All successful businesses start with a master plan. As a freelance writer, you need to know where you’re going and have a plan in place to take care of contingencies—those times when the markets you’ve been counting on disappear. Perhaps you’ve been putting it off while focusing on getting published. Before you get too far along in your freelance writing career, take some time to compile a more definitive plan.
With a good plan, you’ll be able to review your progress periodically. Doing so will allow you to discover the need for a change in your direction when your original plan and your checkbook balance are at odds. Plus a clear, concise, well-thought-out business plan gives you a better opportunity to get a loan from your bank or a friend or family member when money is tight or you want to buy some new equipment. Few people, bank loan officers included, ever take freelance businesspeople seriously unless they have a plan in writing.
Your plan should be flexible, but it should keep you pointing—and moving—in the right direction.
A good business plan also keeps your eye on your long-term goals. It will detail priorities in a sequence that will save you valuable time and energy and help eliminate worry, which can be a major distraction to your writing.
When you draft your plan, stick to facts, realities, and valid assumptions. Don't overlook the obvious pluses. Perhaps your spouse has a good, reliable job which won’t disappear overnight. Or you know that you'll be coming into some money in a couple of years. Or, even better, you’ve been building up your expertise in a particular subject area which will allow you to eventually specialize in it, resulting in reliable assignments.
When compiling a business plan, keep daydreams to a minimum. You’ll only get frustrated if you write a plan based on wishful thinking. Deal in the here and now, not in what you hope will happen. Above all, don't overanalyze, or you'll drown in a sea of data you won't be able to use. Allow a certain amount of time for creating your business plan and then stop. You can always change it later.
If you’re dealing with several different types of markets or other related ventures, such as teaching or photography, you might want to compile some detailed sub-plans. These don’t have to be involved, but should include details for that particular venture to help you expand as you go. Once you have your plan in place, prepare a general To-Do List based on it that you can work into your daily routine.
Now that you know what a good business plan will do for you writing, let’s look at what it should include.
First and foremost, it should include a statement of purpose—what is the purpose of your writing business.
Second, a detailed description of your business, including a list of your specialties, the markets for them, and a paragraph on why you, above others, can give an editor or a client a unique angle.
Third, a discussion of what the market is like for your writing. Included in this section should be a list of opportunities, with specific details about current markets, names of publishers, publications, and editors, as well as other clients. Do the same for each of your specialties or other ventures.
Fourth, a plan for marketing your writing—how do you plan to promote it and yourself?
Fifth, list your market objectives for one year, eighteen months, two years, and five years. These will help you outline your strategy—specific work you'd like to be able to cover in the year to come, research already available to you, what you'd need to research further, and probable places where you might find information, plus the time and cost to get it.
And finally, a profit-and-loss statement or budget, including an estimate of your net worth, and a list of your office equipment with a projection of future items that could increase your productivity. This tells you and whoever is reading your plan where you are financially and where you plan to go.
Remember, the more flexible your plan, the more it will allow you to grow your freelance business.