Business plans help you set goals and plan how to achieve them, regardless of their form or purpose. Our simple and free business plan template covers everything when starting a side gig, solo operation, or small business. This step-by-step process may reveal other success paths.
Why Business Plans Are Vital
The planning process forces first-time solopreneurs and seasoned business owners to consider the costs and tasks of launching a product or service. The process can help you find new revenue streams and identify profitable business models.
Business planning is essential but not a chore. Lean startups and solopreneurs can outline the business concept, sales proposition, target customers, and a plan to market the product or service. You need a business plan with market research, operating costs, and revenue forecasting if you want startup funding or partnerships.
Our simple business plan template will help if you’re starting from scratch.
How To Write an Effective Business
Any business plan should include the six essential elements in our free template, explained below. Starting a small business requires market research and operational and financial details.
1. Your Mission or Vision
Create a business “dream statement.” Executive summary, vision statement, or mission. The first section of your business plan answers five questions about your idea. Use an elevator pitch. The simple business plan template’s following areas will expand on these answers.
- What’s your business? Sell goods, services, or information?
- This happens where? Will you do business online, in-store, mobile, or somewhere else?
- Your business benefits whom? Who is your ideal customer?
- Why should prospects care? How would your ideal customers notice your business?
- How does your business stand out? What makes your ideal customers choose you over a competitor?
If you have a good business idea, these answers come quickly. Brainstorm ideas and tactics using the rest of your plan template. Explore your options to find these answers and possibly new ones.
2. Offer and Value Proposition
This is where you describe your product or service and why anyone should care—value proposition. You’ll elaborate on your mission/vision in bullets 1 and 4.
Value propositions may reveal commercial business opportunities as you complete this section. So brainstorm this section’s options.
A gluten-free or keto-friendly cottage baker startup may appeal to specific audiences. You could add value by offering gluten-free, keto-friendly, traditional wedding and other special occasion cakes that guests can enjoy.
3. Audience and Ideal Customer
Bullet point three addresses your business’s beneficiaries. Identifying your ideal customer and exploring a wider audience for your products or services helps define your sales and marketing strategies and refine your offerings.
Identifying a problem your product or service solves is a quick way to research potential audiences. As a problem solver, it’s easy to define your audience and describe your ideal customer’s needs for marketing.
Finding fresh-baked gluten-free or keto-friendly sweets is problematic for the cottage baker startup. These people may be health-conscious, dealing with health issues, and willing to pay more for hard-to-find items.
However, you need a loyal customer base. Too specialized. Our baker startup can increase sales by offering more traditional baked goods in addition to its gluten-free and keto-focused specialties.
4. Revenue, Sales, and Marketing
Startups can reach target audiences and generate revenue in our internet-driven economy. This section can cover revenue streams, sales channels, and marketing vehicles.
Business revenue streams are numerous. List your launch revenue and expansion plans in your plan template. Income potential may surprise you.
For example, our cottage baker startup might consider these revenue streams:
- Product sales Online, pop-up, wholesale, and (future) in-store sales
- Affiliate revenue: Affiliate links monetize the blog and social media posts.
- Ad revenue: Advertise online.
- Future e-book sales Create gluten-free and keto-friendly dessert e-books.
- Future video revenue: Monetize a YouTube channel with gluten-free and keto-friendly dessert how-tos.
- Future webinars and classes Sell coaching-style webinars and online classes on specialty baking techniques.
- Future members-only content Use a members-only website to sell specialty content for webinars and online classes.
- Franchise: (future) Sell a specialty cottage bakery concept to franchisees.
Sales channels generate revenue. This section answers your vision’s second bullet’s “where will this happen” question.
Cottage bakery sales channels include:
- Mobile POS: Shopify or Square POS for in-person sales at farmers’ markets, fairs, and festivals.
- eCommerce platform: Shopify, Square, or WooCommerce for online retail and wholesale sales.
- Social networks: Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest shoppable posts for online sales
- Brick-and-mortar location: For in-store sales once the business has grown to support one.
Other income channels include:
- Affiliate income: E-commerce website blog and affiliate partner accounts
- E-commerce website advertising
- E-book sales: Amazon. Kindle Publishing Directly
- Ad-monetized YouTube channel.
- Webinars/online classes: Webinar and class platforms with member accounts, recordings, and playback
- Exclusive content: MemberPress-protected site content
Today, marketing and sales channels overlap. E-books, websites, blogs, and videos are marketing and income opportunities. These are perfect for lean startups because most are free, and those with advertising options are cheap.
Many businesses still value local radio, television, direct mail, newspapers, and magazines. To create a marketing plan and budget, including advertising costs in your simple Startup business plan template.
5. Structure, Suppliers, and Operations
Your simple business plan format covers business structure and operation. Roles, responsibilities, supplier logistics, and daily operations are included. Include any certifications or permits needed to launch your business in this section.
Our cottage baker example could use this structure and startup plan:
- DBA sole proprietorship.
- Certifications and permits: County food handling permit and state cottage food certification for home food production. Try certified commercial kitchen rentals.
- Solopreneur, the owner, handles all duties.
- Supply chain: Membership-based Sam’s Club, Costco, and Amazon Prime for bulk ingredients and food packaging. Uline ships supply without membership.
- Daily tasks: Source ingredients and bake three days a week to fulfill local and online orders. Specialty sales, wholesale partner orders, and market events require scheduling. Alternate online orders. Website updates and marketing/affiliate blog posts on non-shipping days.
6. Financial Forecasts
Your simple business plan template should conclude with startup and ongoing costs and profit projections. Lean startups can launch cheaply using free business tools like Square and social media marketing. Your only out-of-pocket expenses are usually goods, shipping, packaging, business permits, and business card printing.
Gross Profit Projections
This helps you determine retail prices and sales volume needed to run your business and make money. Use product research to determine target retail prices, then subtract your cost of goods, including hourly rate, raw materials, and supplier costs. Gross profit is total.
Planning is important, but don’t get so caught up in it that you never start your business. Business plans can change. As your goals and methods, markets, audiences, and technologies change. As market opportunities and business growth arise, revisit, expand, and restructure your business plan.