It’s easy to think that business plans are for big business and we solopreneurs can simply set our goals and wing it. But having a solid business plan in place can have a big impact, even if you’re just starting out, and especially when you have no-one to answer to but yourself (and, of course, your clients). Today, Victoria Greene from Victoria Ecommerce, talks us through exactly how to map out a business plan, in a morning.
Over to Victoria…
Every venture needs a business plan, no matter how big or small your company or where you see yourself taking it. Setting out your business’s direction is crucial when you’re starting out. It forms a benchmark against which you can track and measure your progress, and will guide you through the late night grinds and turbulent seas ahead. And as a self-starting solopreneur, you know the value of planning ahead for productivity.
So what does your business plan need to entail? How far should it reach, and what should you cover? Read on to find out you can (and should) map out your business plan in just one morning…
Set out your value proposition
First things first, you need to set out what your business provides, and why you’re different from all the rest. This is known as your value proposition, and you’ll be referring to it in every decision you make. It should answer the following:
- What product or service are you offering?
- Who is your target consumer?
- Why is your product or service different from your competitors?
It’s a competitive marketplace, and consumers hear a lot of noise from businesses trying to sell to them. So you need to cut through all this and grab their attention with a unique offering that only you can provide.
Take Uber or example. Despite the plethora of taxi companies out there already, they managed to surge to popularity in only a few short years. How? They market themselves as “the smartest way to get around”. Where other cabs require cash payments and a phone call, Uber streamlines it all down to a simple app, no fuss and no cash required. Their value proposition embodies this, and their adherence to it is the reason for their success.
Identify your niche
Once you’ve set out your value proposition, you’ll need to find what niche your business occupies. Who is your product for? What are their needs, and how does your product fulfill those needs?
When you’re advertising to consumers, it’s not viable to just target the entire market. Knowing your niche lets you target your marketing efforts at the right customers, rather than going for anyone and everyone.
For example, look at the prescription eyeglasses brand Warby Parker. The company was formed when its founder, Jeffrey Raider, became frustrated with the lack of affordable but stylish prescription glasses on the market. He saw the niche and filled it with Warby Parker, aiming their marketing at 18-34 year olds who want to wear designer eyewear on a budget.
Image Warby Parker
Size up your competition
Now’s the time to find out who you’re up against. When you find your niche, you also find out who else occupies that niche or similar niches. Who are your business’s main competitors? Look them up and find out what they do and how successful they are. Do they offer anything that you don’t? What do you do better?
You can quickly and easily identify potential local competition by Googling your business’s service, for example “cupcake delivery, Chicago, IL”. This will bring up relevant companies that you might be in competition with.
You can also use analytical tools like Buzzsumo or Ahrefs to determine how successful your competition are online. These can identify the amount of traffic they receive, how much money they spend on paid advertising, and what kind of content they create and share.
It’s also worth conducting a SWOT analysis too. This is an exercise aimed at understanding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that your business might encounter as it grows.
Your strengths and weaknesses are qualities that are intrinsic to your business. These can vary over time, and include things like your location or your reputation. In comparison, the opportunities and threats you face will come from outside, and you will have little control over them. For example, a new competitor might come onto the market, or the cost of your wholesale product might increase due to a shortage. Once you have identified these, you can better prepare for any issues that might arise later on.
Set a financial plan
One of the most important things you’ll need to consider in your business plan is your financial plan. Identify where your income will be coming from and how much capital you will have to start off with.
Firstly, establish what overheads your business will incur. Try and think of everything: it’s not just rent and utilities that you’ll need to consider. For example, if you decide to create an online store, will you be building your site yourself through services like WooCommerce and hosting it yourself? Or will you use a hosted store building tool like Shopify? How often will you need to renew your domain name? Will you have to pay for shipping or inventory every month? Be sure to research every product, tool or service you will be using to identify any hidden costs. Some services are free…until you reach a certain threshold, so plan this into your forecasting too.
You’ll also need to plan for one-off or unexpected costs. This can be tricky, but work on the rule that if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. Put aside some money for maintenance for any equipment you might use, such as PC repairs.
This will also include your sales forecast for the next few years. It needs to be realistic, and based on solid market data rather than just expectations. And be sure to consider every eventuality. It’s better to be pessimistic than optimistic when you’re setting your budget.
Identify milestones for your business
Finally, set out milestones for where you expect your business to be and when. Outlining your journey and breaking it down into segments gives you goals to aim for. This will help you throughout your business’s journey, and will inform any decisions you have to make further down the line.
These milestones also provide you with useful markers that you can check your progress against. If you reach the six month point and you haven’t achieved your expected goal, you can look back and identify any problems causing this. This in turn will let you reassess any future goals in the future.
As a solopreneur, you’re not going to have a team or partner to fall back on in your endeavours. Instead, your business plan will be your guide. Every step of the way, it will provide you with direction and counsel. Do your research and plan ahead, and it’ll be the ballast to your business’s ship.
Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. If you want to know the latest on trends in ecommerce, marketing, and design, check out her blog, Victoria Ecommerce. Victoria has a passion for helping store owners get the best they can out of their ecommerce enterprises.
Know what can help you even before you set up your business plan? Perfect clarity. Getting clear on your goals is a vital part of planning, so our free printable workbook, 7 Steps To Clarity As A Solopreneur, is the perfect tool to help you with putting your business plan together. Click here and we’ll send it over to you, completely free.