Helping business owners with mental health issues, Start Small but Dream Big
Best free online business plans
Why do I need a business plan?
Many people think of a business plan as a way of persuading banks and investors to provide capital for their business. Those who are self-financing or are borrowing money from family or friends often don’t see the point in creating one. After all, they know what they’re doing. What’s the point wasting time?
A business plan, however, is a vital tool even for the smallest of micro businesses. It provides a solid foundation for the present, and a road map for the future. It ensures that you consider and analyse every part of your business, exposing potential weaknesses and helping you focus on what needs to be done. A written plan makes you more accountable, even if it’s just to yourself. Therefore, you’re more likely to succeed.
What should a business plan for a small business include?
The words ‘business plan’ can conjure up images of one hundred page documents, full of incomprehensible acronyms, complicated financial projections, and legal jargon. While something that detailed isn’t necessary for a small business, there are certain elements that a plan for any size business should include:
- A summary of your business and what it does
- Why people need your service (this will help when selling your product or service)
- Your target market, i.e. who will buy your product
- Who your competition is and how you measure up against them
- How you are going to reach your potential clients
- What your goals and objectives are for the next month, six months, year and three years
There are a number of free business planning tools available on the internet, from the very brief to the highly detailed. Here is an overview of some of the best ones.
Although a good business plan is a real asset to any business, for a very small business starting out, it doesn’t need to be too complicated. These following plans are ideal for those who want to create a plan but don’t need anything too detailed.
BPlans is owned and operated by Palo Alto Software, Inc. It offers a large number of free resources to help entrepreneurs both start, and expand, their businesses. Alongside the free downloads, there’s also a wide range of information for businesses at all stages of their growth.
BPlans One Page Pitch does exactly what it says: it’s a one page document with simple questions requiring short answer. To make the most of it, it best utilised alongside their guide for writing a plan in less than an hour.
For those looking for more information on writing a business plan,there are over 500 sample plans on the BPlans website covering a wide variety of business types.
The 100startup.com website is aimed at people setting up very low cost businesses, although it can also provide insights for those investing more capital in their start up.
It is more commercialised than BPlans, so its free resources are limited. One of the free resources is their downloadable one page template. In addition, there are a few short guides available cost-free including promotional plans, market testing, and a product launch checklist.
More detailed options
Even start-ups can benefit from plans that contain a greater in-depth analysis. The following websites offer more detailed options for those who want to undertake a more thorough analysis of their business.
Unlike the two plans covered above, your business plan with Enloop is generated online. And takes you through a guided process. Enloop offers a whole range of bells and whistles, even for the free plan. These include:
- Growth, sales and profit projections for the first three years, using metrics that analyse the sector your business is in
- A scorecard to help you analyse how successful your business could be based on the information provided
- A report card, that can be used to help secure finance
For those who need more functionality and support, there are paid-for options, which include monthly financial projections, financial ratio analysis, tables and charts, AutoWriteTM and TextSyncTM,a performance certificate (which can help with funding), and telephone support.
The business plan template has over 150 questions over 28 pages, which can feel overwhelming. Each question, however, is followed by guidance on completing it. Sections can also be removed and amended to suit your needs.
The Prince’s Trust
The Prince’s Trust is an organisation set up by Prince Charles of the UK. It provides advice and funding to people aged between 18 and 30. The downloadable business planning pack is free for everyone to use. It’s available in Word and PDF formats with an additional Excel spreadsheet for financial planning.
LawDepot is a website that produces legal forms online. Its business plan guides you through all of the major sections of a plan and is completed online. It is free to use but users must sign up for a plan when they want to download it. You can sign up for a free one week trial period. Credit card details must be entered at the time of starting the trial period, so users must be careful to cancel their subscription once they have their plan.
Plan to succeed!
Working your way through one of these business plans will help set you up for success in your new venture. It is also hugely beneficial to keep updating your business plan as your business grows – this will keep you focused and on the right track.
Start Small – Dream Big is the blog for small business owners with big ambitions who are managing mental health conditions – wherever they are in their journey.