Friday, February 22, 2013

Writing a Business Plan

I talk about my business plan a lot and let’s get real – for some folks, those words may sound a bit scary. Heck, I’m sure to some of you the word “business” sounds scary by itself! But the bottom line is this: if you’re looking to create a story which you hope will bring you money, you should consider building a business plan as soon as possible. And you’ll be happy to know, it’s easier than you think.

So what is a business plan? How long should it be? What should it contain? All of these questions can be answered with the old standby, “It depends…” but in a general sense:

A business plan is a written plan of intent for a business you aspire to create. Caveat: A business, by definition, is a source of income that can run which will be profitable, even if you’re not present. Now, that’s not to say if you’re self-employed, you shouldn’t have a business plan, because you absolutely should.

You may have heard of the three-point business plan. That's a common plan which succinctly as possible, illustrates the three major points of your business:
  • A description of the new business
  • Its consumer appeal
  • A plan to make it happen
These three points are excellent places to start and you absolutely should take a moment to consider them, if you do nothing else with your plan. These can often be answered on a single sheet of paper, which, if you're just starting out or only have the basic idea of what you want to do in mind, might be all you need.

Most business plans fall in the 3-5 page range, but if you’re starting small, you can get a leg up by asking yourself a few more questions to embellish your three points. It's also a good idea to be as specific as you can be even in the planning phase, so you can begin to test your plan and its specific market. Define these three things as well:

  •  Product Development: What kind of cool things are you planning on making with your business? If you’re a webcomic artist, a website with a webcomic is a good place to start. You can then move into eBooks, printed books, and maybe collectibles.
  • Revenue Targets: Where’s your money going to come from? What are you going to sell and to whom? One of my favorite quotes from Seth Godin goes here: “Don’t seek an audience for your product. Seek a product for your audience.”
  • Administration: What kind of backbone is it going to take to make it all happen? Will you need a web developer to create and maintain your website? Will you need a bookkeeper to keep track of your revenue streams?

Starting with those six points, you may begin to see a way by which you might want to attack the next year, beginning to form in your mind. List out the steps to accomplish the creation of your product, the selling of it and who is going to take care of each piece and how.  Some people break their first year into quarters, which I find to be pretty ridiculous, especially if you’re just starting out and things are likely to take longer (or shorter) amounts of time than expected. If you have a big event coming up which you need to motivate your business for, it might be best to revolve your first-year plan around that. These can be things like Kickstarter campaigns, convention appearances, or other “springboard” events which will help get your name out there.

If you come up with a business plan, even a short one, you’ll begin to feel like your project really has legs and it’ll be a great asset to motivate you. As we all know, and especially in the world of the digital storyteller, lack of motivation can be our biggest enemy. Don’t let it stop you. Write out your goals, work your plan, and follow through.

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