Until January 2015, plans did not exist in my business.
In my personal life, I loved planning. I had a cute Cath Kidston pocket diary that mapped out my entire life. I had plans for parties and plans for trips. I had plans of how I was going to save enough money to travel the world.
But could I plan for business?
I believe that thinking of 'business plans' triggers a sense of fear and dread within us. As I mentioned in last month's article on creating a sales funnel, we are not wired to like business planning and strategizing. It has never been viewed as fun, therefore our minds and bodies can't stand even the thought of it.
When I didn't plan in my business, I found myself...
- Lacking a daily and weekly work routine.
- I didn't know how much to pay myself each month.
- I didn't know where my next bulk of money was going to come from.
- I didn't release products and make extra income.
- I wasn't really succeeding at the whole business thing.
Story time: A couple of years ago, I went on holiday to Italy with a few friends. At the time, my finances were a hot mess. I distinctly remember lying beside the pool on my lounge chair and telling myself I could survive on £500 a month. I told myself that was the most I seemed able to earn- I'd be fine with that amount of money.
Can you believe it?!
Because I had no business plans and no strategy, my business was all over the place. And because of that, so were my finances.
I'm delighted to say that since I started taking planning and strategizing seriously, my income is a lot higher than that now.
But can you see how dangerous it is to 'wing it' in business?
Plans don't have to be long, boring and ugly. I've said that to you guys before, but I feel it's important to reiterate here. You can't just wing it. When you start planning and strategizing, your efforts become more intentional and focused, and your business flourishes more.
Business that plan grow 60% faster than businesses that don't.
So do you want to grow and flourish? Or do you want a slow crawl to success?
My business blossomed this year
My business is having its best year yet. In fact, I've almost tripled last year's income.
This year I've...
- I released my first subscription product (TSC) which was a huge success.
- I released a new consultation service for freelancers.
- I started writing my first eBook and I've created the sales page. It hasn't gone public yet, but it will in November.
- I took on more clients because I planned how I could do it without stressing out.
- And I'm more organized than ever before. My clients are loving it!
How did so much change come about in my business?
In January 2015, I analyzed my finances and realized I really needed to step up my game, so I bought a few books to help me create strategic plans for the new year. I joined Facebook groups about planning, I read lots of blog posts on business planning, downloaded lots of templates, and put all of my energy into creating a sustainable plan that could keep my business on track and help me earn more money.
I had tried creating business plans in the past, trust me. But they always ended up sitting, unfinished, on my Macbook somewhere. I was distinctly aware this time around that I needed to create simple, easy-to-follow plans that wouldn't end up gathering dust.
The benefits of a business plan
If you struggle to stick to your business plan, it's helpful to remind yourself of the benefits of having one. It helps me!
A few benefits of having a business plan...
- A business plan forces you to think intentionally, realistically and unemotionally.
- It serves as a reference point for any goals you want to set. Before setting them, you can analyze your business plan and see if your goals are in line with it.
- It allows you to identify areas you need to improve on, or areas where you need assistance.
- It allows you to plan for growth.
- It helps you form a long-term vision for business. With a business plan, you're no longer fumbling in the dark, so to speak. You know what to expect from your business over the next year, and even the year after that.
- A business plan helps make your priorities clearer.
- It helps you manage cash flow better. When you look at your business plan, you'll see what income to expect over the year and you'll be able to manage your money accordingly.
Getting into the right mindset
Before you create a plan and actually stick to it, you need to get into the right mindset.
Give yourself a goal. It could be that you want to make more money, or you finally want to start selling products. A goal like this will give your business plan a purpose and you'll be more likely to complete your plan and stick to it.
My business plan template
My business plan template is a one-page spreadsheet. I've tried lots of formats in the past: Word docs, pretty docs in iBooks Author, paper plans... but a simple one-page spreadsheet has helped me keep my plan simple and straightforward. There's not much room for overwhelm with a plan like this!
How to use this template
1. Before you do anything, hit File > Save As > and save it as an Excel doc or whatever you'd like! Then, open your super simple business plan and get started.
2. Write down three goals for the year and ONLY three. They should be revenue goals, launch goals or sales goals. Since we're only in September, they could be your goals for the remaining few months of 2015 or you could use this plan for 2016. I recommend the latter.
Having three main goals for your entire year will keep you focused. I've found that in the past, when I haven't had yearly goals, my focus has drifted all over the place and I haven't achieved much in 12 months.
3. Next up, write your tagline. Just a short and simple tagline that clearly explains what you do.
It's important to have simple things like your goals and your tagline at the top of your business plan because they serve as reminders. As soon as you open your plan, the first things you'll see are your goals and a simple explanation of what you do. These are great reminders to refer to when you're lacking brand clarity or not sure what direction to take your brand in.
4. What has worked really well so far this year, or last year? And what could you improve on next year? If you've found certain marketing methods have worked for you then write them down! But if you're struggling with something, write that down too. You can make your successes a stronger part of your business strategy next year, and you can turn your struggles into mini goals.
5. Next up, fill in your Income Plan. I wrote an article on this income planner back in April. To sum up what it is, it's a simple plan that contains your income predictions for the next 12 months. Fill in how much money you want to make. Then, fill in your products and services and experiment with pricing and how many units you'd have to sell to meet your income goal.
6. Track your growth. All the sections on the left of the spreadsheet are about planning for growth. The sections on the right are all about tracking growth. Use the sections on the right to track how much your newsletter grows each month, how much your blog grows, and how much your social media grows. In the 'Actions' column on these growth boxes, make sure you note whether you've taken any specific actions that contributed to more growth or slower growth. For example, if you started adding content upgrades to your blog posts in January and experienced hundreds more subscribers, note down that action! Your future self will thank you for the reminder when she's re-reading your old biz plan.
If you're confused or have any questions about how to use this simple plan, let me know in our Facebook group!
Because I love strategy SO much and its made such an impact on my design business this year, I'm thinking of creating a strategy course for freelancers. If this is something that you're interested in, sign up for future info!