I'm going to be real in this blog post. Before last month, I didn't really have a business plan in the works. I had a general idea of what I wanted my brand to look like and what my ideal client looked like, but I had no actionable steps to achieving success. So over the last two weeks, I wrote out my first business plan! Woohoo! Some of the smaller steps are still a work in progress, but I now have a much clearer vision of how I want my business to look.
Want to know what was missing in my original plan? I had no defined measure of success. I had a general idea of what success looked like to me, but it goes beyond piña coladas on the beach and massive shopping trips. Success is something concrete, something you can look at and say, “Yes, I am successful.” Without further ado, here are 4 things I learned that I want to share with you for how to construct your business plan, and in turn define what success means to you.
(1) Don't Be Afraid Of Numbers
Do you know how much revenue you're planning to make in the next 12 months? How about 5 years? These are the tough questions that need answers. By creating a financial goal for yourself, you're essentially speaking to a major indicator of what success looks like to you.
Consequently, don't neglect a hard look at your expenses. How much is the business going to cost on a monthly basis to run? Will you make enough to cover those costs and pay your bills? Let me give you an example of a few of my current expenses:
- Social Media Tools
Don't forget to plan for future expenses as well. These are things you want to invest in at some point that will help your business. Some expenses I want to cover in the next 12 months include:
- AWeber (I currently use MailChimp)
- Better Camera + Video Tools
Besides income and expenses, you also must consider other numbers that are indicators of success for you. Do you want to have a 100 products sold by the end of the summer? Do want to have 10k Instagram followers within a year? Take a look at some other numbers that indicate success to you and record them.
To be transparent, here are a few of my goals in the next three months
- Increase my social following by 25%, targeting my ideal client.
- Increase my repeat business by 40%, focusing on building long term relationships.
- Be published in 10 more online publications.
In summary: Create hard goals with specific numbers to define what success means to you.
(2) Define Yourself & Your Brand
Can you sum up what you do in a sentence or two? And don't just say something simple, like “I own a boutique.” What kind of boutique? What makes your boutique different? What made you want to own a boutique? etc.
If you are struggling with defining your brand, the following image is a fantastic guide from byRegina.com that really helped me create my brand statement:
For me, I've narrowed down exactly what I do. Are you ready for it?
I team up with overwhelmed creative entrepreneurs to develop and implement social media and content marketing strategies in order to free up their time for building their businesses. Whether you own an online boutique, edit a digital magazine, photograph babies, or coach other business owners, I take a grassroots approach to seeking your ideal customer and building relationships with your audience in the online space.
Fun tip: Use your brand statement as an elevator pitch of sorts. So when people ask, “What do you do?,” you have more to say than “I own a boutique.”
In summary: Be clear and specific in defining your brand by building a brand statement.
(3) How Are You Going To Get Clients?
Do you know where your clients and customers are? It's one thing to define what your ideal customer looks like (which was easy for me to come up with), but how do you find them? How do they find you? Your entire business depends on customers paying so how do you make sure your product or service is seen by the right people.
So the real question: How are you going to reach your customers? Word of mouth? Social Media? Commercial advertising? Influencer marketing? Remember, time is money so none of these measures are free. What are you going to invest in to make sure your numbers are met?
In my case, my strategy for getting my clients is twofold:
- Apply to open projects on freelancing websites like Elance, oDesk, and PeoplePerHour. This is a more active approach to finding my audience as they are clearly listing their needs and actively looking for like-minded individuals to help.
- Network with my target audience – Creative Entrepreneurs – online and in person. This includes writing helpful blog posts like this one, joining groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, and building relationships with other creative freelancers in this space.
In summary: Research ways to reach your ideal client and implement strategies to transform them into paying customers.
(4) Define Your Process
Now that you have your goals set, how are you going to reach those goals? When you get a client, what do you do next? How do you keep them as a long-term client? What steps are you going to take to ensure that they are satisfied with your products and services?
For example, I know exactly how much work I do for every social media client. I know how many hours I'm going to put in each day, and I've defined exactly what my process is for each client. And I am clear and upfront as soon as the working relationship begins as to what clients should expect. Once expectations are set, we can work together towards making their online presence awesome!
One major step I took in defining my process was making sure my branding on my website and social media accounts is attractive to my ideal client. Once I analyzed how that would look, I redesigned my website and rebranded my image on social media platforms and freelance accounts to reflect my business plan.
In summary: Create a path to your goals that's clear enough to explain and define what your business process looks like from start to finish.
After I learned how to construct my business plan, I knew what success meant to me. Success, in my little world, will mean building a book of long-term business that I can help grow and flourish in the online space. I'm specifically working towards increasing my repeat business by the end of July 2015.
So tell me, have you created a business plan? What does success look like to you?
*Images from Pixabay.com