A business plan is a written document that summarises the big picture of a business and explains the intricate details and decisions that make up the whole.
The traditional business method involves writing a plan, getting someone to invest in the idea, and then building from there. More modern pundits, such as Eric Reis in The Lean Start-Up (http://theleanstartup.com), suggest that the detailed plan is a waste of time.
Plenty of businesses have a plan that was written in the gung-ho first weeks of work, and now sit out of date and dusty in a cupboard. Many creative people simply don’t bother having one at all.
The varying plusses and minuses of a business plan depend on why the plan is being written in the first place.
So why use a plan?
Plans are most often used to convince another party to give you something. You might use a plan to garner a loan from a bank, attract a financial investor to an idea, or make a government financier happy. If this is all a business plan is for, many creative people think that they won’t need one – if you’re not going for a loan or an investment, why bother?
The answer is that writing a business plan is a valuable process for any creative entrepreneur. Sitting down and investing time and thought into the intricacies of what you’re trying to do can make a business real and take it beyond the dream in your head and a fuzzy idea of what might be possible.You can use the plan to brainstorm ideas, establish some goals and research the things you don’t know enough about.
You can face tough questions about your endeavour, and devise solutions to potential problems before they happen. If required, you can then take the salient information and create a traditional plan to be shared. You’ll also have a finished document that is your personalised and private guidebook to your business.
What template should I use?
Business plans can follow whatever template you see fit, but regardless they all cover the same four major areas.
In simple terms these are:
1. Management and Admin - What does this business do?
2. Financials - How much does it cost to run and how much money does it need to make?
3. Marketing - Who will buy from you? Why? How will you reach them?
4. The Future - What are your goals and plans for your business?
All of the four sections tie in together. For example, if your goal is to move from being a freelance director to running a larger production business; your management section will need to include details of your potential freelance crew; your financials will need to explain how much the expansion will cost; and your marketing section should outline the strategy that you’re going to implement in order to find the clients who will pay for your services – therefore keeping your business afloat and moving towards your goals.
Business plans come in all shapes and sizes and there are plenty of good (and some bad) templates available to help guide you through the process. Some are even designed to specifically help creative people. Take a look at the Creative Plus Business Plan Template.
Regardless of which template you use, keep your plan concise and simple. You also don’t need to conform precisely to these structures, and if you think it will help explain your vision use as many design elements and images as you like. In addition, don’t shy away from including details about your personal and creative life into your business plan (if it’s relevant). If your finished document isn’t designed to be shared with a bank manager then personalise it and make it truly your own. After all, this is your business guidebook.
Above all, remember that your plan is a living document. As your business grows and changes, so should the business plan. Some people update their plans every now and then, some every six months. As long as the document is up to date and continues to guide your decision making process, it will be useful.
Digital Ready would like to thank Monica Davidson from Creative Plus Business for this great small business advice.