Last week I wrote the blog post: The Creative’s Business Plan: Who says it’s 5 years? which received some positive feedback and was very popular with all the readers of the blog. If you haven't had chance to read the post yet, I suggest you do, otherwise you may think to yourself whilst reading this blog post ' what the heck is he on about'!
Ok, so we're back in the room and everyone's reading from the same page. Hopefully by now you've started to think about how you're going to approach your business plan and also how you plan to organise and document it. So now, what should it include & don't forget every business plan is different and individual to the business or person, so don't feel like you have to include everything I say.
The Basic Concept
You're certainly going to need to know what you plan to do and how you plan to make money. What is your business all about, do you plan to be a commercial photographer, graphic designer, Illustrator? Keep it short but make sure you pin point a few key areas, don't just put 'photographer' try and be specific and if it's more than one genre then document that. Don't forget what you plan to name the business!
Once you're happy with your genre and concept you can start to review what's already out there; who are your competitors, how much do other businesses charge, and most importantly what makes you stand out from the crowd. It's a very competitive market out there and you need a plan in place that will ensure you're competing against the best of the best. Think about what you offer that is different, how you can approach areas such as customer service differently, what's missing in your competitor's business that you could do and how can you make it easier to challenge those markets? Again, you should document this in a way that is relevant to you and your business.
I speak alot about my audience on the Creative Resources and Advice Blog and I spoke recently about knowing your audience in my '7 Top Tips for your Photography Sales Pitch' blog post. Your business plans should clearly state who your audience is, unlike the genre you choose and the amount of money you put into the business, your audience probably won't change so make sure you spend a little time studying who that is. Honestly, knowing your audience will make everything else in your business plan a doddle. You will have a good idea of their income (Either as a consumer or business to business this still applies), you will know what they want to buy, you will have an idea of their likes and dislikes... this list is endless.
Who will help you run the business, most people set out as a sole trader but it may be more beneficial to have a team around you, either way considering all options is a good concept to implement into your business plan. Remember that your team don't have to be full time employees, you may want to outsource certain elements of the business to freelancers or other businesses. Also consider partners and family members who may be helping out in the business, although they may not be taking a wage from the business so it's not something you have to include but it I would highly recommend you do. I work closely with my partner Joanne and if you want to know more about how we work, take a read of my blog post: Who's working behind the scenes?.
If terms like Sole Trader, Limited Company and Partnerships are confusing you in your business plan, I wrote an awesome blog post on business models: Creating Your Own Photography Business Model
Marketing & Social Media
For most creatives, Marketing is going to play a HUGE part in your business plan and progression. How you plan to reach your audiences and sell your products all comes down to marketing. How do you plan to build up networks and communicate with them?
Consider which social media platforms you intend to use, remember that there is so much more out there than just Facebook & Twitter and also be conscious about your digital footprint which is the mark you leave on digital and social media platforms. Every time you post an image on Facebook, update your website, upload on Instagram and write a blog post it builds up your mark on the internet. Your audience will start to build a vision of your brand, so make sure your work is consistent throughout.
Equipment & Resources
Most trades need tools and especially in the creative industry you're certainly going to need certain pieces of kit to get the business going. Make sure you document every bit of equipment you will need, it will not only make your finances and forecasts easier but it will also ensure you don't miss anything out.
This probably screams out to most people as the most daunting part of the business plan but I can honestly say in my experience it's, more often than not, the simplest. You need to ensure you're honest at this point and ensure you plan for unforeseen circumstances. The percentage of businesses that close within the first year has rocketed recently due to them running into financial difficulties. Whilst running your own business can be difficult and circumstances out of your control can affect your business, there are certain things you can do to try and build a highly successful business.
When it comes to your business plan, ensure you're focusing on how much you need to start the business, how much you will need to run the business on a day to day or month to month basis. Whilst I wouldn't advise spending all your time working out profit margins and forecasts you will need to work out an honest forecast of how much your business will loose/make. Have a figure in mind that takes into account your cost of living, running of the business and savings for unforeseen circumstances, that way, you will be able to see a clear path to the business and lifestyle you desire.