One of the biggest mistakes freelancers make is failing to recognize they’re running an actual business. And because you’re running a business, you really should have a business plan in place.
A freelancer business plan will help you identify your goals and the best strategies to grow your writing business, laying out the best strategies for you to follow and giving you a precise roadmap to make money writing.
But what does a freelance business plan look like?
Below I will walk you through each component of a business plan and give your guidance and questions to answer to quickly and easily complete your plan so you have a roadmap to follow in succeeding as a freelance writer.
8 Things to Include in Your Freelancer Business Plan
1) Company Overview
In the company overview section of your plan, you need to include answers to two questions:
- What type of freelance writing business are you operating?
- What accomplishments have you achieved to date?
What type of freelance writing business are you operating?
Here you want to give an overview of your business and the services you offer. For example, do you offer copywriting services, article writing, white papers, press releases, etc.? Describe the freelance writing services you currently offer and/or want to offer in the future.
What accomplishments have you achieved to date?
Here you will document accomplishments you have already achieved in your business. Perhaps you’ve published 500 articles to date, or your writing has been featured in a major publication. Or perhaps you’ve served over 100 clients. Or have been freelance writing for over 5 years.
Documenting your accomplishments serves two purposes.
First, it will give you confidence that you have a lot to offer prospective clients.
Second, use what you write here when bidding on new jobs; since the best indicator of future success is past success, showing off your accomplishments will help encourage new clients to work with you.
2) Industry Analysis
In a traditional business plan, the industry analysis section discusses the size of the market and trends within the industry.
According to Technavio, the content writing industry generates annual revenue of $412 billion. This proves the market is massive.
But it’s important to research and think through industry trends.
For example, while the U.S. market is stable and slightly growing, foreign markets are growing even faster. And clearly, there’s a trend towards more online and SEO-friendly writing than in the past.
By understanding relevant trends, you can make better decisions on your growth strategy. For example, you may want to complete an SEO course and market yourself as an SEO content specialist and charge higher prices.
3) Customer Analysis
In this section of your freelancer business plan, you will identify the customers you want to serve.
Think about the types of customers for which you’ve written in the past and what you have liked/disliked, and brainstorm new customers you’d like to attract and serve.
Once you have this list, identify the wants and needs of these clients. For example, clients may require things like:
- Deep domain knowledge
- Fast turnaround times
- Ability to conduct in-depth or original research
Knowing who your ideal clients are and what they want/need, will make attracting these clients much easier.
4) Competitive Analysis
Here, based on the services you are offering and the clients you want to work with, document your key competitors. Most likely, these will be employees at client companies and/or other freelance employees.
Importantly, you must then think about and document your areas of competitive advantage in your freelancer business plan. These areas might include:
- Your unique expertise in certain areas
- Your experience and track record
- Your ability to develop great proposals
- Great customer testimonials you’ve amassed
- Your social media following
Importantly, think through how to make this list bigger and better than others. Building these areas of competitive advantage will ensure a steady stream of clients for years to come.
5) Marketing Plan
The marketing plan section discusses the “4Ps” as follows:
Product/Service: Here you will reiterate the freelance writing services you offer
Place: Here you will document the geographies within which you will offer your services. For example, will you only work through the internet? Or, are you located in an area where local companies, who might prefer to meet on occasion in person, could benefit from working with you?
Price: In this section, you will discuss your pricing. Do you want to be a premium service provider and charge higher prices? Do you want to have average prices? Or be the low cost provider?
Promotions: The promotions section is where you will list all the methods you will use to attract prospective clients. Will you try cold-calling? Email? Direct messaging via social media sites? Will you use freelance job sites like Upwork? Will you find freelance jobs on LinkedIn? Document all the promotional methods you will use to attract new clients.
6) Operations Plan
Your operations plan includes two sub-sections:
- The list of ongoing functions you must complete and how
- Your future milestones
In this section, document the key functions you must perform like completing writing assignments, prospecting for new clients, freelancer invoicing, etc.
Also, list tools you will use to streamline these functions so you are most efficient. For example, employing the best accounting software can make your freelance business more efficient.
In completing this section, think through what work you will do yourself, and what work might you want to outsource to others. For example, maybe it’s worthwhile to hire someone to do your outreach to find new clients. Or to build your website.
Your future milestones document the accomplishments you’d like to achieve in the future. For example, perhaps in the coming year you want to secure 100 new clients and generate $100,000 in revenue.
To begin, the very act of setting and documenting goals improves your chances of achieving them. But also, after setting them, think through what you need to do to accomplish them. For example, maybe you need to hire someone to do invoicing or prospecting. Or maybe you need to complete a course.
Figure out what resources are needed to attain your milestones and then document them too. For example, you might say that within the next 3 months you need to complete an SEO course and in the next 5 months you need to hire someone to do your invoicing.
Essentially this section lays out your growth roadmap to follow.
The team section of your freelancer business plan documents what other team members you have or will need to achieve your goals.
It’s fine if your team is just you. But there are countless other individuals from other writers, social media marketing experts, bookkeepers, etc., that could provide expertise and value that you should consider.
8) Financial Plan
Your financial plan should present your profit and loss projections for the next one to three years.
These projections can be easily completed in a spreadsheet.
For example, multiple the number of new clients you hope to serve by the average revenue per client to figure out your sales. Then subtract costs including platform fees (e.g., Upwork fees), software you must purchase, fees you pay to outsourced personnel, etc. The result is your expected profit.
Change your assumptions to see best and worst case scenarios. And use the financial projections to see areas in which you might want to invest.
For example, you might determine that you can work on 2 extra projects worth $2,000 total if you freed up 20 hours. And that purchasing a $1,000 piece of software would free up those hours. In this case, buying the software would be a great investment.
Don’t Skip This Step!
Creating your freelance business plan forces you to answer key questions and think through the best strategies to employ.
Unfortunately, most freelancers don’t create a plan and suffer from lack of focus and profits. They think simply being a good writer is enough — IT’S NOT!
Armed with the information above, you can create a business plan for your freelance business, follow it, and start to achieve your dreams.
Dave Lavinsky is the president and co-founder of Growthink where he has helped over 1 million entrepreneurs and businesses write business plans to start and grow their ventures.