Build a Business Plan for Success
Creating a business plan for your freelance business might sound like the most boring task in the world, but just because you’re not keen on creating one doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
If you are a passionate, creative person, creating a business plan might be just the thing you need to be sure you dot your I’s and cross your T’s.
Contrary to some entrepreneurial thinking, planning need not dampen drive or hamper creativity or passion. Indeed, planning can be an illuminating and inspiring part of the business-building process, as research leads to new ideas and, occasionally, that elusive Eureka moment! —FreelanceUK
A plan is just that—a plan. No one can foresee the future and you never know what unpredictability lies around the corner. But if you have something in writing that charts where you want your freelance business to be in the future, you have a road map. If you change your mind, that’s okay. Your business plan will help you recognize the change and help prompt you to think carefully about it.
You may think you know what your goals are…but do you really? Where do you want your freelance business to be next year? In three years? In five years? If you can answer these questions off the top of your head—good for you! You’re already ahead of the game. If not, it’s time to start thinking.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when working on your business plan:
What kind of work do you want to be doing?
Maybe you’re taking any job you can get your hands on right now just to earn some money. Lots of times freelancers start out doing a bevy of things because they can, not because they necessarily want to or like to. What is it that you really love doing?
Who do you want for clients?
Perhaps your clients are all local businesses at the moment, but you want to expand your services beyond your borders. Who do you want to work for? Go ahead and make a list—and aim high. If you have always wanted to write an article for a certain magazine, put it on your list—even if you think your goal is a lofty one.
How much money do you want to make?
This is an important goal to have, as the longer you work at your freelance business the more money you should be making. If you are just starting out, you might have a conservative goal—but no one goes into freelancing because they want to be poor. Think seriously about your rates and how they may grow over the next 5 to 10 years. If you don’t give yourself a raise, no one else will.
How will you market yourself?
Every successful business markets itself in some way. I’m not saying you have to buy an advertisement in your local newspaper, but you should have some idea of how to sell yourself. Maybe this means you need to create a new website, attend a conference or seminar, get serious about your LinkedIn page, or start a blog or newsletter for your business.
How will you structure your business?
Will you create an LLC for your business? What sorts of things do you need to take into consideration for taxes? Do you need any special licenses or permits? You will need to meet with a lawyer and a bookkeeper to figure out these financial details. You may want to pay your taxes quarterly rather than at the end of the year, and you will want to know what sort of deductions you can get if you work from home. Getting a business credit card isn’t a bad idea, either.
Get these legal and financial ducks in a row now so that you aren’t surprised later on down the road. Create a budget so that you can easily see how much money is coming in and going out. There’s nothing worse than not knowing what you are spending your money on.
What makes you different from your competitors?
If you don’t know what makes you stand out from the crowd, you are going to have a hard time selling yourself and your services. This is a good time to really think about your values and decide how you want to run your business. Create some policies for your businesses that you can stand by. If you already have some rules in place, you won’t have to struggle or wrestle with your conscience later on.
Once you have written out your goals it’s time to figure out how you are going to achieve them. Goals are great, but if you don’t have a plan of attack, what good are they? And if you don’t measure your success, you don’t know if your plan of attack is working. Who wants to continue to do something that isn’t doing them any good? I’d rather try a few things and find what works than stick to one thing that might be doing my business some good, but might not.
There are lots of places where you can find business plan templates online, but I suggest starting with your local SCORE chapter. SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping businesses get off the ground and succeed. It’s supported by the Small Business Administration and their services are delivered at no charge or at very low cost. It’s a great place to start!