I’m a creative entrepreneur, do I really need a business plan?
Short answer: no. You can start and run a business for years without a plan. But you’ll be hard pressed to attract employees; you will not be able to secure significant funding; and you’ll likely get overwhelmed (regularly) without one. Why? Because in order to build momentum and gain buy-in around your vision you need a plan.
Here are my top 10 reasons why you need a business plan (and all the associated benefits):
1. To track and celebrate your goals and objectives. How will you’ll know what to celebrate if you don’t even know what you’re working towards? Is it your first $100K in sales? Your first hire? Your first write up in a big publication? Write it down, set a timeline, define the actions you need to take to reach those goals and tackle them…and then of course, celebrate.
2. To thoroughly understand your customer, their pain point and how your product or service will help. It’s really easy to get excited about a product or service you’re offering—but does your customer get excited as well? Are you solving their problem and meeting their needs? A business plan digs DEEP into both your target market and how your particular product or service aims to help your customer. Because if someone isn’t willing to part with their hard earned cash for your product or service, then your business isn’t a business, it’s a hobby.
3. To figure out how much money you need. Do you need a loan for your business? What will you spend the loan funds on? How will a loan or investor funding help your business achieve its goals? Is it possible to launch your business with your own funds? All of these questions can’t be answered without a business plan and financial forecast.
4. To stay on message. One of the best things a business plan can do is cement your business’ brand identity, messaging and target market—in other words a business plan helps you deliver a consistent message to your community ensuring that your target market knows what you do or sell—and when they’re ready to buy, you’re their first thought.
5. To be (somewhat) objective. You love your business, it’s your baby. But it’s also really easy to ignore the parts of your business that aren’t working. A business plan lays everything out on the table. Breaking down every aspect of your business. And if you’re honest while writing it you can come to some incredible insights about your product or service.
6. To manage the overwhelm. Starting a business is hard. Running a business is hard. And if you’re doing it solo it can be incredibly isolating. It’s easy to get bogged down in the million tasks you need to do and become completely overwhelmed. A formal plan helps you take a step back and take stock of your business, allowing you to refocus on the strategic aspects of your business and understand which tasks are worth delegating out.
7. To reinvent, pivot and course correct. Contrary to popular belief a business plan is not meant be written and put on a shelf. A really great plan is iterative. If your plan doesn’t pan out exactly as you’d predicted (which is totally normal) you can go back, tweak your target market, adjust your marketing tactics, and/or make changes to your product or service and adjust your goals. A plan is useless if it doesn’t change and grow with your business.
8. To apply for funding. If you plan to apply for significant funding ($10K or more) you will need a business plan. Banks, community development financial institutions, investors, grants, pitch competitions. All of these outside funders will want to see that you’ve thoroughly thought through every aspect of your business. Many will have their own “business plan” form for you to complete (which are all more or less the same questions). Wouldn’t it be nice to be READY when the opportunity arises? Instead of scrambling to create a plan under a deadline?
9. To plan for the future. Where will your business be in 18 months? In 3 years? In 10 years? It’s really easy to imagine the finish line, sitting in your beautiful office, your product or service loved by people around the world–but it’s much harder to imagine the steps to get there. Plotting out what success will look like year over year is integral to effectively scaling your business–and will get you to your version of success, faster.
10. To demonstrate your commitment. A plan demonstrates to your employees (or future employees) your partners, funders and YOURSELF that you are serious about your business. A business plan validates your thinking, demonstrating that you’ve thought through the most important aspects of your business.
The bottom line: a business plan is an incredible tool that will allow you to create a framework around your big, beautiful, business goals to propel you towards success, faster. And best yet, there is absolutely zero downside to creating one. Even if it never goes to print, the process of business planning and goal setting is an invaluable learning experience for any creative entrepreneur.
Looking for an easy tool to get you started? Click here for a super-simplified business planning template.
Looking for an in-depth workshop jam-packed with support? Join our next LIVE workshop HERE.