So you need to write your business plan, but the very thought gives you cold chills and the heebie jeebies. Trust me, I know the feeling well. When I first envisioned The Girl Brand, I was leading with pure passion and forgot all the common business sense I had drummed into me in school. While I kept hearing ‘You need a business plan’, I assured myself that I knew what I was about and could keep track of my business the old-fashioned way: with a tally and checks system.
Well guess what? I failed.
Not my business, just my system. It didn’t even take two months of planning and prep before I lost track of what I had originally intended The Girl Brand to be. I got so wrapped up in the what next that I lost sight of the WHY.
Why did I start my own branding studio?
Why did I think I could be successful in a saturated market?
Why did I want to help other womenpreneurs find their way down this path?
All of these answers would have remained in focus throughout the building of my business if I had had that cursed business plan in place from the start. So why didn’t I suck it up and do the danged thing?
Because of those two words: Business Plan.
Those words can be terrifying to the uninformed. If you’re like me, you think of business plan and start sweating legal terms, math equations, and, worst of all, fears of failure. You start thinking you need to have it all figured out RIGHT NOW. And maybe you’re just not ready to have it all planned.
There are aspects of my business & business plan that still aren’t fully fleshed out. I’ve officially launched, but I still don’t have a road map in place for my future products, know if I want to add in that extra package, and haven’t decided if I’m ever going to offer my own theme designs. I have no clue what cause I want to get involved with other than knowing there’ll be one at some point, what types of blogs I want to collaborate with, or how I intend to monetize my blog (other than the services I offer).
You could almost say I have more unanswered questions than answered ones. And yet, I have a solid business plan in place. And you can too.
I’m going to walk you through the steps of developing your own business plan so that you can have your road map to success at your fingertips. Plus, you’ll look like a star the first time someone asks, ‘Well, do you have a business plan?’ And you can say yes!
1. Stop Calling it a Business Plan
Since we’ve already covered how those words make us feel, we’re going to change them. Because why should we keep torturing ourselves with a phrase that makes us sweat? I changed the name of my business plan to Creative Success Strategy.
These three words all resonate deeply with my drive to be successful at my biz; creative because, well, designer, aka artist; success because helllloooooo…; and strategy because it feels more actionable and decisive than plan, which seems sort of vague and elusive (when I think of the word strategy, I think of moves and countermoves used to win).
You can use Creative Success Strategy for yours, or come up with your own. Either way, while you’ll know that it’s in essence a BP (the dirty words), you can feel pride in yourself for taking action to rebrand something you’ve feared into something you’ll be grateful for in the future.
2. Make a List of the Dos and Donts
Take some time to make a list of the things you DO want your business to be and the things you DON’T want your business to be. Think short term and long term.
Which things do you love to do/make/offer? Which do you hate?
Where do you want your business to be run from and where do you not?
What things will satisfy your meaningful life? What won’t?
How big do you want your business to grow?
I realize that this list could be super difficult or unbelievably simple, depending on the scope of your business. To help you out and give you some ideas for your own list, I’m sharing some examples from mine:
The Girl Brand Dos
- be an outlet for my creative & artistic side
- be financially dependent on itself within 3 months
- hit $5k/month within 6 months
- be an influential resource center for passionate & creative entrepreneurs
- offer helpful guides & packages for DIYers
- be a platform for infoproducts & courses
- allow me to work from wherever I want
- include affiliate marketing at some point
- offer pro-bono work to non-profit organizations
The Girl Brand Donts
- be a piece-meal wordpress issue solver
- require financial assistance beyond initial startup costs
- force me to get another job to support myself while things ‘pick up’
- make me work more than 40 hours/week to make ends meet
- host inferior blog posts/content
- make me work at ungodly hours of the day/night for ‘maintenance’ issues
Once you have your list, you have the basic structure of your business outlined. You’ll undoubtedly add more to one side or another as time goes on and you encounter new opportunities or struggles. Be mindful of how fluid your goals can be in the beginning and re-evaluate this list whenever things come up. After all, the more you have outlined now, the better you’ll be able to stick to your strategy down the line.
3. Identify your Value
You have a product or service that you’re selling. One that’ll make you rich! So talk about it. Write out a list of every product or service that you have. I’ll wait…
Now go back and jot down the details of those products and services. Why? Because I can write “branding packages” in my Creative Success Strategy a million times but if anyone reads it who doesn’t know what branding packages means, they’ll throw my strategy out the window without taking the time to figure it out. Save yourself the disappointment and be clear about your offerings now.
4. Outline your Market
By this stage of the game, you should already have your target market pretty much figured out. You know who your audience is, have your ideal customer nailed down, and know where to find these people. If that’s not the case, go check out my post on Your Audience is Your Success. Then come back to this step.
If you DO know all that, high five girlfriend!
Now it’s just a matter of getting it down on paper for inclusion in your Creative Success Strategy.
A) Write out a detailed description of your niche:
“The Girl Brand offers branding services and business resources to women who are trying to break into the corporate world, make their mark in the entrepreneurial game, or build their business from the ground up with a solid foundation.”
B) List out your ideal customer(s):
“Martha is an ad exec who got laid off from her job of 18 years when the company went bankrupt. She needs to find another job in her field but can’t get anyone to call her back, despite her excellent experience, due to the high competition. She needs smart personal branding in order to stand out from the masses.”
“Caroline is a freelance writer looking to make a name for herself in the writing and blogging niche. She has a portfolio website but wants to turn it into a blog where she teaches other people how to earn a living from freelance writing. She needs personal & social media branding to develop a memorable brand identity that her followers can relate to.”
“Shelly is a hobbyist crafter expanding into a new business owner. She creates beautiful home decor items out of drift wood she finds on the beach, and wants to expand to online sales. She needs business branding, social media branding & a website where she can sell her inventory. She wants to do as much of the work as she can herself, but has no idea where to start and needs some business guidance.”
C) Estimate your market size:
This is where things get a little hairy.
No one starts a business knowing the exact number of real people in their niche. I’d love to be able to say, ‘There are exactly 13,487 women in the United States who are a perfect match to my ideal customer profiles’. That’s just not possible.
Instead, we make an educated guess.
For The Girl Brand, I started with Google. I searched for women-owned businesses and found my way to the U.S. Census Bureau, which led me to the discovery that female-owned businesses increased 26.8% from 2007 to 2012. While the next census isn’t due to come out until next year, I allowed myself to safely assume that the percentage of women-owned businesses would increase again. Perhaps not another 26%, but probably at least by 10%.
That means that women will own 10.89 million businesses next year.
Now my superior math skills kick in. In order to make a comfortable living off my business, I need to make $5,000 a month. $60,000 a year. This is my minimum gross income. In order to hit that, I discovered that I would need to work with 75 businesses (assuming they all purchase my LOWEST cost package).
Girlfriend, that’s less than 0.001% of the women-owned business market that I would need to control in order to be successful.
Keep in mind that none of that includes my other ideal customer profiles. I still have the womenpreneur & corporate dynamo markets to pull from. That means that there is plenty of opportunity out there. It’s still up to me to see that I actually find and convert those businesses (which we’ll get around to in Post 2 of this series).
5. Develop Your Mission Statement & Summary
Finally, the last step of today’s post. You can’t hope to have a solid Creative Success Strategy without developing both your mission statement and your company summary.
With all of the steps you’ve gone through leading up to this one, you should have all the background information you need to craft a beautifully simple and concise mission statement that will explain what you’re all about, as well as a company summary that goes in-depth on what you do and offer. The mission statement should be a few lines (but I’ve also seen it wrapped up in one), and the summary should be a couple paragraphs (maybe half a page).
The Girl Brand’s mission statement:
“I’m devoted to helping unstoppable women like you bring your passion and career together for a fulfilling and meaningful life, whether you need help getting it done or want to do it yourself. I share my professional and personal experiences of starting my business with other women in order to build a network of supportive womenpreneurs who can work together to change the meaning of business.”
The Wrap Up (for today)
Once you’ve worked through all these steps, go back and do it again! Nothing is ever perfect on the first pass, and I’m sure there are things you’ve missed, as I have.
For instance, since initially publishing this post, I’ve come in and made 3 changes (I’m updating that number every time).
In the next post of this series, I’ll talk about your company’s team, competition, and marketing, and in post three we’ll delve into the scary financial stuff (ahh, procrastination, my old friend). Keep an eye out for those, as your Creative Success Strategy is not yet complete. I promise you really do want to finish it!
Have questions? Comment below! I promise to answer!