Out of my mind scared. The idea of mapping out my future intimidated and overwhelmed me.
Last year, several friends encouraged me to enter Wells Fargo Perfect Pitch Contest at Blogalicious. I nodded my head and agreed. A major component of the entry was my business plan. That scared me more than making an introductory video. My friends continued to
push encourage to work on my entry. My husband got in on the “encouragement” too.
Three days before the deadline, I sat my butt in my office and started typing. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just wrote and wrote. I sent my entry mere hours before the deadline. Forcing myself to write down what made my business successful, who my target audience was, and what type of products/services I provided gave me great clarity. I could see the path to growing my business much better.
A few weeks later, I learned that I was a finalist. Along with two other finalists, I had to stand in front of a crowd and pitch my business, Shark Tank style. Except these judges were waaaay nicer. Oh, and I WON the Perfect Pitch!
If I can write a business plan (with no experience), so can you. Here’s how I did it. And don’t forget to enter this year’s Blogalicious Perfect Pitch contest!
Start Where You’re At
Writing is a mental exercise and we usually get in our own way. Take a deep breath and tell yourself, “Start where I’m at.” That’s exactly what it means. You’ve made it this far in your business. You know it better than anyone else. You’ve got this.
Don’t compare yourself to other businesses when you sit down. This plan is all about you and your business’ goals. You will upgrade as you grow.
So, start where you’re at.
Create Your Business’ Ideal Customer Avatar
What the heck is an Idea Customer Avatar (ICA)? I learned this concept when I took Marie Forleo’s B-school last year. (Check out Marie’s videos–they’re great for entrepreneur.) No business truly serves everyone. When we market our products and our blogs, we are appealing to a very specific demographic. Others might be interested in our products but your ICA is your core audience.
Your ICA will help you tailor your products, content, and marketing efforts. Create an avatar, aka a Jane or John Doe customer. Some questions you should answer about your ICA:
- Demographics: age, marital status, level of education, kids, career, income
- Their interests: hobbies, favorite magazines and websites, dining habits
- Their fears: do they worry about money, do they have enough time to relax, are they too busy? This will help you create products to reach them.
- Any other specific details that are important to your avatar
Fill in as many details as you can. Do this before you sit down to write your business plan. I’ve even created a handy dandy free printable worksheet to find your Ideal Customer Avatar. Print out the PDF and give your ICA a name!
For example, my ICA for Bawdy Bookworms are busy women (ages 30-50) with a demanding daily life who enjoy reading erotica. They are sassy, fun, and sophisticated.
Use a Business Plan Template
Why reinvent the wheel when you don’t have too? Templates are a great starting point and take the guesswork out of style and formatting. The key here is limit your time researching templates. Look at 2 or 3 and just pick one.
In fact, I’ve done the research for you. Here are 3 free business plan templates:
- Small Business Association business plan template This is the one I ultimately used because it was the shortest. I was on a time crunch! SBA walks you through it step-by-step in your browser. Just make sure to save often. When you’re done, you can download in document or PDF.
- Blog Business Play from byRegina will probably appeal to most bloggers. If you’re not following Regina, you’re missing out. Did I mention that she’s speaking at Blogalicious this year? SQUEE <–me being a fan girl
- Wells Fargo Business Plan page has good resources
- Business Plan Template Gallery from SCORE I haven’t looked at any of these yet, but there are plans geared towards different types of businesses
Your First Draft: Just Write
Here is the hard part. Just sit down and write. Follow along the template. The point of a first draft is to get it all down on paper. Ahem, screen. Don’t judge what you’re writing. You’ll have plenty of time to fix it later.
Fill in as much of the template as you can. Skip the parts you can’t. All the financial info in the SBA template freaked me out so I skipped it the first go ’round. Keep the momentum going.
When you’ve finished the first draft, take a break. Congrats, you’ve done it! You’ve written your first draft!
Your Second Draft: Fill in the Blanks
Now that you’ve stepped away from your first draft for a few hours (or hopefully overnight), it’s time to read what you wrote. Be gentle on yourself. Fix any typos and grammar mistakes. Rework your sentences so they flow better.
Remember those parts you skipped over during your first draft? Fill them in the best that you can. If you’re unsure about financial projects, ask a trusted friend for help. You’re allowed to Google if you limit the amount of time you spend researching. Set your timer for 10 minutes. Then get to work. Write like the wind!
Congrats, you’ve written your business plan!
Yes, there’s still some tweaking to do. At this point, ask a trusted friend who is an entrepreneur to read over your draft. Remember that they are offering constructive criticism on your business plan, not you as a person.
Do you have any tips on writing a business plan?
Want more? Wells Fargo and Blogalicious is holding a free webinar on tips for writing a business plan. You’ll also hear from me and fellow Perfect Pitch winner Arsha Jones (2013). The webinar is TODAY at 1PM. Just RSVP here to get access.
See you there!