In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Earlier this week I made a case for why Business Plans are a waste of time for part time entrepreneurs. Now I’d like to present you with an alternative to the formal business plan. It’s my anti-business plan, and it’s what I’ve been using ever since I realized that a business plan was not for me. Since then I’ve been ultra-focused on getting my business going without all the frustrations and distractions that I had before.
Please understand that this only applies to part-time businesses that do not require any significant monetary investment to get off the ground. Examples of this type of business are blogging, web design, graphic design, computer consulting, or anything that can be done from home or in a limited capacity.
The Anti “Business Plan”
The anti-”business plan” consists of two parts: a general outline of the questions to consider before you actually start doing business and the traits I feel are necessary to get past start-up hurdles.
What can you do? – Before you can start a business you’ll need to know what kind of business you’re going to start. If you’re having trouble with this one, just think of something that you love and that you know how to do well. Then figure out how to sell it to others. Cook well? Start a cooking blog and use it to sell ads or recipes. Did you get an A+ in wood shop? Offer custom carpentry or furniture fabrication for your neighborhood. Have a knack for capturing candid moments on camera and want to use that expensive camera you got for Christmas? Start a photography business.
What services or products will you offer? – Once you’ve figured out what you’re good at, think of ways you can present your services to others. A good way to figure this out is call (or surf) around to similar businesses in your area and see what they are offering. Model your offerings on what they’re doing, but add you own unique spin to it.
What should we call you? – It’s a good idea to think of a business name, register it with your local government, and secure a domain name. You can read about my experiences with this process and what I learned by checking out my Business Name Blues series.
Financial and legal considerations - You’ll either want to really familiarize yourself with your local tax laws or find an accountant to consult with before you begin earning money. Don’t let this bite you in the behind later down the road, it can be costly to fix.
That’s it! After those questions are answered, you’re basically ready to rock. You’ll need to get the word out about your business, but with a little ingenuity and creativity you’ll be taking on your first clients in no time.
Traits of a part time business owner:
- Flexibility – Things will change, your assumptions will be turned upside down, and your best laid plans will fall to pieces. The best way to overcome these obstacles is to be flexible and roll with the punches.
- Frugality – Without much, if any, seed money you’ll want to really concentrate on cost-effective ways to conduct business and advertise. Try not to dip into your personal account. Once you start taking on some clients, make sure you invest that money back into your business at first until you reach a comfortable point in which you feel you are taking on as many clients as you can comfortably handle.
- Motivation – Remember earlier when I said to choose something that you love? That’s because it’s a lot of work getting a company started and you’ll want to make sure you’re having fun doing it. This will keep you motivated and keep you going through the difficult times.
Now that you have the desire, you know what to do, and you understand what it takes to do it…DO IT! As you’re working with clients and growing your business, start working on a formal business plan. Figure out financial goals, analyze your competition, and get a handle on what it will take to run your business if you ever decide to make it a full-time affair. Just don’t let the planning process bog you down at first, or you run the risk of getting discouraged and not starting your business at all.