I’ve been a freelance editor for over 10 years, and 2018 was the first year I had thought about a business plan, never mind trying to write one. My plan was simple, I thought: sell writing and editing services to businesses, and collect the money. Track and report my business expenses, and pay my taxes. That’s it.
But in the last couple of years, my marketing plan had gotten stale, and I felt more than a little burned out of social media. I wanted to reinvigorate my marketing so that I could keep growing my company. I decided that, like a writer who is too close to their work to see the problems, I needed objective advice on what to do.
I approached SCORE, a US organization that provides free business mentoring and training, for help. I met with coaches local to me, and they urged me to start by writing a business plan. I had never done one before, and the process would reveal things I had been taking for granted that could inform my marketing. The document could also be used as a case for getting funding for my project.
I struggled for months to write my plan. Certainly some of the delay was having other things to do—like actually running my business. But I also struggled with some of the work of it, like creating an estimated and detailed profit-and-loss (P&L) statement and comparing my editing business with other editing businesses to determine problems (“threats,” in business jargon) and opportunities.
I finally gave my plan to my business coaches earlier this month and walked away with some suggestions for digging deeper. I’m close but not there yet. I console myself with the fact that next time it will be easier because I will understand the concepts better and because I won’t have to redo the whole dang thing! (I hope.)
All of this might seem like a lot of unnecessary work to revamp my marketing plan. But the process has me thinking seriously about my business: How much do I want to earn in a month? How many hours do I want to work? How much is each client worth to me and how many more clients do I need to meet my goals?
The work is already paying off. I’m excited all over again about my business, because I’ve reminded myself of what I want. I have some great ideas for repositioning my services and reworking my marketing that continue to develop as I work on my plan. I’ve already made small adjustments in how I work with clients, and that has improved the client’s experience and my bottom line. And I haven’t even put my plan fully to work yet!
If you haven’t written a business plan before, I’d recommend doing one—even if, like me, it takes you forever. The work you put in will pay off. Besides mentoring, SCORE offers free information and business templates that anyone can use, no matter where you live.
Louise Harnby’s Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers walks you through creating a plan specifically for editing businesses (and nixes a lot of the business jargon).
Other sources provide free business plan templates you can use, as well. Larry Kim collected 10 templates for Inc.com, and Susan Ward at The Balance has an elegantly simple template you can use, with links to many supporting templates as well. If none of those suit you, a Google search will bring up many more.
Don’t let the terminology intimidate you, either. You’re an editor, and editors know how to look terms up. QuickBooks has a small collection of the most important terms explained in plain English. You can Google “business terminology” and turn up dozens of glossaries that will help you along.
Most businesses start with a vision. Writing a business plan is a great way to clarify that vision and create the method for making that vision a reality.
Let me know how it goes for you.