Writing a Business Plan
When you’re in your first year of life as a small business owner, you might feel inclined to write a business plan. Depending on the business, we’d like to suggest that you…. don’t.
Hear us out. If you are a the owner of a services based business or a business that doesn’t need a loan or any other kind of capital within the first year, your business plan isn’t going to be seen by anyone and therefore can be flexible and adapted to your needs.
So while it’d be useful for you to figure out a lot of the items that are in a business plan, your answers to those items are bound to change within the first 6 or 12 months and you’ll be back to square one rewriting.
What’d we’d like to suggest instead is that you look at what would be really valuable for you to explore in a business plan, and then focus on your brand strategy.
Having written 3 versions of our business plan over the years (only 3 and bit so far lol) we’ve thought through each section very thoroughly and had it reviewed by individuals with more business experience and education than us.
What we can say for sure is that we know 1000x more about our business now than we did in months 1-6, and can therefore make a much more informed and proven plan that has real use and impact for our business.
In those first 6-months the main things we need to cover were much closer to a brand strategy, because ultimately that’s what we needed to solidify, and doing market research of financial predictions just wasn’t realistic or feasible for us. We didn’t know what market we’d niche ourselves into, and we had no way of estimating what money we’d be making. So we could guess, and we could have spent time and money on figuring those things out, but really, what was the point?
Instead we suggest focusing on the items that help you grow your brand and get to know your business better.
And of course, take all of this with a pinch of salt (hehe) because if you are a product based business or are looking for financial support you will need to have a more formal business plan in place.
So, let’s go through the items I do suggest covering if you’re in your first 1-12 months of business as a solo entrepreneur, freelancer or service provider.
Your plan should 100% focus on:
1. THE MESSAGES YOUR BUSINESS WANTS TO TELL THE WORLD
Ok, the first one is possibly the toughest. And I know that, because it took us the longest to figure this one out, plus I'm actually writing this one last. That right there is a big indicator (😂). We do have a blog post on this topic, and the main thing I'll say, is that your key messages might be tightly linked to your values - so start there. Our key messages (i.e what we want to tell the world) is that design doesn't have to be so hard, business doesn't have to be stuffy, and if we do things together, we'll do it better. These messages come from our values, but we aim to enthuse them into our language and the way we run our business.
And that's why they're important to figure out! These messages will become transparent on your Instagram feed, through the captions you choose, and how you treat your clients. You might not ever be shouting them directly, but they will be guiding points for you and a really useful reference to make sure you're on track.
2. THE VALUES YOUR BUSINESS HOLDS DEAR
What do you, as a business, value? Is it supporting others. Is it helping them to be healthier? Is it getting more people active? Good customer service is no longer a real value - that should be a staple in your business. So think on it, get specific and dig deep. If it helps, here's the post we recently wrote on this topic, which includes some great examples to help you get started.
3. WHO YOUR BUSINESSES IDEAL CLIENTS/ TARGET MARKET ARE
Another toughie, and a chance to get really specific - you're going to need to make some sort of personality profile that really explains who this person is. You won't be excluding anyone by focusing on a specific person, and in return you'll be able to better attract the people that will LOVE what you do, and therefore be your biggest champions, your number 1 fans, and your perfect customer. They'll buy from you, they'll rave about you, and your business will thrive because of it! Here's the post on that topic, which includes a free worksheet to help you get started!
4. THE PURPOSE OF YOUR BUSINESS
What are you here to do? What is the core purpose, and mission, behind your business? This one should be a little easier to get onto paper, and can be a higher level answer. For us, it's empowering small business owners through design. That's our mission statement, and every business decision we make comes back to that. To write your own, check out this post that Daphne put together on the topic.
5. WHAT MAKES YOUR BUSINESS DIFFERENT
Also known as your unique selling point, or USP, in fancy biz jargon. This is important in order to recognize how you are going to stand out from a saturated market, which let's be honest, most industries and markets are. It can be a small difference though, and again, you probably already know this, because it is quite possibly the reason you started your business. If you're struggling to identify this one, make it personal. Every one and anyone could be doing what you do, but it's different, because of you. So what about you running this business makes it different?
As an idea, for us, that often comes through in personality and the general atmosphere of our business. We don't like formality, we want to be working with our peers, and that's what makes us different. It impacts every part of our business, but it's just us being our whacky, kooky, sarcastic selves.
6. THE PERSONALITY OF YOUR BUSINESS, AND HOW THAT TRANSLATES TO LANGUAGE
The fun one! yay! Similarly to your ideal client profile, it's great to have a brand personality profile. We covered this topic early on (read that post here) and there's a free worksheet to accompany it too. Grab that one, and you can get digging in! This one is going to feel odd, especially as the owner of your company - as so many times you might think that the company personality is the same as yours, but think about how it differs, what language the business should be using, and make a little avatar for the business. It will help you to separate things out in your head, and will give you a reference whenever you're writing in the brand voice (which will be every day by the way - because your emails and social captions should 100% be in your brand voice).
Okay friend, that’s everything! Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the information here and check out our Brand Strategy workbook if you need more help!