Learn about the purpose of a business plan, which business plan elements you need and how to write a seriously helpful one for your blog or online business.
Roadmap to a Successful Online Business – Part III | How to Write a Seriously Helpful Business Plan
If you are toying with the idea of building your own online business but are feeling totally lost and don’t know where to start – you have come to the right place! 🙂
My mission is to help you get out of that confusion and overwhelm and break things down for you, so you can follow along easily. My Roadmap to a Successful Online Business blog post series will take you through all the major steps of building your online business. Download your FREE overview business guide and let’s get going!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means when you purchase something through links marked as affiliate links (affiliate links are marked by an asterisk), I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions expressed here are my own and I only recommend products and services that I personally love!
Do you Really Need a Business Plan??
I know what you are thinking… Do you really NEED a business plan? You’ve got enough on your plate already – why bother? Can’t you just wing it? Well, my friend, if you take this seriously and want to build a successful brand/online business, you better start planning ahead.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” – Alan Lakein
If you have no idea what you want to achieve and how you are going to do this, how will you know if you’re on the right track? So yes, I think investing some time upfront to write a business plan is gonna serve you well in the long run.
What is a Business Plan?
In a nutshell, your business plan is the summary of your brand, your goals, and the means you are going to take to achieve them. It’s your compass during your online business journey and should point you in the right direction whenever you feel lost.
You can get super specific here and write an epic manifest. If that’s your thing, check out How to Write a Blog Business Plan by Regina. She has a super detailed blog post and offers a free 36(!) pages workbook for you to fill out. However, if you find that kind of detail a bit overwhelming and intimidating, I’ll try to break this down to the most important points for you.
As you continue your online business journey you’ll have to periodically review your business plan anyway. Plenty of time to fill in the gaps. Moreover, some things might be easier to assess a little further down the track. After all, you are still just trying to wrap your head around the whole creating-your-own-business thing, right? No need to make this super complicated or have it all figured out right from the start.
“Plan – execute – analyse – adjust – repeat.” | PearTreePond – The Solopreneur Safety Net
Elements of a Business Plan
As I mentioned above, I’m gonna keep it simple and basic here. We are trying to create a business plan overview, that helps you gain clarity about your brand, your audience, your offer and business strategy. That said, you should still give it considerable thought, as this will guide you on your way towards your goals. Get a pen and some paper and take notes as you go through these steps. And if you find that you have no clue how to answer the questions below, really take your time to do more research and soul searching, before you continue. Don’t just write down anything to be done with it and silence your conscience. *busted* 😉
1. Mission & Vision
As I explained in WHAT IS A NICHE AND HOW TO FIND YOURS, this is your big WHY for starting your blog or business. What is its purpose? Who are you going to serve? How? Be as specific as possible.
Example: I am helping aspiring bloggers establish a successful and sustainable online business, so they can create a substantial income to support their families and live fulfilled lives. I’m going to achieve this by providing epic content, support and useful products/services on key-topics they need to learn about.
2. Target Audience
To be able to really understand the group of people you chose to serve, you need to get into their heads. Something that’s really helpful here is to create an ideal customer avatar (no, not the blue big-eyed aliens, silly ;)). Basically, this means drafting a character study of your perfect reader. This might feel weird because you are thinking, “How the heck am I supposed to know who is going to read my blog??”. See, that’s exactly the point – if you analyse and describe your perfect reader FIRST and THEN write your post tailored to that person’s needs, you’ll attract that kind of person. Why? Because your offers match their needs exactly. *lightbulb moment*
Ideal Reader Avatar (Example)
My perfect reader is female, 25-40 years old. She is married, has kids and decided to turn her life around. Let’s call her Anna.
… has no experience working online, but is craving a new stream of income that allows her to work from home, raise her kids and make a positive impact on other lives.
… only has limited time available but is confronted with learning everything from graphic design, building a website, branding, marketing, social media, etc. to make her new business work. This leaves her feeling overwhelmed and intimidated. She doesn’t know where to start.
… needs information, motivation, and support. Since she only has limited time, she would love to find all this in one place instead of scouring the internet for useful information and resources.
… is motivated to learn new skills and willing to invest in building her business.
… is intelligent, well-read, cosmopolitan, self-motivated, witty, responsible and practical.
… loves nature and practices a healthy lifestyle.
… likes in-depth, no-fluff advice that is easy to implement.
… hates everything superficial and fake.
… values honesty, fairness, kindness, integrity, and friendships.
Her style is down-to-earth, yet very deliberate. She chooses quality over quantity and doesn’t follow fads. Once she finds things she loves, she sticks with them.
While you don’t have to spin this thought experiment until you figured out what your fictional character’s cat is called and what colour of undies they wear, there are a few things you should definitely consider:
- experience level
- likes and dislikes
If you figure those things out, it will be easier to provide content that resonates with them and create a brand they love. By the way, please raise a virtual hand and let me know in the comments if you are my “Anna”. 🙂 I’d love to chat and get to know you better! *to friendships!*
3. Defining Your Brand
In order to really click with your target audience, your brand needs to align with their needs, values, and personality. If you offer a solution to their problem(s), represent values they hold dear and add in your sparkling personality, you are half-way there to making a real impact on those people’s lives. And before you know it, you’ll attract not only customers but your new best friends, too!
I’ll go into more detail about branding in a later post, but here are some basics to consider:
- Your name and tagline. A tagline summarises the essence of your business, in case you were wondering. Example: My brand name is “PearTreePond”, my tagline is “The Solopreneur Safety Net”.
- Your brand visuals, including your logo, submark, colours, patterns, fonts, graphics and additional elements.
- Brand identity: What do you stand for? How do you want to be perceived? What emotional response are you trying to trigger?
- Brand personality: What’s your overall style, your tone of voice and attitude towards your audience?
- What do you offer? How is it going to help your target audience and how is it different from what others offer? Do a little market research.
4. Setting Your Goals
Should you include goals in your business plan right from the start? I guess so. After all, you need to measure your progress and evaluate whether you need to adjust your strategy. That is something I’m really struggling with, too. Sure, anyone can set goals. But what are REALISTIC goals?
Let’s concentrate on the most important goal: your money goal. Before you go overboard and enter the world of fairies, unicorns, and 20k-in-your-first-month, I suggest you answer the following question honestly: How much money would you need to earn to make this all worthwhile? By this I mean, how much money do you need to cover your expenses + invest some + save some + make your life awesome? Maybe that is a good starting point to aim for.
After all, you’ll be pouring your heart, soul, time and money into this business. If you can’t make it profitable enough for you, you won’t be able to sustain it in the long run. Do I see you shudder even just thinking about money? Don’t feel bad for thinking about money straight away! Only if you earn enough to keep your head above water, will you be able to help others. It’s like they tell you on the airplane: “Please put on your own oxygen mask first, before you start helping others.” There is a reason for that. *eye-opener*
How will you achieve this goal? If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to think products and services you want to offer to your readers. Additionally, which other streams of income will you try to generate? Will you be using adds? Affiliate marketing? Sponsored posts? Email marketing? Are you going to offer a membership?
Growing Your Audience
This can either be a means to an end for achieving your income goal, or it can be an end in itself to impact more lives positively. However you want to look at it. Those goals could include growing your email list, growing your social media following, increasing your page views or engagement with your audience.
The important thing about setting goals for your business is making them specific and measurable! If you can’t track and measure your goals, you won’t be able to achieve them. So instead of saying “I want to reach more people”, say “I want to add 100 people to my email list within the next 3 months and grow my Pinterest followers by 50 people”. Thus you’ll be able to tell whether you achieved your milestone or not.
While setting your goals is an important part of your business plan, detailing HOW you are going to achieve them, isn’t less important. You can plan all you want – if you don’t take action to move forward, you won’t.
5. Promotion Strategy
Don’t create your content and expect people to come. Harsh truth: They won’t. UNLESS you devise a promotion strategy and actively promote the heck out of your content. To make the biggest impact, identify the social media platforms your ideal reader hang out on. Choose those to promote your content. Join groups on Facebook, it that’s where your peeps are. Interact on Twitter or Instagram if that’s their preferred playground. Be on Pinterest! Pinterest is my preferred platform and best source of traffic. Check out my Pinterest for Business blog series to fully leverage the power of Pinterest. Create a social media strategy that works for your brand.
Once you worked through these steps, you should have a solid foundation for your business. You defined your vision, identified your ideal reader and matched your offer to fit their needs. You set goals and know how you’ll try to achieve them. Well done, you! *high five* This is huge! How does it feel? Let me know in the comments below – I will be there to cheer you on! 🙂
Stay tuned for the next part of the Roadmap to a Successful Online Business blog post series! Sign up for my newsletter and you won’t miss it. 🙂
See you soon!
XIII: 6 WORK-LIFE BALANCE TIPS FOR SOLOPRENEURS