Writing a business plan can be a daunting activity if it is the first time you’ve tackled such a detailed, thorough project. Too often, entrepreneurs rely upon templates or a sample business plan as an example for their own proposal, and in the process lose the creativity and energy that they have about their idea. There are many options for writing a persuasive and effective business plan without spending a lot of money on a writing coach, proposal writer, or additional resources.
Chances are, you’re already relied on the internet to gain guidance about projects you’ve never done before, or looked up instructions for a complicated process. There’s a lot of information online about writing a business plan and you can easily find a sample plan, but not all of that information is quality, or worth your time. So how do you effectively search for web resources that will actually help you instead of wasting your time? Much like any kind of internet research, the tip is to begin by using only credible resources. In addition to searching for “writing a business plan”, or “sample business plan”, type in “business school” as well. Many business schools around the nation have free, available information for the public on how to write a business plan. They may include links to area-specific resources, or provide tutorials or downloads for a sample business plan.
Another great resource for writing a business plan is your local Small Business Administration center. Most major cities have these types of small-business assistance resources, either in a brick-and-mortar office or online. These SBA websites almost always offer comprehensive resources for start-ups like a sample business plan, business plan development ideas, events, counseling and training services, and local resources. Check to see if your SBA website has free, online planning webinars. Even if you local chapter doesn’t offer them, you can easily find a website in another region that does. These online seminars are typically self-paced, 30-minute long resources that help you understand the components of writing a business plan (which provide much more insight than a simple sample business plan), and may be offered in a variety of languages.
Podcasts are another web resource that not many people think of when they think “business plan”. True, you don’t get the same visual education from a podcast as you do from a webinar, but listening to someone describe the process might be just what you need to motivate you while on a long commute, at the gym, or sitting at home. And with a lack of visual information, they might seem less overwhelming than looking at an online presentation or sample business plan.
Books and Printed Material
The internet is a fantastic resource for writing a business plan, but for some people, nothing beats a good old-fashioned book. Your local library has entire sections dedicated to the multiple aspects of business development, and you can be sure to find several books about how to write a business plan. Best of all – these are free! If your local branch does not have the book you’re looking for, check the catalog and request a book transfer. Sometimes, the perfect books about writing an effective business plan or ideas for a sample business plan are just an inter-library loan away.
Be sure to check out your local college library as well. Often, academic libraries will have more comprehensive business books than local libraries, and may offer a wider selection of in-depth materials regarding not only writing a business plan, but strategizing how to continue with your business development afterward. Keep in mind that many university libraries are open only to students, so call the resource desk before you make a special trip onto the campus.
If you do have a SBA resource center in your area, check their calendar of events to see if they offer periodic classes or workshops, or can help you rework a sample business plan. Often, an SBA will offer a class dedicated to writing a plan – at no cost! The advantage of attending a live seminar as opposed to an online seminar is that you can often ask the facilitator questions at the end which you can’t do online. Typically, the person leading the course is a professional with years or decades of business experience. They’ll likely be able to assist you with tips, tricks, and shortcuts to develop a plan.
Finally, it’s important to consider that when you’re writing a business plan, you don’t want to cut corners or rely on a sample plan from a book or website. The business plan is a representation of your professionalism and your desire to succeed, and the quality of your content should reflect this. So while tips and tricks are good for making the most out of your time and resources, it’s never a good idea to gloss over important aspects of your plan – namely, the quality of your writing. While writing a business plan necessitates the inclusion of facts, figures, numbers, graphs, financials, etc., the narrative surrounding the why of your proposal is what will likely draw people into helping you achieve your vision. Do you sound passionate about your product? Do you sound knowledgeable? Does it sound like you have what it takes to not only start your business but develop it and work through anticipated and unseen challenges? No? Does it sound like you relied on a sample plan instead? Well it may be a good idea to check out some of the writing seminars available for assistance with writing your plan. Many of these seminars do cost some money, although others can be attended for a very nominal fee. Courses like these can help you find your “voice” and deliver a more compelling proposal.
The most important thing to consider when writing a plan is to take your time, be thorough, be accurate, and above all, believe in yourself and your product. Don’t just rely on a sample plan, create a proposal that you’re proud of, and that you are convinced will compel others to help you realize your dream.