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How to Write a Business Plan for a Startup

Last Updated: December 22, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Jack Herrick . Jack Herrick is an American entrepreneur and wiki enthusiast. His entrepreneurial projects include wikiHow, eHow, Luminescent Technologies, and BigTray. In January 2005, Herrick started wikiHow with the goal of creating "the how-to guide for everything." He has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Dartmouth College. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 114,069 times.

As a startup, you will need a business plan. For example, you will need to show your plan to a bank if you are seeking a loan. You also need to show the plan to any investor. Business plans are helpful because they force you to step back and analyze your business critically. You should consider your target market, the products or services you will offer, and your projected finances. Writing a business plan isn’t difficult, though it will require considerable research and planning.

Explaining Your Marketing Plan

Step 1 Describe your mission and objectives.

  • Your mission. What is your driving goal every day? Don’t simply write, “Make money.” Identify how you will make money. For example, you can write: “Our mission is to offer residents of the Lakeview neighborhood the best day spa experience in the Near North Side of Chicago. We are committed to providing value and quality in a fun atmosphere that is never predictable.”
  • Your goals. For example, a day spay might have the following goal: “To attract a minimum of 35 customers each day in the first year of operations.” Make your goals as concrete as possible.
  • Description of the industry. Explain whether the industry is growing or poised for growth in the short and long term.
  • The factors that will drive your success. How will you set yourself apart? For example, “You All Day will separate itself from the pack based on the owner’s deep experience running a day spa in Seattle for ten years. This experience includes familiarity with successful marketing techniques and trends analysis.”
  • Your legal form. Are you a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation? Also explain why you selected this form.

Jack Herrick

Jack Herrick

Don’t skimp on how much energy and time you put into your mission. When asked about creating wikiHow’s mission, Jack Herrick, founder of wikiHow, responded: “We had the whole management team — alongside members of the wikiHow community — reviewing it, discussing it, and going back and forth on the wording. Those two sentences were many hours of work.”

Step 2 Discuss your industry.

  • You can search for industry information in other places. For example, talk to people in your industry at trade shows. Also search online. Many industries have trade associations, which have websites with information.
  • For example, when analyzing the day spa industry, you might want to talk about how it is growing because more upper-income men in urban areas are visiting. (If that’s true).
  • By analyzing the industry, you gain insight as to your likely target market and how you can reach them.

Step 3 Identify your target market.

  • Age. What is the average age of your likely customer? If you don’t know, then visit similar businesses and note the ages of the clientele.
  • Gender. Will men or women—or both—primarily use your products or services?
  • Location. Generally, your market will be located near your business. However, if you have a web-based business, your target audience could have no geographic boundaries.
  • Income level.
  • Occupation. For example, a day spa might target stressed-out white collar professionals.
  • Education level. There is often a link between education, income, and occupation—though not always. For example, a discount bookstore might target an educated audience that nevertheless has a lower income.

Step 4 Scope out your competition.

  • To find competitors, look in the phone book and do a general Google search. Make sure to read their website and stop into the business.
  • If you’re opening a restaurant, you’ll want to see a sample menu, as well as the hours of operation.
  • Also identify indirect competitors. For example, a day spa is competing with more than other spas. You also compete with any business that offers relaxation, such as massage parlors or meditation centers.
  • Name of your competitor.
  • What you offer that they don’t. Think about products and services, but also location, ease of ordering, etc. What will make the consumer experience different at your business?
  • What they offer that you don’t. Identify why you don’t offer their products or services. For example, they may be serving multiple niches while you are focused on only one. Alternately, they may have a favorable location.

Step 6 Describe your products and services.

  • Whether you will sell pizza by the slice, as whole pies, or both
  • How big your pizzas will be
  • What toppings your customers can offer
  • If you will have take-out and delivery options
  • What other food items will be sold

Step 7 Devise your marketing...

  • What type of advertising or promotion will you use? How often will you use paid promotion?
  • What other promotion other than paid advertising will you use? For example, you might use social media, professional networks, etc.
  • Will you create a logo and use it on cards, letterhead, websites, etc.?
  • How large will your promotional budget be?

Discussing Your Business Organization

Step 1 Explain your daily operations.

  • State how much you expect to pay each employee in your first three years of business.
  • Also name your professional support, such as your business lawyer, accountant, and insurance agent. Professionals are independent contractors you use but don’t employ. Calculate how much you expect to spend on each professional.

Step 2 Identify management.

  • You might write: “Lisa Jones is the sole proprietor of You All Day and will run day-to-day operations. As a certified massage therapist, she ran the Relax! chain of day spas in the Greater Seattle area for ten years. A former accountant, Lisa has an MS in accounting from the University of New Hampshire and worked as a CPA briefly before going into the spa business.”
  • If you are asking for a loan, then include resumes for each owner. You can put them in the appendix at the end of the document.

Step 3 Provide personal financial statements.

  • You should create professional-looking financial statements using a spreadsheet.
  • You’ll have to gather quite a bit of information to make the financial statement. For example, you will need information on your assets, investments, and personal debts.
  • You might also want to get a free copy of your credit report and review it as you draft your business plan.

Analyzing Business Finances

Step 1 Explain your start-up costs.

  • Common startup costs include insurance, licenses, equipment, advertising, and employee expenses. [9] X Trustworthy Source U.S. Small Business Administration U.S. government agency focused on supporting small businesses Go to source
  • Also identify the source of the startup capital. For example, if your startup has three initial owners, state how much each is contributing to the business and their ownership percentage.
  • If you need financing, state how much. Include the terms of any proposed loan.

Step 2 Forecast profits for the first year.

  • You’ll need to make some assumptions in order to come up with a forecast of sales. You should explain these assumptions in your business plan.
  • For example, you can write, “We assume continued interest in day spas in the Chicago area.”
  • Another assumption is the overall health of the economy. “Although the Chicagoland economy has grown more slowly than other regions of the country, we assume that the Chicago economy will grow on par with other large metropolitan areas in the coming decade.”
  • You can also include a four-year projection, though this is optional.

Step 3 Identify expected cash...

  • Also talk about how you will build up your cash reserves. For example: “In addition to normal cash flow, we will focus on obtaining sufficient cash reserves for emergencies. These reserves include a line of credit with a bank, which we can use when business is slow. We will also invest excess cash in certificates of deposits at our bank.”

Step 4 Provide a break-even analysis.

  • Fixed costs: these don’t vary depending on your sales volume. For example, your rent, employee salaries, and insurance are fixed costs.
  • Variable costs: these fluctuate depending on your sales and include shipping, inventory, and manufacturing costs.

Finishing Your Business Plan

Step 1 Format your document.

  • Add a cover page to your document. You can title it “[Company Name]’s Business Plan” or “Business Plan for [Your Name].” If you have a logo, include that too.

Step 2 Draft your executive summary.

  • For example, you can write, “You All Day is a start-up dedicated to providing men and women in Chicago a high-quality day spa experience at an affordable price. We specialize in pedicures, manicures, massage, and herbal aromatherapy. The Near North Side of Chicago has grown substantially over the past 20 years, with young, educated millennials settling in to start families. This area is currently under served, and we hope You All Day can meet the demand of the local market.”

Step 3 Assemble the pieces.

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Industry Analysis
  • Market and Competition
  • Products and Services
  • Marketing and Sales Plan
  • Operations and Management
  • Financial Forecasts
  • Exhibits/Appendix

Step 4 Add attachments in the appendix.

  • Review for typos and other errors. An accountant should check your numbers to make sure they are accurate.
  • Analyze the overall presentation. Is the information crammed in so that the document is tiring to read? If so, spread out the information so that there is a lot of white space on each page.
  • You can also show the plan to a business adviser. If you live in the U.S., you can show it to someone at your nearest Small Business Development Center, which provides help drafting business plans. You can find your nearest SBDC by visiting this website: https://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/sbdc .

Step 6 Print and bind the plan.

  • You might want to include tabbed partitions between each section of your business plan. This will make it easier for someone to flip through it and find what they are looking for.

Expert Q&A

  • Don’t be afraid to change your business plans as you research and draft the document. That’s one of the reasons for writing the plan in the first place. For example, you might have intended to target women as consumers only to realize that there are growth opportunities with men. You can adjust your plans accordingly. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

how to make a start up business plan

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  • ↑ https://business.vic.gov.au/business-information/marketing-and-sales/increasing-sales-through-marketing/do-market-research
  • ↑ https://openstax.org/books/entrepreneurship/pages/7-5-reality-check-contests-and-competitions
  • ↑ https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/market-research-competitive-analysis
  • ↑ https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/business-plan-product-description
  • ↑ https://business.gov.au/planning/business-plans/develop-your-marketing-plan
  • ↑ https://openstax.org/books/entrepreneurship/pages/11-4-the-business-plan
  • ↑ https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/calculate-your-startup-costs
  • ↑ https://www.alberta.ca/preparing-financial-projections-and-monitoring-results.aspx
  • ↑ https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/services/entrepreneurial-private-business/small-business-solutions/blogs/preparing-a-cash-flow-forecast-simple-steps-for-vital-insight.html
  • ↑ https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/write-your-business-plan
  • ↑ https://smallbusinessbc.ca/article/5-reasons-business-plan-review/

About This Article

Jack Herrick

To write a business plan for a startup, break your plan up into several sections, including an executive summary, a description of your company, an industry analysis, market and competition information, your products and services, your marketing and sales plan, operations and management information, your financial forecasts, and finally, an appendix. To format your business plan, use a professional font, like Times New Roman, and include a cover page with your company's name and logo on it. To learn how to write each section of your business plan, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Write a Startup Business Plan

May 28, 2022 - 10 min read

Yuvika Iyer

A startup business plan is an outline of your ideas and strategies for what you’ll need to do to start, manage, and even complete your startup’s mission. Creating one might sound simple enough, but because it’s a startup’s roadmap for success, it can be a complex document to create. 

Writing a business plan can make a world of difference for entrepreneurs who desire external funding. It involves determining your target customers, understanding what makes them tick, and figuring out how to reach them through marketing campaigns. 

In this blog post, we’ve explained why you should have a startup business plan, different types of startup business plans, and we’ve included 12 of the most effective tips for writing a startup business plan. If you’re ready to start with now, we have a product launch template to get you started quickly. 

What is a startup business plan?

A startup business plan is a written document that outlines your ideas and strategies for launching, managing, and eventually exiting your new venture. 

A well-constructed business plan can be crucial to the success of any entrepreneurial endeavor . As you prepare your proposal, keep in mind that it will evolve as you learn more about your market.

To start, create an outline of the most important items you'd like feedback on before writing anything down officially.

Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want?
  • Why does my company exist?
  • How will I make money?
  • What are my long-term goals?

A detailed business plan helps you set milestones for measuring success. You can share the plan with investors who may want some reassurance on the viability of their investment in your company.

The best way to create a successful startup business plan is by including everything in an organized and easy-to-read document — marketing strategies, financial projections, team bios, timelines, and more.

What is a lean startup business plan?

A lean startup business plan is a method for developing products that relies on iterative experimentation to reduce uncertainty. 

It has been used by companies such as Google , Amazon, and Facebook in the early stages of their development, and involves testing your idea with real customers early in development.

Lean startups are less likely to fail because they have tested their product or service with live feedback from consumers. Doing this allows them to make changes quickly without wasting resources on something no one wants.

The goal is not to build an extensive business plan but rather a "lean" one that can be changed based on customer feedback and then re-evaluated in regular intervals until it reaches market potential — or fails.

A lean startup business plan is a strategy that focuses on getting a product in front of customers as quickly and cheaply as possible. Use the lean startup business plan to validate your ideas before wasting time and resources.

Why do you need a small startup business plan?

A small startup business plan is one of the most important steps in building a company. Apart from helping you to focus on company goals, it aids in obtaining feedback from potential partners and keeps the team on the same page.

The best thing about starting small? You can change course at any time! If you need help developing or tweaking your small startup business plan, use this guide for entrepreneurs to get started.

You've built a product and you're ready to take the next step, but what's your plan? First, you need a strategy in place. Do you know how much money it will cost, or where exactly that funding should come from? What about marketing strategies for getting customers in the door? 

Mobile image promo promo

You’ll also need to find ways to retain them afterwards so they keep coming back again and again (and spending more).

product launch startup template

Obtain external funding

If you want to get funding from lenders or investors, you need a startup business plan. Lenders want to make sure they're investing in a company that will last and grow.

A well-organized idea shows passion for its purpose and outlines clear goals for helping customers. At the same time, having an exit strategy is also important.

Making a plan for when things don’t pan out as desired lets investors understand how much value there can be while giving customers (and yourself) peace of mind.

Understand your target market

One key piece of your business plan is knowing how to conduct a market analysis. To do this, consider the industry, target market, and competitors. 

Are there any market trends or competitor factors that can affect your business? Review them closely and get ready to make required changes to your business plan.

Prioritize high ROI strategies

In business, ROI is important. Any business that doesn’t generate as much cash as it burns is likely to fail.

With a startup business plan in place, the strategies with the highest ROI become crystal clear. You'll know exactly what to tackle first and how to prioritize the rest of your tasks.

Accelerate financial health

Business plans are not crystal balls, but they can help forecast your financial health. Planning for expenses is vital to keep operations steady and identify problems as soon as possible. 

Cash flow projections can help you see if goals are achievable or highlight upcoming issues that need correction before it's too late.

How to write a small startup business plan

Use this guide for entrepreneurs to develop or tweak a startup business plan. By following this easy six-step process, you'll soon have a clear path to startup success.

1. Clarify the startup vision, mission, and values

The first step to writing a startup business plan is understanding the startup itself.

Once you know what your startup does, ask yourself why. What is the startup's mission? What problem will it help customers solve? The startup's mission statement helps define its reason for existing.

It’s usually expressed in a simple sentence, but can also be written as a short paragraph.

Try to answer these questions: What does your startup do? How will it make money? How quickly do you hope it will grow? Are there any significant milestones or deadlines that need to be met?

2. Outline the executive summary

Now that you have an idea for your startup, its mission, and a vision in mind, it's time to write your startup business plan executive summary.

Keep it simple and precise. Begin by writing a one-sentence startup business plan introduction that showcases the core customer need/pain point and how you propose to solve it.

3. Develop startup goals and milestones

Next, write down the milestones and goals for your startup business plan. This is a crucial step that many entrepreneurs forget when they're starting out.

Do you want to focus on getting new customers? Or attaining a specific revenue number?  Without clear short-term goals, it can be hard to know how to prioritize startup tasks.

4. Write a company description

Answer the two fundamental questions — who are you and what will you do? Then, give an introduction to why you're in business.

Provide a summary of introspective goals, clarifying intangible aspects such as values or cultural philosophies. Make sure to mention:

  • Proposed business structure (limited partnership, sole proprietorship, incorporated company, or a general partnership)
  • Business model
  • Business vision and mission statement
  • Background information of your team members

how to make a start up business plan

5. Conduct market analysis

Choosing the right market is crucial to your organization’s success. There are different kinds of products and services that a business can offer and each has particular requirements for a successful market fit.

If you choose one that doesn't have a large enough customer base or is not profitable enough, your company may end up struggling for every sale.

Ensure that there is a clear market niche — an ideal audience of customers with a need or a pain point that your business can help solve.

6. Develop startup partnerships and resources

When you're launching a small startup, one of the most important things that your business needs is capital. There are several ways to get going on this front.

When thinking about sources of funding for startups , consider startup grants, startup loans, startup investors, and startup accelerators.

7. Write a startup marketing plan and startup budget

Your startup business plan is almost complete! All that's left is to create a startup marketing plan and budget. Your startup marketing plan will help you define your company’s target audience and brand image.

The startup budget is an integral part of any startup that helps you take the guesswork out of writing expenses.

Examples of startup business plans

Business plans differ based on the nature of the business, target market, competitive advantage, delivery of product/service, scope, and size.

Though the core business plan template remains the same, the content and flow change. Here is an example of an accounting firm's business plan:

Vision statement

At our company, ABC Accounting Services LLC, we work hard to provide the best service and build a strong team. Our vision is for this brand to be recognized as #1 throughout NYC by both smaller businesses and larger corporations.

Our values are reflected in all that we do: integrity (ethical behavior), service (giving top priority to clients' needs), excellence ("doing it right"), teamwork (working together).

Executive summary

ABC Accounting Services LLC is the premier accounting firm in New York City and will handle various financial services. We specialize in audits, bookkeeping, tax preparation/compliance work, and budgeting assistance with high-quality consulting.

Business structure

ABC Accounting Services LLC will be structured as an LLC — a Limited Liability Company in the state of New York. It will provide accounting, bookkeeping, taxation, auditing, and compliance-related services to small, medium, and large enterprises situated in New York City.

Marketing strategy and competitive advantages

Despite the fact that there are many established accounting services firms in our industry, we have a great chance of becoming successful because of the high demand for financial consulting. 

Often, small businesses don't need full-time employees but would rather hire an accounting service provider like us to handle their bookkeeping and tax returns on time every year.

It is best to find a unique niche or carve out your own market in the financial consulting services industry. If you're able to create an identifiable brand identity for your accounting business, then you will likely see less competition from other firms.

Startup milestones

ABC Accounting Services LLC will focus on delivering an exceptional client experience to grow the business and expand market share.

Startup business plan template

Here's a template you can follow when creating your startup business plan:

how to make a start up business plan

Top tips for writing a startup business plan

The following tips will help you create a compelling startup business plan without getting overwhelmed.

Know your audience

To write an effective business plan, tailor your language and level of detail to match the audience reading it. 

Have a simple and clear goal

If you have a goal of securing funding for your business, it will be an uphill task with lots of work and research.

Simplifying and breaking down bigger goals into smaller, actionable tasks will assist you in getting through them faster.

Spend time researching

Avoid assuming anything about your target audience, product/service, or the market need.

Spending adequate time and effort on research from primary and secondary sources will help you develop an accurate business plan.

Build a startup toolkit

The process of creation becomes easier if you have the right startup tools and software by your side. Pick the right ones that will help you in your journey.

Keep it precise

Short and easy-to-read business plans are best kept within 20 pages. If you have additional documents, consider adding them as appendices or provide a link if available online.

Ensure tonal consistency

Keep the tone consistent by having just one author write your startup business plan. Otherwise, be sure to edit it thoroughly before you finalize it.

Add reference points

All information regarding the market, your competitors, and your customers should reference authoritative data points.

Be ready to pivot

A business plan should be fluid and flexible. Think of it as an evolving document that will continue to change over time.

How to create a business plan with Wrike

A good business plan is a powerful tool and can be a key predictor of future progress, but simply filling in a startup business plan won’t help you achieve success. You need to create action steps with accountability that will help you reach your goals. 

Wrike’s project management software can help your organization deliver successful projects and maximize individual and team productivity, and our product launch template can help you turn your startup business plan goals into actionable steps. 

Start a free trial of Wrike today to see how it can help to simplify work, showcase progress to stakeholders, and achieve startup success.

Yuvika Iyer

Yuvika Iyer

Yuvika is a freelance writer who specializes in recruitment and résumé writing.

Related articles

How to Write a Business Case (With Example & Template)

How to Write a Business Case (With Example & Template)

A business plan is a straightforward document. In it, you’ll include market research, your overall goals for the business, and your strategies for achieving those goals.  But what is a business case and why do you need one if a business plan outlines everything else? A business case takes a closer look at a specific problem and how you can solve it. Think of a business case as the reason you create a project you’re going to manage in the first place.  The article provides a step-by-step guide on how to write a successful business case, including a checklist for identifying problems, researching solutions, and presenting to stakeholders. As a bonus, we’ll show you how to use Wrike to manage your product business cases with a requirements management template or implement them with a project scheduling template. What is a business case? A business case is a project you’ll assemble for identifying, addressing, and solving a specific business problem.  The key to a business case is the change it creates in your business. Developing a business case starts with identifying a problem that needs a permanent solution. Without that lasting change, a business case is only an observation about what’s going wrong. A complete business case addresses how a company can alter its strategy to fix that problem. Front-to-back, a business case is a complete story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It typically looks like this: Beginning: Someone identifies a problem within the business and presents the business case to the key decision-makers. Middle: With the project go-ahead, the company launches an internal team to address the business case and deliver results. End: The team delivers a presentation on the changes made and their long-term effects. In short, a business case is the story of a problem that needs solving.   Examples of business cases The problem for many companies is that they can turn a blind eye to challenges that are right in front of their faces. This is even the case when the company has a compelling product to sell. Consider the example of Febreze. In the mid-1990s, a researcher at Procter & Gamble was working with hydroxypropyl beta-cyclodextrin. His wife noticed that his clothes no longer smelled like cigarettes, which was a frequent complaint. P&G had something of a miracle product on its hands. However, their approach was wrong. They initially marketed Febreze as a way to eliminate embarrassing smells. Predictably, the product flopped.  But P&G stuck at it. They had a potential business case on their hands: a highly marketable product proved difficult to market. What was going wrong? Working on the business case from beginning to end provided the answer. After some focus group testing, P&G found out that few consumers recognized the nasty odors they were used to. Instead, they learned to use a different business case for Febreze: it was a cleaning product now, a way to make the house smell nice when the floors are vacuumed and the counters are wiped clean. They gave it its own pleasant smell and fashioned it into a cleaning product. And because it worked so well, so did the campaign.  That’s an example of a business case overall. But let’s get specific: developing a business case is easier when you have a template to look at. Let’s build an example using a made-up company, ABC Widgets, and a hypothetical business case. Let’s call our business case example “Operation Super Widgets”: Business Case: ABC Widgets Section 1: Summary Briefly describe the problem and the opportunities.  ABC Widgets’ latest widget, the Super Widget, is suffering from supply issues, requiring higher shipping costs to procure the necessary resources, and eating into profits. We need to switch to a new supplier to restore the viability of the Super Widget. Section 2: Project Scope This section should include the following: Financial appraisal of the situation. Super Widgets are now 20% more expensive to produce than in the year prior, resulting in -1% profits with each Super Widget sold. Business objectives. To get revenues back up, we need to restore profit margins on Cost Per Unit Sold for every Super Widget back to 2020 levels. Benefits/limitations. Restoring Cost Per Unit Sold will restore 5% of sagging revenues. However, we are limited to three choices for new Super Widget suppliers. Scope and impact. We will need to involve supply chain managers and Super Widget project management teams, which may temporarily reduce the number of widgets we’re able to produce, potentially resulting in $25,000 in lost revenue. Plan. Project Management Teams A and B will take the next two weeks to get quotes from suppliers and select one while integrating an immediate plan to bring in new Super Widget parts for manufacturing within four weeks. Organization. Team Member Sarah will take the lead on Operation Super Widget Profit. Both teams will report to Sarah. This is a bare-bones example of what a business case might look like, but it does hit on the key points: what’s the problem, how can you fix it, what’s the plan to fix it, and what will happen if you succeed? How do you write and develop a business case? When writing your own business case, the above example is a good guide to follow as you get started with the basics.  But, once you’re more familiar with the nuts and bolts, it’s also worth being prepared for some potential roadblocks you could face along the way.  Challenges of writing a good business case Why don’t more companies create a business case? It might come down to a lack of good communication. Many people don’t even know how to write a business case, let alone present one. “The idea may be great, but if it’s not communicated well, it won’t get any traction,” said Nancy Duarte, communication and author who wrote The HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. The key challenge, notes Duarte, is taking abstract business concepts (like lagging numbers) and turning them into an immediately recognizable problem. After all, if a company already had perfect awareness that it was making a mistake, it likely would find a way to stop the error in its tracks.  A business case is challenging because it usually means you’ll have to persuade someone that change is needed. And change can be difficult. In a thriving business, it’s especially problematic because it’s easy to point to the bottom line and say that whatever the company is doing is already working. How do you present a business case? The tips and examples above give you some nice remedies for creating a business case without the typical problems. But you’ll still want to present a business case with the straightforward proposals and numbers you’d associate with any new project.  Essentially, it all comes down to how well your business case can persuade the decision-makers. That’s why you shouldn’t just build a case off of raw numbers. The bottom line might be a compelling argument, but it’s not always what “clicks.”  If you’re presenting a business case, you’re a salesperson. And not every sale is a matter of precise logic. It’s also about emotion—the story of why something’s gone wrong and what needs doing if you’re going to overcome it.  The art of a good business case is the art of persuasion. Keep these specific points in mind as you craft one of your own: Point to an example of a bad business case and liken it to the present case. No one likes the idea of watching themselves walk into a mistake. Presenting an example of a business that made the same mistake your company is making and then translating it into the present moment is a compelling way to craft a business case that makes ears perk up. Build a narrative. Nancy Duarte pointed out that in one business case, a client convinced a CEO to follow through with a project by using simple illustrations. It’s not that the idea of adding illustrations to the business case was so great. It’s that the illustrations were able to tell a compelling story about why the case needed to go through. Distill the idea into an elevator pitch. Try this exercise: get your business case down to one sentence. If you can’t explain it any more simply than that, your business case might not be as memorable as it needs to be to sway decision-makers. Use analogies to drive the point home. Let’s say you discovered a problem in a growing business. Overall, revenues are good — but you’ve noticed an associated cost that has the potential to explode in the future and tank the business. But it’s not compelling to use dollars and cents when the business is doing so well. Instead, consider introducing the business case with a simple analogy: “Without repair, every leaky boat eventually sinks.” You now have their attention. Use the numbers to drive the point home, but not to make the point. If you’re presenting a business case to decision-makers, remember that it’s not only the logic of your argument that will convince people — it’s how persuasive you can be. Business case checklist Before you can check “learn how to write a business case” off your list, you have to know the essentials. Make sure you include the following elements in your business case checklist (and, of course, your business case itself): Reasons. This should be the most compelling part of your business case. You can tell a story here. And the most compelling stories start with a loss or a complication of some sort. What is the threat to the business that needs remedy? What are the reasons for moving forward? Potential courses of action. It’s not a complete story until we know the next chapter. A business case isn’t just about the problem — it’s about rectifying a problem through the solution. Recommend a few specific courses of action to help spur discussion about what to do next. Risks and benefits. Not every solution is going to be perfectly clean. There are going to be solutions with downsides. There are going to be costs along with the benefits. Make sure to include each of these to give a clear and complete picture. This is the time to manage expectations — but also the time to inspire action. Cost. What’s it going to cost to complete the project? The people making the decisions need to know the bottom line figure to assess which business cases to prioritize. Timeline. A good project isn’t only measured in dollars but in days, weeks, and months. What is the expected timeline for the business case? How quickly can the problem meet its solution?  With every business case, specificity is key. A vague timeline won’t help — a timeline with specific weekly milestones looks more achievable. To make your business case more compelling, always look for the specific details that tie your story together. Business case template A business case template is a document that outlines the key elements of a business case in a structured format. By using a standardized template, companies can ensure that all relevant information is captured and shared in a clear and consistent manner. Depending on the size of your business and the scope of your project, your business case template can be as detailed or as simple as you like. For a smaller project, you can use a one-pager to get started, detailing the main points of your project, which include: Executive summary: An overview of your project, its goals, and the benefits of completing it for your business Team and stakeholders: A list of the relevant people involved in your project, and their contact information SWOT analysis: An analysis of how your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats weigh up against your competitors Risk analysis: An overview of the kind of risks that are involved with your project and how you may avoid them Budget and financial plan: Details of your budget and where you may secure financing for your project Project plan: A schedule of how you plan to implement your project and what tasks are involved Let's see what that might look like. Executive summary   Team and stakeholders   SWOT analysis   Risk analysis   Budget   Project plan   How to write a business case with Wrike Wrike’s project management software can step in and turn a business case from the seedling of an idea to a full-fledged initiative.  The requirements management pre-built template can help you document and track project requirements in a structured manner. The template includes sections for capturing stakeholder requirements and business cases, as well as any constraints that may affect the project’s success. By using this template, you can ensure that all necessary requirements are identified and that potential issues are addressed early in the project planning process. If you want to move from the business case description to the actual implementation faster, consider using the project scheduling template. This template can help you create a detailed project timeline with milestones, identify task dependencies, and assign resources. By utilizing this template, you can ensure that the project is realistically achievable and meets all business needs, giving stakeholders confidence in the project’s success.

Operational Planning: How to Make an Operational Plan

Operational Planning: How to Make an Operational Plan

Learn how to create an operational plan that will help your business succeed. Check out our guide to everything you need to know about operational planning.

What Is a PMIS and How Does it Work?

What Is a PMIS and How Does it Work?

Discover how a PMIS can help your team deliver high-quality projects faster in this in-depth guide. Learn what is PMIS and how you can set one up.

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How to Write a Business Plan: Step-by-Step Guide + Examples

Determined female African-American entrepreneur scaling a mountain while wearing a large backpack. Represents the journey to starting and growing a business and needing to write a business plan to get there.

Noah Parsons

24 min. read

Updated February 2, 2024

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated. 

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to write a business plan that’s detailed enough to impress bankers and potential investors, while giving you the tools to start, run, and grow a successful business.

  • The basics of business planning

If you’re reading this guide, then you already know why you need a business plan . 

You understand that planning helps you: 

  • Raise money
  • Grow strategically
  • Keep your business on the right track 

As you start to write your plan, it’s useful to zoom out and remember what a business plan is .

At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy: how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. 

A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It’s also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. 

After completing your plan, you can use it as a management tool to track your progress toward your goals. Updating and adjusting your forecasts and budgets as you go is one of the most important steps you can take to run a healthier, smarter business. 

We’ll dive into how to use your plan later in this article.

There are many different types of plans , but we’ll go over the most common type here, which includes everything you need for an investor-ready plan. However, if you’re just starting out and are looking for something simpler—I recommend starting with a one-page business plan . It’s faster and easier to create. 

It’s also the perfect place to start if you’re just figuring out your idea, or need a simple strategic plan to use inside your business.

Dig deeper : How to write a one-page business plan

What’s your biggest business challenge right now?

  • What to include in your business plan

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally just one to two pages. Most people write it last because it’s a summary of the complete business plan.

Ideally, the executive summary can act as a stand-alone document that covers the highlights of your detailed plan. 

In fact, it’s common for investors to ask only for the executive summary when evaluating your business. If they like what they see in the executive summary, they’ll often follow up with a request for a complete plan, a pitch presentation , or more in-depth financial forecasts .

Your executive summary should include:

  • A summary of the problem you are solving
  • A description of your product or service
  • An overview of your target market
  • A brief description of your team
  • A summary of your financials
  • Your funding requirements (if you are raising money)

Dig Deeper: How to write an effective executive summary

Products and services description

This is where you describe exactly what you’re selling, and how it solves a problem for your target market. The best way to organize this part of your plan is to start by describing the problem that exists for your customers. After that, you can describe how you plan to solve that problem with your product or service. 

This is usually called a problem and solution statement .

To truly showcase the value of your products and services, you need to craft a compelling narrative around your offerings. How will your product or service transform your customers’ lives or jobs? A strong narrative will draw in your readers.

This is also the part of the business plan to discuss any competitive advantages you may have, like specific intellectual property or patents that protect your product. If you have any initial sales, contracts, or other evidence that your product or service is likely to sell, include that information as well. It will show that your idea has traction , which can help convince readers that your plan has a high chance of success.

Market analysis

Your target market is a description of the type of people that you plan to sell to. You might even have multiple target markets, depending on your business. 

A market analysis is the part of your plan where you bring together all of the information you know about your target market. Basically, it’s a thorough description of who your customers are and why they need what you’re selling. You’ll also include information about the growth of your market and your industry .

Try to be as specific as possible when you describe your market. 

Include information such as age, income level, and location—these are what’s called “demographics.” If you can, also describe your market’s interests and habits as they relate to your business—these are “psychographics.” 

Related: Target market examples

Essentially, you want to include any knowledge you have about your customers that is relevant to how your product or service is right for them. With a solid target market, it will be easier to create a sales and marketing plan that will reach your customers. That’s because you know who they are, what they like to do, and the best ways to reach them.

Next, provide any additional information you have about your market. 

What is the size of your market ? Is the market growing or shrinking? Ideally, you’ll want to demonstrate that your market is growing over time, and also explain how your business is positioned to take advantage of any expected changes in your industry.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write a market analysis

Competitive analysis

Part of defining your business opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage is. To do this effectively, you need to know as much about your competitors as your target customers. 

Every business has some form of competition. If you don’t think you have competitors, then explore what alternatives there are in the market for your product or service. 

For example: In the early years of cars, their main competition was horses. For social media, the early competition was reading books, watching TV, and talking on the phone.

A good competitive analysis fully lays out the competitive landscape and then explains how your business is different. Maybe your products are better made, or cheaper, or your customer service is superior. Maybe your competitive advantage is your location – a wide variety of factors can ultimately give you an advantage.

Dig Deeper: How to write a competitive analysis for your business plan

Marketing and sales plan

The marketing and sales plan covers how you will position your product or service in the market, the marketing channels and messaging you will use, and your sales tactics. 

The best place to start with a marketing plan is with a positioning statement . 

This explains how your business fits into the overall market, and how you will explain the advantages of your product or service to customers. You’ll use the information from your competitive analysis to help you with your positioning. 

For example: You might position your company as the premium, most expensive but the highest quality option in the market. Or your positioning might focus on being locally owned and that shoppers support the local economy by buying your products.

Once you understand your positioning, you’ll bring this together with the information about your target market to create your marketing strategy . 

This is how you plan to communicate your message to potential customers. Depending on who your customers are and how they purchase products like yours, you might use many different strategies, from social media advertising to creating a podcast. Your marketing plan is all about how your customers discover who you are and why they should consider your products and services. 

While your marketing plan is about reaching your customers—your sales plan will describe the actual sales process once a customer has decided that they’re interested in what you have to offer. 

If your business requires salespeople and a long sales process, describe that in this section. If your customers can “self-serve” and just make purchases quickly on your website, describe that process. 

A good sales plan picks up where your marketing plan leaves off. The marketing plan brings customers in the door and the sales plan is how you close the deal.

Together, these specific plans paint a picture of how you will connect with your target audience, and how you will turn them into paying customers.

Dig deeper: What to include in your sales and marketing plan

Business operations

The operations section describes the necessary requirements for your business to run smoothly. It’s where you talk about how your business works and what day-to-day operations look like. 

Depending on how your business is structured, your operations plan may include elements of the business like:

  • Supply chain management
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Equipment and technology
  • Distribution

Some businesses distribute their products and reach their customers through large retailers like Amazon.com, Walmart, Target, and grocery store chains. 

These businesses should review how this part of their business works. The plan should discuss the logistics and costs of getting products onto store shelves and any potential hurdles the business may have to overcome.

If your business is much simpler than this, that’s OK. This section of your business plan can be either extremely short or more detailed, depending on the type of business you are building.

For businesses selling services, such as physical therapy or online software, you can use this section to describe the technology you’ll leverage, what goes into your service, and who you will partner with to deliver your services.

Dig Deeper: Learn how to write the operations chapter of your plan

Key milestones and metrics

Although it’s not required to complete your business plan, mapping out key business milestones and the metrics can be incredibly useful for measuring your success.

Good milestones clearly lay out the parameters of the task and set expectations for their execution. You’ll want to include:

  • A description of each task
  • The proposed due date
  • Who is responsible for each task

If you have a budget, you can include projected costs to hit each milestone. You don’t need extensive project planning in this section—just list key milestones you want to hit and when you plan to hit them. This is your overall business roadmap. 

Possible milestones might be:

  • Website launch date
  • Store or office opening date
  • First significant sales
  • Break even date
  • Business licenses and approvals

You should also discuss the key numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common metrics worth tracking include:

  • Conversion rates
  • Customer acquisition costs
  • Profit per customer
  • Repeat purchases

It’s perfectly fine to start with just a few metrics and grow the number you are tracking over time. You also may find that some metrics simply aren’t relevant to your business and can narrow down what you’re tracking.

Dig Deeper: How to use milestones in your business plan

Organization and management team

Investors don’t just look for great ideas—they want to find great teams. Use this chapter to describe your current team and who you need to hire . You should also provide a quick overview of your location and history if you’re already up and running.

Briefly highlight the relevant experiences of each key team member in the company. It’s important to make the case for why yours is the right team to turn an idea into a reality. 

Do they have the right industry experience and background? Have members of the team had entrepreneurial successes before? 

If you still need to hire key team members, that’s OK. Just note those gaps in this section.

Your company overview should also include a summary of your company’s current business structure . The most common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietor
  • Partnership

Be sure to provide an overview of how the business is owned as well. Does each business partner own an equal portion of the business? How is ownership divided? 

Potential lenders and investors will want to know the structure of the business before they will consider a loan or investment.

Dig Deeper: How to write about your company structure and team

Financial plan

Last, but certainly not least, is your financial plan chapter. 

Entrepreneurs often find this section the most daunting. But, business financials for most startups are less complicated than you think, and a business degree is certainly not required to build a solid financial forecast. 

A typical financial forecast in a business plan includes the following:

  • Sales forecast : An estimate of the sales expected over a given period. You’ll break down your forecast into the key revenue streams that you expect to have.
  • Expense budget : Your planned spending such as personnel costs , marketing expenses, and taxes.
  • Profit & Loss : Brings together your sales and expenses and helps you calculate planned profits.
  • Cash Flow : Shows how cash moves into and out of your business. It can predict how much cash you’ll have on hand at any given point in the future.
  • Balance Sheet : A list of the assets, liabilities, and equity in your company. In short, it provides an overview of the financial health of your business. 

A strong business plan will include a description of assumptions about the future, and potential risks that could impact the financial plan. Including those will be especially important if you’re writing a business plan to pursue a loan or other investment.

Dig Deeper: How to create financial forecasts and budgets

This is the place for additional data, charts, or other information that supports your plan.

Including an appendix can significantly enhance the credibility of your plan by showing readers that you’ve thoroughly considered the details of your business idea, and are backing your ideas up with solid data.

Just remember that the information in the appendix is meant to be supplementary. Your business plan should stand on its own, even if the reader skips this section.

Dig Deeper : What to include in your business plan appendix

Optional: Business plan cover page

Adding a business plan cover page can make your plan, and by extension your business, seem more professional in the eyes of potential investors, lenders, and partners. It serves as the introduction to your document and provides necessary contact information for stakeholders to reference.

Your cover page should be simple and include:

  • Company logo
  • Business name
  • Value proposition (optional)
  • Business plan title
  • Completion and/or update date
  • Address and contact information
  • Confidentiality statement

Just remember, the cover page is optional. If you decide to include it, keep it very simple and only spend a short amount of time putting it together.

Dig Deeper: How to create a business plan cover page

How to use AI to help write your business plan

Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can speed up the business plan writing process and help you think through concepts like market segmentation and competition. These tools are especially useful for taking ideas that you provide and converting them into polished text for your business plan.

The best way to use AI for your business plan is to leverage it as a collaborator , not a replacement for human creative thinking and ingenuity. 

AI can come up with lots of ideas and act as a brainstorming partner. It’s up to you to filter through those ideas and figure out which ones are realistic enough to resonate with your customers. 

There are pros and cons of using AI to help with your business plan . So, spend some time understanding how it can be most helpful before just outsourcing the job to AI.

Learn more: How to collaborate with AI on your business plan

  • Writing tips and strategies

To help streamline the business plan writing process, here are a few tips and key questions to answer to make sure you get the most out of your plan and avoid common mistakes .  

Determine why you are writing a business plan

Knowing why you are writing a business plan will determine your approach to your planning project. 

For example: If you are writing a business plan for yourself, or just to use inside your own business , you can probably skip the section about your team and organizational structure. 

If you’re raising money, you’ll want to spend more time explaining why you’re looking to raise the funds and exactly how you will use them.

Regardless of how you intend to use your business plan , think about why you are writing and what you’re trying to get out of the process before you begin.

Keep things concise

Probably the most important tip is to keep your business plan short and simple. There are no prizes for long business plans . The longer your plan is, the less likely people are to read it. 

So focus on trimming things down to the essentials your readers need to know. Skip the extended, wordy descriptions and instead focus on creating a plan that is easy to read —using bullets and short sentences whenever possible.

Have someone review your business plan

Writing a business plan in a vacuum is never a good idea. Sometimes it’s helpful to zoom out and check if your plan makes sense to someone else. You also want to make sure that it’s easy to read and understand.

Don’t wait until your plan is “done” to get a second look. Start sharing your plan early, and find out from readers what questions your plan leaves unanswered. This early review cycle will help you spot shortcomings in your plan and address them quickly, rather than finding out about them right before you present your plan to a lender or investor.

If you need a more detailed review, you may want to explore hiring a professional plan writer to thoroughly examine it.

Use a free business plan template and business plan examples to get started

Knowing what information you need to cover in a business plan sometimes isn’t quite enough. If you’re struggling to get started or need additional guidance, it may be worth using a business plan template. 

If you’re looking for a free downloadable business plan template to get you started, download the template used by more than 1 million businesses. 

Or, if you just want to see what a completed business plan looks like, check out our library of over 550 free business plan examples . 

We even have a growing list of industry business planning guides with tips for what to focus on depending on your business type.

Common pitfalls and how to avoid them

It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re writing your business plan. Some entrepreneurs get sucked into the writing and research process, and don’t focus enough on actually getting their business started. 

Here are a few common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Not talking to your customers : This is one of the most common mistakes. It’s easy to assume that your product or service is something that people want. Before you invest too much in your business and too much in the planning process, make sure you talk to your prospective customers and have a good understanding of their needs.

  • Overly optimistic sales and profit forecasts: By nature, entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future. But it’s good to temper that optimism a little when you’re planning, and make sure your forecasts are grounded in reality. 
  • Spending too much time planning: Yes, planning is crucial. But you also need to get out and talk to customers, build prototypes of your product and figure out if there’s a market for your idea. Make sure to balance planning with building.
  • Not revising the plan: Planning is useful, but nothing ever goes exactly as planned. As you learn more about what’s working and what’s not—revise your plan, your budgets, and your revenue forecast. Doing so will provide a more realistic picture of where your business is going, and what your financial needs will be moving forward.
  • Not using the plan to manage your business: A good business plan is a management tool. Don’t just write it and put it on the shelf to collect dust – use it to track your progress and help you reach your goals.
  • Presenting your business plan

The planning process forces you to think through every aspect of your business and answer questions that you may not have thought of. That’s the real benefit of writing a business plan – the knowledge you gain about your business that you may not have been able to discover otherwise.

With all of this knowledge, you’re well prepared to convert your business plan into a pitch presentation to present your ideas. 

A pitch presentation is a summary of your plan, just hitting the highlights and key points. It’s the best way to present your business plan to investors and team members.

Dig Deeper: Learn what key slides should be included in your pitch deck

Use your business plan to manage your business

One of the biggest benefits of planning is that it gives you a tool to manage your business better. With a revenue forecast, expense budget, and projected cash flow, you know your targets and where you are headed.

And yet, nothing ever goes exactly as planned – it’s the nature of business.

That’s where using your plan as a management tool comes in. The key to leveraging it for your business is to review it periodically and compare your forecasts and projections to your actual results.

Start by setting up a regular time to review the plan – a monthly review is a good starting point. During this review, answer questions like:

  • Did you meet your sales goals?
  • Is spending following your budget?
  • Has anything gone differently than what you expected?

Now that you see whether you’re meeting your goals or are off track, you can make adjustments and set new targets. 

Maybe you’re exceeding your sales goals and should set new, more aggressive goals. In that case, maybe you should also explore more spending or hiring more employees. 

Or maybe expenses are rising faster than you projected. If that’s the case, you would need to look at where you can cut costs.

A plan, and a method for comparing your plan to your actual results , is the tool you need to steer your business toward success.

Learn More: How to run a regular plan review

Free business plan templates and examples

Kickstart your business plan writing with one of our free business plan templates or recommended tools.

how to make a start up business plan

Free business plan template

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One-page plan template

Download a free one-page plan template to write a useful business plan in as little as 30-minutes.

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Explore over 500 real-world business plan examples from a wide variety of industries.

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How to write a business plan FAQ

What is a business plan?

A document that describes your business , the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to. It explains your business strategy, how you’re going to build and grow your business, what your marketing strategy is, and who your competitors are.

What are the benefits of a business plan?

A business plan helps you understand where you want to go with your business and what it will take to get there. It reduces your overall risk, helps you uncover your business’s potential, attracts investors, and identifies areas for growth.

Having a business plan ultimately makes you more confident as a business owner and more likely to succeed for a longer period of time.

What are the 7 steps of a business plan?

The seven steps to writing a business plan include:

  • Write a brief executive summary
  • Describe your products and services.
  • Conduct market research and compile data into a cohesive market analysis.
  • Describe your marketing and sales strategy.
  • Outline your organizational structure and management team.
  • Develop financial projections for sales, revenue, and cash flow.
  • Add any additional documents to your appendix.

What are the 5 most common business plan mistakes?

There are plenty of mistakes that can be made when writing a business plan. However, these are the 5 most common that you should do your best to avoid:

  • 1. Not taking the planning process seriously.
  • Having unrealistic financial projections or incomplete financial information.
  • Inconsistent information or simple mistakes.
  • Failing to establish a sound business model.
  • Not having a defined purpose for your business plan.

What questions should be answered in a business plan?

Writing a business plan is all about asking yourself questions about your business and being able to answer them through the planning process. You’ll likely be asking dozens and dozens of questions for each section of your plan.

However, these are the key questions you should ask and answer with your business plan:

  • How will your business make money?
  • Is there a need for your product or service?
  • Who are your customers?
  • How are you different from the competition?
  • How will you reach your customers?
  • How will you measure success?

How long should a business plan be?

The length of your business plan fully depends on what you intend to do with it. From the SBA and traditional lender point of view, a business plan needs to be whatever length necessary to fully explain your business. This means that you prove the viability of your business, show that you understand the market, and have a detailed strategy in place.

If you intend to use your business plan for internal management purposes, you don’t necessarily need a full 25-50 page business plan. Instead, you can start with a one-page plan to get all of the necessary information in place.

What are the different types of business plans?

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.

Traditional business plan: The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used when applying for funding or pitching to investors. This type of business plan follows the outline above and can be anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the amount of detail included, the complexity of your business, and what you include in your appendix.

Business model canvas: The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.

One-page business plan: This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business. You’ll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences. It’s most useful for those exploring ideas, needing to validate their business model, or who need an internal plan to help them run and manage their business.

Lean Plan: The Lean Plan is less of a specific document type and more of a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, test, review, refine, and take action based on performance. It’s faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of your business. It explains what your business is doing right now and how it functions. The strategic plan explores long-term goals and explains “how” the business will get there. It encourages you to look more intently toward the future and how you will achieve your vision.

However, when approached correctly, your business plan can actually function as a strategic plan as well. If kept lean, you can define your business, outline strategic steps, and track ongoing operations all with a single plan.

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See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Noah Parsons

Noah is the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of the online business plan app LivePlan. He started his career at Yahoo! and then helped start the user review site Epinions.com. From there he started a software distribution business in the UK before coming to Palo Alto Software to run the marketing and product teams.

how to make a start up business plan

Table of Contents

  • Use AI to help write your plan
  • Common planning mistakes
  • Manage with your business plan
  • Templates and examples

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How to Write a Business Plan for Your Startup

Want to just get started? Click here to sign up for LivePlan and write a business plan today.

Anyone can have a great idea. But turning an idea into a viable business is a different ballgame.

You may think you’re ready to launch a startup company . That’s great news, and you should be excited about it.

Before you start seeking legal advice, renting office space, or forming an LLC, you need to put your thoughts on paper. This will help you stay organized and focused.

You’ll also be able to share this plan with others to help you get valuable feedback. We don’t recommend starting a company without consulting people first.

A typical business plan consists of the following elements:

  • An executive summary
  • A company description
  • Market research
  • Descriptions of products and/or services
  • The management and operational structure
  • Marketing and sales strategy

We recommend using the LivePlan business plan so ftware to help guide you through structuring your business plan in the proper way.

Thoroughly writing out your plan accomplishes several things.

Save your business plan progress in one place across all the document apps you use.

First, it gives you a much better understanding of your business. You may think  you know what you’re talking about, but putting it on paper will truly make you an expert.

Writing a formal plan increases your chances of success  by 16%.

Having a business plan also gives you a better chance of raising capital for your startup  company. No banks or investors will give you a dollar if you don’t have a solid business plan.

Plus, companies with business plans also see higher growth rates  than those without a plan.

image1 5

If you have an idea for a startup company but not sure how to get started with a business plan, we can help you out. We will show you how to write different elements of your business plan and provide some helpful tips along the way.

Top Business Plan Software to Write a Business Plan

If you want to write a business plan, you’ll need a business plan software. Here’s the best options.

  • Enloop  – Best Free Business Plan Software
  • LivePlan  – Best Business Plan Software For Startups
  • GoSmallBiz  – Best Business Plan Software For Business Consulting
  • BizPlan  – Best Business Plan Software For Raising Capital
  • Business Sorter  – Best Business Plan Software For Simple Business Plan
  • PlanGuru  – Best Business Plan Software For Financial Reporting & Forecasting

8 Steps to Write a Business Plan

Here’s what you need to know to get started.

  • Make sure your company has a clear objective
  • Identify your target market
  • Analyze your competition 
  • Budget accordingly
  • Identify your goals and financial projections
  • Clearly define the power structure
  • Discuss your marketing plan
  • Keep it short and professional

Step 1 – Make sure your company has a clear objective

When writing a company description, make sure it’s not ambiguous.

“We’re going to sell stuff”

isn’t going to cut it.

Instead, identify who you are and when you plan on going into business. State what kinds of products or services you’ll be offering and in what industry.

Where will this business operate? Be clear whether you’ll have a physical store, operate online, or both. Is your company local, regional, national, or international?

Your company description can also incorporate your mission statement.

This is an opportunity for you to gain a better understanding of your startup. The company summary forces you to set clear objectives. The type of company you have and how you will operate should be obvious to anyone who reads it.

Include the reasons for going into business. For example, let’s say you’re opening a restaurant. A reason for opening could be that you identified that no other restaurants in the area serve the cuisine you specialize in.

You can briefly discuss the vision and future of your startup company, but you don’t need to go into too much detail. You’ll cover that in greater depth as you write the rest of your business plan.

Keep in mind, this description is a summary, so there’s no reason for you to write a ton. This section should be pretty concise and no more than three or four paragraphs.

Step 2 – Identify your target market

Your business isn’t for everyone. Although you may think everyone will love your idea, that’s not a viable business strategy.

One of the first steps to launching a successful business is clearly identifying the target market of your startup .

But to find out whom you’ll target, you need to conduct market research .

Target market infographic

This is arguably the most important part of launching a startup company. If there’s no market for your business, the company will fail. It’s as simple as that.

All too often we see entrepreneurs rush into a decision because they fall in love with an idea. Due to this tunnel vision, they don’t take the necessary steps to conduct the proper research.

Sadly, those businesses don’t last.

But if you take the time to write a business plan, you may discover there’s not a viable market for your startup before it’s too late. It’s much better to learn this information in these preliminary stages than after you’ve dumped a ton of money into your venture.

To figure out your target market, start with broad assumptions and slowly narrow it down. Typically, the best way to segment your audience is using these four categories:

  • demographic
  • psychographic

Start with things like:

  • income level

As we said earlier, start broadly. For example, you may start by saying your target market lives in North America, and then narrow it down to the United States.

But as you continue going through your market research, you can get even more specific. You can target customers living in New England, for example.

By the time you’re finished, the target market could look something like this:

  • ages 26 to 40
  • living in the Boston area
  • with an annual income of $55,000-$70,000
  • who are into recycling

This profile encompasses all four demographic segments we mentioned earlier. Plus, it’s very specific.

Your business plan should talk about the research you conducted to identify this market. Talk about the data you collected from surveys and interviews .

You’ll use this target market in other sections of the business plan as well when you discuss future projections and your marketing strategy. We’ll cover both of those topics shortly.

Step 3 – Analyze your competition

In addition to researching your target market, you need to conduct a competitive analysis as well. You’ll use this information to create your brand differentiation strategy .

Brand Essence infographic

When you’re writing a business plan, your startup doesn’t exist yet. Nobody knows about you. Don’t expect to be successful if you’re planning to launch a competitor’s carbon copy.

Customers won’t have a reason to switch to your brand if it’s the same as the company they already know and trust.

How will you separate yourself from the crowd?

Your differentiation strategy could involve your price and quality. If your prices are significantly lower, that can be your niche in the industry. If you have superior quality, there is a market for that as well.

Competitive analysis should be conducted simultaneously with identifying your target audience. Both of these fall under the market research category of your business plan.

Once you figure out who your competitors are, it will be easier to determine how your company will be different from them. But this information will be based on your target market.

For example, let’s say you’re in the clothing industry. Your competitors will depend on your target market. If you’re planning to sell jeans for $50, you won’t be competing with designer brands selling jeans for $750.

Or you can base your price differentiation on what you learned about your target market. From there, you’ll be able to identify your competitors.

As you can see, the two go hand in hand.

Step 4 – Budget accordingly

You need to have all your numbers in order when you’re writing a business plan, especially if you’re planning on securing investment funding.

Figure out exactly how much money  you need to start the business and stay operational; otherwise, you’ll run out of money.

The top 20 reasons startups fail infographic

Running out of cash is one of the most common reasons why startup companies fail. Taking the time to sort your budget out before you launch will minimize that risk.

Consider everything. Start with the basics like:

  • equipment costs
  • property (buying or leasing)

Here’s an example  of what this will look like in your business plan:

Startup budget example

These numbers need to be accurate. When in doubt, estimate higher. Things don’t always go according to plan.

In the example above, although the total startup expenses are less than $28k, it may not be a bad idea to raise $40k or even $50k. That way, you’d have some extra cash in the bank in case something comes up.

You don’t want poor budgeting to be the reason for your startup’s failure.

Step 5 – Identify your goals and financial projections

Let’s continue talking about your financials. Obviously, you won’t have any income statements, balance sheets, cash flow reports, or other accounting documents if you’re not fully operational.

However, you can still make projections. You can base these projections on the total population of the target market in your area and what percentage of that market you think you can penetrate.

If you have an expansion strategy in mind, this would also be outlined in your financial projections.

These projections should cover the first three to five years of your startup. Make sure they are reasonable. Don’t just say you’ll make $10 million in your first year. In fact, your company may not be even profitable for the first couple of years.

As long as you’re being honest with yourself and potential investors, your financial plan will cover your break-even analysis.

Break-even analysis infographic

While it’s reasonable to expect your sales revenue to increase each year, you still need to take all factors into consideration.

For example, if you’re planning to expand to a new location in year four, your financial projections need to be adjusted accordingly.

You may not be profitable until your third year of operation, but if you’re opening a new facility in year four, that year may have a net loss as well. Again, this is completely fine as long as you’re planning and budgeting accordingly.

Another example of a goal could be launching an ecommerce store in addition to your brick-and-mortar locations. Just don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Keep everything within reason.

Step 6 – Clearly define the power structure

Your business plan should also cover the organizational structure of your startup. If it’s a small company with just you and maybe one or two business partners, this should be easy.

But depending on how you’re planning to scale the company, it’s best to get this sorted out sooner rather than later. Here’s an example of what your organizational chart  may look like:

Organizational chart example

It’s really important to have this hierarchy in place before you get started. That way, there’s no debate over who reports to which position. It’s clear who is in charge of specific people and departments.

Don’t get too complex with this.

If you put too many layers of managers, directors, and supervisors between the top of the chart and the bottom of the chart, things can get confusing.

You don’t want any instructions or assignments to get lost in translation between levels. You also don’t want anyone to be confused about who is in charge.

This is an opportunity for you to outline how your company will operate in terms of board members and investors. Who has the final say in decisions?

While we understand you may need to give up some equity in your startup to get off the ground, we recommend keeping the power in your hands.

Step 7 – Discuss your marketing plan

Your marketing plan relies on everything else we’ve talked about so far.

How will you acquire customers based on the market research of your target audience and competitive analysis?

This strategy needs to be aligned with your budget and financial projections as well.

We could sit here and talk about different marketing strategies all day. But there’s no right or wrong way to approach this for your startup company.

Our recommendation would be to stay as cost-effective as possible. Be versatile and well-balanced too.

Acquiring customers is expensive. You don’t want to dump your entire marketing budget into one strategy. If it doesn’t work, you’ve got nothing to fall back on.

Take these categories into consideration when you’re coming up with a marketing plan:

Marketing plan infographic

Before you try anything too crazy, get the basics sorted out first:

  • launch a website
  • stay active on social media platforms
  • start building an email subscriber list
  • focus on customer retention
  • come up with customer loyalty programs.

Don’t ease into this one step at a time. Come out fast. Even before your company officially launches, you can start building your website and social media profiles.

The last thing you want is for consumers to find out about your brand but then be unable to find your website or contact information. Or worse, get directed to a website that’s broken or unfinished.

Step 8 – Keep it short and professional

We’ve talked about many different components of your business plan. It may sound overwhelming, but don’t be alarmed.

This shouldn’t be a 100-page dissertation.

You definitely want it to be detailed and thorough, but don’t go overboard. There’s no exact number of pages it should be, but have at least one page per section.

It should also be written cleanly and professionally. Don’t use slang terminology.

Proofread it for grammatical and spelling errors.

Remember, you may need to use this to raise capital. People may be hesitant to give you money if you overlook the small stuff like proper grammar.

Launching a startup company is exciting. It’s easy to get so caught up in the moment that you rush into things.

If you want to set yourself up for success, you need to take a step back and plan things out.

Going through the process of writing a formal business plan will increase your chances of securing an investment and also improve your potential growth rate.

The market research you’ll need to conduct in order to write this plan will also help you determine whether this is a viable business venture to proceed with.

If you’ve never written a business plan, use this post as a guide for what you should include. Follow our tips for best practices.

Writing a business plan may seem like a tedious task right now, but we promise it will keep you organized and save you lots of headaches down the road.

Get started by using LivePlan business plan software to create your perfect business plan today. Good luck!

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

Rosalie Murphy

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.

Bizee

A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

how to make a start up business plan

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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How to Start a Business: A Startup Guide for Entrepreneurs [Template]

Published: February 15, 2024

I started a local HVAC business in the summer of 2020, and since then, I’ve learned a lot about which steps are most important for getting a business venture off the ground. To help you make your business idea a reality, I've put together a complete guide that walks you through the steps of starting a business.

how to start a business; entrepreneur learning how to start a business and talking to suppliers

The guide covers every step I’ve discovered you need to start a business, from the paperwork and finances to creating your business plan and growing your business online. At the bottom, you’ll find a library of the best free tools and resources to start selling and marketing your products and services.

Use the links below to navigate to each section of the guide:

  • What do you need to start a business?

How to Start a Business

How to make a business plan, how to decide on a company name.

  • How to Choose a Business Structure

How to Register Your Business

How to comply with legal requirements, how to find funding for your new business, how to create a brand identity for your new business, tips for starting a business, resources to start a business, how to start a business online.

Let's get started.

Every budding entrepreneur wants more visitors, more qualified leads, and more revenue. But starting a business isn’t one of those “if you build it, they will come” situations. So much of getting a startup off the ground has to do with timing, planning, and the market, so consider if the economic conditions are right to start a company and whether you can successfully penetrate the market with your solution.

In order to build and run a successful company , you’ll also need to create and fine-tune a business plan, assess your finances, complete all the legal paperwork, pick your partners, research apps for startup growth, choose the best tools and systems to help you get your marketing and sales off the ground … and a whole lot more.

When I first started my business, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of requirements, which is why I’ve summed up the process to make it easier for you.

In brief, the requirements for starting a business are:

  • A business plan.
  • A business name.
  • An ownership or business structure.
  • A business registration certificate.
  • A legal license or seller’s permit (as well as other legal documents).
  • A source of funding.
  • A brand identity.

Without these elements in place, you unnecessarily risk your new business’s future. Now let’s go over these basic steps for starting a business.

  • Write a business plan.
  • Choose a business name.
  • Choose an ownership structure.
  • Register your business.
  • Review and comply with legal requirements.
  • Apply for funding.
  • Create a brand identity.

Having a great business idea is only part of the journey. In order to be successful, you’ll need to take a few steps to get it off the ground. In order to refine your business idea and set yourself up for success, consider doing the following:

1. Write a business plan.

Your business plan maps out the details of your business, including how it’s structured, what product or service you’ll sell, and how you’ll be selling it. Creating a business plan will help you find any obstacles on the horizon before you jump into running a business.

Pro tip: Remember that part of a business plan is telling investors or funders which specific items you need funding for. Be sure to list what you need to be funded, the reasoning behind items, and how long you will need funding.

Recommended Reading:

  • What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates
  • How to Build a Detailed Business Plan That Stands Out
  • How to Write an Ecommerce Business Plan
  • How to Become an Entrepreneur With No Money or Experience

70 Small Business Ideas for Anyone Who Wants to Run Their Own Business

Jump to: How to Start a Business Plan →

Featured Resource: Free Business Plan Template

how to make a start up business plan

Below are the key elements in a business plan template, details about what goes into each of them, and example sections at the bottom. You’ll also learn tips for writing a business plan .

1. Use a business plan template .

how to make a start up business plan

The executive summary should be about a page long. It should cover:

  • Overview . Briefly explain what the company is, where you’ll be located, what you’ll sell, and who you’ll sell to.
  • Company profile. Briefly explain the business structure, who owns it, what prior experience/skills they’ll bring to the table, and who the first hires might be.
  • Products or services . Briefly explain what you’ll sell.
  • The market. Briefly explain your main findings from your market analysis and product market fit .
  • Financial considerations . Briefly explain how you plan to fund the business and what your financial projections are.

Featured Resource: Executive Summary Template

how to make a start up business plan

On the marketing side, you’ll want to cover answers to questions like:

  • How do you plan to penetrate the market?
  • How will you grow your business?
  • Which channels will you focus on for distribution?
  • How will you communicate with your customers?

Pro tip: Marketing trends change year after year, so be sure to keep up on the latest trends by subscribing to the Hubspot Marketing blog .

On the sales side, you’ll need to cover answers to questions like:

  • What’s your sales strategy ?
  • What will your sales team look like, and how do you plan to grow it over time?
  • How do you plan to scale for growth ?
  • How many sales calls will you need to make to make a sale?
  • What’s the average price per sale?

Speaking of average price per sale, you’ll want to go into your pricing strategy as well.

Featured Resource: Marketing & Sales Alignment Template

how to make a start up business plan

More importantly, it typically doesn’t entail giving partial ownership of the business away. Instead, it’s a way of getting funding not from potential co-owners, but from potential fans and customers who want to support the business idea, but not necessarily own it.

What you give donors in exchange is entirely up to you — and typically, people will come away with early access to a product, or a special version of a product, or a meet-and-greet with the founders.

Pro tip: Choose the right platform for your crowdfunding campaign type. Some platforms are more geared towards traditional investors, while others are for donations. Learn more about crowdfunding here .

5. Venture Capital Financing

Only a very small percentage of businesses are either fit for venture capital or have access to it. All the other methods described earlier are available to the vast majority of new businesses.

If you’re looking for a significant amount of money to start your company and can prove you can quickly grow its value, then venture capital financing is probably the right move for you.

Venture capital financing usually means one or more venture capital firms make large investments in your company in exchange for preferred stock of the company — but, in addition to getting that preferred return as they would in series seed financing, venture capital investors also usually get governance rights, like a seat on the Board of Directors or approval rights on certain transactions.

VC financing typically occurs when a company can demonstrate a significant business opportunity to quickly grow the value of the company but requires significant capital to do so.

Pro tip: A lot of venture capital financing is simply being in the right room with the right people. Make sure to network extensively if this is your approach to financing.

When you’re first starting a business, you’ll need to build the foundation for a strong brand identity. Your brand identity is about your values, how you communicate concepts, and which emotions you want your customers to feel when they interact with your business. Having a consistent brand identity to promote your business will make you look more professional and help you attract new customers.

Here’s what you need to do to develop your brand identity:

1. Design a logo.

Creating the right logo for your business requires careful thought and consideration. It should be representative of your brand’s purpose and target audience, while also being memorable and distinct from competitors.

To start, you need a deep understanding of your business’s mission, values, and target audience. Think beyond what your company does and truly examine why you do what you do and who you do it for. This knowledge will serve as the foundation for your logo.

Conducting market research and identifying current logo trends can help you understand what works well for others and strategize on how to stand out. Then, start brainstorming design ideas that showcase what makes your business unique.

For instance, you could try writing out a list of words that best describe your business and what makes it special and then use those words as inspiration to start sketching ideas and concepts.

Once you have some sketches created, pick which ones you think are the best and share them with stakeholders, colleagues, and buyer personas to gather feedback and refine your design. After narrowing down a design, you’ll want to test its versatility and scalability to ensure it works well in different sizes and formats.

Pro tip: Check out this blog on designing your logo, and then try out different logo design features in Canva’s logo maker .

2. Develop a visual identity.

Your brand’s visual identity doesn’t stop at creating a logo — you’ll also need to establish guidelines for typography, color palette, imagery, and other graphic elements. The more consistent your brand is with its visuals, the more consumers will be able to recognize and trust it.

To get started, consider creating a brand mood board. Ask yourself: What kind of emotions do you want your brand to evoke? Is there a specific visual aesthetic that you want to emulate? This can help you gather visual inspiration that resonates with your brand.

Choose your color palette and typography wisely. Spend some time researching color theory , as color can have a major impact on how people perceive your brand. Make sure your typography is readable and looks good across different sizes and formats.

Additionally, you should create other visual assets such as patterns, shapes, illustrations, and icons that pair well with your color palette and typography.

Pro tip: If design and color palettes aren’t your thing, consider hiring a freelance graphic designer on LinkedIn or Fiverr to help you create your visual identity and incorporate it into your logo and overall design.

3. Craft a tagline.

In just a few words, your tagline should encapsulate your brand’s essence and communicate its value. Think of it as a written or verbal version of your logo. Both elements are created to immediately capture the attention of your audience. Even if consumers don’t remember anything about your product or service, they will remember a catchy tagline.

When crafting your tagline, keep it simple. You want your tagline to be memorable, so aim for a short phrase and focus on key benefits or unique aspects of your brand. Also consider using techniques like alliteration, rhyme, or play on words to make your tagline stand out — just make sure it aligns with the rest of your brand’s voice and tone.

Pro tip: This is another element of starting a business that could benefit from someone with experience. A marketing consultant or a content writer could help you establish a compelling tagline with the next step of developing your voice and tone.

4. Develop your voice and tone.

Your brand voice refers to the personality that your brand adopts in its communication with its audience. It provides direction on what to say and how to say it, allowing you to differentiate yourself and cut through the noise.

A well-defined brand voice helps create a distinct and memorable identity for your brand, allowing you to connect with your target audience on a deeper and more meaningful level.

When determining the appropriate voice and tone for your brand, remember that consistency is key. Ensure that your brand voice and tone align with your brand’s values, mission, and positioning. Alignment between your brand’s personality and its communication style is crucial for building trust and authenticity.

Pro tip: Adapt your voice and tone to suit the preferences and understanding of your audience. Additionally, use emotion and storytelling techniques to engage your audience and resonate with them.

5. Create brand guidelines.

Once you determine all of the previously mentioned brand elements, establish a set of brand guidelines that communicate how to appropriately use them. Having these rules and standards set in place ensures consistent and cohesive messaging and representation for your brand.

Get started by defining the rules for using your brand elements across different channels and applications, such as digital and print media, social media profiles, web design, packaging, and any other relevant materials.

Show practical examples of correct and incorrect usage scenarios to demonstrate the do’s and don’ts of brand representation. This helps stakeholders and users understand the guidelines and their application. You can also offer your team templates or mock-ups to ensure correct implementation.

Once the brand guidelines are set, distribute them to internal stakeholders and relevant external partners. To make sure everyone’s on the same page, take the time to review the guidelines with everyone and consider conducting training sessions if necessary.

As your brand evolves, so should your brand guidelines. Continuously review and update them to reflect any changes or refinements. Keep the guidelines easily accessible and communicate any updates effectively.

Pro tip: A writing style guide is a great place to start when creating brand guidelines. Check out this blog on brand style guide examples.

how to make a start up business plan

Starting a business online is a little different from starting a traditional business. Here are some important steps for starting and scaling your business online.

1. Determine your niche and business idea.

Your business niche is the target focus area for your product or service. It’s important to choose a niche because customers like brands and businesses that specifically cater to their needs. Most customers are more likely to purchase products or services from a brand that provides personalized experiences.

When determining your niche and business idea, first identify your target audience and specify everything from their age to their interests. Then, use that information to figure out their principal need. If your product doesn’t resolve a specific need, your business will fail to get off the ground.

Pro tip: You should have a good idea of the market at this point. Use that knowledge to position yourself in a way that differentiates you from your competitors.

2. Conduct market research.

Conduct market research to understand what product or service you should offer, whom you should serve, and where you face the stiffest competition. From physical goods to digital downloads, understanding your target market and competitors will help you determine how to best position your product.

Your research should help you create a strong selling proposition . In other words, what makes your business unique? Why should someone buy from you?

Pro tip: Sometimes, market research is as easy as calling around to competitors and getting a quote on services. Make sure your pricing is competitive but not so low as to be unsustainable.

3. Learn online business laws.

While online businesses may require fewer licenses and permits than traditional businesses, there are still legal requirements that you will need to adhere to. Be sure to check:

  • What kind of business license (if any) do you need to start operations?
  • What legal structure makes the most sense for your company?
  • Are there any permits that you need to obtain?
  • Are there any inspections that you need to pass?
  • Do you need a sales tax license?
  • Are there any specific regulations applicable to online businesses only?
  • What are the laws regarding hiring contractors and hiring employees?

Pro tip: Check out this article for more information on starting an online business and navigating online laws.

4 . Make sure your business is insured.

Depending on your business type, you may be required by state law to be both licensed and insured. HVAC businesses have a lot of liability as they involve both plumbing and electricity. I spoke with several insurance agents before deciding on the best insurance for my business needs.

There are also many different business insurance types, such as:

  • Liability insurance.
  • Worker’s comp.
  • Property insurance (think your business location, tools, and equipment you use).
  • And more. Be sure to research these different insurance types and purchase the necessary ones.

Pro tip: Check out this article on small business insurance.

5. Create a website.

After handling the research, taking care of legalities, and honing your products or services, it is time to create your website . When creating your website, you will need to choose a strong ecommerce platform that will allow you to sell products online.

Pro tip: Check out Hubspot’s free CMS tool for website building here.

6. Set up shop.

Once your website is complete, it’s time to add products or services to your store. When adding your products, pay attention to product images and descriptions. Having a crisp image and a detailed but concise description will help your audience maneuver your website smoothly.

After you have finished setting up your store, it’s critical to ensure you offer a seamless shipping or delivery experience to your buyers. For example, you can use HubSpot to manage quality control before you ship products out.

Finally, you want to make sure everything is working before you hit the live button on your website. Make sure that everything is clickable and that all pages look good across all devices and browsers. Once you’ve checked that, you are ready to go live.

Pro tip: If you take credit card information on your website, you will need to abide by compliance laws that ensure the safety of sensitive data. Read more on credit card compliance .

7. Create a marketing plan.

You’ve created an awesome product, and now it’s time to get the word out. In other words, it’s time to grow your audience. There are numerous ways to reach your target customer, including:

  • Social media : Use hashtags and paid ads to expand your reach.
  • Influencer marketing : Send free samples to “celebrities” in your niche.
  • Facebook groups : Connect with your target market on this platform.
  • Google advertising : Put your products in front of people all over the web.
  • Content marketing : Publish blog posts to bring organic traffic to your site.
  • Word-of-mouth : Encourage customers to spread the word.
  • YouTube videos : Start a channel to showcase your products.

Pro Tip: Google ads and LinkedIn ads regularly offer discounts or free ad money; consider using these promos to try online advertisements out.

8 . Grow your business.

You’ve heard it said that in business, you’re either growing or you’re dying. Here are a couple of tips for growing your business online:

  • Reduce the amount of time it takes online viewers to receive value from you and your brand.
  • Answer the questions no one in your industry is answering — for example, a lot of companies won’t talk about pricing, forcing customers to keep looking for someone who will.
  • Create a dynamic website that changes with the times. Update your images and writing to reflect what’s happening with your business now, and ensure your website isn’t dating you.
  • Invest in content and SEO . They aren’t cheap, but they are really important for being found online, organically.

Pro tip: Check out this blog on how to become an SEO expert, according to HubSpot’s SEO team.

9. Watch your income and expenditures closely.

The first year of your business is an essential set point for discovering your overhead and your profit. Have a date in mind of when you want your business to start turning a profit and a solid plan for if you aren’t meeting that goal. Read further on potential exit strategies below.

Pro tip: Use a free business budget template to monitor your finances.

10. Plan for an exit strategy.

If you’re like me, you didn’t consider an exit strategy when thinking up your business. You probably assumed you’d run your business for the foreseeable future. However, economic uncertainty or unexpected success can both impact the end of your business. In fact, 90% of startups fail , which makes it a wise choice to know under what circumstances you would close down your business.

You could also experience unexpected buzz and success and be offered a buyout. A good exit strategy will plan for this as well. What amount of money would make selling worth it? Consider also how long you would have to run your business before considering offers. Some want to sell high and fast, whereas other business owners want to see where things go during a set amount of time.

An exit strategy could also include who you want to inherit your business, maybe family or an employee.

Pro tip: Check out this blog on the importance of having an exit strategy.

Next Steps: Getting Ready to Launch Your Business

I know from experience that being a small business owner isn’t easy, but with the right plan, you can set up your business for success. Be sure to check and know your requirements, have a solid business plan, and submit your legal paperwork before you take your business live. Once you have a solid business plan and the financing to execute your goals, you’ll be well on the path to launching a successful enterprise.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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How to make a business plan

Strategic planning in Miro

Table of Contents

How to make a good business plan: step-by-step guide.

A business plan is a strategic roadmap used to navigate the challenging journey of entrepreneurship. It's the foundation upon which you build a successful business.

A well-crafted business plan can help you define your vision, clarify your goals, and identify potential problems before they arise.

But where do you start? How do you create a business plan that sets you up for success?

This article will explore the step-by-step process of creating a comprehensive business plan.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a formal document that outlines a business's objectives, strategies, and operational procedures. It typically includes the following information about a company:

Products or services

Target market

Competitors

Marketing and sales strategies

Financial plan

Management team

A business plan serves as a roadmap for a company's success and provides a blueprint for its growth and development. It helps entrepreneurs and business owners organize their ideas, evaluate the feasibility, and identify potential challenges and opportunities.

As well as serving as a guide for business owners, a business plan can attract investors and secure funding. It demonstrates the company's understanding of the market, its ability to generate revenue and profits, and its strategy for managing risks and achieving success.

Business plan vs. business model canvas

A business plan may seem similar to a business model canvas, but each document serves a different purpose.

A business model canvas is a high-level overview that helps entrepreneurs and business owners quickly test and iterate their ideas. It is often a one-page document that briefly outlines the following:

Key partnerships

Key activities

Key propositions

Customer relationships

Customer segments

Key resources

Cost structure

Revenue streams

On the other hand, a Business Plan Template provides a more in-depth analysis of a company's strategy and operations. It is typically a lengthy document and requires significant time and effort to develop.

A business model shouldn’t replace a business plan, and vice versa. Business owners should lay the foundations and visually capture the most important information with a Business Model Canvas Template . Because this is a fast and efficient way to communicate a business idea, a business model canvas is a good starting point before developing a more comprehensive business plan.

A business plan can aim to secure funding from investors or lenders, while a business model canvas communicates a business idea to potential customers or partners.

Why is a business plan important?

A business plan is crucial for any entrepreneur or business owner wanting to increase their chances of success.

Here are some of the many benefits of having a thorough business plan.

Helps to define the business goals and objectives

A business plan encourages you to think critically about your goals and objectives. Doing so lets you clearly understand what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there.

A well-defined set of goals, objectives, and key results also provides a sense of direction and purpose, which helps keep business owners focused and motivated.

Guides decision-making

A business plan requires you to consider different scenarios and potential problems that may arise in your business. This awareness allows you to devise strategies to deal with these issues and avoid pitfalls.

With a clear plan, entrepreneurs can make informed decisions aligning with their overall business goals and objectives. This helps reduce the risk of making costly mistakes and ensures they make decisions with long-term success in mind.

Attracts investors and secures funding

Investors and lenders often require a business plan before considering investing in your business. A document that outlines the company's goals, objectives, and financial forecasts can help instill confidence in potential investors and lenders.

A well-written business plan demonstrates that you have thoroughly thought through your business idea and have a solid plan for success.

Identifies potential challenges and risks

A business plan requires entrepreneurs to consider potential challenges and risks that could impact their business. For example:

Is there enough demand for my product or service?

Will I have enough capital to start my business?

Is the market oversaturated with too many competitors?

What will happen if my marketing strategy is ineffective?

By identifying these potential challenges, entrepreneurs can develop strategies to mitigate risks and overcome challenges. This can reduce the likelihood of costly mistakes and ensure the business is well-positioned to take on any challenges.

Provides a basis for measuring success

A business plan serves as a framework for measuring success by providing clear goals and financial projections . Entrepreneurs can regularly refer to the original business plan as a benchmark to measure progress. By comparing the current business position to initial forecasts, business owners can answer questions such as:

Are we where we want to be at this point?

Did we achieve our goals?

If not, why not, and what do we need to do?

After assessing whether the business is meeting its objectives or falling short, business owners can adjust their strategies as needed.

How to make a business plan step by step

The steps below will guide you through the process of creating a business plan and what key components you need to include.

1. Create an executive summary

Start with a brief overview of your entire plan. The executive summary should cover your business plan's main points and key takeaways.

Keep your executive summary concise and clear with the Executive Summary Template . The simple design helps readers understand the crux of your business plan without reading the entire document.

2. Write your company description

Provide a detailed explanation of your company. Include information on what your company does, the mission statement, and your vision for the future.

Provide additional background information on the history of your company, the founders, and any notable achievements or milestones.

3. Conduct a market analysis

Conduct an in-depth analysis of your industry, competitors, and target market. This is best done with a SWOT analysis to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Next, identify your target market's needs, demographics, and behaviors.

Use the Competitive Analysis Template to brainstorm answers to simple questions like:

What does the current market look like?

Who are your competitors?

What are they offering?

What will give you a competitive advantage?

Who is your target market?

What are they looking for and why?

How will your product or service satisfy a need?

These questions should give you valuable insights into the current market and where your business stands.

4. Describe your products and services

Provide detailed information about your products and services. This includes pricing information, product features, and any unique selling points.

Use the Product/Market Fit Template to explain how your products meet the needs of your target market. Describe what sets them apart from the competition.

5. Design a marketing and sales strategy

Outline how you plan to promote and sell your products. Your marketing strategy and sales strategy should include information about your:

Pricing strategy

Advertising and promotional tactics

Sales channels

The Go to Market Strategy Template is a great way to visually map how you plan to launch your product or service in a new or existing market.

6. Determine budget and financial projections

Document detailed information on your business’ finances. Describe the current financial position of the company and how you expect the finances to play out.

Some details to include in this section are:

Startup costs

Revenue projections

Profit and loss statement

Funding you have received or plan to receive

Strategy for raising funds

7. Set the organization and management structure

Define how your company is structured and who will be responsible for each aspect of the business. Use the Business Organizational Chart Template to visually map the company’s teams, roles, and hierarchy.

As well as the organization and management structure, discuss the legal structure of your business. Clarify whether your business is a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or LLC.

8. Make an action plan

At this point in your business plan, you’ve described what you’re aiming for. But how are you going to get there? The Action Plan Template describes the following steps to move your business plan forward. Outline the next steps you plan to take to bring your business plan to fruition.

Types of business plans

Several types of business plans cater to different purposes and stages of a company's lifecycle. Here are some of the most common types of business plans.

Startup business plan

A startup business plan is typically an entrepreneur's first business plan. This document helps entrepreneurs articulate their business idea when starting a new business.

Not sure how to make a business plan for a startup? It’s pretty similar to a regular business plan, except the primary purpose of a startup business plan is to convince investors to provide funding for the business. A startup business plan also outlines the potential target market, product/service offering, marketing plan, and financial projections.

Strategic business plan

A strategic business plan is a long-term plan that outlines a company's overall strategy, objectives, and tactics. This type of strategic plan focuses on the big picture and helps business owners set goals and priorities and measure progress.

The primary purpose of a strategic business plan is to provide direction and guidance to the company's management team and stakeholders. The plan typically covers a period of three to five years.

Operational business plan

An operational business plan is a detailed document that outlines the day-to-day operations of a business. It focuses on the specific activities and processes required to run the business, such as:

Organizational structure

Staffing plan

Production plan

Quality control

Inventory management

Supply chain

The primary purpose of an operational business plan is to ensure that the business runs efficiently and effectively. It helps business owners manage their resources, track their performance, and identify areas for improvement.

Growth-business plan

A growth-business plan is a strategic plan that outlines how a company plans to expand its business. It helps business owners identify new market opportunities and increase revenue and profitability. The primary purpose of a growth-business plan is to provide a roadmap for the company's expansion and growth.

The 3 Horizons of Growth Template is a great tool to identify new areas of growth. This framework categorizes growth opportunities into three categories: Horizon 1 (core business), Horizon 2 (emerging business), and Horizon 3 (potential business).

One-page business plan

A one-page business plan is a condensed version of a full business plan that focuses on the most critical aspects of a business. It’s a great tool for entrepreneurs who want to quickly communicate their business idea to potential investors, partners, or employees.

A one-page business plan typically includes sections such as business concept, value proposition, revenue streams, and cost structure.

Best practices for how to make a good business plan

Here are some additional tips for creating a business plan:

Use a template

A template can help you organize your thoughts and effectively communicate your business ideas and strategies. Starting with a template can also save you time and effort when formatting your plan.

Miro’s extensive library of customizable templates includes all the necessary sections for a comprehensive business plan. With our templates, you can confidently present your business plans to stakeholders and investors.

Be practical

Avoid overestimating revenue projections or underestimating expenses. Your business plan should be grounded in practical realities like your budget, resources, and capabilities.

Be specific

Provide as much detail as possible in your business plan. A specific plan is easier to execute because it provides clear guidance on what needs to be done and how. Without specific details, your plan may be too broad or vague, making it difficult to know where to start or how to measure success.

Be thorough with your research

Conduct thorough research to fully understand the market, your competitors, and your target audience . By conducting thorough research, you can identify potential risks and challenges your business may face and develop strategies to mitigate them.

Get input from others

It can be easy to become overly focused on your vision and ideas, leading to tunnel vision and a lack of objectivity. By seeking input from others, you can identify potential opportunities you may have overlooked.

Review and revise regularly

A business plan is a living document. You should update it regularly to reflect market, industry, and business changes. Set aside time for regular reviews and revisions to ensure your plan remains relevant and effective.

Create a winning business plan to chart your path to success

Starting or growing a business can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting, a well-written business plan can make or break your business’ success.

The purpose of a business plan is more than just to secure funding and attract investors. It also serves as a roadmap for achieving your business goals and realizing your vision. With the right mindset, tools, and strategies, you can develop a visually appealing, persuasive business plan.

Ready to make an effective business plan that works for you? Check out our library of ready-made strategy and planning templates and chart your path to success.

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Blog Feature Updates

Startup Business Plans 101: Your Path to Success

By Jay Nair , Jul 24, 2023

how to make a start up business plan

It’s time — you’ve got a promising idea and you’re now prepared to invest the necessary effort to turn it into reality. Startup business plans are vital hack tools that will guide you through your entrepreneurial journey and a business venture with clarity and purpose.

Though vital, business planning doesn’t have to be a chore. Business plans for lean startups and solopreneurs can simply outline the business concept, sales proposition, target customers and sketch out a plan of action to bring the product or service to market. These plans will serve as strategic documents outlining your company’s vision, mission statements, business objectives, target market, financial forecasts and growth strategies.

To simplify the creation of a robust business plan as an entrepreneur, you can harness the power of a business plan maker . This invaluable tool streamlines the process and ensures a polished and well-organized presentation.  Startup business plan templates provide pre-designed frameworks that can be customized to suit your specific industry needs, saving valuable time and effort while preserving the essential structure of a comprehensive business plan.

Ready to begin? Let’s go!

how to make a start up business plan

Just so you know, some of our business plan templates are free to use and some require a small monthly fee. Sign-up is always free, as is access to Venngage’s online drag-and-drop editor.

Click to jump ahead:

  • Laying the foundation of your startup business plan
  • Business plan executive summary
  • Writing your business description
  • Marketing & sales strategies
  • Startup operational plans
  • Financial plans – forecasting and projections
  • Team and management
  • Appendix and supporting documents

FAQs on startup business plans

  • Use Venngage to create your startup business plan

Preparation and research: 6 steps to laying the foundation of your startup business plan

  • What problem does your product or service solve? 
  • Who are your target customers? 
  • What differentiates your offering from existing solutions in the market? 

This self-reflection will help you establish a clear direction for your startup.

  • Next, conduct market research to gather valuable insights about your target market , including demographics, preferences, and purchasing behavior . This data will enable you to tailor your product or service to meet the specific needs of your customers. Identify trends, industry growth projections, and any potential barriers or challenges you may encounter.
  • Competitive analysis is another critical aspect of preparation and research. Study your competitors to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and strategies. Analyze their pricing, marketing tactics, customer experience, and product/service features. This analysis will allow you to identify gaps in the market and position your startup to offer a unique value proposition .
  • Financial research is equally important during this phase. Calculate the costs associated with starting and operating your business , including overhead expenses, production costs, marketing expenses, and employee salaries. Assess potential revenue streams and estimate your expected sales. This financial analysis will help you determine the feasibility of your business idea and outline a realistic financial plan.
  • Additionally, gather information about legal and regulatory requirements that apply to your industry and location . Understand the necessary permits, licenses, and certifications you need to operate legally. Complying with these regulations from the outset will prevent potential setbacks or legal issues in the future.
  • Finally, organize your findings and insights into a coherent business plan. Create your business plan outline , list your business plan goals, strategies, target market, competitive analysis, marketing plan, financial projections and any other relevant information. This compilation will serve as a roadmap for your startup, guiding your decisions and actions moving forward.

You’ve just encountered a wealth of information and are well on your way to becoming a seasoned business owner! This can sometimes feel overwhelming. But don’t worry, take a moment to breathe deeply and remember how far you’ve come. You’ve got this!

To help you condense and organize your essential points, I have brilliant one-page samples of business plan layouts and templates that will capture everything in a concise format.

how to make a start up business plan

Knowing when to use a one-page business plan versus a more comprehensive plan depends on various factors. A one-page business plan is ideal for providing a quick overview, saving time, and internal planning. However, it may not suffice for detailed information, complex business models, or meeting external stakeholders’ expectations.

Ultimately, consider the purpose, audience, and complexity of your business when deciding whether to utilize a one-page business plan or opt for a more detailed approach.

Executive Summary: Your Startup’s Elevator Pitch

First impressions are crucial, and a concise yet comprehensive executive summary is your chance to grab potential investors’ attention.

To create a compelling elevator pitch, consider the following key elements:

Problem Statement : Clearly articulate the problem or pain point that your startup addresses. Emphasize the significance of the problem and the potential market size

Solution : Concisely describe your innovative solution or product that solves the identified problem. Highlight its unique features or benefits that differentiate it from existing alternatives.

Target Market : Define your ideal customer segment and outline the market potential. Demonstrate a deep understanding of your target audience’s needs, preferences, and behavior.

Competitive Advantage : Showcase the competitive edge that sets your startup apart from competitors. This could include intellectual property, strategic partnerships, cost advantages, or disruptive technology.

Business Model : Briefly explain how your startup generates revenue and sustains profitability. Outline your monetization strategy, pricing model, and any recurring revenue streams .

Traction and Milestones : Highlight any significant achievements or milestones reached by your startup. This could include customer acquisitions, partnerships, product development progress, or market validation.

Team : Showcase the expertise and qualifications of your founding team or business partners. Highlight key members and their relevant experiences demonstrating their ability to execute the business plan.

I can sense your eagerness to dive right in! To expedite your progress, I’m excited to present you with a collection of meticulously crafted executive summary templates. These templates have been thoughtfully designed and structured by Venngage designers, ensuring seamless integration into your thorough business plan. All you need to do is infuse them with your brilliant startup ideas, and you’ll be well on your way to success!

how to make a start up business plan

Now, remember that there’s still a ton of work to be done. Let’s take a moment to regroup and ensure we’re on the right track. Before diving into the process of writing your business plan , it’s imperative to gather a wealth of essential information. Conducting comprehensive research is key, and it should encompass the following aspects:

How to assess your target audience

To gain comprehensive insights into your potential user base, creating a user persona report is invaluable. This persona guide report will help you develop a detailed understanding of various user profiles, enabling you to tailor your products or services to meet their specific needs and preferences.

how to make a start up business plan

Understanding Your Market and Competition

Analyze your market and any trends relevant to your startup. Research your competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, and identify what differentiates your offering from the competition.

how to make a start up business plan

Developing a Unique Value Proposition

A business Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is a concise statement that communicates the unique advantage a product or service offers over competitors, addressing a specific problem or need. It highlights the distinctive value and benefits customers can expect, helping businesses attract and retain customers by differentiating themselves in the market.

Your unique value proposition (UVP) is the cornerstone of your startup, defining what sets you apart from your competitors. A strong UVP focuses on the specific benefits and solutions your startup offers to customers.

how to make a start up business plan

Company Description: Painting the Picture

Your company description allows you to showcase your startup’s unique features and provide more in-depth details about your business. This section should include:

The Purpose of the Company Description

Clarify the purpose of your business, your goals and how your startup is uniquely positioned to achieve them.

Essential Information to Include

Include details such as your company’s legal structure, location and a brief history of any founders or key personnel.

Showcase Your Company’s Unique Features

Emphasize the unique aspects of your startup, explaining how these features translate into a competitive advantage.

Allow me to provide you with a dash of inspiration to ignite the momentum for your startup business plan:

how to make a start up business plan

When it comes to showcasing your company’s unique features, keep in mind that it is essential to emphasize and highlight the distinctive aspects of your startup . Clearly articulate how these features set your company apart from competitors and translate into a tangible competitive advantage . 

Whether it’s through cutting-edge technology, innovative business models, exceptional customer service, or a combination of factors, conveying the value and impact of these unique features is crucial. By effectively communicating the benefits they bring to customers, investors, and partners, you can demonstrate the significance of your offerings and differentiate yourself in the market.

Product/Service Line: What You’re Bringing to the Table

This section highlights the finer details of your product or service offerings:

Detailing Your Product/Service Offerings

Provide a thorough description of your products/services, highlighting key features and their intended use.

how to make a start up business plan

Highlighting Features, Benefits, and Solutions

Demonstrate how your startup’s offerings solve specific problems or address customer needs through an analysis of product features and associated benefits.

how to make a start up business plan

Defining Your Pricing and Revenue Model

Outline your startup’s pricing strategy and how it aligns with the overall business model. Detail any plans for scaling or expanding your revenue sources in the future.

how to make a start up business plan

Presenting Your Market Research Findings

Share insights from your market research, including target customer demographics, market size, and growth potential.

how to make a start up business plan

Identifying Market Trends and Opportunities

Discuss current trends, emerging opportunities, and how your startup will capitalize on these developments.

how to make a start up business plan

Marketing and Sales Strategies: Spreading the Word

Developing a robust marketing and sales strategy plan aligns with your overall business strategy and ensures steady growth. Marketing planning will be an essential part of your journey once you’ve got your business plan tight-knit! Also, creating a marketing strategy can be the most fun part of your business plan!

Developing a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy & Plan

  • Outline Specific Marketing Goals : Clearly define your marketing objectives, whether it’s increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, generating leads, or boosting sales . Set measurable targets to track progress.
  • Identify Target Audience : Conduct thorough market research to identify your ideal customer profiles. Understand their demographics, behaviors, preferences, and pain points. Tailor your marketing messages to resonate with their needs.
  • Select Effective Marketing Channels : Consider both digital and traditional channels that align with your target audience and marketing goals. This may include online advertising, social media marketing, content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), email campaigns, print media, events, or partnerships.
  • Craft Compelling Messages : Develop persuasive and consistent messaging that highlights the unique value proposition of your products or services. Clearly communicate how your offerings solve customer problems or improve their lives.

how to make a start up business plan

5 Tips for Effective Sales Techniques and Growth Strategies + free templates

  • Define Your Sales Strategy : Outline the approach and tactics your sales team will use to reach and convert customers. This may involve direct sales, channel partnerships, online sales, or a combination of strategies. Specify your sales process, including lead generation, qualification, nurturing, and closing.
  • Expand Your Customer Base : Identify opportunities to expand your customer reach. Consider targeting new customer segments, entering new geographic markets, or exploring untapped market niches. Develop strategies to attract and engage these potential customers.
  • Penetrate New Markets : Assess the feasibility of expanding into new markets or verticals. Market research will help you understand the dynamics, competition, and customer needs in these markets. Adapt your marketing and sales strategies accordingly to effectively penetrate and capture market share.
  • Innovate Products/Services : Continuously evaluate and enhance your product or service offerings to meet evolving customer demands. Identify areas for innovation or improvement and develop a roadmap for launching new features, versions, or complementary offerings.
  • Perform a SWOT analysis : By conducting a sales SWOT analysis , you will gather valuable insights to enhance your department’s performance. This analysis involves evaluating your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, enabling you to identify areas for improvement and capitalize on advantageous factors in the market.

Here’s a hack to get you organized – Get right into it with the help of these growth strategy templates and strategic planning templates :

how to make a start up business plan

Operational Plan: How Your Startup Will Run

Define an efficient and scalable operational plan, keeping in mind the following points:

Defining an Efficient and Scalable Plan

Outline the day-to-day operations, including processes, timelines, and necessary resources.

Legal Considerations for Your Startup Business

Identify any legal requirements or considerations, such as licenses, permits, or regulations that may apply to your startup.

Key Elements of Supply Chain Management and Logistics

Discuss supply chain and logistical aspects relevant to your business. Include details on how you plan to manage and scale these processes.

Here’s a kickstart on how you can structure your operating plans:

how to make a start up business plan

Financial Projections: Crunching the Numbers

A startup’s financial projections are vital in securing investor buy-in. This section should address:

The Importance of Financial Forecasting and Budgeting

Explain the significance of accurate financial forecasting, budgeting, and the assumptions made in your projections.

Identifying Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Highlight the KPIs used to gauge your business’s financial health and growth trajectory.

Outlining Funding Requirements

Detail the amount and type of funding your startup requires , including how the funds will be allocated and how this investment positions the company for growth.

how to make a start up business plan

Team and Management Structure: Building Your Dream Team

Your startup’s success depends on the people behind it. This section should cover:

Tips for Building the Right Team

Share your strategy for assembling a skilled team that supports your startup’s vision and growth trajectory.

Founders’ Background and Roles

Provide an overview of the founders’ backgrounds, their roles within the company, and how their skills contribute to the startup’s success.

Organizational Structure and Key Management Personnel

Outline your startup’s organizational structure, including any key management personnel who play a pivotal role in day-to-day operations.

Appendices and Supporting Documents: Backing Up Your Plan

Include any other relevant supporting documents, such as:

  • Research data, market analysis, or competitor analyses.
  • Financial statements, budgeting or forecasting data, and other financial documentation.
  • Legal documents, agreements or contracts, and any patent or trademark information.

Finally, remember to review and update your business plan regularly as the industry, market, and competitive landscape evolve!

1. Why is a business plan essential for a startup?

A startup business plan is crucial for a startup because it provides a framework for strategic decision-making, facilitates financial planning, helps assess risks, aligns teams, communicates your vision, and ensures effective resource allocation. 

2. What should a startup business plan include?

A startup business plan should include:

  • Vision and Direction : Set clear goals and objectives, and outline strategies to achieve them. With a well-defined plan, you will stay focused, make informed decisions, and ensure alignment with your vision.
  • Market Analysis : A business plan necessitates thorough market research to understand your target market, identify competition, and assess product/service demand. These insights enable you to tailor offerings, meet customer needs, and gain a competitive edge.
  • Financial Planning : By constructing a financial roadmap through projected statements such as income, cash flow, and balance sheets, a business plan unveils the expected revenues, expenses, and profitability. This comprehensive planning not only anticipates challenges and sets realistic goals but also serves as a magnet for attracting investors and securing funding.
  • Risk Assessment : Devise strategies for risk mitigation and contingency planning. By proactively doing this, you can significantly enhance the likelihood of success by anticipating and effectively addressing potential obstacles.
  • Communication and Team Alignment : From fostering effective communication with both internal and external stakeholders to aligning team members and showcasing your startup’s unique value proposition, a business plan plays a crucial role. It enables you to articulate target market insights, competitive advantages, and growth strategies to potential investors, partners, and employees.
  • Resource Allocation : A business plan helps you identify the resources required to launch and operate your startup successfully. It includes an assessment of your human resources, technology needs, infrastructure requirements, and other key resources. By understanding your resource needs, you can allocate them effectively, ensuring that you have the necessary assets to execute your business strategy.
  • Adaptability and Flexibility : Your business plan should be flexible enough to accommodate changes and adapt to new circumstances. Startups operate in dynamic environments, and a well-designed plan allows you to monitor progress, evaluate outcomes, and make adjustments as needed. This agility enables you to seize new opportunities and navigate challenges effectively.

3. What is the ideal length for a startup business plan?

The optimal length for a startup business plan typically depends on the specific requirements and intended audience, but a concise and focused plan of around 20 to 30 pages is often recommended.

4. How to write a good startup business plan?

To write a good and effective startup plan, include an executive summary, company description, market analysis, detailed products/services description and a clear marketing and sales strategy. Also incorporate a comprehensive financial plan, outline your organizational structure, and demonstrates your team’s expertise and capabilities. Your plan should be well-researched, concise, and compelling, with a focus on your company’s unique value proposition and market opportunity, making it attractive to investors and stakeholders.

Utilizing Venngage templates & other tools for success

A visually appealing and professional business plan needn’t be a daunting task. Leverage tools like Venngage Business Plan Maker for effective templates that cater to various industries and streamline the process. 

  • Leveraging Venngage for Visually Appealing and Professional Business Plans

Venngage offers a range of templates designed specifically for business plans, allowing you to craft a polished and visually engaging plan without any design experience. Simply choose a template, customize it to suit your startup’s branding, and populate it with your content.

  • Exploring Additional Resources and Tools for Entrepreneurs. In addition to Venngage, several other resources and tools can assist entrepreneurs in crafting the perfect business plan. Examples include:
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) – Offers guidance on writing business plans and provides templates and resources for each section.
  • SCORE – A nonprofit organization providing mentorship, workshops, and other resources for entrepreneurs.
  • Industry-specific resources – Research relevant professional organizations, industry publications, and blogs to stay up to date on industry trends and insights.

Embarking on the entrepreneurial path may present formidable challenges, yet it offers abundant rewards in various aspects. Embrace the art of continuous learning, delving not only into the essence of your business idea but also immersing yourself in the vast world that surrounds it. Cultivate a genuine passion for understanding every facet of your enterprise, for it is through this journey of exploration that you will uncover invaluable insights and experience the true fulfillment of entrepreneurship.

how to make a start up business plan

business plan

How to Write a Business Plan in 2023: The Ultimate Guide for Every Entrepreneur

Are you starting a new business or trying to get a loan for your existing venture? If so, you’re going to need to know how to write a business plan. Business plans give entrepreneurs the opportunity to formally analyze and define every aspect of their business idea .

In this post, you’ll learn how to put together a business plan and find the best resources to help you along the way.

how to make a start up business plan

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how to make a start up business plan

What is a Business Plan? 

A business plan is a formal document that outlines your business’s goals and how you will achieve those goals. Entrepreneurs who start out with business plans are 16 percent more likely to build successful companies , according to the Harvard Business Review.  Developing a business plan ensures sustainable success, guiding you as you grow your business, legitimizing your venture, and helping you secure funding (among countless other benefits). 

What Are the Main Purposes of a Business Plan?

Most financial institutions and service providers require you to submit a detailed business plan to obtain funding for your business. Online businesses will likely have a low overhead to start, so they may not need funding and therefore may not feel the need to write a business plan. That said, writing a business plan is still a good idea as it can help you secure a drastic increase limit on your credit card as your business grows or open a business account. This varies per bank.

If you’re growing your business, use it to help you raise expansion capital, create a growth strategy, find opportunities, and mitigate risks.Palo Alto software found that companies who make business plans are twice as likely to secure funding . .

→ Click Here to Launch Your Online Business with Shopify

If you’re just starting your business, making a business plan can help you  identify your strengths and weaknesses, communicate your vision to others, and develop accurate forecasts.

business plan format

How to Make a Business Plan: The Prerequisites 

Here are the prerequisites to creating a solid business plan:

  • Establish goals
  • Understand your audience
  • Determine your business plan format
  • Get to writing! 

Establish Goals

There are two key questions to ask here: 

  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business plan?

Approaching your business plan through that lens will help you focus on the end goal throughout the writing process. These also provide metrics to measure success against. 

Before writing your business plan, gather the content and data needed to inform what goes in it. This includes researching your market and industry – spanning everything from customer research to legalities you’ll need to consider. It’s a lot easier to start with the information already in front of you instead of researching each section individually as you go. 

Turn to guides, samples, and small business plan templates to help. Many countries have an official administration or service dedicated to providing information, resources, and tools to help entrepreneurs and store owners plan, launch, manage, and grow their businesses. 

The following will take you to online business plan guides and templates for specific countries.

  • United States Small Business Administration (SBA) – The “write your business plan page” includes traditional and lean startup business plan formats, three downloadable sample business plans, a template, and a step-by-step build a business plan tool.
  • Australian Government – The “business plan template” page includes a downloadable template, guide, and business plan creation app.
  • UK Government Business and Self-Employed – The “write a business plan” page includes links to a downloadable business plan template and resources from trusted UK businesses. .
  • Canada Business Network – The “writing your business plan” page includes a detailed guide to writing your business plan and links to business plan templates from Canadian business development organizations and banks.

These business resource sites also offer a wealth of valuable information for entrepreneurs including local and regional regulations, structuring, tax obligations, funding programs, market research data, and much more. Visit the sites above or do the following Google searches to find official local business resources in your area:

  • your country government business services
  • your state/province government business services
  • your city government business services

Some Chamber of Commerce websites offer resources for business owners, including business plan guides and templates. Check your local chapter to see if they have any.

Banks that offer business funding also often have a resource section for entrepreneurs. Do a Google search to find banks that offer business funding as well as business plan advice to see the business plans that get funding. If your bank doesn’t offer any advice, search for the largest banks in your area:

  • business plan guide bank name
  • business plan samples bank name
  • business plan template bank name

If you’re looking for more sample business plans, Bplans has over 500 free business plan samples organized by business type as well as a business plan template. Their collection includes 116 business plans for retail and online stores. Shopify also offers business plan templates intended to help small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs identify functional areas of a business they may not have considered.

how to make a start up business plan

Understand Your Audience

Because business plans serve different purposes, you’re not always presenting it to the same audience. It’s important to understand who’s going to be reading your business plan, what you’re trying to convince them to do, and what hesitations they might have. 

That way, you can adapt your business plan accordingly. As such, your audience also determines which type of business plan format you use. Which brings us to our next point…

Which Business Plan Format Should You Use? 

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) presents two business plan formats: 

  • The traditional business plan format is for entrepreneurs who want to create a detailed plan for themselves or for business funding. 
  • The lean startup business plan format, on the other hand, is for business owners that want to create a condensed, single-page business plan.

If the business plan is just for you and internal folks, draft a lean startup business plan or a customized version of the traditional business plan with only the sections you need. If you need it for business funding or other official purposes, choose the formal business plan and thoroughly complete the required sections while paying extra attention to financial projections.

If your business operates outside the U.S., clarify the preferred format with your bank.

How to Create a Business Plan: Questions to Ask Yourself

As you write a business plan, take time to not only analyze your business idea, but yourself as well. Ask the following questions to help you analyze your business idea along the way:

  • Why do I want to start or expand my business?
  • Do my goals (personal and professional) and values align with my business idea?
  • What income do I need to generate for myself?
  • What education, experience, and skills do I bring to my business?

how to make a start up business plan

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

According to the business plan template created by SCORE, Deluxe, and the SBA , a traditional business plan encompasses the following sections. 

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Products & services
  • Market analysis
  • Marketing & sales
  • Management & organization
  • Funding request
  • Financial projections
  • SWOT analysis

Since not everyone is aware of the key details to include in each section, we’ve listed information you can copy to fill in your business plan outline. Here’s how to build a business plan step by step.  

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is the first part of your business plan, so this is where you need to hook readers in. Every business plan starts this way — even a simple business plan template should kick off with the Executive Summary. Summarize your entire business plan in a single page, highlighting details about your business that will excite potential investors and lenders. 

Explain what your business has to offer, your target market , what separates you from the competition, a little bit about yourself and the core people behind your business, and realistic projections about your business’ success.

While this is the first section of your business plan, write it after you’ve completed the rest of your business plan. It’s a lot easier because you can pull from the sections you’ve already written, and it’s easier to identify the best parts of your business plan to include on the first page.

Company Description

In the Company Description, share 411 about your business. Include basic details like: 

  • Legal structure (sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, etc.)
  • Business and tax ID numbers
  • When the business started
  • Ownership information
  • Number of employees

Your mission statement , philosophy and values, vision, short- and long-term goals, and milestones along with a brief overview of your industry, market, outlook, and competitors should also be in the Company Description.

Pro tip: These are the details you’ll use each time you create a business profile, whether that's on social media, business directories, or other networks. Keep your information consistent to reduce confusion and instill more confidence in potential customers. 

Products & Services

The Products & Services section details what you plan to sell to customers. For a dropshipping business , this section should explain which trending products you’re going to sell, the pain points your products solve for customers, how you’ll price your products compared to your competitors, expected profit margin, and production and delivery details.

Remember to include any unique selling points for specific products or product groupings, such as low overhead, exclusive agreements with vendors, the ability to obtain products that are in short supply / high demand based on your connections, personalized customer service, or other advantages.

For dropshipping businesses selling hundreds or even thousands of products, detail the main categories of products and the number of products you plan to offer within each category. By doing this, it’s easier to visualize your business offerings as a whole to determine if you need more products in one category to fully flesh out your online store.

Market Analysis

The Market Analysis section of your business plan allows you to share the research you have done to learn about your target audience — the potential buyers of your products. People requesting a business plan will want to know that you have a solid understanding of your industry, the competitive landscape, who’s most likely to become your customers. It’s important to demonstrate that  there’s a large enough market for your product to make it profitable and/or to make a strong return on investment .

To complete the Market Analysis component of your business plan, check out the following resources for industry, market, and local economic research:

  • U.S. Embassy websites in most countries have a business section with information for people who want to sell abroad. Business sections include a basic “getting started” guide, links to economic and data reports, trade events, and additional useful business links for a particular region.
  • IBISWorld is a provider of free and paid industry research and procurement research reports for the United States , United Kingdom , Australia , and New Zealand .  
  • Statista offers free and paid statistics and studies from over 18,000 sources including industry reports, country reports, market studies, outlook reports, and consumer market reports.   

Use these websites and others to learn about the projected growth of your industry and your potential profitability. You can also use social media tools like Facebook Audience Insights to estimate the size of your target market on the largest social network

Another way to research your market and products is through Google Trends . This free tool will allow you to see how often people search for the products your business offers over time. Be sure to explain how your business plans to capitalize on increasing and decreasing search trends accordingly.

Marketing & Sales

Knowing your target market is half the battle. In the Marketing & Sales section, share how you plan to reach and sell products to your target market. Outline the marketing and advertising strategies you intend to use to market your product to potential customers – search marketing , social media marketing , email marketing , and influencer marketing methods .

If you’re unsure how to market your business’ products, analyze your competitors for some inspiration. Discovering your competition’s marketing tactics will help you customize your own strategy for building a customer base and ultimately taking your business to the next level. 

Do a Google search for your competitor’s business name to find the websites, social accounts, and content they’ve created to market their products. Look at the ways your competitor uses each online entity to drive new customers to their website and product pages.

Then come up with a plan to convert a similar audience with your marketing and advertising messages. For dropshipping businesses, conversions will typically take place on your website as people purchase your products and/or by phone if you take orders over the phone. 

Management & Organization

In the Management & Organization piece of your business plan, describe the structure of your business. In terms of legal structure and incorporation, most businesses are classified as sole proprietorships (one owner), partnerships (two or more owners), corporations, or S corporations.

Draft a condensed resume for each of the key members of your business. If you’re a solopreneur , include how your past education and work experience will help you run each aspect of your business. If you have one or more partner(s) and employee(s), include their relevant education and experience as well.

Think of this as a great way to evaluate the strengths of each individual running your business. When self-evaluating, you’ll be able to identify the aspects of your business that’ll be easier to manage and which ones to delegate to freelancers, contractors, employees, and third-party services. This also makes it easier to find the best way to utilize their strengths for business growth.

Funding Request

Chances are, you don’t have a funding request for a startup dropshipping business since the appeal to dropshipping is the low upfront investment . If you’re looking for a loan, however, this would be the section where you outline the dollar amount you need, what you plan to invest in, and how you see the return on your investment.

Another way to use this section is to analyze the investment you have or plan to make when starting or growing your business. This should include everything from the computer you use to run your website to the monthly fee for business services.

Financial Projections

In Financial Projections, share your projected revenue and expenses for the first or next five years of your business. The idea here is to demonstrate that the revenue you’re anticipating will easily lead to a return on any investment, whether from your personal finances or a capital lending service.

how to make a start up business plan

If you’re looking for funding, you’ll need to go into detail with projected income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and capital expenditure budgets. If you aren’t looking for funding, it won’t hurt to create these types of financial projections so you can realistically plan for the future of your business.

The Appendix of your business plan includes any supplemental documents needed throughout the sections of your business plan. These may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Credit histories
  • Product brochures
  • Legal forms
  • Supplier contracts

If you’re submitting your business plan for funding, contact the lender to see what documentation they want included with your funding request.

SWOT Analysis

In addition to the above sections, some business plans also include a SWOT Analysis. This is a one-page summary of your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The strengths and weaknesses you include will be internal, whereas opportunities and threats you include will be external. 

Depending on the revelations of this section, you may or may not want to make a SWOT analysis when submitting your business plan formally unless it is requested.

how to make a start up business plan

Summary: How to Create a Business Plan

As you can see, creating a business plan for your dropshipping business is a great way to validate your business idea , discover your business’s strengths and weaknesses, and make a blueprint for your business's future.

In summary, here are the sections you will need to write for your business plan, step by step:

  • SWOT analysis (Optional)

If you haven’t already, take the time to create a business plan to launch or grow your business in 2023!

Want to Learn More?

  • How to Start a Dropshipping Business
  • How to Register a Business in the USA
  • How to Launch Your Ecommerce Store in Less Than 30 Minutes Flat
  • 30+ Amazing Startup Business Ideas That’ll Make You Money

how to make a start up business plan

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Free Startup Business Plan Templates and Examples

By Joe Weller | May 6, 2020

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In this article, we’ve rounded up a variety of the top, professionally designed startup business plan templates, all of which are free to download in PDF, Word, and Excel formats.

Included on this page, you’ll find a one-page startup business plan template , a business plan outline template for startups , a startup business planning template with a timeline , and a sample startup business plan .

Startup Business Plan Template

how to make a start up business plan

Download Startup Business Plan Template - Word

Word | Smartsheet

This startup business plan template contains the essential components you need to convey your business idea and strategy to investors and stakeholders, but you can customize this template to fit your needs. The template provides room to include an executive summary, a financial overview, a marketing strategy, details on product or service offerings, and more.

One-Page Startup Business Plan Template

One Page Business Plan For Start Up Template

Download One-Page Startup Business Plan Template

Excel | Word | PDF

This one-page business plan is ideal for startup companies that want to document and organize key business concepts. The template offers an easy-to-scan layout that’s ideal for investors and stakeholders. Use this plan to create a high-level view of your business idea and as a reference as you flesh out a more detailed roadmap for your business.

For additional resources, visit " Free One-Page Business Plan Templates with a Quick How-To Guide ."

Simple Fill-In-the-Blank Business Plan Template for Startups

Simple Fill In The Blank Business Plan Template

Download Simple Fill-in-the-Blank Business Plan Template for Startups

This comprehensive fill-in-the-blank business plan template is designed to guide entrepreneurs through the process of building a startup business plan. This template comes with a customizable cover page and table of contents, and each section includes sample content that you can modify to fit the needs of your business. For more fill-in business templates, read our  "Free Fill-In-the-Blank Business Plan Templates"  article.

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

This Lean business plan template takes a traditional business plan outline and extracts the most essential elements. Use this template to outline your company and industry overview, convey the problem you are solving, identify customer segments, highlight key performance metrics, and list a timeline of key activities.

Business Plan Outline Template for Startups

Simple Business Plan Outline Template

Download Business Plan Outline Template for Startups

You can use this business plan outline as a basis to create your own business plan. This template contains all the elements of a traditional business plan, including a title page, a table of contents, and information on what to include in each section. Simplify or expand this outline based on the size and needs of your startup business.

Startup Business Planning Template with Timeline

Simple Business Planning Template with Timeline

Download Startup Business Planning Template with Timeline

Excel | Smartsheet

As you create your business plan, this business planning template doubles as a schedule and timeline to track the progress of key activities. This template enables you to break down your plan into phases and provides space to include key tasks and dates for each task. For a visual timeline, shade in the cells according to each task’s start and end dates. The timeline ensures that your plan stays on track.

Business Plan Rubric Template for Startups

how to make a start up business plan

Download Business Plan Rubric Template for Startups

Excel | Word | PDF | Smartsheet

If you’re starting a business and want to keep all your ducks in a row, use this rubric to evaluate and score each aspect of your startup business plan. You can tailor this template to the needs of your specific business, and can also highlight areas of your plan that require improvement or expansion. Use this template as a tool to make sure your plan is clear, articulate, and organized. A sharp, insightful, well thought-out plan will definitely get the attention of potential investors and partners.

For additional resources to help support your business planning efforts, check out “Free Startup Plan, Budget, and Cost Templates.”

What’s the Best Business Plan Template for Startups?

The template you choose for your startup business depends on a number of factors, including the size and specific needs of your company. Moreover, as your business grows and your objectives change, you will need to adjust your plan (and possibly your choice of template) accordingly. 

Some entrepreneurs find it useful to use a Lean business plan template design in order to jot down a business concept and see if it’s feasible before pursuing it further. Typically one to three pages, a Lean business plan template encourages you to highlight core ideas and strategic activities and remain focused on key points.

Other entrepreneurs prefer a template with a more traditional business plan design, which allows you to go into greater detail and ensure you include every detail. A traditional plan can range from 10 to 100 pages and cover both the high-level and granular particulars of your overall concept, objectives, and strategy.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but the following section outlines the minimum that your business plan template should include in order to gain buy-in from potential investors.

What to Include in a Startup Business Plan

Whether you choose to use a template to develop your startup business plan or decide to write one from scratch, you need to include the following elements:

  • An overview of your company and the industry in which it operates
  • The problem you are solving and the proposed solution
  • A description of your product or service offerings, including key features
  • The existing alternatives that customers use and your competitive advantage
  • The target customer segments and the channels you will use to reach them
  • The cost structure and revenue streams associated with your business
  • A financial plan, including sales and revenue projections (ideally 3-5 years)
  • If applicable, the financial requirements to get your business running, including how you will source and allocate funds

Each of the following sections provides an example of a business plan that you can use for reference as you develop your own.

One-Page Lean Business Plan Example

This Lean business plan example displays a visually appealing and scannable one-page illustration of a business plan. It conveys the key strategies you need to meet your main objectives. Each element of this concise plan provides stakeholders and potential investors with links to resources that support and expand upon the plan’s details, and it can also serve as an investor pitch deck.

One Page Business Plan Example

Startup Business Plan Sample

This business plan sample contains all the aspects of a standard business plan. Using a fictional food truck business as the basis for a startup business plan, this sample will give you all the ideas you need to make your plan outstanding.

Basic Business Plan Sample

Download Startup Business Plan Sample - PDF

When the time comes that you need more space to lay out your goals and strategies, choose from our variety of  free simple business plan templates . You can learn how to write a successful simple business plan  here . 

Visit this  free non-profit business plan template roundup  or of you are looking for a business plan template by file type, visit our pages dedicated specifically to  Microsoft Excel ,  Microsoft Word , and  Adobe PDF  business plan templates. Read our articles offering  free 30-60-90-day business plan templates  to find more tailored options.

Top 10 Tips to Create a Startup Business Plan

Putting together a business plan can be overwhelming and time consuming, especially if you aren’t sure where to begin. Below, we share tips you can use to help simplify the process of developing a startup business plan of your own. 

  • Use a business plan template, or begin with a business plan outline that provides all the elements of a standard plan to get your ideas down on paper in a structured manner. (You can choose from the selection of templates above.)  
  • Remove sections from your outline that aren’t relevant or that aren’t necessary to launch and operate your business.
  • Compile the data you have gathered on your business and industry, including research on your target market and product or service offerings, details on the competitive landscape, and a financial plan that anticipates the next three to five years. Use that information to fill in the sections of your plan outline. 
  • Get input and feedback from team members (e.g., finance, marketing, sales) and subject matter experts to ensure that the information you’ve included in the plan is accurate.
  • Make certain that the objectives of your plan align with marketing, sales, and financial goals to ensure that all team members are moving in the same direction.
  • Although this section of the plan comes first, write the executive summary last to provide an overview of the key points in your business plan.
  • Prepare a pitch deck for potential clients, partners, or investors with whom you plan to meet in order to share vital information about your business, including what sets you apart and the direction you are headed. 
  • Who are the founders and management executives, and what relevant experience do they bring to the table?
  • What is the problem you are solving, and how is your solution better than what currently exists? 
  • What’s the size of the market, and how much market share do you plan to capture?
  • What are the trends in your market, and how are you applying them to your business?
  • Who are your direct competitors, and what is your competitive advantage?
  • What are the key features of your product or service that set it apart from alternative offerings, and what features do you plan to add in the future?
  • What are the potential risks associated with your business, and how do you plan to address them?
  • How much money do you need to get your business running, and how do you plan to source it?
  • With the money you source, how do you plan to use it to scale your business?
  • What are the key performance metrics associated with your business, and how will you know when you’re successful?
  • Revisit and modify your plan on a regular basis as your goals and strategies evolve.
  • Use a work collaboration tool that keeps key information across teams in one place, allows you to track plan progress, and captures updates in real time.

Successfully Implement Your Startup Business Plan with Real-Time Work Management in Smartsheet

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Written by Jesse Sumrak | May 14, 2023

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Business plans might seem like an old-school stiff-collared practice, but they deserve a place in the startup realm, too. It’s probably not going to be the frame-worthy document you hang in the office—yet, it may one day be deserving of the privilege.

Whether you’re looking to win the heart of an angel investor or convince a bank to lend you money, you’ll need a business plan. And not just any ol’ notes and scribble on the back of a pizza box or napkin—you’ll need a professional, standardized report.

Bah. Sounds like homework, right?

Yes. Yes, it does.

However, just like bookkeeping, loan applications, and 404 redirects, business plans are an essential step in cementing your business foundation.

Don’t worry. We’ll show you how to write a business plan without boring you to tears. We’ve jam-packed this article with all the business plan examples, templates, and tips you need to take your non-existent proposal from concept to completion.

Table of Contents

What Is a Business Plan?

Tips to Make Your Small Business Plan Ironclad

How to Write a Business Plan in 6 Steps

Startup Business Plan Template

Business Plan Examples

Work on Making Your Business Plan

How to Write a Business Plan FAQs

What is a business plan why do you desperately need one.

A business plan is a roadmap that outlines:

  • Who your business is, what it does, and who it serves
  • Where your business is now
  • Where you want it to go
  • How you’re going to make it happen
  • What might stop you from taking your business from Point A to Point B
  • How you’ll overcome the predicted obstacles

While it’s not required when starting a business, having a business plan is helpful for a few reasons:

  • Secure a Bank Loan: Before approving you for a business loan, banks will want to see that your business is legitimate and can repay the loan. They want to know how you’re going to use the loan and how you’ll make monthly payments on your debt. Lenders want to see a sound business strategy that doesn’t end in loan default.
  • Win Over Investors: Like lenders, investors want to know they’re going to make a return on their investment. They need to see your business plan to have the confidence to hand you money.
  • Stay Focused: It’s easy to get lost chasing the next big thing. Your business plan keeps you on track and focused on the big picture. Your business plan can prevent you from wasting time and resources on something that isn’t aligned with your business goals.

Beyond the reasoning, let’s look at what the data says:

  • Simply writing a business plan can boost your average annual growth by 30%
  • Entrepreneurs who create a formal business plan are 16% more likely to succeed than those who don’t
  • A study looking at 65 fast-growth companies found that 71% had small business plans
  • The process and output of creating a business plan have shown to improve business performance

Convinced yet? If those numbers and reasons don’t have you scrambling for pen and paper, who knows what will.

Don’t Skip: Business Startup Costs Checklist

Before we get into the nitty-gritty steps of how to write a business plan, let’s look at some high-level tips to get you started in the right direction:

Be Professional and Legit

You might be tempted to get cutesy or revolutionary with your business plan—resist the urge. While you should let your brand and creativity shine with everything you produce, business plans fall more into the realm of professional documents.

Think of your business plan the same way as your terms and conditions, employee contracts, or financial statements. You want your plan to be as uniform as possible so investors, lenders, partners, and prospective employees can find the information they need to make important decisions.

If you want to create a fun summary business plan for internal consumption, then, by all means, go right ahead. However, for the purpose of writing this external-facing document, keep it legit.

Know Your Audience

Your official business plan document is for lenders, investors, partners, and big-time prospective employees. Keep these names and faces in your mind as you draft your plan.

Think about what they might be interested in seeing, what questions they’ll ask, and what might convince (or scare) them. Cut the jargon and tailor your language so these individuals can understand.

Remember, these are busy people. They’re likely looking at hundreds of applicants and startup investments every month. Keep your business plan succinct and to the point. Include the most pertinent information and omit the sections that won’t impact their decision-making.

Invest Time Researching

You might not have answers to all the sections you should include in your business plan. Don’t skip over these!

Your audience will want:

  • Detailed information about your customers
  • Numbers and solid math to back up your financial claims and estimates
  • Deep insights about your competitors and potential threats
  • Data to support market opportunities and strategy

Your answers can’t be hypothetical or opinionated. You need research to back up your claims. If you don’t have that data yet, then invest time and money in collecting it. That information isn’t just critical for your business plan—it’s essential for owning, operating, and growing your company.

Stay Realistic

Your business may be ambitious, but reign in the enthusiasm just a teeny-tiny bit. The last thing you want to do is have an angel investor call BS and say “I’m out” before even giving you a chance.

The folks looking at your business and evaluating your plan have been around the block—they know a thing or two about fact and fiction. Your plan should be a blueprint for success. It should be the step-by-step roadmap for how you’re going from Point A to Point B.

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How to Write a Business Plan—6 Essential Elements

Not every business plan looks the same, but most share a few common elements. Here’s what they typically include:

  • Executive Summary
  • Business Overview
  • Products and Services
  • Market Analysis
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Financial Strategy

Below, we’ll break down each of these sections in more detail.

1. Executive Summary

While your executive summary is the first page of your business plan, it’s the section you’ll write last. That’s because it summarizes your entire business plan into a succinct one-pager.

Begin with an executive summary that introduces the reader to your business and gives them an overview of what’s inside the business plan.

Your executive summary highlights key points of your plan. Consider this your elevator pitch. You want to put all your juiciest strengths and opportunities strategically in this section.

2. Business Overview

In this section, you can dive deeper into the elements of your business, including answering:

  • What’s your business structure? Sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc.
  • Where is it located?
  • Who owns the business? Does it have employees?
  • What problem does it solve, and how?
  • What’s your mission statement? Your mission statement briefly describes why you are in business. To write a proper mission statement, brainstorm your business’s core values and who you serve.

Don’t overlook your mission statement. This powerful sentence or paragraph could be the inspiration that drives an investor to take an interest in your business. Here are a few examples of powerful mission statements that just might give you the goosebumps:

  • Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
  • Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
  • InvisionApp : Question Assumptions. Think Deeply. Iterate as a Lifestyle. Details, Details. Design is Everywhere. Integrity.
  • TED : Spread ideas.
  • Warby Parker : To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.

3. Products and Services

As the owner, you know your business and the industry inside and out. However, whoever’s reading your document might not. You’re going to need to break down your products and services in minute detail.

For example, if you own a SaaS business, you’re going to need to explain how this business model works and what you’re selling.

You’ll need to include:

  • What services you sell: Describe the services you provide and how these will help your target audience.
  • What products you sell: Describe your products (and types if applicable) and how they will solve a need for your target and provide value.
  • How much you charge: If you’re selling services, will you charge hourly, per project, retainer, or a mixture of all of these? If you’re selling products, what are the price ranges?

4. Market Analysis

Your market analysis essentially explains how your products and services address customer concerns and pain points. This section will include research and data on the state and direction of your industry and target market.

This research should reveal lucrative opportunities and how your business is uniquely positioned to seize the advantage. You’ll also want to touch on your marketing strategy and how it will (or does) work for your audience.

Include a detailed analysis of your target customers. This describes the people you serve and sell your product to. Be careful not to go too broad here—you don’t want to fall into the common entrepreneurial trap of trying to sell to everyone and thereby not differentiating yourself enough to survive the competition.

The market analysis section will include your unique value proposition. Your unique value proposition (UVP) is the thing that makes you stand out from your competitors. This is your key to success.

If you don’t have a UVP, you don’t have a way to take on competitors who are already in this space. Here’s an example of an ecommerce internet business plan outlining their competitive edge:

FireStarters’ competitive advantage is offering product lines that make a statement but won’t leave you broke. The major brands are expensive and not distinctive enough to satisfy the changing taste of our target customers. FireStarters offers products that are just ahead of the curve and so affordable that our customers will return to the website often to check out what’s new.

5. Competitive Analysis

Your competitive analysis examines the strengths and weaknesses of competing businesses in your market or industry. This will include direct and indirect competitors. It can also include threats and opportunities, like economic concerns or legal restraints.

The best way to sum up this section is with a classic SWOT analysis. This will explain your company’s position in relation to your competitors.

6. Financial Strategy

Your financial strategy will sum up your revenue, expenses, profit (or loss), and financial plan for the future. It’ll explain how you make money, where your cash flow goes, and how you’ll become profitable or stay profitable.

This is one of the most important sections for lenders and investors. Have you ever watched Shark Tank? They always ask about the company’s financial situation. How has it performed in the past? What’s the ongoing outlook moving forward? How does the business plan to make it happen?

Answer all of these questions in your financial strategy so that your audience doesn’t have to ask. Go ahead and include forecasts and graphs in your plan, too:

  • Balance sheet: This includes your assets, liabilities, and equity.
  • Profit & Loss (P&L) statement: This details your income and expenses over a given period.
  • Cash flow statement: Similar to the P&L, this one will show all cash flowing into and out of the business each month.

It takes cash to change the world—lenders and investors get it. If you’re short on funding, explain how much money you’ll need and how you’ll use the capital. Where are you looking for financing? Are you looking to take out a business loan, or would you rather trade equity for capital instead?

Read More: 16 Financial Concepts Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Startup Business Plan Template (Copy/Paste Outline)

Ready to write your own business plan? Copy/paste the startup business plan template below and fill in the blanks.

Executive Summary Remember, do this last. Summarize who you are and your business plan in one page.

Business Overview Describe your business. What’s it do? Who owns it? How’s it structured? What’s the mission statement?

Products and Services Detail the products and services you offer. How do they work? What do you charge?

Market Analysis Write about the state of the market and opportunities. Use date. Describe your customers. Include your UVP.

Competitive Analysis Outline the competitors in your market and industry. Include threats and opportunities. Add a SWOT analysis of your business.

Financial Strategy Sum up your revenue, expenses, profit (or loss), and financial plan for the future. If you’re applying for a loan, include how you’ll use the funding to progress the business.

What’s the Best Business Plan to Succeed as a Consultant?

5 Frame-Worthy Business Plan Examples

Want to explore other templates and examples? We got you covered. Check out these 5 business plan examples you can use as inspiration when writing your plan:

  • SBA Wooden Grain Toy Company
  • SBA We Can Do It Consulting
  • OrcaSmart Business Plan Sample
  • Plum Business Plan Template
  • PandaDoc Free Business Plan Templates

Get to Work on Making Your Business Plan

If you find you’re getting stuck on perfecting your document, opt for a simple one-page business plan —and then get to work. You can always polish up your official plan later as you learn more about your business and the industry.

Remember, business plans are not a requirement for starting a business—they’re only truly essential if a bank or investor is asking for it.

Ask others to review your business plan. Get feedback from other startups and successful business owners. They’ll likely be able to see holes in your planning or undetected opportunities—just make sure these individuals aren’t your competitors (or potential competitors).

Your business plan isn’t a one-and-done report—it’s a living, breathing document. You’ll make changes to it as you grow and evolve. When the market or your customers change, your plan will need to change to adapt.

That means when you’re finished with this exercise, it’s not time to print your plan out and stuff it in a file cabinet somewhere. No, it should sit on your desk as a day-to-day reference. Use it (and update it) as you make decisions about your product, customers, and financial plan.

Review your business plan frequently, update it routinely, and follow the path you’ve developed to the future you’re building.

Keep Learning: New Product Development Process in 8 Easy Steps

What financial information should be included in a business plan?

Be as detailed as you can without assuming too much. For example, include your expected revenue, expenses, profit, and growth for the future.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a business plan?

The most common mistake is turning your business plan into a textbook. A business plan is an internal guide and an external pitching tool. Cut the fat and only include the most relevant information to start and run your business.

Who should review my business plan before I submit it?

Co-founders, investors, or a board of advisors. Otherwise, reach out to a trusted mentor, your local chamber of commerce, or someone you know that runs a business.

Ready to Write Your Business Plan?

Don’t let creating a business plan hold you back from starting your business. Writing documents might not be your thing—that doesn’t mean your business is a bad idea.

Let us help you get started.

Join our free training to learn how to start an online side hustle in 30 days or less. We’ll provide you with a proven roadmap for how to find, validate, and pursue a profitable business idea (even if you have zero entrepreneurial experience).

Stuck on the ideas part? No problem. When you attend the masterclass, we’ll send you a free ebook with 100 of the hottest side hustle trends right now. It’s chock full of brilliant business ideas to get you up and running in the right direction.

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About Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a writing zealot focused on creating killer content. He’s spent almost a decade writing about startup, marketing, and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped business. A writer by day and a peak bagger by night (and early early morning), you can usually find Jesse preparing for the apocalypse on a precipitous peak somewhere in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

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Start » startup, how to write a startup business plan.

As a startup, you'll need to know how to write a business plan in order to attract investors. Here are some templates and examples to help you get started.

 Woman sitting at kitchen table writing with pen and paper.

If you're starting a new business or executing a new plan within your company, you’ll want to have a business plan. It’s a formal document that outlines your company, your project, funding options and your means of execution. There are many resources available to help you write your business plan, including countless templates you can follow depending on your goals. Below we’ve outlined some examples, including a sample plan.

[Read: How to Write a Business Plan During a Pandemic ]

Business plan template examples

While business plans can be general, it’s helpful to gear yours toward your industry. Here are five business plan templates for specific industries or situations:

  • For first-time entrepreneurs: The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) .
  • For getting your ideas down: $100 Startup .
  • For law firms: Cilo .
  • For established businesses: SCORE .
  • For additional industries: LawDepot .

Sample business plan

A one-page business plan briefly states your opportunity and timeline. It’s often used as an introduction to your longer, more robust plan. Here is a brief overview of a business plan and the nine elements that should be included.

1. The business opportunity

At the top of your plan, state the endeavor you're looking to pursue. Are you a new startup or an existing company looking to grow? Describe your challenges and how you plan to work through them. This section should be a one- or two-sentence elevator pitch of your business opportunity.

[Read: How to Refine Your Business Plan for Every Stage of Your Business ]

2. Your company description

When writing your company description, assume the reader knows nothing about your company. Briefly define who you are, identifying your values and why your company is necessary right now.

Outline your timeline for launching your business or project. Timelines are always subject to change, so make sure you account for alternative scenarios and setbacks.

3. Your talent description

In this section, you’ll want to introduce your team and demonstrate why they are the right fit for your business. Talk about their relevant skills, experience and background, getting as specific as possible. Providing their track record will reassure potential investors that your business is backed by reliable professionals.

4. The industry analysis

While writing your plan, it’s important to recognize your industry's outlook and your potential within it. This will also help you identify your competitors and analyze their offerings in comparison to yours, so you can focus on how you might stand out among them. This analysis is a great way to show investors that you’ve done your research and understand how you fit into your market.

[Read: Pivoting During the Pandemic? 16 Tools That Will Help Your Business Adapt ]

5. Your target audience

In this section, you will identify your target audience, defining their demographic, location and other specific traits. Additionally, explain how your audience will benefit from your company or project, or how you will solve common problems they share.

6. The timeline

Outline your timeline for launching your business or project. Timelines are always subject to change, so make sure you account for alternative scenarios and setbacks. For your one-page business plan, talk about your general timeline, its phases and why it’s a realistic goal.

7. Your marketing plan

How will you get the word out about your new business or project? Identify the avenues you and your company will choose to explore and how you plan to meet your target audience there. For example, consider your social media efforts, digital marketing and other methods that you seek to execute.

8. The financial summary

Clearly define your cost structure and revenue streams, describing your sales methods and post-launch goals, as well as how you will achieve them. Be sure to include both your long- and short-term financial goals and benchmarks.

[Read: Smart Strategies for Presenting Your Business Plan ]

9. Your funding requirements

One of the primary reasons you write a business plan is to help obtain funding. In this section, talk about the amount of funding you'll need from investors and where that funding will go. You should also be clear about how you plan to pay back your investors through your financial plan.

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How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

  • 3 years ago

Have you ever wondered how to write a business plan step by step? Mike Andes, told us: 

This guide will help you write a business plan to impress investors.

Throughout this process, we’ll get information from Mike Andes, who started Augusta Lawn Care Services when he was 12 and turned it into a franchise with over 90 locations. He has gone on to help others learn how to write business plans and start businesses.  He knows a thing or two about writing  business plans!

We’ll start by discussing the definition of a business plan. Then we’ll discuss how to come up with the idea, how to do the market research, and then the important elements in the business plan format. Keep reading to start your journey!

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is simply a road map of what you are trying to achieve with your business and how you will go about achieving it. It should cover all elements of your business including: 

  • Finding customers
  • Plans for developing a team
  •  Competition
  • Legal structures
  • Key milestones you are pursuing

If you aren’t quite ready to create a business plan, consider starting by reading our business startup guide .

Get a Business Idea

Before you can write a business plan, you have to have a business idea. You may see a problem that needs to be solved and have an idea how to solve it, or you might start by evaluating your interests and skills. 

Mike told us, “The three things I suggest asking yourself when thinking about starting a business are:

  • What am I good at?
  • What would I enjoy doing?
  • What can I get paid for?”

If all three of these questions don’t lead to at least one common answer, it will probably be a much harder road to success. Either there is not much market for it, you won’t be good at it, or you won’t enjoy doing it. 

As Mike told us, “There’s enough stress starting and running a business that if you don’t like it or aren’t good at it, it’s hard to succeed.”

If you’d like to hear more about Mike’s approach to starting a business, check out our YouTube video

Conduct Market Analysis

Market analysis is focused on establishing if there is a target market for your products and services, how large the target market is, and identifying the demographics of people or businesses that would be interested in the product or service. The goal here is to establish how much money your business concept can make.

Product and Service Demand

A search engine is your best friend when trying to figure out if there is demand for your products and services. Personally, I love using presearch.org because it lets you directly search on a ton of different platforms including Google, Youtube, Twitter, and more. Check out the screenshot for the full list of search options.

With quick web searches, you can find out how many competitors you have, look through their reviews, and see if there are common complaints about the competitors. Bad reviews are a great place to find opportunities to offer better products or services. 

If there are no similar products or services, you may have stumbled upon something new, or there may just be no demand for it. To find out, go talk to your most honest friend about the idea and see what they think. If they tell you it’s dumb or stare at you vacantly, there’s probably no market for it.

You can also conduct a survey through social media to get public opinion on your idea. Using Facebook Business Manager , you could get a feel for who would be interested in your product or service.

 I ran a quick test of how many people between 18-65  you could reach in the U.S. during a week. It returned an estimated 700-2,000 for the total number of leads, which is enough to do a fairly accurate statistical analysis.

Identify Demographics of Target Market

Depending on what type of business you want to run, your target market will be different. The narrower the demographic, the fewer potential customers you’ll have. If you did a survey, you’ll be able to use that data to help define your target audience. Some considerations you’ll want to consider are:

  • Other Interests
  • Marital Status
  • Do they have kids?

Once you have this information, it can help you narrow down your options for location and help define your marketing further. One resource that Mike recommended using is the Census Bureau’s Quick Facts Map . He told us,  

“It helps you quickly evaluate what the best areas are for your business to be located.”

How to Write a Business Plan

Now that you’ve developed your idea a little and established there is a market for it, you can begin writing a business plan. Getting started is easier with the business plan template we created for you to download. I strongly recommend using it as it is updated to make it easier to create an action plan. 

Each of the following should be a section of your business plan:

  • Business Plan Cover Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Description of Products and Services

SWOT Analysis

  • Competitor Data
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Marketing Expenses Strategy 

Pricing Strategy

  • Distribution Channel Assessment
  • Operational Plan
  • Management and Organizational Strategy
  • Financial Statements and/or Financial Projections

We’ll look into each of these. Don’t forget to download our free business plan template (mentioned just above) so you can follow along as we go. 

How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page

The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions.

A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:

  • Professionally designed logo
  • Company name
  • Mission or Vision Statement
  • Contact Info

Basically, think of a cover page for your business plan like a giant business card. It is meant to capture people’s attention but be quickly processed.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 2. Create a Table of Contents

Most people are busy enough that they don’t have a lot of time. Providing a table of contents makes it easy for them to find the pages of your plan that are meaningful to them.

A table of contents will be immediately after the cover page, but you can include it after the executive summary. Including the table of contents immediately after the executive summary will help investors know what section of your business plan they want to review more thoroughly.

Check out Canva’s article about creating a  table of contents . It has a ton of great information about creating easy access to each section of your business plan. Just remember that you’ll want to use different strategies for digital and hard copy business plans.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 3. Write an Executive Summary

An executive summary is where your business plan should catch the readers interest.  It doesn’t need to be long, but should be quick and easy to read.

Mike told us,

How long should an executive summary bein an informal business plan?

For casual use, an executive summary should be similar to an elevator pitch, no more than 150-160 words, just enough to get them interested and wanting more. Indeed has a great article on elevator pitches .  This can also be used for the content of emails to get readers’ attention.

It consists of three basic parts:

  • An introduction to you and your business.
  • What your business is about.
  • A call to action

Example of an informal executive summary 

One of the best elevator pitches I’ve used is:

So far that pitch has achieved a 100% success rate in getting partnerships for the business.

What should I include in an executive summary for investors?

Investors are going to need a more detailed executive summary if you want to secure financing or sell equity. The executive summary should be a brief overview of your entire business plan and include:

  • Introduction of yourself and company.
  • An origin story (Recognition of a problem and how you came to solution)
  • An introduction to your products or services.
  • Your unique value proposition. Make sure to include intellectual property.
  • Where you are in the business life cycle
  • Request and why you need it.

Successful business plan examples

The owner of Urbanity told us he spent 2 months writing a 75-page business plan and received a $250,000 loan from the bank when he was 23. Make your business plan as detailed as possible when looking for financing. We’ve provided a template to help you prepare the portions of a business plan that banks expect.

Here’s the interview with the owner of Urbanity:

When to write an executive summary?

Even though the summary is near the beginning of a business plan, you should write it after you complete the rest of a business plan. You can’t talk about revenue, profits, and expected expenditures if you haven’t done the market research and created a financial plan.

What mistakes do people make when writing an executive summary?

Business owners commonly go into too much detail about the following items in an executive summary:

  • Marketing and sales processes
  • Financial statements
  • Organizational structure
  • Market analysis

These are things that people will want to know later, but they don’t hook the reader. They won’t spark interest in your small business, but they’ll close the deal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 4. Company Description

Every business plan should include a company description. A great business plan will include the following elements while describing the company:

  • Mission statement
  • Philosophy and vision
  • Company goals

Target market

  • Legal structure

Let’s take a look at what each section includes in a good business plan.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is a brief explanation of why you started the company and what the company’s main focus is. It should be no more than one or two sentences. Check out HubSpot’s article 27 Inspiring Mission Statement for a great read on informative and inspiring mission and vision statements. 

Company Philosophy and Vision

The company philosophy is what drives your company. You’ll normally hear them called core values.  These are the building blocks that make your company different. You want to communicate your values to customers, business owners, and investors as often as possible to build a company culture, but make sure to back them up.

What makes your company different?

Each company is different. Your new business should rise above the standard company lines of honesty, integrity, fun, innovation, and community when communicating your business values. The standard answers are corporate jargon and lack authenticity. 

Examples of core values

One of my clients decided to add a core values page to their website. As a tech company they emphasized the values:

  •  Prioritize communication.
  •  Never stop learning.
  •  Be transparent.
  •  Start small and grow incrementally.

These values communicate how the owner and the rest of the company operate. They also show a value proposition and competitive advantage because they specifically focus on delivering business value from the start. These values also genuinely show what the company is about and customers recognize the sincerity. Indeed has a great blog about how to identify your core values .

What is a vision statement?

A vision statement communicate the long lasting change a business pursues. The vision helps investors and customers understand what your company is trying to accomplish. The vision statement goes beyond a mission statement to provide something meaningful to the community, customer’s lives, or even the world.

Example vision statements

The Alzheimer’s Association is a great example of a vision statement:

A world without Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia.

It clearly tells how they want to change the world. A world without Alzheimers might be unachievable, but that means they always have room for improvement.

Business Goals

You have to measure success against goals for a business plan to be meaningful. A business plan helps guide a company similar to how your GPS provides a road map to your favorite travel destination. A goal to make as much money as possible is not inspirational and sounds greedy.

Sure, business owners want to increase their profits and improve customer service, but they need to present an overview of what they consider success. The goals should help everyone prioritize their work.

How far in advance should a business plan?

Business planning should be done at least one year in advance, but many banks and investors prefer three to five year business plans. Longer plans show investors that the management team  understands the market and knows the business is operating in a constantly shifting market. In addition, a plan helps businesses to adjust to changes because they have already considered how to handle them.

Example of great business goals

My all time-favorite long-term company goals are included in Tesla’s Master Plan, Part Deux . These goals were written in 2016 and drive the company’s decisions through 2026. They are the reason that investors are so forgiving when Elon Musk continually fails to meet his quarterly and annual goals.

If the progress aligns with the business plan investors are likely to continue to believe in the company. Just make sure the goals are reasonable or you’ll be discredited (unless you’re Elon Musk).

You did target market research before creating a business plan. Now it’s time to add it to the plan so others understand what your ideal customer looks like. As a new business owner, you may not be considered an expert in your field yet, so document everything. Make sure the references you use are from respectable sources. 

Use information from the specific lender when you are applying for lending. Most lenders provide industry research reports and using their data can strengthen the position of your business plan.

A small business plan should include a section on the external environment. Understanding the industry is crucial because we don’t plan a business in a vacuum. Make sure to research the industry trends, competitors, and forecasts. I personally prefer IBIS World for my business research. Make sure to answer questions like:

  • What is the industry outlook long-term and short-term?
  • How will your business take advantage of projected industry changes and trends?
  • What might happen to your competitors and how will your business successfully compete?

Industry resources

Some helpful resources to help you establish more about your industry are:

  • Trade Associations
  • Federal Reserve
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics

Legal Structure

There are five basic types of legal structures that most people will utilize:

  • Sole proprietorships
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLC)

Partnerships

Corporations.

  • Franchises.

Each business structure has their pros and cons. An LLC is the most common legal structure due to its protection of personal assets and ease of setting up. Make sure to specify how ownership is divided and what roles each owner plays when you have more than one business owner.

You’ll have to decide which structure is best for you, but we’ve gathered information on each to make it easier.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest legal structure to set up but doesn’t protect the owner’s personal assets from legal issues. That means if something goes wrong, you could lose both your company and your home.

To start a sole proprietorship, fill out a special tax form called a  Schedule C . Sole proprietors can also join the American Independent Business Alliance .

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is the most common business structure used in the United States because an LLC protects the owner’s personal assets. It’s similar to partnerships and corporations, but can be a single-member LLC in most states. An LLC requires a document called an operating agreement.

Each state has different requirements. Here’s a link to find your state’s requirements . Delaware and Nevada are common states to file an LLC because they are really business-friendly. Here’s a blog on the top 10 states to get an LLC.

Partnerships are typically for legal firms. If you choose to use a partnership choose a Limited Liability Partnership. Alternatively, you can just use an LLC.

Corporations are typically for massive organizations. Corporations have taxes on both corporate and income tax so unless you plan on selling stock, you are better off considering an LLC with S-Corp status . Investopedia has good information corporations here .

There are several opportunities to purchase successful franchises. TopFranchise.com has a list of companies in a variety of industries that offer franchise opportunities. This makes it where an entrepreneur can benefit from the reputation of an established business that has already worked out many of the kinks of starting from scratch.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 5. Products and Services

This section of the business plan should focus on what you sell, how you source it, and how you sell it. You should include:

  • Unique features that differentiate your business products from competitors
  • Intellectual property
  • Your supply chain
  • Cost and pricing structure 

Questions to answer about your products and services

Mike gave us a list  of the most important questions to answer about your product and services:

  • How will you be selling the product? (in person, ecommerce, wholesale, direct to consumer)?
  • How do you let them know they need a product?
  • How do you communicate the message?
  • How will you do transactions?
  • How much will you be selling it for?
  • How many do you think you’ll sell and why?

Make sure to use the worksheet on our business plan template .

How to Write a Business Plan Step 6. Sales and Marketing Plan

The marketing and sales plan is focused on the strategy to bring awareness to your company and guides how you will get the product to the consumer.  It should contain the following sections:

SWOT Analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Not only do you want to identify them, but you also want to document how the business plans to deal with them.

Business owners need to do a thorough job documenting how their service or product stacks up against the competition.

If proper research isn’t done, investors will be able to tell that the owner hasn’t researched the competition and is less likely to believe that the team can protect its service from threats by the more well-established competition. This is one of the most common parts of a presentation that trips up business owners presenting on Shark Tank .

SWOT Examples

Examples of strengths and weaknesses could be things like the lack of cash flow, intellectual property ownership, high costs of suppliers, and customers’ expectations on shipping times.

Opportunities could be ways to capitalize on your strengths or improve your weaknesses, but may also be gaps in the industry. This includes:

  • Adding offerings that fit with your current small business
  • Increase sales to current customers
  • Reducing costs through bulk ordering
  • Finding ways to reduce inventory
  •  And other areas you can improve

Threats will normally come from outside of the company but could also be things like losing a key member of the team. Threats normally come from competition, regulations, taxes, and unforeseen events.

The management team should use the SWOT analysis to guide other areas of business planning, but it absolutely has to be done before a business owner starts marketing. 

Include Competitor Data in Your Business Plan

When you plan a business, taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is key to navigating the field. Providing an overview of your competition and where they are headed shows that you are invested in understanding the industry.

For smaller businesses, you’ll want to search both the company and the owners names to see what they are working on. For publicly held corporations, you can find their quarterly and annual reports on the SEC website .

What another business plans to do can impact your business. Make sure to include things that might make it attractive for bigger companies to outsource to a small business.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing and sales part of business plans should be focused on how you are going to make potential customers aware of your business and then sell to them.

If you haven’t already included it, Mike recommends:

“They’ll want to know about Demographics, ages, and wealth of your target market.”

Make sure to include the Total addressable market .  The term refers to the value if you captured 100% of the market.

Advertising Strategy

You’ll explain what formats of advertising you’ll be using. Some possibilities are:

  • Online: Facebook and Google are the big names to work with here.
  • Print : Print can be used to reach broad groups or targeted markets. Check out this for tips .
  • Radio : iHeartMedia is one of the best ways to advertise on the radio
  • Cable television : High priced, hard to measure ROI, but here’s an explanation of the process
  • Billboards: Attracting customers with billboards can be beneficial in high traffic areas.

You’ll want to define how you’ll be using each including frequency, duration, and cost. If you have the materials already created, including pictures or links to the marketing to show creative assets.

Mike told us “Most businesses are marketing digitally now due to Covid, but that’s not always the right answer.”

Make sure the marketing strategy will help team members or external marketing agencies stay within the brand guidelines .

This section of a business plan should be focused on pricing. There are a ton of pricing strategies that may work for different business plans. Which one will work for you depends on what kind of a business you run.

Some common pricing strategies are:

  • Value-based pricing – Commonly used with home buying and selling or other products that are status symbols.
  • Skimming pricing – Commonly seen in video game consoles, price starts off high to recoup expenses quickly, then reduces over time.
  • Competition-based pricing – Pricing based on competitors’ pricing is commonly seen at gas stations.
  • Freemium services –  Commonly used for software, where there is a free plan, then purchase options for more functionality.

HubSpot has a great calculator and blog on pricing strategies.

Beyond explaining what strategy your business plans to use, you should include references for how you came to this pricing strategy and how it will impact your cash flow.

Distribution Plan

This part of a business plan is focused on how the product or service is going to go through the supply chain. These may include multiple divisions or multiple companies. Make sure to include any parts of the workflow that are automated so investors can see where cost savings are expected and when.

Supply Chain Examples

For instance, lawn care companies  would need to cover aspects such as:

  • Suppliers for lawn care equipment and tools
  • Any chemicals or treatments needed
  • Repair parts for sprinkler systems
  • Vehicles to transport equipment and employees
  • Insurance to protect the company vehicles and people.

Examples of Supply Chains

These are fairly flat supply chains compared to something like a clothing designer where the clothes would go through multiple vendors. A clothing company might have the following supply chain:

  • Raw materials
  • Shipping of raw materials
  • Converting of raw materials to thread
  • Shipping thread to produce garments
  • Garment producer
  • Shipping to company
  • Company storage
  • Shipping to retail stores

There have been advances such as print on demand that eliminate many of these steps. If you are designing completely custom clothing, all of this would need to be planned to keep from having business disruptions.

The main thing to include in the business plan is the list of suppliers, the path the supply chain follows, the time from order to the customer’s home, and the costs associated with each step of the process.

According to BizPlanReview , a business plan without this information is likely to get rejected because they have failed to research the key elements necessary to make sales to the customer.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 7. Company Organization and Operational Plan

This part of the business plan is focused on how the business model will function while serving customers.  The business plan should provide an overview of  how the team will manage the following aspects:

Quality Control

  • Legal environment

Let’s look at each for some insight.

Production has already been discussed in previous sections so I won’t go into it much. When writing a business plan for investors, try to avoid repetition as it creates a more simple business plan.

If the organizational plan will be used by the team as an overview of how to perform the best services for the customer, then redundancy makes more sense as it communicates what is important to the business.

Quality control policies help to keep the team focused on how to verify that the company adheres to the business plan and meets or exceeds customer expectations.

Quality control can be anything from a standard that says “all labels on shirts can be no more than 1/16″ off center” to a defined checklist of steps that should be performed and filled out for every customer.

There are a variety of organizations that help define quality control including:

  • International Organization for Standardization – Quality standards for energy, technology, food, production environments, and cybersecurity
  • AICPA – Standard defined for accounting.
  • The Joint Commission – Healthcare
  • ASHRAE – HVAC best practices

You can find lists of the organizations that contribute most to the government regulation of industries on Open Secrets . Research what the leaders in your field are doing. Follow their example and implement it in your quality control plan.

For location, you should use information from the market research to establish where the location will be. Make sure to include the following in the location documentation.

  • The size of your location
  • The type of building (retail, industrial, commercial, etc.)
  • Zoning restrictions – Urban Wire has a good map on how zoning works in each state
  • Accessibility – Does it meet ADA requirements?
  • Costs including rent, maintenance, utilities, insurance and any buildout or remodeling costs
  • Utilities – b.e.f. has a good energy calculator .

Legal Environment

The legal requirement section is focused on defining how to meet the legal requirements for your industry. A good business plan should include all of the following:

  • Any licenses and/or permits that are needed and whether you’ve obtained them
  • Any trademarks, copyrights, or patents that you have or are in the process of applying for
  • The insurance coverage your business requires and how much it costs
  • Any environmental, health, or workplace regulations affecting your business
  • Any special regulations affecting your industry
  • Bonding requirements, if applicable

Your local SBA office can help you establish requirements in your area. I strongly recommend using them. They are a great resource.

Your business plan should include a plan for company organization and hiring. While you may be the only person with the company right now, down the road you’ll need more people. Make sure to consider and document the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the current leadership structure and what will it look like in the future?
  • What types of employees will you have? Are there any licensing or educational requirements?
  • How many employees will you need?
  • Will you ever hire freelancers or independent contractors?
  • What is each position’s job description?
  • What is the pay structure (hourly, salaried, base plus commission, etc.)?
  • How do you plan to find qualified employees and contractors?

One of the most crucial parts of a business plan is the organizational chart. This simply shows the positions the company will need, who is in charge of them and the relationship of each of them. It will look similar to this:

Our small business plan template has a much more in-depth organizational chart you can edit to include when you include the organizational chart in your business plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 8. Financial Statements 

No business plan is complete without financial statements or financial projections. The business plan format will be different based on whether you are writing a business plan to expand a business or a startup business plan. Let’s dig deeper into each.

Provide All Financial Income from an Existing Business

An existing business should use their past financial documents including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement to find trends to estimate the next 3-5 years.

You can create easy trendlines in excel to predict future revenue, profit and loss, cash flow, and other changes in year-over-year performance. This will show your expected performance assuming business continues as normal.

If you are seeking an investment, then the business is probably not going to continue as normal. Depending on the financial plan and the purpose of getting financing, adjustments may be needed to the following:

  • Higher Revenue if expanding business
  • Lower Cost of Goods Sold if purchasing inventory with bulk discounts
  • Adding interest if utilizing financing (not equity deal)
  • Changes in expenses
  • Addition of financing information to the cash flow statement
  • Changes in Earnings per Share on the balance sheet

Financial modeling is a challenging subject, but there are plenty of low-cost courses on the subject. If you need help planning your business financial documentation take some time to watch some of them.

Make it a point to document how you calculated all the changes to the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement in your business plan so that key team members or investors can verify your research.

Financial Projections For A Startup Business Plan

Unlike an existing business, a startup doesn’t have previous success to model its future performance. In this scenario, you need to focus on how to make a business plan realistic through the use of industry research and averages.

Mike gave the following advice in his interview:

Financial Forecasting Mistakes

One of the things a lot of inexperienced people use is the argument, “If I get one percent of the market, it is worth $100 million.” If you use this, investors are likely to file the document under bad business plan examples.

Let’s use custom t-shirts as an example.

Credence Research estimated in 2018 there were 11,334,800,000 custom t-shirts sold for a total of $206.12 Billion, with a 6% compound annual growth rate.

With that data,  you can calculate that the industry will grow to $270 Billion in 2023 and that the average shirt sold creates $18.18 in revenue.

Combine that with an IBIS World estimate of 11,094 custom screen printers and that means even if you become an average seller, you’ll get .009% of the market.

Here’s a table for easier viewing of that information.

The point here is to make sure your business proposal examples make sense.

You’ll need to know industry averages such as cost of customer acquisition, revenue per customer, the average cost of goods sold, and admin costs to be able to create accurate estimates.

Our simple business plan templates walk you through most of these processes. If you follow them you’ll have a good idea of how to write a business proposal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 9. Business Plan Example of Funding Requests

What is a business plan without a plan on how to obtain funding?

The Small Business Administration has an example for a pizza restaurant that theoretically needed nearly $20k to make it through their first month.

In our video, How to Start a $500K/Year T-Shirt Business (Pt. 1 ), Sanford Booth told us he needed about $200,000 to start his franchise and broke even after 4 months.

Freshbooks estimates it takes on average 2-3 years for a business to be profitable, which means the fictitious pizza company from the SBA could need up to $330k to make it through that time and still pay their bills for their home and pizza shop.

Not every business needs that much to start, but realistically it’s a good idea to assume that you need a fairly large cushion.

Ways to get funding for a small business

There are a variety of ways to cover this. the most common are:

  • Bootstrapping – Using your savings without external funding.
  • Taking out debt – loans, credit cards
  • Equity, Seed Funding – Ownership of a percentage of the company in exchange for current funds
  • Crowdsourcing – Promising a good for funding to create the product

Keep reading for more tips on how to write a business plan.

How funding will be used

When asking for business financing make sure to include:

  • How much to get started?
  • What is the minimum viable product and how soon can you make money?
  • How will the money be spent?

Mike emphasized two aspects that should be included in every plan, 

How to Write a Business Plan Resources

Here are some links to a business plan sample and business plan outline. 

  • Sample plan

It’s also helpful to follow some of the leading influencers in the business plan writing community. Here’s a list:

  • Wise Plans –  Shares a lot of information on starting businesses and is a business plan writing company.
  • Optimus Business Plans –  Another business plan writing company.
  • Venture Capital – A venture capital thread that can help give you ideas.

How to Write a Business Plan: What’s Next?

We hope this guide about how to write a simple business plan step by step has been helpful. We’ve covered:

  • The definition of a business plan
  • Coming up with a business idea
  • Performing market research
  • The critical components of a business plan
  • An example business plan

In addition, we provided you with a simple business plan template to assist you in the process of writing your startup business plan. The startup business plan template also includes a business model template that will be the key to your success.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our business hub .

Have you written a business plan before? How did it impact your ability to achieve your goals?

Brandon Boushy

Brandon Boushy lives to improve people’s lives by helping them become successful entrepreneurs. His journey started nearly 30 years ago. He consistently excelled at everything he did, but preferred to make the rules rather than follow him. His exploration of self and knowledge has helped him to get an engineering degree, MBA, and countless certifications. When freelancing and rideshare came onto the scene, he recognized the opportunity to play by his own rules. Since 2017, he has helped businesses across all industries achieve more with his research, writing, and marketing strategies. Since 2021, he has been the Lead Writer for UpFlip where he has published over 170 articles on small business success.

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2 thoughts on “How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)”

My Name is PRETTY NGOMANE. A south African female. Aspiring to do farming. And finding a home away from home for the differently abled persons in their daily needs.

nice work https://binarychemist.com/

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How to start a small business at home in 2024

Blair Travers

Sierra Campbell

Sierra Campbell

“Verified by an expert” means that this article has been thoroughly reviewed and evaluated for accuracy.

Published 8:07 a.m. UTC Feb. 16, 2024

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Starting a small business at home can help you turn your passions, skills or ideas into financial prosperity. There are some unique perks and challenges to consider when deciding to start a home-based business. 

You’ll also want to have a solid plan and follow some key steps to get your business off on the right foot. It’s helpful to know where you can find ideas, answers to your questions and other resources you need to run an at-home business successfully.

Should you start a business at home?

There are many factors to consider when deciding to start a small business at home. On the one hand, it’s important to make sure there is demand for your business. On the other hand, you want to be able to handle the amount of business you receive. Gauging things like demand, profit margins and the ability to scale your business early on can help you avoid trouble down the road.

Across the country, at-home businesses make up a large portion of small businesses. C.E. “Tee” Rowe is the president and CEO of America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), which provides free or low-cost support for small businesses in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. “Here at America’s SBDC, we have seen an uptick in home-based businesses that started during the pandemic but continues to date,” said Rowe. 

Pros of a home business

Here are some key benefits to starting a business at home:

  • Increased flexibility: Set your own hours, freeing you up for other commitments as needed.
  • Less commuting: Save time and money by skipping the drive to work.
  • Comfortable work environment: Design your workspace how you want it. After all, it is your home.
  • Money-saving perks: Pay lower startup costs compared to larger businesses by avoiding costs like renting retail or office space. Take advantage of tax breaks for at-home businesses.
  • Reduce risk: Protect yourself by limiting your liability and avoiding the cost and risk of maintaining commercial space.
  • Rewards for your hard work: Work hard for your business, and your business reaps the benefits instead of some other employer.

Cons of a home business

These are some of the disadvantages of starting a business at home:

  • Limited space: You give up part of your home, and even then, you may still need more space for your business.
  • Distracting work environment: Crying babies, barking dogs and loud neighbors can all be distracting when running a business at home.
  • Professional boundaries: Some people may feel awkward about meeting to discuss business at your home or a public location.
  • Increased mental health risks: Running a home business can feel isolating for some. A lack of social interaction, time outside, work-life balance or effective time management can also threaten mental health.
  • Growth restrictive: If your home-based business scales too rapidly, you may outgrow your workspace quickly. In this situation, success creates a problem for home businesses to solve.
  • Increased costs: Whether you’re paying new employee salaries or wages or forking over more money for higher utility bills, you may feel the financial squeeze.

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7 steps to start a home business

After considering the pros and cons, does the idea of taking the reins and starting a home business appeal to you? You’re not alone. 

“When we work with individuals seeking to start a home-based business, it is frequently based on a desire to control their own circumstance and success, which are great reasons, but it always needs to be thought out carefully,” Rowe explained.

Planning is key. From creating a business plan and determining your business structure to securing funding and setting your marketing strategy, there’s a lot to think through. Follow the steps below to get on the right track to starting a small business at home.

1. Find your niche

Plenty of successful at-home businesses arise from emotion: a passion to do what you love, a frustration with the status quo or excitement to seize on a timely opportunity.

If you’re struggling to find your niche, ask yourself:

  • What do you love to do that others may find challenging?
  • What is a need that no business currently has the right solution for?
  • What are you good at? What do people ask for your help with?
  • What high-demand skills or services do you have to offer?

2. Draft a business plan

Having a business plan is essential for running your business effectively. As Rowe pointed out, “Every business needs a solid, comprehensive plan to guide them to success. That plan needs to focus on skills, finance, revenue and marketing.”

A business plan outlines the direction of the business — its goals, strategies, structure, ways of measuring success and plans for dealing with things like change and risk. Simply put, it’s the roadmap to success for your business.

When creating your business plan, include key sections such as an executive summary, a business description, market analysis and financial projections. For more on what to cover, check out this step-by-step guide to drafting a business plan .

3. Select a business structure

According to the IRS, the most common business structures are sole proprietorships, partnerships , corporations and limited liability companies (LLC) . Each business structure comes with its own set of operational, legal, financial and tax considerations. 

A sole proprietorship is a business owned and operated by a single individual, while a partnership is jointly owned by two or more individuals who share responsibilities. 

In contrast, corporations — like C corporations and S corporations — are independent legal entities. C corporations limit shareholder liability but are highly complex. S corporations feature pass-through taxation, distributing income (and losses) to shareholders.

While sole proprietorship is a common structure for just starting out, LLC is another popular option for at-home businesses. It combines elements of a corporation and a partnership, offering limited liability to its members and the flexibility of pass-through taxation. Members of an LLC can choose to be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, C corporation or S corporation.

4. Register your business and get an EIN

After you choose a business structure, you’ll need to register your business with state and federal governments. Select a business name , pay fees and provide required documents, which vary by state.

After getting registered with your state, you can then apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Once you’re approved, you’ll receive this unique nine-digit number that is essential for all sorts of business purposes, from filing your taxes to hiring employees. 

Not all businesses need an EIN, such as sole proprietors and single-member LLCs with no employees.

5. Get any required licenses and permits

Depending on your industry and federal, state and local requirements, you may also need to obtain licenses and permits for your business. 

Here are some examples of licenses and permits you may need, depending on your business:

  • Occupational, professional or trade licenses.
  • Online business permits.
  • Sales tax permits.
  • Health department permits.
  • Safety permits.
  • Home-based child care licenses.
  • Zoning, signage, environmental and other permits to operate an at-home business, as required by local government, HOA or deed restrictions.

6. Obtain funding for your business

Many owners fund their businesses using their own savings. Self-funding is a viable choice if you can get up and running without much money, can come up with the needed funding from your own accounts or can ask for help from family or friends. 

You can also apply for a business loan . Banks will likely want to see a rock-solid business plan, strong financial projections, good personal and/or business credit history and any collateral you’ll use for your loan. If you are a good candidate for lending, make sure that shows in your application so that you can get the best funding and terms for your business.

If you don’t have much personal or business credit history, it may be easier to get a business credit card . This gives you benefits like payment flexibility, credit card rewards and essential early or emergency spending power. It will also help your business establish or strengthen its credit so you can get favorable terms on future loans and other credit.

7. Launch and market your business

You’ve planned out your business, defined its structure and gotten your business registered, licensed, permitted and even paid for. Now it’s showtime. For many who seek to start a small business at home, the launch is the most exciting part of the journey. You are now ready to conduct business.

It’s also important to get others excited about your small business — and keep them engaged. Here are some of the most common marketing strategies for small home-based businesses:

  • Social media marketing: Reach potential customers on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and X (formerly Twitter) by sharing engaging content and updates.
  • Business website: More than just a place to sell your products or services online, your business website should help users find what they want to meet their needs. It should also help achieve business objectives by offering features like payment services or e-commerce functionality .
  • Advertising: Platforms such as search engines and social media can help you reach your target audience.
  • Content marketing: Write blog posts, produce videos or create helpful graphics to explain what your business offers and to establish trust and authority.
  • Email marketing: To keep business coming back, build an email list to communicate using promotions, newsletters and updates.
  • Word of mouth: In the early stages, many small home-based businesses rely on word of mouth. You can also ask for customer reviews on platforms like Google and Yelp.

Weigh the costs and benefits when deciding on your marketing plan, so you choose what’s best for your business.

Top home business ideas

Check out these home business ideas to find the right fit for you:

  • Retail: Sell products you make — including crafts and customized gifts — or resell products you get for less than what you pay for them.
  • Case-based services: Open up an in-home daycare, provide home-based care for adults or even take care of pets by offering pet sitting and mobile grooming.
  • Events: Plan weddings and events. Create the perfect look as a makeup artist or stylist. Play music in a band or take your place on the 1s and 2s as a DJ.
  • Art and creative services: Capture the moment as a photographer, or maybe you’d rather bring your vision to life as an artist. More of a words person? Write, edit or translate content. 
  • Education: Teach the next generation how to do math, play an instrument or learn a new language. Provide adults with specialized training in arts and crafts, life coaching or test preparation.
  • Health and wellness: Become a personal trainer to get people in the best shape of their lives or a mental health counselor to help them find their inner peace.
  • Home and real estate: Transform homes by organizing, decorating or even staging. Produce virtual home tours for real estate agents, or become a realtor yourself.

Resources to start a business

For more resources and guidance on how to start a small business at home, check out these guides and articles:

  • Follow our step-by-step guide on how to start a business from the ground up.
  • Learn how to start an LLC if that’s your chosen business structure.
  • Discover how to start a business with no money so funding doesn’t hold you back.
  • Skip the overhead that comes with brick-and-mortar stores and find out how to start an online business .
  • Explore options to accept payments online and start making money in your sleep.
  • Find the cheapest payroll services to pay your employees and contractors.
  • Build a successful business by attracting loyal, repeat customers. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

The cost of starting a business at home varies widely and depends on several factors. Some businesses, including sole proprietorships, can get away with paying little to no money to start their business. Other home-based businesses, including those with manufacturing or inventory expenses, could have considerably higher startup costs.

Yes, you can use your home address to register a business. However, you’ll want to make sure that usage does not go against local laws, HOA bylaws or property covenants. It’s also a good idea to check with your mortgage and homeowners insurance companies to make sure that running a business out of your home does not introduce unforeseen headaches.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy . The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Blair Travers

Blair Travers is a business writer and content strategist with over a decade of experience breaking down complex problems to help businesses move forward with confidence. He brings a wide range of technology, banking and retail expertise. Blair enjoys helping businesses figure out complex processes and make choices that are right for them. His work has been published in U.S. News & World Report and Carfax.

Sierra Campbell is a small business editor for USA Today Blueprint. She specializes in writing, editing and fact-checking content centered around helping businesses. She has worked as a digital content and show producer for several local TV stations, an editor for U.S. News & World Report and a freelance writer and editor for many companies. Sierra prides herself in delivering accurate and up-to-date information to readers. Her expertise includes credit card processing companies, e-commerce platforms, payroll software, accounting software and virtual private networks (VPNs). She also owns Editing by Sierra, where she offers editing services to writers of all backgrounds, including self-published and traditionally published authors.

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

Business Eric Rosenberg

TechRadar Pro

Kickstart your venture: Your go-to business launch checklist for 2024

I f you’re ready to jump into entrepreneurship and start your own business, this guide will act as your comprehensive companion to ensure you cover all the essential steps and considerations. Whether you're an up-and-coming entrepreneur with a spark of an idea or already fine-tuning your business plan, this checklist will streamline the path from inception to the thrilling start of your own company.

Crafted by experts in the realm of entrepreneurship, this guide is a tried and tested collection of core insights and actionable steps. We'll traverse through the main milestones together, starting with understanding market research and crafting a rock-solid business plan. At the same time, we'll explore the steps of securing funding, choosing an impactful business name, and addressing the nitty-gritty of setting up your business legally. With an eye on effective marketing strategies and the importance of a strong online presence, we'll also delve into how to pick the best website builder and its role as the backbone of your marketing efforts.

Ready to get your new business idea off the ground in 2024? Let’s begin…

How to start your own company: Quick checklist

Starting up your own business involves several careful steps and considerations. Here's a concise checklist of everything you need to do, and everything we will cover in this article: 

  • Market research : In this first section, we will help you understand why market research is crucial and offer insight into the most effective research strategies.
  • Create a business plan : Here, we'll talk about the importance of a comprehensive business plan and its fundamental components.
  • Decide on funding : After coming up with a business plan, you'll want to explore funding options and weigh the pros and cons of each, from self-funding options to seeking investors.
  • Pick a business name : We'll cover the significance of selecting a memorable business name and tips for doing so.
  • Handle legal and tax obligations : Although this can be dull, diving into the legal aspects, tax obligations, licenses, permits, and setting up a business bank account is essential.
  • Marketing your business : Finally, we'll emphasize the significance of marketing and explore various marketing avenues, with a special focus on leveraging a website as a main marketing tool.

Having outlined the main stages, let's dig deeper into each aspect, aiding you in navigating the intricate path toward a successful business inception.

Step 1: Conduct market research

Before you start your journey, you need to know the landscape. This is where market research comes in. 

Market research serves as the bedrock for a soon-to-be successful business, allowing you to make wise decisions by understanding your target audience, industry trends, and chief competitors.

To conduct solid market research, start by identifying your target audience. This involves pinpointing the demographic, psychographic, and behavioral characteristics of your potential customers. Interviews and the best survey tools can help you collect this crucial data.

It’s also smart to stay updated on industry trends by keeping an eye on market reports, industry publications, attending conferences, and following industry leaders. Even something as simple as setting up Google Alerts for key industry terms can offer valuable insight into what people are talking about in your niche. 

Understanding the competition’s strengths, weaknesses, market positioning, and strategies is equally important. Conducting this analysis can help you identify gaps in the market that your business can fill or areas where you can make yourself stand out. Using a SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is a great way to make this process simple and effective. 

You can also utilize platforms like Google Trends, social media analytics, and industry-specific forums to gather real-time insights into consumer trends and market shifts.

Step 2: Create a business plan

A well-crafted business plan will act as a roadmap, outlining your business goals, strategies, and operational schemes. Taking the time to create one will help you, your partners, and employees remain focused on what matters most to the business. It is also a powerful tool for investor relations, showing potential investors exactly how you plan on achieving your business goals. 

Your business plan should encompass a clear executive summary, defining your business concept, target market analysis, marketing strategies, operational procedures, financial projections, and an actionable timeline.

To create a good business plan, start by defining your mission, vision, and goals. Outline your product or service offerings and how they meet consumer demands. Moreover, delve deeper into your marketing and sales plans, how your business operates, and your projected financial outlook.

Also, make it a habit to regularly revisit and update your business plan to adapt to market changes.

Read our full guide to creating a business plan for more information. 

Step 3: Decide on funding

Regardless of the type of business you are starting, you will need to secure some level of funding to get it off the ground. Even those who plan on bootstrapping their start up will need to cover basic admin and equipment costs to get started. 

To select the right funding method, assess the array of options available, including avenues like self-funding, investor support, bank loans, or government grants. Each of these comes with distinct pros and cons:

  • Self-funding : Start your business using personal savings or assets. While this preserves your autonomy and minimizes debt, it might limit your starting capital.
  • Investors : Seeking investors injects capital into your venture but often involves ceding a portion of ownership or enduring pressure to meet investor expectations.
  • Bank loans : Acquiring a loan from financial institutions is a common method. It offers financial leverage but can burden your business with interest payments. This approach is similar to using a credit card to fund your startup. 
  • Government grants : Explore government grants for specific industries or initiatives. They offer non-repayable financial aid but may have stringent eligibility criteria.
  • Other grants : Some Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) also offer grants to small and start up businesses. These may be specific to certain industries or more generic in nature, a quick online search should help you find your options. 

It’s important to opt for a financing approach aligned with your long-term goals while also considering potential downsides. 

Step 4: Pick a business name

Choosing a catchy business name that matches your brand is critical before you start your own business. Your business name is your first impression - a reflection of your brand values, identity, and aspirations. A well-crafted name acts as a cornerstone of your brand identity, setting the tone for your business and helping establish a strong connection with your audience.

To pick out a memorable business name ensure:

  • It aligns with your brand's identity, vision, and values. It should convey what your business stands for.
  • It’s a straightforward and easy-to-understand name that’s effortless to recall and recognize.
  • It stands out in the crowd by being unique, eye-catching, and memorable.
  • The name addresses your target audience - it should resonate with their preferences and ambitions.
  • You’ve tested the name's appeal among a small focus group or through surveys to assess its impact and relevance.
  • It isn’t identical or very similar to others within your industry, this will help limit confusion 

Since your business name is a critical asset in your entrepreneurial journey, invest time and thought into this decision. When picking a name it is also important to check the availability of associated domains. Although an exact match isn’t always necessary, finding a short and memorable domain is essential. 

Step 5: Do the boring (but essential) stuff

While terribly tedious, setting up your business in a legal framework is the backbone of its stability. Understanding the business structures such as sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, corporation, and so forth will help you shape your enterprise. 

Next, you have to figure out your tax responsibilities and ensure compliance by learning about tax filing, deductions, and obligations specific to your business structure.  Also, check the necessary licenses and permits for your industry to ensure regulatory compliance and safeguard your business from legal challenges.

Lastly, separate personal and business finances. By opening a business bank account you'll successfully streamline financial management and also create a clear boundary between personal and professional assets. This encourages financial transparency and accountability, which is crucial for business success.

Step 6: Develop a marketing plan

Marketing is the lifeblood of a startup, fostering brand recognition, and boosting customer outreach. In this competitive landscape, utilizing diverse marketing strategies - from social media engagement to content marketing and SEO - will help you improve visibility and engagement.

Creating a marketing strategy is all about understanding your audience, crafting a compelling value proposition, and then delivering it to them in areas where their attention is already focused. 

Dedicate a section of your marketing plan to deciding which tools you will use to make your life easier. This could include using the best email marketing tools to help automate customer emails or the best social media management tools to help you schedule great content for your social media channels. You should even go as far as deciding what the best web hosting provider is for your website.

Start your own business: Summary

In a nutshell, understanding how to start your own business is a balanced mix of enthusiasm and strategic groundwork. This quick guide has walked you through the core steps necessary to confidently initiate the launch of your dream business.

From conducting thorough market research to discerning the optimal funding options and coming up with an attention-grabbing business name, each step in this journey is as significant as the others. Now that you’re armed with know-how, you can kick off the process and start your own business right now.

The content included in this guide should not be interpreted as financial or legal advice or recommendations. Seeking professional financial and legal guidance is highly recommended before making any decisions for your startup.

Why do I need a business plan?

In short, a business plan serves as a strategic blueprint for your enterprise. It's a crucial tool that articulates your vision, market analysis, and operational strategies. It not only guides your actions but also provides clarity for potential investors or stakeholders. 

How do I finance my business?

To support your business you can opt for self-funding, explore external investments, contemplate bank loans, or investigate opportunities for grants. Each of these avenues bear its advantages and disadvantages.

How can I pick out a perfect name for my business?

Choose an easy-to-memorize name that matches your brand's vision while being appealing to your target audience. You should consider factors such as uniqueness, relevance, and brand image the name conveys. After all, it’s an opportunity to encapsulate your business's identity and values in a concise yet impactful way.

 Kickstart your venture: Your go-to business launch checklist for 2024

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How Fast Should Your Company Really Grow?

  • Gary P. Pisano

how to make a start up business plan

Growth—in revenues and profits—is the yardstick by which the competitive fitness and health of organizations is measured. Consistent profitable growth is thus a near universal goal for leaders—and an elusive one.

To achieve that goal, companies need a growth strategy that encompasses three related sets of decisions: how fast to grow, where to seek new sources of demand, and how to develop the financial, human, and organizational capabilities needed to grow. This article offers a framework for examining the critical interdependencies of those decisions in the context of a company’s overall business strategy, its capabilities and culture, and external market dynamics.

Why leaders should take a strategic perspective

Idea in Brief

The problem.

Sustained profitable growth is a nearly universal corporate goal, but it is an elusive one. Empirical research suggests that when inflation is taken into account, most companies barely grow at all.

While external factors play a role, most companies’ growth problems are self-inflicted: Too many firms approach growth in a highly reactive, opportunistic manner.

The Solution

To grow profitably over the long term, companies need a strategy that addresses three key decisions: how fast to grow (rate of growth); where to seek new sources of demand (direction of growth); and how to amass the resources needed to grow (method of growth).

Perhaps no issue attracts more senior leadership attention than growth does. And for good reason. Growth—in revenues and profits—is the yardstick by which we tend to measure the competitive fitness and health of companies and determine the quality and compensation of its management. Analysts, investors, and boards pepper CEOs about growth prospects to get insight into stock prices. Employees are attracted to faster-growing companies because they offer better opportunities for advancement, higher pay, and greater job security. Suppliers prefer faster-growing customers because working with them improves their own growth prospects. Given the choice, most companies and their stakeholders would choose faster growth over slower growth.

Five elements can move you beyond episodic success.

  • Gary P. Pisano is the Harry E. Figgie Jr. Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the author of Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation (PublicAffairs, 2019).

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  1. How To Write A Business Plan (2024 Guide)

    Bottom Line Frequently Asked Questions Show more Every business starts with a vision, which is distilled and communicated through a business plan. In addition to your high-level hopes and...

  2. Write your business plan

    Content Business plans help you run your business A good business plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing your business. You'll use your business plan as a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. It's a way to think through the key elements of your business.

  3. How to Write a Business Plan for a Startup (with Pictures)

    1 Describe your mission and objectives. Under the heading "Company Description" you should describe your company in more detail. This section fleshes out some of the information provided in the executive summary. For example, you can mention the following: Your mission. What is your driving goal every day? Don't simply write, "Make money."

  4. How to Write a Startup Business Plan

    How to write a small startup business plan. Use this guide for entrepreneurs to develop or tweak a startup business plan. By following this easy six-step process, you'll soon have a clear path to startup success. 1. Clarify the startup vision, mission, and values. The first step to writing a startup business plan is understanding the startup ...

  5. How To Start A Business In 11 Steps (2024 Guide)

    1. Determine Your Business Concept 2. Research Your Competitors and Market 3. Create Your Business Plan 4. Choose Your Business Structure 5. Register Your Business and Get Licenses 6. Get...

  6. Business Plan: What It Is + How to Write One

    The traditional business plan is a long document that explores each component in depth. You can build a traditional business plan to secure funding from lenders or investors. The lean start-up business plan focuses on the key elements of a business's development and is shorter than the traditional format.

  7. How to Write a Business Plan: Guide + Examples

    Raise money Grow strategically Keep your business on the right track As you start to write your plan, it's useful to zoom out and remember what a business plan is. At its core, a business plan is an overview of the products and services you sell, and the customers that you sell to.

  8. How to Write a Business Plan for Your Startup

    Market research Descriptions of products and/or services The management and operational structure Marketing and sales strategy Financials We recommend using the LivePlan business plan so ftware to help guide you through structuring your business plan in the proper way. Thoroughly writing out your plan accomplishes several things.

  9. 10 steps to start your business

    10 steps to start your business Starting a business involves planning, making key financial decisions, and completing a series of legal activities. Read on to learn about each step. Conduct market research Market research will tell you if there's an opportunity to turn your idea into a successful business.

  10. How to Write a Business Plan: Beginner's Guide (& Templates)

    Step #1: Write Your Executive Summary Step #2: Put Together Your Company Description Step #3: Conduct Your Market Analysis Step #4: Research Your Competition Step #5: Outline Your Products or Services Step #6: Summarize Your Financial Plan Step #7: Determine Your Marketing Strategy Step #8: Showcase Your Organizational Chart

  11. Business Plan: What it Is, How to Write One

    1. Write an executive summary 2. Describe your company 3. State your business goals 4. Describe your products and services 5. Do your market research 6. Outline your marketing and sales plan 7....

  12. How to Write the Perfect Business Plan: A Comprehensive Guide

    Determine how you can best reach potential customers. Evaluate your competition. Your marketing plan must set you apart from your competition, and you can't stand out unless you know your ...

  13. How to Start a Business: A Startup Guide for Entrepreneurs [Template]

    In order to build and run a successful company, you'll also need to create and fine-tune a business plan, assess your finances, complete all the legal paperwork, pick your partners, research apps for startup growth, choose the best tools and systems to help you get your marketing and sales off the ground … and a whole lot more.

  14. How to write a business plan

    4. Financials. Include a cash flow forecast, usually broken down on a monthly basis and presented as a spreadsheet. Also add your financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement and statement of retained earnings). And if you're a new business, list start-up costs.

  15. How To Make A Business Plan: Step By Step Guide

    The steps below will guide you through the process of creating a business plan and what key components you need to include. 1. Create an executive summary. Start with a brief overview of your entire plan. The executive summary should cover your business plan's main points and key takeaways.

  16. Startup Business Plans 101: Your Path to Success

    To begin creating your startup business plan, it is essential to clarify your business idea and define your objectives. Start by asking yourself key questions: What problem does your product or service solve? Who are your target customers? What differentiates your offering from existing solutions in the market?

  17. How to Write a Business Plan in 2023: Step by Step Guide

    The following will take you to online business plan guides and templates for specific countries. United States Small Business Administration (SBA) - The "write your business plan page" includes traditional and lean startup business plan formats, three downloadable sample business plans, a template, and a step-by-step build a business plan ...

  18. Free Startup Business Plan Templates

    Word | PDF This Lean business plan template takes a traditional business plan outline and extracts the most essential elements. Use this template to outline your company and industry overview, convey the problem you are solving, identify customer segments, highlight key performance metrics, and list a timeline of key activities.

  19. How To Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (2024)

    Keep the tone, style, and voice consistent. This is best managed by having a single person write the plan or by allowing time for the plan to be properly edited before distributing it. 6. Use a business plan template. You can also use a free business plan template to provide a skeleton for writing a plan.

  20. How to Write a Business Plan (Tips, Templates, Examples)

    1. Executive Summary. While your executive summary is the first page of your business plan, it's the section you'll write last. That's because it summarizes your entire business plan into a succinct one-pager. Begin with an executive summary that introduces the reader to your business and gives them an overview of what's inside the ...

  21. How to Write a Startup Business Plan

    For getting your ideas down: $100 Startup. For law firms: Cilo. For established businesses: SCORE. For additional industries: LawDepot. Sample business plan A one-page business plan briefly states your opportunity and timeline. It's often used as an introduction to your longer, more robust plan.

  22. How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

    How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page. The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions. A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:

  23. Business Plan: What It Is + How to Write One

    A business plan is a written document that defines your business goals and the tactics to achieve those goals. A business plan typically explores the competitive landscape of an industry, analyzes a market and different customer segments within it, describes the products and services, lists business strategies for success, and outlines ...

  24. 10-part business plan template and how write a business plan

    Once you've got your audience in mind, you can start your business plan, which should include: 1. Executive summary. Even though it appears first in the official plan, write this section last so you can condense essential ideas from the other nine sections. For now, leave it as a placeholder.

  25. How to start a business in 2024

    Step 2: Analyze the competition. Now that you've chosen an idea, it's time to figure out what will make your business unique. Start with market research to understand the industry, the size of ...

  26. How to Start a Small Business at Home in 2024

    A business plan outlines the direction of the business — its goals, strategies, structure, ways of measuring success and plans for dealing with things like change and risk. Simply put, it's ...

  27. Kickstart your venture: Your go-to business launch checklist for 2024

    Also, make it a habit to regularly revisit and update your business plan to adapt to market changes. Read our full guide to creating a business plan for more information. Step 3: Decide on funding

  28. How Fast Should Your Company Really Grow?

    Gary P. Pisano is the Harry E. Figgie Jr. Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the author of Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation (PublicAffairs ...

  29. 2024 Digital Marketing Strategy Guide

    Kimberlee Leonard has taken her professional experience as an insurance agency owner and financial advisor and translated that into a finance writing career that helps business owners and ...