One of the mistakes I failed to mention in my 6 mistakes I made in my first year of business post was that for most of the first year, I was flying by the seat of my pants (aka I had no business plan whatsoever).
My “business plan” (if you can even call it that, ha!) was “find clients who will pay me.”
While finding paying clients is absolutely important (check out how I got my first five), I wouldn’t really call that much of a plan.
When you’re just starting out, I don’t think there’s any reason why you need an 84-page document on how you’re going to build your business but I do think it’s important to have a bird’s eye view of what you want your business to look like and how it will function.
In today’s post, I share the aspects you should be thinking about to create an actionable, revenue producing business plan. I hope you enjoy!
Defining your why is so important. Actually, it’s the most important step to take while you’re creating your business plan.
Let me tell you, if you’re going into small business ownership solely because of money…you need to figure something else out.
Money cannot be the main focus of your solo business. It will not work. You will get burnt out and you will end up despising the business that you built.
On the days when you are struggling, when money isn’t coming in, when you’re having a hard time, when you feel like you can’t do this anymore (and rest assured, you will have ALL of these days at some point), money is not what will keep you going.
Hence why you need to define your ultimate why.
Answering these questions will help you define your why so you can push through the rough times and truly savor the best times.
If you’re just getting started with your solo business, you may be still figuring out what the heck it is that you’re even going to do.
I recommend thinking of the things that you’re already good at and enjoy.
Considering all of these questions together, at the same time, will help you figure out what niche you belong in and what you will succeed in. Sometimes a business idea is staring at your in your face, you just need to recognize it!
The fact of the matter is, there are hundreds if not thousands of people out there that offer something similar to you. This isn’t to compare yourself or feel bad because someone is better at something than you, it’s to realize that there are people out there that already offer what you want to offer.
So how are you going to set yourself apart?
This isn’t to scare you and make you think you shouldn’t try because there are other people offering similar services/products, it’s to get you to think strategically about what you can offer the world that’s unique.
Writing out your past experience in life (whether related to your professional job or not) can help you start to see your unique perspective and how you can offer something different to the world.
You do have distinguishing characteristics that will make you stand out, you just need to be able to clearly define what those are so you can find the right audience that will love and support you.
Now that you’ve defined what makes you different, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to sell.
It basically boils down to three options:
There are pros and cons to each. I initially started only offering services, because that’s what I was comfortable with and knew the best. I would advise you selecting what you are most comfortable with and what makes sense for you.
You can always add or take away in the future, but don’t try and overwhelm yourself with doing everything at once. Remember, you’re just getting started!
There is a lot that goes into pricing products and services. Charge too little and you’re viewed as a novice and people take advantage of your low prices leading you to burnout, charge too much and your customers will go to someone else that charges less for the same product or service.
My personal opinion is there’s no right pricing for anything.
Some people pay $10 for a cell phone. Some people wait in line for days and pay $800 for a cell phone (hello, iPhone).
I know a lot of people feel conflicted about pricing, whether they feel like they’re charging too little or too much.
Your circumstances also play a major role in determining pricing for your services and products. Are you relying solely on your income? Do you have children to support? How much of a nest egg do you have? Where do you live and what is your lifestyle?
Here’s how I do it: I know how much I want to make in a year. It is a reasonable salary, something I could obtain if I were working a regular 9-5 job in this same field.
Once I determined that number, I worked backward and figured out how much I would need to make per hour to get to that salary. Then, when I’m pricing out clients for projects, I make it based on that hourly rate.
I’m sure some people think I charge too much. Others think I charge too little. I charge what I know I’m worth. Whether that fits into someone else’s budget is up to them.Learn how to build an actionable business plan for your solo biz with these tips from @BrittneyLLynn! Click To Tweet
Your client/customer process is important to consider while you’re building up your business. Say someone says yes to your pricing (yay!), what are your next steps?
I send mine a contract, detailing out everything we have already discussed and any other stipulations depending on the project.
Then, I have different processes for each type of client.
For ghostwriting clients, I use Google Docs to share a folder with the client and get them set up as a project in Asana.
Determining the tools that you will use (check out mine) and how often you will be communicating and what you need from them will help you stay organized and always one step ahead of the game.
If you’re selling products, there is still a customer process that occurs.
You don’t have to have all of these things figured out before you get started, but spending some time considering how you want to handle each of these situations will make it easier for you in the long run.
Ah, my favorite part of the business plan! You can have the best services or products in the world, but if you aren’t marketing them you won’t get very far.
First things first, most solo businesses (especially an online business) will require some type of content creation on your part (or you can hire someone to help you!).
Content doesn’t have to mean blogging. Some people hate writing and don’t want to upkeep a blog. The great thing about right now is that you don’t have to do blogging.
You can create a podcast. A YouTube. Webinars. There are a lot of different options right now so pick one that you love doing.
Next up is your email newsletter. It’s funny, I have friends that work in other industries and they’re like, “email marketing still works?!” Uhhhh yes friends, yes indeed.
Particularly if you run your business online. You need to have an email list. You’ll then have to think about what type of content you will send them (gotta give them a reason to stay subscribed!).
Social media is another way to market yourself. I recently saw on a Facebook group a question about how important social media actually was to growing a business.
Here’s my take: can you build a business without a social media presence? Yes. Social media has only existed roughly over the past 10 years and obviously businesses have succeeded without it.
However, you’re going to miss out on a lot of business if you aren’t on social media. Why? Because that’s where people spend a lot of their time.
You may not like that answer but it’s the truth. The fact is, people spend a ton of time online, and specifically on social media platforms. It’s going to take you a lot longer to build a presence online without social media, but it is doable.
Last thing you’ll want to determine while you’re building your business plan is what success looks like to you.
If you’re building your solo business, you’re probably doing it for a reason. Everyone has their own reason. Reasons can include:
Comparing yourself to other’s successes will not get you anywhere. This is why it is crucial for you decide what success looks like to you.
Maybe you want to spend more time with your family. Maybe you want to travel wherever you want, whenever you want. Maybe it gives you more free time to do other things you love.
Whatever it is, it’s important to keep this as a reminder for when times are tough. You may have a different idea of what success looks like compared to other people, and that’s okay.
I hope this post was helpful for you. The point of building a business plan is not to have a document that you are tied down to and have to follow to a T, it’s to give your business some guidance and a path to follow to create your own successful solo business on your own terms.
Click the button below to get access to a free workbook to help you figure out your solo business plan. It’s time to get to work!
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I’m writing this post as we travel to visit family for the holidays. As we trek along for the 12-hour drive (yep, we’re crazy), I think back on my first year of business.
If you haven’t been reading for long, I started my business in January 2016. I began as a social media specialist for small businesses and then grew into offering a wide variety of marketing services for online business owners.
In just one year I’ve grown my client list (check out how I got my first five) and connected with so many people across the globe. It’s been a wild ride to say the least and I’m so grateful for it.
My hope in sharing these mistakes is that for those of you just beginning your journey to learn from, however sometimes you need to make the mistakes to really learn. Mistakes are a part of life but it’s how you learn from them that really matters.
In the beginning, I was solely focused on getting client work. Which was great! That was what was going to increase my income and get my name out there. It was necessary for me to focus on getting clients.
However, at some point, I stopped focusing on my own business.
I stopped blogging. I stopped writing email newsletters. I ignored my social media profiles.
Client work always took priority and while most times that is absolutely important, I also needed to give the time for my own business and treating it like my own client.
It can be hard, because when you work with clients, that’s primarily what pays your income. But if you continue to never dedicating time to work on your business, it can end up growing into something you don’t enjoy doing.
My hope for this next year is to make sure I spend time on my own business while still dedicating the proper amount of time to my amazing clients.
Gosh this one is hard to admit. But it’s true. I compared myself often to other business owners and it’s something I continuously work on.
“Look at what she’s doing. Why didn’t I think of that?”
“Why did they get more email subscribers in their first month of business?”
“I wish I just made half as much as her in one month!”
It feels gross to admit these thoughts but I’m all about sharing the good and the bad of running a business.
Comparing never gets me anywhere except in a negative headspace. I’ve recently unsubscribed from a lot of blogs and email newsletters that were causing much of the comparison. I also try to spend my time wisely on social media.
Because you can end up spending all day comparing yourself and where does that get you? No where.
Stay in your own lane, focus on your business, and celebrate the wins of other businesses. Other people winning doesn’t mean you can’t win in your business.
When I first started, I didn’t want to spend money on anything. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat, especially if you’re just starting out.
While keeping things low cost is great when you’re just getting started, at some point you do need to invest in services/people to help you do things that you don’t have the time to do.
I mean, let’s get real, I was manually pinning 30-40 pins a day on Pinterest. That is crazy. And I don’t have time to do that anymore.
So I invested in BoardBooster for $10/month and it saves me so much time.
As my business continues to grow, I’ll continue to invest in my business to save me time, effort, and money.@BrittneyLLynn shares the 6 mistakes she made during her first year of business. Check out the post & learn from her mistakes Click To Tweet
Man, I stressed way too much about everything.
“Did my email subscribers like my email or was it stupid?”
“I just need one more client to get to this amount of money each month!”
“I don’t have any good photos to share on Instagram. Ugh!”
Yes, in all honesty I stressed out about Instagram photos. Instagram. People. If you’re stressing about Instagram photos it’s time to take a step back and evaluate your life.
Fortunately, when I started, we relied upon my husband’s income to live on (read our debt paying story to find out how!).
That means I didn’t have to stress about earning a living wage to be able to feed, clothe, and house us.
So if you’re in that situation your stresses are valid and very different from mine.
But I was stressing about things that did not need to be stressed about. I’m slowly learning to take a chill pill some times and realize that it takes time to build a profitable business. Not everything is worth stressing out over. Especially Instagram photos. Yeesh.
I don’t think I talked about this on the blog (but I did on Instagram stories, follow me!) but I had a major breakdown about my website.
Long story short, the free WordPress theme I initially used on my website was banned from WordPress earlier this year.
This free theme had thousands of users, so I thought I was safe from that ever happening.
In fact, I had no idea it was banned. I tried to update it and I kept getting errors. I put a call out on Instagram stories and the wonderful Jess from Jess Creatives told me that my theme had unfortunately been banned.
Uh, what? How is that possible?!
I quickly purchased a new theme from Bluchic (amazing, feminine WordPress themes!) and installed it in a weekend.
I should have done this WAY earlier than I did but lesson learned: You always get what you pay for and free is not always the best.
I think this may have been my biggest mistake of the year.
I didn’t realize that one of the things I missed most about working in an office was interacting with my co-workers.
I should have known. I’ve always loved collaborating with other people and always think two brains are better than one.
I’m also an introvert so I recharge by being by myself.
I figured since I didn’t mind being by myself that I would be totally fine working alone as a solopreneur.
Wrong. So wrong.
After about a month I was going crazy. My husband travels often for work and while my dog is a great coworker he doesn’t talk much.
I started feeling really isolated and alone.
Another contributing factor to feeling isolated was that my friends and family don’t really get what I do.
I mean, they understand I work for myself, and they know I do marketing, but they don’t really get what it’s like to run an online business.
And if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to talk about your business all the time.
Two of the best things I did for myself and my business:
These two things alone have helped immensely in feeling better during my days. My mastermind especially has been amazing. There are just three of us, but it is so incredible to have two other people who get what it’s like to be a business owner. They have both been so incredibly supportive and helpful and I can’t wait to see what the next year holds for all of us.
If I could recommend anything to you for the next year is to find a mastermind group, or even a business coach, to talk business with. It will do incredible things for your mindset.
Part of running a business is making mistakes. There’s just no way around it and the mistakes you make help you grow as a person and as a business owner.
I hope in sharing my mistakes that you remember to take time for yourself and make you a priority. How can you run your business if you aren’t taking care of yourself?
I’d love to hear about your mistakes from the past year and what you’re hoping to do for 2017. Please leave a comment below!
Can I admit something? I feel like I can be honest with you all, especially since revealing a business update and what’s going to be changing around here.
Over the last few months I’ve had a hard time with finding balance as a solopreneur.
I’ve felt tired. Burnt out. Overwhelmed. And just kinda down.
There are so many articles out there about how important it is to have work/life balance but it’s hard to come across ones that actually reveal how hard it is to create that balance, especially as a business owner.
I’ve always had a regular 9-5 job, where I could literally turn off at the end of each day. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to have a 9-5 like that, but I did. And at the time I guess I didn’t realize how awesome that was. Because now I can’t turn my brain off.
I’ve slept horribly and I’ve felt more anxiety about work related things than I ever have before, so I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it. I thought I was alone but when I started actually asking other solopreneurs, they’ve been through the same thing I’m going through right now.
I’m still a work in progress, as we all are, but I’d like to share some of my struggles and what I’m attempting to do about it in hopes of helping someone else out there that might be going through the same thing.
I think everyone struggles with this from time to time (or maybe all the time).
There never seems to be enough of it. And when you run your own business there’s always something you can be doing. Always. There’s always a blog post to write. A new product to create. An email to send. An email to respond back to. An Instagram post to publish. It’s never-ending and it’s made me feel more pressure than ever before since this is my business.
My solution: I’m trying to be better about recognizing that there’s always more time and I don’t have to get everything done in one day.
Social media is amazing but man can it drag you down fast.
Within minutes of hopping onto social media I can start feeling unaccomplished, unworthy, and left behind.
Shiny object syndrome is when you have a new idea that captures your attention in a way that gets you distracted from what you are currently working on and not staying focused on your current goal.
Of course I love seeing other business owners launch new products, sell new services, revamp their websites…but then a small part of me sometimes thinks “hey wait, I should be doing that right now too!”
But in all honesty, that’s not what I need to be doing. I need to stay in my own lane, and focus on my priorities for my business.
I am already a very strategic person, so I don’t often do things just to do them. But it can be difficult to not get distracted when everyone around you is creating new and awesome things.
My solution: Focus on my priorities and remember my why. Instead of focusing on what I’m not doing that I think I should be doing, I’m going to focus on what I have and what I can do right now.
Speaking of priorities, oof. I’ve always thought I was someone who knew what to prioritize, but I’m realizing it’s a whole different ball game when I’m running my own business.
Because here’s the thing: Everything is important. My client work is important. My website is important. This here blog is important. My relationship with my husband is important as are my relationships with my friends and family. It’s ALL important and they are ALL priorities, but I can’t have them be priorities every single day.
I’m only one person and I’m the only one running my business right now and I simply can’t be the best business owner, wife, friend, daughter, dog owner, and any other title I have every single day.
That’s why prioritizing each and every day is so important.
My solution: Every day I have three main priorities. Sometimes they are all business related (such as send a client a project, write an email newsetter, etc). Sometimes they include working out or going out for date night. Sometimes my priorities include hanging out and reading. It all depends. What matters is I’m taking a look at everything I have going on in my life and I pick out the top three for each day. This helps me focus on what matters for that particular day, so I don’t feel overwhelmed with having to do #allthethings.
Do I have an ever-growing to-do list that I’d like to get to after those three things are accomplished? Of course. But if I never focus on any one particular thing, nothing will ever get done. Having the three priorities helps me stay focused and not too overwhelmed.@BrittneyLLynn discusses her struggle with finding balance as a #solopreneur & what's she's doing to fix it. Click To Tweet
Since there is always something us solopreneurs can be doing to improve our business, it can be difficult to feel accomplished. There isn’t a boss that’s there to pat you on the back. There’s just you. And sometimes we can be pretty mean to ourselves.
“That’s not good enough.”
“There’s no way someone will like this blog post.”
“I only worked 7 hours today and feel like I did nothing.”
We have to learn to know that what we’re doing is enough. We all have off days. Nobody is productive 100% of the time (and if you are, I guess you’re a robot.).
You’re probably accomplishing a lot more than you think, but you end up focusing on all of the things you didn’t get done instead of the things you did. At least that’s how it is/was for me.
My solution: Instead of only having a to-do list, have a “I did” list. I started writing down each time I finish a project, task, blog post, whatever and then at the end of the day I get to see all of the things I actually did accomplish throughout the day.
I’m kind of ashamed to admit this about myself, but when I would see other online business owners say how they worked “18 hours a day for a month straight!” I felt resentful.
Who do they think they are, working 18 hours a day? They’re probably doing it to brag.
And for a while, I would work in the evenings and on the weekends not because I wanted to (or even needed to) but because I felt like I should. And that’s ridiculous. I decided to be a solopreneur business owner because I wanted to control my schedule and not work 80 hours a week.
So I’ll admit, I take most evenings and weekends off. Are there times that I work in the evenings and on weekends? Absolutely. But many times it’s because I want to, not because I feel like I have to.
Though I love running my own business, I also need a break from it. Some people can work all hours of the night and not burnout and that’s great for them. A saying from one of Brene Brown’s book (can’t remember which one so if you know please leave it in the comments!) is “Great for her, not for me” and I repeat this to myself often.
You don’t have to do it like everyone else. You can pave your own way.
My solution: Have designated times to be working: this includes checking emails, being on social media, responding to comments. Take most weekends off.
I’ve barely just revealed these struggles to my husband, and I’m obviously just now sharing them here on the blog.
For a while, I thought these feelings would just go away. When they didn’t, I started to think that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this whole running your own business thing.
Now I realize that everyone has their own struggles that they go through, but many don’t share. I’ll admit, I didn’t want to share. I didn’t want to seem weak, or ungrateful, or unprofessional.
But then I realized I’m part of the problem if I don’t share my wins and my struggles.
So here I am. Sharing what’s been on my heart and mind. Hoping to help just one person out there who’s feeling alone as a solopreneur working to build their business.
My solution: Open up more to my husband, friends, and family more about the internal struggles I go through each day as a business owner. Find other solopreneurs and talk openly with them about the struggles we go through.
I never want to come across as ungrateful or unappreciative of the opportunity I’ve had to build my own business, but I also don’t want to act like everything is glamourous and perfect when in reality it’s often, well, not.
I plan to continue sharing the good, bad, and funny of being a solopreneur business owner and I hope you’ll join me by sharing more openly the struggles that you’re having. I can guarantee you that you aren’t alone.