I’m employed full-time by the State of Arizona as an Educational Interpreter. I do my job and collect a paycheck. Done!
But, I’m also self-employed as an author and a virtual administrative assistant. That’s where things get complicated.
Setting up a side business has been an eye-opening experience. Initially, I had visions of ordering business cards with my name printed stoically on them – like a marquee announcing the next big act in town. But as I perused my “must-be-done” list for self-employment, I brushed over one entry reminding me to have a business plan in place.
Business Plan? Um . . . okay.
Yeah, yeah. I had that all planned out in my head. I knew where I wanted to go with marketing strategies, what my ideal clients would be, what kind of hours I wanted to keep, and where I hoped to be in five years. I don’t need an engineering degree to get to that point, right? Well, halfway through my research on writing a business plan, I felt like I just might.
Writing a formal business plan was initially overwhelming. The outline alone was staggering. Here’s a brief breakdown of what Entrepreneur.com suggests:
- EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
What do you want to gain from this business?
(Um, money? That was easy.)
- BUSINESS DESCRIPTION
Describe your business. What does the present outlook compared to the future possibilities look like?
(Let’s see…there’s a lot of work just getting up and running – don’t even get me started on the hours just setting up a website – and I have dreams of success and of clients and readers lining up like Black Friday at Best Buy, but I’m still a little foggy on the “future possibilities” factor.)
- MARKET STRATEGIES
How will you plan to market your business to be most effective in reaching your clients/customers and garnish the best profit for you?
(Stand on the steps of the courthouse with a megaphone and announce my business or throw flyers from an airplane soaring over the city? Realistically, I’m still working on this part.)
- COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS
Study the strengths/weaknesses of your competitors. What strategies will give you an advantage over them?
(Brutal. Maybe I should hire a military strategist to help me out with this one?)
- DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT
What is a description of the product/service you plan to provide? What kind of a budget will you project to help you reach your goals?
(Description–got it. Oh, I need a budget? Oops.)
- OPERATIONS & MANAGEMENT
The logistics of how your business is run on a daily basis. Who is responsible for what?
(Another no-brainer here. I will do whatever daily work is necessary and ALL the responsibility is MINE, MINE, MINE!)
There is more entailed in having a business plan than what is listed above (excluding the humor), but you get the idea. Needless to say, I felt overwhelmed and underqualified at that point. My practical side asserted, “I’m an author and perform administrative tasks for clients. I don’t have to be the next Steve Jobs.”
My solution? Keep researching and see if this could be simplified a tad. Maybe revisit the whole formal business plan idea when I’m feeling more confident and “business-y.”
Business Plan vs. Planning Your Business
So, I kept digging and found advice that felt more on my level. According to several articles, all this hype might not be that necessary. Plan out your business? Yes. Overthink the process? No.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a full-fledged planner and organizer – a melancholic purist – but I didn’t want to get bogged down so much by the logistics of starting my business that I missed out on the entrepreneurial spirit of the whole process. I felt that, if I put too many weights on the wings of my dreams, they would never get off the ground.
Plan that Business
So how do you plan out the dream of owning your own business? Start with a thick notebook with a cute cover (makes it more fun to look at every day) and plan your business, your dream. Do your research, focus on your market, tape a picture of your ideal client on your laptop, think ahead to the frantic days when you’ll be swamped with work and wonder what you were thinking when you started all this craziness and how you will handle it moving forward. Learn from your mistakes and just get the ball rolling.
Meanwhile, you can also check out some links I’ve included below to help you get started.
Let’s do this!
Happy New Year!