There are as many ways to do business plans as there are creative professionals. But you wouldn't know that looking at the business planning section of your local library. So in this challenge, I've enlisted some friends and colleagues to describe the way they found their business plans and what works for them. I'm hoping one of them will inspire you.
The first comes from Katrina Ramser, who divides her time between teaching swimming to kids and adults, writing about automotive, outdoors, swimming and personal finance topics for magazines and Web sites, and writing her own blog, SquidKid. How does she keep it all straight and keep herself motivated? It turns out it came to her while on walks and while talking on the phone.
I've written formal business plans using software and I've written informal ones on napkins. I've found the plan that reads as personal as a journal entry or a letter to yourself yields the best results. You want to feel the lifeline behind your goals, or there's just no heart there to get things done.
I stumbled upon the creation of my business plan by accident. Information tripped out of my head at unreliable, or what I know now as organic, moments, such as suddenly realizing in the middle of a phone call I really wanted to accomplish X; or that I should spend more time doing Y while taking a walk.
What started out as a simple Word document with a scattering of unorganized, lonely sentences became, over time, the bones for all my now-overflowing yearly business plans.
Without my willing to toss away ideas on how a business plan should be, I wouldn't be able to give you the following solid direction:
Begin by asking yourself what the top items on your goal radar will be for the year. It could be anything, from launching a blog to bringing in 4 new clients to getting out of debt -- stuff that is first and foremost on your mind.
Bullet point them.
Now move onto more specific categories, such as Finances, Career, and Personal.
Under Finances, for example, I might have my income goal, broken down my types of services or clients and just what I expect to make from each of them. I strive to get real about locating each dollar. Here I'll also place a reminder to get my credit score or deposit $1,000 in an online account for a vacation.
What really keeps you honest and alive is following up each month.
Below these categories, leave room for the 12 months, and type in your successes. In April, for example, I accomplished doing my own taxes, securing a new client, and 400 hits on my blog.
No goal is too modest. We have a tendency as we get older to be more critical of ourselves, and that's where the business plan motivation gets lost. Record, record, record.
Here's another way to break down your doings:
Halfway through the year and right after June's success, insert the following "check in" exercises in your plan:
- Do a Reality Check. Wake up call statements;
- a Give Yourself Some Credit. Pat-on-the-back tidbits; and
- What's Really on Your Goal Radar. What you think you care most about in this 6-month reflection.
Your business plan is an on-going conversation you are concocting with the best parts of your selves.