We all know a business plan is an important thing to have, but how many of you have actually sat down to write? No doubt you thought about doing it when you started your design business, but never really got around to doing it. As a designer, you probably are not going to use your business plan to secure a loan or seek out investors, so why have one? A business plan can, well, help you plan your business.
By having to write your business plan down on paper you are forced to think about how you will run, market, and compete in your business. “But I already have that stuff in my head”, you say. Have you thought about a 12 month marketing plan? How you build repeat clients? Possible streams of passive income? What you will do if your computer blows up?
These are just some of the things that writing a business plan forces you to think about. There are lots of programs and website out there that teach you how to write a business plan, but most include more information than a business plan for a designer really needs.
What to Include in a Business Plan for Designers
below I will cover the main areas of a basic business plan and how they relate to designers. I will try to make these explanations as simple as possible and give some examples as well.
Technically – Features the highlights of your plan and sells your idea in two pages or less.
For Designers – This is where you write about how awesome your business is, but in a semi-professional manner. Think of this as an elongated sales pitch. If you are having trouble thinking of what to write, ask your self, “what is it I do and what makes my business awesome?”
Technically – A factual description of your company, ownership, and history.
For Designers – As a freelancer, you probably won’t have much to write here. What I like to use this part of the business plan for is to outline my support network, such as legal service providers, accountants, developers, designers, techs, etc.
If you are only a designer or only a developer, you will need to find others to work with to pick up the work you can’t do. Use this area of the business plan to think of services you will need from others and outline theme here.
I like to do something like this:
Company Name: WordPress Designers
What They Do: Offer PSD to WordPress services, code wordpress themes, design wordpress themes.
Cost: PSD to WordPress starts at $300
Products (or Services or both)
Technically – describes your products and/or services and how they stand out from competitive products and services.
For Designers – This section is pretty spot on for designers and is one of the most important parts of the business plan to complete. this forces you to think about how much you will charge and what you need to charge to stay competitive.
Start by creating a list of all the service you will want to offer. Once you have the list in place, research what other designers of similar skill level are pricing these services at. Once you see what the competition is pricing their work at, you can then come up with a competitive rate.
Aside from creating a price list, you will want to write a paragraph or two about each of your services and why they are awesome. What you write here will be useful for when people ask you why they should choose you or for adding descriptions about your services on your website.
Technically – provides a summary of your typical customers, competitive landscape, market size, and expected market growth.
For Designers – To put it simply, this is where you make sure their is a need for your service. If you have a general design business, all you will want to do here is create a profile of your target client. Obviously not all your clients will fall into this category, but it will give you an idea of the type of clients you will be going after.
If you have a niche design company, (i.e. one that focuses on eco companies, non-profit organizations, etc), you will want to research other design companies who are doing the same thing. This way you can keep tabs on the competition. You will also want to create a profile of your typical clients. That way you can better promote your self and target your marketing efforts more effectively.
Strategy and Implementation
Technically -describes how you will sell your product, how you will put your plan into action, and establishes milestones.
For Designers – This is pretty much your marketing strategy and business goals. Some questions you should ask your self are:
- Will I focus on SEO?
- Will I advertise online, in print, or both?
- How will I get repeat clients?
- What will you do to get new clients?
You will also want to set some goals for your self. Set a few short term goals (6 months) and long term (12 months). These goals will help you measure your success and give you something to work toward. I have recently started doing this and it really helps you focus on the important parts of your business instead of trying to cover all areas of your business.
Technically – contains key financials including sales, cash flow, and profits.
For Designers – Rather than creating profit and loss charts and other random financial data you will never care about, I suggest using this are of your business plan to plan what you will do when work gets slow.
Think about things you can do to create passive income or some sort of regular income, no matter how small.
You will also want to consider how much you will put away into your “rainy day” fund, petty cash box, and other savings you should be keeping.