Making a business plan is quite easy, as long as you have a clear idea and a motivated mind. Your freelance business plan draft doesn't have to be perfect on the first try, but you'll be sure to make a good start with these tips. Once you have your draft, you can have others check it to see if everything's there.
Although most freelancers will not choose a company form where a business plan or a financial plan is required to start, making them is very important to gain realistic insights into your future.
Your new business was undoubtedly well thought-out, but a business plan can show you what parts need some more work, highlight possible blind spots and clarify your goals.
2. Essential parts every business plan needs
Before you can get started on your business plan draft, you first need to be aware of what essential parts your plan needs. That way, you set the stage for a methodical and structured research process.
Make sure you include these key segments:
Mission, vision, strategy: your company description
Operations & management
Market research & competitive analysis
Marketing & sales
Many (freelance) business plans include their financial plan from the get-go. We've split the 2 into separate plans in their own right for easier drafting and overview. Start with your business plan first. Find out how to draft a financial plan here.
1. Executive summary
Your executive summary contains your name and elevator pitch. It's short, concise and contains no superfluous information. It's what you would say to someone in the elevator when they ask you what you do and you haveuntil they reach their floor to tell them. Hence the name. That's it.
2. Company description
Your company description is where it gets real. It's where you show your mission, vision and strategy, all of which well thought-out and thoroughly penned down.
Mission: your mission statement stipulates your goals and objectives with your company. What do you want to do for your clients? What do you want to mean for them?
Vision: if your mission statement is the what, your vision is the why. Why did you choose this particular vision over anything else? Why is this the way you want to help people?
Strategy: after what and why, your strategy describes thehow. How do you want to accomplish your goals?
Even as a freelancer, it is important to stipulate in much greater detail than in the previous step exactly how you will be reaching your goals. Where the 'what' was a bird's eye view of the services you'd be providing, the ‘how’ breaks it down.
What services will I offer? Make sure to focus on a select number of related services. Just because you have a certain skill, does not mean you need to add it as a service. Think long and hard on what exact services you want to offer clients.
How does each service work? Break down each service into steps to make it clear what exactly clients will get.
To be sure you are filling an existing need with your service, you need to analyse the current market. Making a business plan requires you to know your business like the back of your hand, but you also need to know what surrounds your business. These are the most important factors to research:
Audience: who needs what you offer? Making personas is a great way of visualising who you're targeting and to stay on target throughout the growth of your business.
Competition: who else is offering what you're offering? How are you different? This either provides you with a USP you can use, or it shows you that you still need to find out how you stand out from the rest.
Suppliers: who will supply you with what you need? Many freelancers don't need a steady supply of product, but most of us do need softwareto facilitate our services.
Partners: who will help you shape and grow your company? Many of us freelancers will partner up with an accountant to keep our books and file our taxes, a graphic designer to design our brand, a peer-freelancer to collaborate with...
Environment: where am I working? What does my local market look like? Is it waiting for my product? Do I have an audience here? Do I have the opportunity to be successful in my own market?
SWOT-analysis: The SWOT-analysis is a time-tested method of learning about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats your organisation may face.
5. Marketing & sales
"I don't need marketing. I'm just a small freelancer and people who need my services will find me one way or another. Who makes ads anymore?"
Marketing your business does not mean you need on- or offline ads, flyers, folders, billboards or any of the traditional ways of marketing that probably popped into your head.
No matter how great the need for your service, your client could still choose someone else. Be approachable, available and easy to find. What type of marketing is easiest for you as a freelancer to invest in?
Social media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram
Website: onepager, portfolio, service website
Business cards branded, and with your info on it
Even though you probably already thought of these options, and maybe you already have them, you probably hadn't hough of them as marketing. Make sure to explore every option, even the most obvious ones. They are often the best.
3. How to start making your business plan draft
Making a business plan, as with everything, starts with a draft. Even though a freelance business plan might seem like a lot of work for nothing, you will learn tons about yourself, the business you're trying to run and the future you're pursuing.
Step 1: Fill in what you can without doing any research. It will save you any unnecessary research in case something basic needs tweaking.
Step 2: Leave your start for a while and come back to it at another time. Maybe show it to the people around you, people that know you well and support you. Do you still feel the same about what you've written down?
Step 3: Take into account any feedback you've gotten and perfect what you can before starting your research. Once you know you've laid the perfect basis, you can start building the rest of your plan.
Step 4: Start your research and don't limit yourself to offline sources. Ask around with experts, laymen and potential future clients to see what they expect from you and how they see it.
Step 5: Once you have everything you need, your business plan is developed, you can start implementing it.
Step 6: Keep your business plan on hand. You should constantly adjust to make sure you stay on course, but take care to not be rigid. If your goals change, you want to adjust your services or change anything based on your experience, please do. The most important thing about making a business plan is to have it reflect your vision.