The short answer to the question is: yes.
Without a doubt. If you’re serious about making a career as a freelance writer, you should treat it as you would any other business. The benefit of a business plan is not just that you have a document you can share with people, if the need ever arises. In all honesty, you’re probably not going to be approaching the bank looking for investment. The benefit of a business plan is the time you spend creating it.
The simple act of creating a business plan is a great way to get your brain in the game. You’ll research the industry so that you are prepared for the conditions. You might think about things like your writing rates and how much you need to charge to keep a roof over you head. And you’ll probably even look at what your competitors are doing and learn some really valuable tips along the way.
What is a business plan?
A business plan outlines what your business will offer, how much you will charge, who you are competing with and how you plan to generate new business. Business plans can be used for anything, from your Etsy shop to a freelance writing business. If you’re serious about succeeding as a business owner, you need a business plan in place.
Why are business plans helpful for freelance writers?
Many freelancers writers fall into it by accident. Usually, they are working full time in a similar role and then they start to accept freelance gigs on the side. Before long, their side hustle is looking a lot more profitable than their main hustle and they make the switch. In this case, it might not seem logical to create a business plan. After all, you probably already have a fair bit of business lined up.
My argument would be that you can still benefit from putting pen to paper (or pixels to screen) and having a think about how you will run your business. Creating a business plan encourages you to get out of the day-to-day, small picture thinking and engage in some long-term, bit picture planning.
What should I include in my business plan?
As a general rule, you should include the following information in your freelance writer business plan:
- Your mission statement. What do you hope to bring to the market and what can you do better than anyone else?
- Your target customers. What does your ideal client look like?
- Your main competitors. You don’t have to create an extensive list, but look at 3-4 other freelance writers who operate in a similar niche. Look at how they market their services and how they interact with people on social media.
- Your pricing. How much do you need to earn and how will you manage your budget in those early months.
- A SWOT analysis. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Remember, strengths and weaknesses are internal factors and opportunities and threats are external factors.
- Your marketing plan. How will you let people know about your services? Where will you find new clients? Will you use social media or paid advertising? Will you have a website and a blog?
- Your contingency plan. What will you do if you can’t find work?
What if I’ve been running my business for years?
Even those who have been running a freelance writing business for years can benefit from a business plan. Writing a business plan helps to bring focus to your business activities. By taking the time to be honest with yourself about what you hope to achieve, you can bring precision focus to your business. You can also discover new things through competitor research and making a marketing plan for your business is never a bad idea.
Another benefit of creating a business plan for your freelance business is that you can refer back to it in times of need. If you find your focus is getting murky and you’re struggling to stay on track, remind yourself of why you started the business in the first place.
I’m struggling to focus, what should I do?
This is something that I have personally struggled with over the years. I started my career as a jack of all trades and this led me down some interesting avenues. But when it came to specialising, I suddenly felt stuck. I worried that I wasn’t focussing my attention on the activities that would be most profitable.
Writing a business plan can help you with this. However, if you’re looking for some extra support in finding your direction, I would recommend Claire Baker’s Get Unstuck workbook. I recently worked through this and found it helped to refine my focus on the things that really matter to me.