So you want to become self-employed, perhaps turn your hobby into a business, do something you feel really passionate about, give up the 9-5 rat race, or work around your family. Maybe you’re fed up of having to ask for time off to see your children’s sports days and school plays, or fed up of being at work in the school holidays and missing out on precious time with your little ones.
You want freedom and flexibility instead – we hear you!
Maybe you’re fed up of having to ask for time off to see your children’s sports days and school plays, or fed up of being at work in the school holidays and missing out on precious time with your little ones. You want freedom and flexibility instead – we hear you!
You start dreaming up ideas and decide you’re going to take that leap to go it alone. You get the support of your family and partner and begin taking steps to start your business.
Then wherever you look, whatever you Google, whichever bank or Government website you look at; everything everywhere is telling you that you should have a business plan. Argh!!
Do I really need a business plan?
If you’re anything like us you hate red-tape and ridiculous bureaucracy, and the thought of drawing up a long boring financial-focused document fills you with dread!
However, the short answer to your question is no. Unless you’re applying for funding or need premises then you probably don’t need a business plan. Phew!
But that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from having some sort of plan or at the very least an outline of your ideal customer and key goals.
It’s always a good idea to put your thoughts down in writing. That way all the ideas taking up space in your head can be written down (in a pretty journal if you wish) to make room for more thinking.
This also allows you to focus on your ideas and decide where to go next. This can be your ‘alternative’ business plan.
So what should I put in my alternative business plan?
Here are a few things you might want to cover. You can expand on them as much as you want, and if they’re not right for you then leave them out!
You need to map out the vision you have of what you want to achieve with your business; for yourself, for your family, and for your customers. If you don’t know what you want to achieve you won’t have any focus or drive, and you might not achieve very much at all. Writing down your vision will also help you create some company aims and/or a mission statement, and will definitely help you focus on the bigger picture.
Your product or service
It will help you enormously to write down exactly what you’re going to offer. How you’re going to create it and how it will be delivered to the customer. It’s also going to help if you consider the cost of creating your product or service (including any re-training you need) and how much you think you could sell it for – just make educated guesses at this point. You can do more research as you go to refine things.
You need to figure out who you want to sell to – they are your ideal customer. You also need to figure out who needs your product or service, who wants your product or service, and who can afford your product or service. Then figure out how you can combine them into the best possible mixture.
Next, you need to figure out how to tell your ideal customers about your product or service. You need to think about your brand, the message you are giving out, the feel of your company, the ethics you want to show, and how to you convey your message, what platforms to use, and think about the customer service you want to be known for.
You might want to consider some of the practical elements such as, the legal structure(ie sole-trader v’s limited company), licenses, insurances, complying with the law, and other legal issues which could affect you & your business.
OK so is probably not all about the money for you – guess what – it isn’t for most people, but, that doesn’t mean you don’t have bills to pay or a roof to keep over your family’s head. You need to make some money out of this, so you need to consider what it’s going to cost you to start and keep running the business, and how many of your product or service you need to sell to meet that.
Feel free to play around with the figures. Play around with the numbers of your product or service you could sell each month or year, and play around with raising and lowering the prices to see what effect that has. Although don’t worry too much about forecasting ahead, at the end of the day that’s just a best guess anyway! Instead, focus on setting yourself sensible goals and targets then review them regularly.
So why make a business plan if you don’t need one?
Your business plan is for you and your business. It doesn’t need to be shown to anyone else if you don’t want it to, and neither does it need to be filed at the back of a drawer somewhere.
You need to use your business plan as a guide, to read regularly, to remind you of the bigger picture of where you wanted to go. This will help you keep on track and make sure you don’t get lost in doing the work of your business and forget about why you were doing it in the first place.
If you do create a business plan and then leave it shoved in the back of a drawer somewhere, it will go out of date!
You should keep the plan somewhere where you can access it all times and review it every six months, making changes when needed to make sure it still reflects where you’re going. Your needs, your wants, your business, your progress, your customers’ needs, new technologies, changes in the sector you work in, and changes in the law, all mean that your business will need to evolve over time.
But that’s fine, that’s life!