Continuing our series of conference tasters, here is Erin Brenner on ‘Using business information to increase your profits’ and the value of writing a business plan.
I’ve been a freelance editor for over 10 years, and 2018 was the first year I had thought about a business plan, never mind trying to write one. My plan was simple, I thought:
- Sell writing and editing services to businesses.
- Collect the money.
- Track and report my business expenses.
- Pay my taxes.
But in the last couple of years, my marketing plan had gotten stale, and I’ve felt more than a little burned out of social media. I wanted to reinvigorate my marketing so that I could keep growing my company. I decided that, like a writer who is too close to their work to see the problems, I needed objective advice on what to do.
I approached SCORE, a US organization that provides free business mentoring and training, for help. I met with coaches local to me, and they urged me to start by writing a business plan. Because I had never done one before, the process should reveal things I had been taking for granted that could inform my marketing. The document could also be used as a case for getting funding for my project.
I struggled for weeks to write my plan. Certainly some of the delay was having other things to do – like actually running my business. But I also struggled with some of the work of it, such as creating an estimated and detailed profit-and-loss (P&L) statement and comparing my editing business with other editing businesses to determine problems (“threats,” in business jargon) and opportunities.
After a few months and several drafts, my business coaches signed off on my plan as completed. It was a lot of work, most of it decidedly un-fun, but now I have a document that describes what my company is and where I want to take it next.
And next time, I won’t have to start the darn thing from scratch.
All of this might seem like a lot of unnecessary work to revamp my marketing plan. But the process made me think seriously about my business: How much do I want to earn in a month? How many hours do I want to work? How much is each client worth to me and how many more clients do I need to meet my goals?
The work is already paying off. I’m excited all over again about my business, because I’ve reminded myself of what I want. I have some great ideas for repositioning my services and reworking my marketing that continue to develop as I work on my plan. I’ve already made small adjustments in how I work with clients, and that has improved the client’s experience and my bottom line. And I haven’t even outlined my marketing plan yet!
If you haven’t written a business plan before, I’d recommend doing one – even if, like me, it takes seemingly forever. The work you put in will pay off. Besides mentoring, SCORE offers free information and business templates that anyone can use, no matter where you live.
Or start small. In September, I’ll present “Using business information to increase your profits” at SfEP’s 2018 national conference. Together, we’ll look at some key business metrics – what they are, how to track them, and what they tell – so that you discover the hidden opportunities in your business.
Most businesses start with a vision. Every so often, you have to step back and see how that vision is emerging and where you need to help it along.
Join me for my “Using business information” session, and we’ll look at it together!
Erin Brenner is co-owner and publisher of Copyediting. She has been a publishing professional for two decades, working in a variety of media. Erin also runs editorial services company Right Touch Editing and teaches in UCSD’s Copyediting Certificate program. Follow her on LinkedIn and SlideShare.
Note: A version of this article first appeared on Copyediting.com.