A simple business plan for freelancers

Alice Hollis

Alice Hollis Ltd. - More than words®

Ah, the fabulous world of freelancing!

I adore what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard in my life.

We all start that freelance journey for a reason

For me, it was about satisfying a desire to be my own boss.

It was about having the freedom to pick and choose the work I wanted to do, and the people I wanted to do it with.

And it was about having the flexibility to work alongside being a mummy, and a wife, and all the other incredible things I want to do in life.

But for it to be a sustainable career choice, there needs to be a plan

Like most people, I have a mortgage and bills, I like to eat and I like to wear clothes. I also have two children and a partner that I like to spoil at every opportunity.

That costs money.

And because it costs money, it means I need to know exactly how much I need to earn every month to make freelancing a sustainable career choice. I have three figures:

  1. Minimum income: this is my share of the money I need to bring in to cover the essentials, like the mortgage and bills.
  2. Comfortable income: this is my share for ensuring our family can cover the mortgage and bills, plus have some treats – like cake Friday, Jake’s ninja club, Oscar’s swimming lessons, and, assuming I can find a babysitter, date night with Alex.
  3. Maximum income: this is the most I’m allowing myself to earn. I love my job, but it has to sit within the ‘blend’ of everything in my life. I know if I go above this, I’ve worked too much, and that’s taken time away from my family, friends.

Knowing what my rates are, I can easily break these figures down into a number of hours/projects, and then the client mix I need to secure that level of billable activity.

Also, experience, a love of spreadsheets and a crazy need to track everything I do, means I know that in order to have X number of clients, I need to talk to X number of prospects, generated from X number of leads.

And now we’re building a pipeline!

So for example, of the 26 leads that entered my pipeline:

  • 13 of them became prospects. Initially, these were marketing qualified leads, where they showed an interest and I had a conversation with them about copywriting.
  • 9 of them became sales qualified leads, where I met them in person and ‘BANT’ qualify them – BANT qualification means the person you’re talking to has a budget, the authority to engage with you, a need, and a timeframe in which to implement a solution.
  • I anticipate that 6 of these will make it to the contract negotiation stage, where you start pinning down their requirements in a formal agreement.
  • 5 will become clients – but this could be for a one-off project, like a white paper, web copy or award submission, or it could be an ongoing engagement for blogs or a case study series.

And that plan isn’t all about sales

Yes, I need to earn money to live. But success for me is about more than income. I have many professional (and personal) goals that I want to achieve. Things like:

  • writing for Irregular Choice
  • reading at least one book every month
  • hosting #ContentClubUK
  • hitting the incredible ‘666’ followers on Twitter
  •  being published under my own name
  • being invited to speak on a podcast
  • winning an award
  • becoming Dr. Hollis

Some of these may seem petty or ridiculous, but they’re my goals and if/when I hit them, I will feel an immense feeling of satisfaction. So my plan needs to account for these personal wins too.

So what do you want/need to achieve to experience that personal satisfaction?

Translating your goals into your business plan

By now, you should have a pretty good idea of what you want to achieve. And most importantly, you’ve written them down so they’re no longer floating around as just an idea.

Creating a business plan that makes them happen is really simple.

And it doesn’t need to be a huge mammoth document that takes you six months to research and write. All you need to do is answer six questions:

1. What sort of business do you want?

Whether you’re thinking of operating a lifestyle or growth business, or something in between, deciding what you want upfront will inform your decision making.

2. Who is your ideal customer?

The more detailed a profile you can create about your ‘ideal’ customer the better. The more you know about them, the easier and more effective your sales and marketing process will be.

3. What are you offering? And how will you prove your worth?

You need to consider where you’re going to play within the market, and therefore why your customers are going to come to you.

Think about your positioning, differentiators, and your value proposition. And the evidence you have to support your claims (e.g. portfolio, case studies, years of experience, awards).

4. What external support do you need to succeed?

Depending on what you’re offering, you may need other people to help you deliver that service. For example, as a copywriter, if I were to suddenly start offering websites to clients, I would need to look for designers, web developers and SEO specialists to help me.

But also think about the support you need to run your business in the most effective and efficient way. If finance gives you a headache, hire an accountant, if you’re overwhelmed with admin, hire a virtual assistant.

5. How much do you need to earn?

Well, we’ve just calculated these all-important figures at the beginning! My tip here is to consider what you need to reinvest into your business (and yourself) to make it bigger/better.

As a rule of thumb, I build in 15% ‘fat’ into everything – so 15% of my income goes towards expenses, training, books…etc. And 15% of my time is spent running my business, so sales, finance, marketing, admin…etc.

6. What regulations apply to you?

Certain legislation, such as tax laws and data protection, apply to every business. But, there will be some legislation that is specific to the sector you operate in. Make sure you know the law because it can be a costly mistake if you don’t.

Need some help?

I’m a sucker for a strategy! And throughout my career, I’ve sat on two senior management boards, received various coaching and sat in more strategy workshops than I could ever remember.

To help get you started with your business plan, I’ve created a cute, little, non-scary template.

What do you think?

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