As an entrepreneur, having a well-crafted business plan is essential to the success of your business.
It outlines your ‘big-idea’, introduces the market opportunity and explains how you are going to generate revenue from pursuing it.
However, creating a business plan can be a daunting task, especially if you’re new to entrepreneurship.
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Resources and templates for you
Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you create a business plan that will impress potential investors, lenders, and partners.
In this article, we’ll provide an overview of various business plan free templates available and compare them to help you choose the right one for your needs.
Which free business plan free templates exist?
There are several types of business plan resources available, including templates and guides. As you would expect, most business plan templates are online these days.
But you may like to use pen and paper or flip charts to come up with your ideas first. In fact, many people struggle to use templates unless they know what they want to write.
So what could you do before you use business plan free templates? I like using simple tools like Strategyzer Business Model Canvas in order to get my ideas out of my head.
Business Model Canvas from Strategyzer
The Business Model Canvas from Strategyzer is a 1-page tool which you can print off and fill in very quickly. I use it before I play with any business plan free templates.
It’s visual and easy to understand. It also disciplines you to come up with answers to the things that matter. No fluff.
Advantages of Business Plan Free Templates
So now that you have gotten your ideas together, you can start looking at business plan free templates.
There are many advantages to using business plan templates. So here is a brief table outlining some of the features and advantages.
|Speed to complete
|You can quickly fill in the blanks so you can produce your business plan in a few hours
|Simplicity of use
|Many templates include headings and sections fully or partially completed
|Cost of service
|You don’t have to engage an expert which might cost you thousands
|You can write several versions for different audiences e.g. bank-manager / VC Capitalist
|You can share your plan using business plan software and access it on multiple devices
Our list of 7 business plan free templates
Pandadoc is a platform with hundreds of pre-made, customisable templates including many different free business plan templates. Check out the Consultant Business plan template.
Smartsheet is one of my favorite tools for creating and sharing spreadsheets which I can update from any device. They have a list of pre-formatted free business plan templates here
Score is a US-based non-profit and resource-partner of the US SBA (Small Business Association). Check out their free business plan template for startups here
Liveplan has created step-by-step business planning software which helps you to produce the financials which back-up your claims. Here is another 1 page free business plan template.
The SBA itself has two free business plans written by two fictional business owners. They are both in Microsoft Word format so you can edit them. Check them out here.
If you want to sell products online – or even if you don’t – Shopify have a free business plan you can use as a framework to get you started.
7 The $100 Dollar Startup
One of my favorite free business plan templates is the selection over at Chris Guillebeau’s including his One Page Business Plan. Simple and easy to use. It fits on one page.
Which sections must your business plan have?
My favourite business plans are short and compact. They communicate the value proposition clearly. You must write for the reader – not yourself.
The quick answer is that there are no ‘mandatory’ sections. That said, there are some sections which you would be advised to include.
You’d be amazed how often people copy and paste things from the internet. Anything you put down, can generate questions or challenges.
Include only what you need
‘Lean’ and ‘agile’ are two of my favorite words when it comes to writing business plans. If you can’t explain the core idea or ‘value-prop’ succinctly, you’ve written too much. Keep it simple.
Business Plan Sections
In this next section, I’m going to give you 7 sections which should be enough to do the job.
Remember not to include any sections which you can’t explain. You’re just creating problems for yourself if you do.
Provide a brief overview of your business plan, including your goals and strategies. This is, of course the first part of your plan, so it has to be really impactful and capture the readers imagination.
Clearly define the problem your business solves or the opportunity it addresses. This section has to clearly outline what gaps exist in the marketplace and how your solution is going to fill that gap. As an entrepreneur, you have found something that no one else has seen yet.
Conduct thorough research on your target market, including demographics, competitors, and industry trends. One of the biggest mistakes I see is that people get excited about their idea and feel to check whether anyone else has come up with that idea first.
Describe your product or service and how it addresses the opportunity or problem you identified. Most people spend too much time in this section and they neglect the market analysis. If you haven’t captured someone’s attention in the first three sections above, this section isn’t going to be enough.
Outline your marketing, sales, and operational strategies for achieving your business goals. This part of your business plan, explains how you’re going to go to market. It’s sometimes called your go-to-market strategy. Are you going to reach customers online or are you going to open the physical premises? Are you going to offer free samples or trial versions?
Create detailed financial projections for your business, including revenue, expenses, and cash flow. If you watch Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den, you will know that many entrepreneurs don’t have a firm grasp of their numbers. Always expect deep questions here. Know your numbers.
Highlight the experience and qualifications of your team members, including yourself, to demonstrate why you’re the right team to execute your business plan. If you are looking to raise money, many investors prefer to give money to a team where skills are balanced. There is less risk and more diversity for them.
The good thing about using business plan free templates is that they are templates. This means that you can change them. That’s why I have chosen one-word headings for the business plans that I create.
Maja’s Business Plan: Fictional Case Study
Maja has always had a passion for helping people solve complex problems. After years of experience working in management consulting, she decided to start her own consulting business.
To ensure the success of her new venture, Maja knew she needed to create a well-crafted business plan.
Following these seven headings for creating a business plan, Maja began by writing a summary that outlined her goals and strategies.
She then moved on to defining the opportunity her business would address, identifying the problem her clients face and how her business would help solve it.
Next, Maja conducted thorough market analysis by researching her target market, including demographics, competitors, and industry trends.
She identified a gap in the market for highly specialized and personalized consulting services and crafted her solution around that.
Then, Maja described her services in detail and how they addressed the problem she identified, as well as outlining her marketing, sales, and operational strategies for achieving her business goals.
To create financial projections, Maja researched the costs associated with starting and running a consultancy business and developed a detailed budget, including revenue, expenses, and cash flow projections.
Finally, Maja highlighted her experience and qualifications, as well as those of her team members, to demonstrate why they were the right team to execute her business plan.
Thanks to her well-crafted business plan, Maja secured the funding and support she needed to launch her consultancy business and begin helping her clients solve their most complex problems.
Do you get the idea?
Are there reasons not to use business plan free templates?
Yes. The short-answer is yes. People have short attention spans these days. This means that they are likely to scan business plans rather than read them through cover to cover.
We have all seen templates or free business plan templates, which contain multiple sections. You have to ask yourself whether you need all of the sections. Less is more.
Many investors prefer maximum 3 pages
More than one venture capitalist has told me that they want three pages maximum! Imagine that you have to distil your business plan into three short pages. Could you do it?
In its simplest form, a business plan, outlines what the idea is, how it works, who is going to do the work, who is going to buy the product of the work and why there’s a need for it.
In the case of Maja above, she used one of the many free business plan templates to expedite the task. It took her 4 hours – not four days.
This brings me nicely to my next point
Avoid Business Plan ‘Perfection’
Before you write anything, let me offer you some perspective. I have spent weeks trying to write the perfect plan. It never worked out. Do you want to know why?
There is no such thing as the perfect business plan. It doesn’t exist. So don’t try to create one.
A business plan right now is better than a ‘perfect’ one in 3 months’ time.
Many ‘entrepreneurs’ lock themselves away to create some kind of masterpiece. By the time the plan is ‘ready’, the market has moved on and customer needs have changed.
Your business plan should be a ‘living’ document which is constantly updated. It is not a once-and-done tome which you put on the shelf. Please remember this!
Your business plan should pivot to market requirements. Create a plan which you can regularly update and ‘tweak’ in response to market feedback.
FAQ Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why do I need a business plan?
A: A business plan is essential for outlining your goals and strategies, identifying potential challenges and opportunities, and serving as a roadmap for your business’s growth.
Q: What are the key components of a business plan?
A: The key components of a business plan include a summary, opportunity, market analysis, solution or product, strategy, financials, and team.
Q: How do I create financial projections for my business plan?
A: To create financial projections, research the costs associated with starting and running your business, and develop a detailed budget that includes revenue, expenses, and cash flow projections.
Q: What is the best way to optimize my business plan for search engines?
A: It’s a strange question. But it’s a valid one. To optimize your business plan for search engines, include relevant keywords, use headings and subheadings, and create a well-structured document with clear and concise language.
Q: How do I tailor my business plan to meet the needs of potential investors or lenders?
A: This is a very important one! You always need to tailor your business plan to meet the needs of potential investors or lenders. Start with researching each party’s specific requirements then highlight how your business plan meets those requirements.
Q: What are the benefits of using a business plan template?
A: That’s what this article is all about. As you know by now, using a business plan template can save time and provide a pre-made framework to follow, ensuring that you don’t leave anything out.
Q: How do I ensure my business plan accurately reflects my business goals?
A: To ensure your business plan accurately reflects your business goals and strategies, conduct thorough research, seek feedback from others, and continually revise and update your plan as needed.
There are literally hundreds of business plan free templates online. Some good. Some not so good. Just find the one that most resonates with you. Then start writing.
Your business plan must do the job of communicating value. It also must make clear what are you and your idea are worth supporting / funding / backing. Nothing else matters.
It’s always a good idea to involve other people in crafting and improving a business plan. This is why many consultants or entrepreneurs enlist the help of mentors who can help them.
By all means use business plan free templates. But remember the template is just a template. What’s going to sell your idea is how you use it position it and execute it!