Chapter 1: Before You Start
8 Steps to Complete before You Write a Business Plan
So what should you do before you start outlining your target market and revenue estimates? Take the time to answer these questions and perform these tasks outlined by Osgood . The results will help clarify what you want from your business and help ensure that the business plan you eventually do write is much more realistic.
- What are your natural strengths? Current skills? Interests?
- What do you want out of life? (Be specific.)
- What do you have to offer others that they'd be willing to pay for? (This is known as "defining the value equation.")
- Who is doing something similar to that now? How can you learn from and leverage their success for your own benefit?
- How will you perform your skills (and when and where)? What will you earn in six months? A year? Two years? Three?
- Test your skills. Get someone to pay you for what you want to do.
- What worked well? What didn't?
- Go for round two, refining your techniques based on what you learned.
When you've worked your way through this list, it's time to sit down and write that business plan. Osgood emphasizes that making the effort to test your business in real-world circumstances will leave you with a more realistic business plan that offers more value in the long term.
(Need help drafting a business plan? Check out the Small Business Administration's business plan template [PDF].)
If you've already started serving clients without doing this kind of background work, now is a great time to take stock, evaluate what's working and what's not, and draft a plan based on what you've observed in the real world.
Bottom line: it's never too late to figure out how you want your business to fit into your bigger life goals. The sooner you do it, the sooner you'll arrive at the place you envision for yourself, whether that means working from a beach in St. Martin, skiing every weekend, or simply having food on the table every night.
Next: Chapter 2: Making it Legal