Creating a Business Plan That Works
If passion is the heart of your brand, your business plan is the central nervous system.
I created Unhindered Arts to support my passions, starting with my obsession with literature, which opened doors in the editorial world and to photography. I have worked for several companies as their in-house editor, individual authors, industry professionals, and several businesses. I am desperate to be who I dream of being. That free girl who lives and writes, paints, and takes pictures. I dream of being her, and I need to be her. Traveling to book signings everywhere, just because I can, and showing my kids it’s more than words when I say they can be anything they want to be. See the world, live it, write it. Write. Write everywhere. It has to become more than just the fantasy life. For my sanity I have to make it a reality. It’s so hard to explain it if you have never felt it. It can be more uncomfortable than most people think, that dire ambition. Because it’s dire. It’s like air. It’s a need. Now it’s also my survival.
That’s why I’m doing this. Why are you? This is the biggest question you must answer in a business plan.
Over the past few months you may have heard me mention marketing or business plans, or charters. Granted I talk a lot, but when it pertains to the Business Plan, everything I have been doing for the past several months is tied into this. This has been a work in progress for a little while now, and there have been several drafts and days upon days of research into what is going to work best for myself as a creative. If you’re not sure if that can pertain to you, let me briefly go over again everything I do.
Novelist, editor, editorial, artist, graphic designer, web designer, and photographer are my titles. What I do in addition to this is marketing, business development, taxes, write contracts, and legal junk, constantly work on generating new work, while raising my two most incredible little boys.
No matter what you’re offering, if you are selling anything, be it a service or product, I can promise you need a Business Plan. Unless that is, you’re doing this strictly for fun and have no care what so ever if you sell. If this is the case that’s fantastic, more power to you. If your dream (even a secret dream) is to live off what you do then you’re in the right place.
A Charter will outline precise goals for the company. Where do you want to be? What are your goals for the next five years? Outline projects here that help you reach larger goals.
First we need to know what a Business Plan entails. What does it consist of? Where do we start?
You may want to print your business plan, which I actually recommend, but ultimately we’re starting with a blank document so go right ahead and pull one up. At the very least you can make a very basic rough draft of what you’re going to be covering in your Business Plan.
Title it with your company name followed by Business Plan or Charter. (IE: Unhindered Arts Business Plan) You can use marketing plan, but a marketing plan in my opinion feels short term. A marketing plan is a series of steps and things you can do to generate work, be that bringing in new clients or where to sell your mood rings. The purpose of your business plan is ultimately to sustain your company long term, and the final versions may span over a five year goal layout just as an example.
Why are you doing what you’re doing? Be brutally honest and detailed. Why this line of work? Why you? Write it like you’re really excited, and telling someone who is intensely interested and just as excited as you are.
For example, goals you want to have done by X time.
Month 1: Fix the website
Month 6: Listed in 100 places not hosted by my company to allow my customers to find me.
Year 1: Out of the Red and into the Black. – This term generally pertains to your investment. If you are in the Red, you are in more debt than you are profiting. If you are in the Black, you are turning a profit.
Year 5: 3 store fronts and quarterly events.
Your goals should be written in tiers for each category.
Dream Goal: Bigger than JK Rowling? Too much? My most ultimate respect, Rowling. *bows in homage.* – *Doesn’t delete said dream, though, either.*
Realistic Goal: Where you legit expect.
Baby Goal: I didn’t fail! (Due to recent dramatic changes and events, my “I didn’t fail” requires nothing less than absolute success. The bar has been upped. This doesn’t scare me at all.)
Those are extremely basic randomly thought up examples. Be detailed, write out your dreams, okay? That makes them real! Now though, you understand the general idea that this Business Plan will span across a length of time. Even if you start with one year that can easily be developed. Don’t feel overwhelmed about this. It’s actually kind of fun, I think, but then again I’m a little kooky.
I do not recommend a long term Charter for anything beyond 5 years. A Charter will be updated frequently enough that it’s unnecessary to project beyond such time frame. Though allow yourself one paragraph of your long term dream goal. A Charter is also good to turn back to when you need motivation or inspiration.
Charters can be as complex or simple as you wish to make them. I recommend finding the happy medium, listing real steps not metaphors. Complex enough to keep you detail oriented, but lax enough to allow for realistic opportunity changes. To grow we must know how to bend with the changes of wind.
Our business plan is going to ASK and ANSWER a lot of questions. Some people will prefer a literal question.
Who is my ideal customer? ANSWER: Red heads with dogs.
Some will prefer more of a bullet point topic title.
Target Customer Base: Red Heads with dogs
So before we get in too deep, go with whatever is most comfortable for you. I prefer the bullet point notations personally. Your Business Plan should look very professional no matter what format you ultimately decide on that works best for yourself and company, but nevertheless it should be presentable enough that anyone can pick it up, read through it and understand exactly what you’re all about and what not just your GOALS are, but your plan is to get there. Include dates and events!
The following is a list of topics your Business Plan needs to cover, in bullet point and question format with general guideline information.
- Company Header and Document Title: (IE: Unhindered Arts Business Plan)
- Brief Mission Statement: What is the purpose of this business?: – While some people prefer an essay (which is fine if that’s what you wish to do) a paragraph about what it is you do, for example wedding photographer. Why are you doing this? Why you?
- Awards and Certificates: Here you should list any type of award or certificate you or the company has received. – Do we really need to go to the effort here? Well… yeah. It’s not the most enjoyable process and often contests which offer awards of any merit or value ($$$$) cost to enter. This gives you platform and your BRAND merit. Spend one day every 6 months (Put this on your calendar and stick to it. This is important. You can include this in your GANTT chart, too!) researching contests. Some contests require something completely new and never before seen (published) to be entered. This may take time to create. Also determine how many paid contests you can enter. Some cost more than others. What’s the value of one that costs more? Do they have a big following, do they cater you to their following?
Even small awards are still awards, and the more you and your team has the better you ALL look. Nothing wrong with free.
I would recommend 1% of all of your sales be put into an account for this. You should always be investing in yourself, and awards (especially for authors) can be a huge helping hand to getting you ESTABLISHED which is clearly the goal, right? So get a free account. Maybe auto set it so each paycheck you get in one account 1% gets separated right off the top. Perhaps this will allow you one really great contest a year that you can take time in preparing for properly.
(FOR PUBLISHERS) Sponsoring your authors is important. It shows your belief and support in them and that your company has the means to stand on its own. Encourage them to enter as often as they can if there are other costly ones that you choose not to sponsor, but don’t insist on it. Obviously that fund wouldn’t be available overnight, but it will certainly come in handy down the road. Ultimately this can lead to many more sales which obviously is every publisher’s goal.
- GOALS: Outline your goals based in timeframes and tiers. By setting goals with dates we make a decision to move forward on a path to achieve something. This is a plan. They should be evenly paced, and set reminders in your calendar when you have one of these dates coming up.
- People & Companies: Who is involved? If you provide a physical product certain companies may provide you product for you to create yours. Always keep an up to date list of merchants and contact information. If you work with a team of people then make sure you have a list of their contact information, skills, and what they DO for the team. While a copy elsewhere, such as in your company organizer is most beneficial, make sure one is kept in your business plan as well and updated at least quarterly.
This next section is specific to your customers.
- Target Audience: Who is my specific and IDEAL client?: – While in a dream world all 7 billion people on this planet would pay you for what you do, they won’t. So who will? Who do you cater to? Is it 30 year old red heads with dogs? If you’re unsure, ask yourself some questions while considering your product. What need does it fill?
- Where the Target Audience is: Where is my IDEAL client?: – Is your client in pet stores, salons, their vehicles?
- Likes of Target Audience: What does my IDEAL client enjoy?: – Where do the people who most enjoy your type of writing hang out? Where are their watering holes? What magazines and television shows do they watch? Do they have clubs and organizations? Do they hold trade events or conventions? Are there magazines and newsletters aimed at people in those groups? Are they religious? —- Expand on these answers and questions the best to your ability.
Next section: WHY, WHO, HOW
For example let me direct this from an author perspective for a moment.
Why I wrote the book:
Who it’s for:
How I think readers will benefit:
Next section: Technicals
- Charts For Progression: In your Charter you will want to include a GANTT chart. This is a very basic time frame chart that will keep you moving forward, help you know what should be happening when, when what steps should reach completion, what projects are overlapped and are happening simultaneously. This is very easy to create, but would not be created until your draft charter is ready to be finalized.
- Organizational Calendar: Your organizational calendar could be an organizer app on your phone, a physical organizer, a giant desk calendar with section for notes. Whatever best suits you. You need to create a SCHEDULE. Perhaps it is not excruciatingly strict, but realistic with all your regular and irregular tasks. Often we use calendars for big events, such as birthdays and weddings we are attending, but for the purpose of any entrepreneur we need to keep on task in a timely way. This way we can become reliable not just with ourselves and company but to our Target Audience.
What could be in your calendar?
- One day a month you can list devoted to research, Studying marketing, editorials, tutorials, business how to, webinars, blogs & vlogs. LEARN YOUR CRAFT! By becoming experts and masters of our field we become experts. When we become experts people trust us, and our target audience becomes loyal clientele.
- Days you will post new content
- Editorial Days – Everyone needs editorial days, authors and crafters and photographers. We all have something to do editorially. Even editing photos of our product, our articles, or our business ledgers.
- Keep a running to do list not on dates but in a notes section at all times. Update this section no less than weekly, but ideally every time something can be marked off and added on.
- Awards, 1 day a month submit to a contest or an award. Not sure what’s safe and what’s not? Sites like Preditors and Editors have pages dedicated to contests.
- Schedule some free time and some family time, and maybe a couple of cleaning days.
- Marketing Guide: This may be a two part section with short term actions and long term. If you have a separate marketing guide it can be inserted into this section. Keep in mind this is also going to tie into your calendar. You need to work on marketing on a very regular bases. Once the guide is set up, we actually have to follow it. We’re not allowed to spend the rest of our time 100% devoted to our product. Unless you become successful enough you can hire someone (or have an amazing agent) who will do all of this for you. If that happens then send them over here so we all know they’re on track with this, too. 😉
At the end just so it’s always in one place I recommend including your professional portrait, bio, all possible links for all the things, and if all organized in a folder include images of every book, events, tables from your events, and brand images.
This is it! Not so bad, right? Well… a bit, but still worth it.