The infamous BUSINESS PLAN.
For many creative entrepreneurs, the words bring to mind bland corporate offices, rigid guidelines, and a daunting amount of paperwork.
It’s likely the reason you don’t have one yet.
Business plans sometimes feel formal and stuffy, but they don’t have to!
In fact, business plans come in all shapes and sizes.
Nothing fancy or extensive required (unless that’s your style, in which case plenty of templates are available online)!
The only non-negotiable: you absolutely DO need one.
Sure, maybe you’re just starting out and haven’t gotten around to it yet because of the 27 million OTHER things rattling around in your newly-minted CEO brain.
Or maybe you’ve gotten by successfully for several years without a business plan (it’s possible to a point– I’ll be the first to admit it).
However, waiting to put a business plan in place only stunts your progress.
A solid business plan will help you make sure your business goals add up (success isn’t magic, it’s math!), skyrocket your growth, and beeline your way towards your goals. Better yet, creating one is incredibly simple. While I can’t guarantee building your business plan will be all fun and games, I CAN promise that you can outline and implement a business plan for your creative business in just four easy steps.
Let me show you how…
The purpose of your business plan is to make sure ALL the pieces of your business strategically fit together, support each other, align with your talents, passions, skills, and values, AND add up to a successful, sustainable, and PROFITABLE business.
Creating offers and creating strategic offers are two very different things.
As a business owner, you very likely know what you already offer or would like to offer to your clients on some level.
But when you’re not intentional about how your offers work together, what often happens is you’re left with a smattering of random offers that go together like polka dots and stripes (aka, they don’t).
This lack of structure around your offers can become time-consuming and ultimately unsustainable for your business. Without an intentional plan, you may even wake up one day with an accidental business that just kind of…happened!
Even if you create custom offers, you need a set structure, process, AND proper pricing to succeed in the long run.
The key to effectively defining your offers is two-fold:
COO Tip: Not sure how your offer suite can support your ICA’s customer journey? Go to the source and talk to them (hello, MARKET RESEARCH)! Reach out to past clients and ask if you can pick their brains for 10-20 minutes. Wanna sweeten the pot? Offer them a Starbucks gift card or a discount off their next service with you in exchange for their time. This is a great way to learn about their current state, past experiences, and future goals. This will likely spark some new ideas and ways that you can intentionally support them, and clients just like them, in the future!
The ever elusive pricing challenge.
Pricing is probably the thing I get the most questions about as a business coach for creatives! It can be tricky to price your work and feel confident that you got it right.
Why is it so difficult to price our products and services as entrepreneurs?
Because no one can set it for you, and there are SO many competing messages out there!
Wanna see what I mean?
Type any service or a product into Google (say: brand photography), and you’ll find yourself bombarded with an insane range of figures varying from mere triple digits to 5k+ figures!
So it’s totally understandable if you have NO CLUE what to charge for your services and feel like you’re just winging it every time you name your price.
And while I can’t wave a magic wand and tell you what to charge for your product or services, I CAN tell you there’s a better way to figure it out for yourself, without doubt or comparison.
There are a few different pricing models out there that are pretty popular, depending on your industry and your business stage.
For the sake of this blog, we won’t dig into all of them here! (I could teach a whole class on those alone…and who knows, maybe one day I will!)
But the one pricing strategy I recommend most, whether your business is product-based, service-based, or a hybrid of the two…
So, what is it?
Value-based pricing is a pricing strategy that is based on what your customers perceive the value to be OR the value your product or service brings to the customer.
I like this strategy because it is scalable!
This pricing strategy has nothing to do with the amount of time or the cost of the resources you put into the work or service you are providing, so it doesn’t penalize you for working better, faster, or more efficiently (l call this the hourly pricing penalty!).
Instead of focusing on the input of a project like hourly pricing does, value-based pricing focuses on the output and its impact or value.
Say, you offer logo design.
As a designer, your first time designing a logo is most likely going to take a LONG time, a lot of effort, and the results are typically going to be that of a beginner.
Without the experience, you are likely going to charge a low price. The people hiring you are only willing to pay that price, which shows they don’t value the outcome (a high quality logo) as much as they value saving money.
On the other hand, if you’re an experienced designer you can readily create a MUCH better logo, MUCH faster, and when value-pricing, you can charge MUCH more for it! Because the logo itself is of higher quality, it will attract a different clientele. These clients value the end product, the logo itself.
If an experienced designer charged hourly, they would be penalized for their efficiency and skill because they produced a logo FASTER than the beginner.
A value-based pricing approach, however, allows them to be rewarded for the skills, expertise, and experience that the later designer brings to the table and the work they produce.
Side note: Most businesses do not start with value-based pricing right off the bat. It’s often something you grow into as you gain more experience and you build up a track record of success. But it’s my favorite pricing strategy as it’s generally the most profitable and sustainable.
So even if you don’t feel comfortable starting here, it’s a great goal to work towards!
As you experiment with your pricing and pricing model, you’ll become more confident. You’ll understand the market and your customers better with every sale.
COO Tip: Want to learn more about how to make your creative business more profitable? Snag my freebie here!
Now that you’ve defined your offers and established your prices, it’s time to pull everything together and make sure it all adds up.
You can think of it like a (very simple) math equation.
Because business success isn’t magic, it’s MATH!
We need to ensure that your goals align with the details of your business.
To establish your capacity, consider:
→ How much time can you work?
→ How much time do you want to work?
→ What boundaries do you want to set?
COO Tip: This is a great time to reflect on your vision, definition of success, and values.
One of the most common errors I see business owners make time and again?
Their capacity and pricing DON’T add up to their goals.
When this happens, no matter how hard they try, they will feel stuck in their business and find it near impossible to progress towards the growth they seek.
To avoid this, I highly recommend you do a capacity calculation. You can learn this exact formula and how to put it into action in my previous blog post, “Does Your Creative Business Add Up?”
This is NOT a set it and forget it process. When you initially create your business plan, you are working with a LOT of assumptions.
While some estimates and forecasts around your offers, ICA, capacity, and pricing may be accurate, we never want to put that to chance. Instead, it’s time to put your business plan to the test!
As you implement and move from theory into reality with your business, it’s essential to keep a mindful eye on how your assumptions translate in the real world!
To do this, you can:
→ Measure and make adjustments based on what you see! Your business plan can and should be a living, breathing document, not something set in stone.
→ Experiment. Don’t be afraid to try something. You can always pivot or change your mind entirely. Sometimes you simply can’t know if something is viable until you give it a try!
Because you can do better when you know better, and taking the time to measure and adjust allows you to enter into a process of continuous improvement!
And there is ALWAYS room for improvement!
You officially have your very own, shiny new BUSINESS PLAN. As promised, it didn’t require any weird legal jargon, stuffy terms, or stressful paperwork.
It did, however, require you to get clear on how you want to work, who you serve, how you will price your offers, and IF all of these puzzle pieces come together to create the vision you have in mind for your business.
I hope you walk away from this blog and this process with more confidence and clarity about the foundations of your business so you can continue to build strong as you grow towards YOUR definition of success.
Feeling overwhelmed or alone in all the decision-making when it comes to your business? Join the no obligation waitlist for my upcoming business course that will help you lay the foundations your creative work needs with the structure, guidance, and specific support you’ve been searching for.