When you're in business, including as a freelance writer, it's smart to have a formal business plan. And by "formal," I simply mean something well thought out and covering the basics in tangible form, not following any specific style or template. Your freelance writing business plan not only helps you evaluate your goals, but it helps you figure out how you're going to achieve them.
Your business plan helps you figure out your competitive advantage, map out marketing over the course of the year, and work it all into your budget. It steers you back on-course if you get distracted by other things. It makes sure your quarterly or 90-day plans work toward something larger. And it gives you something to measure your progress against each year.
Having a business plan for your freelance writing work isn't enough though. It's not something that's meant to be drafted once then filed away. It's not a static document but rather a living, breathing part of your business. And that means it occasionally needs to be tweaked, or even completely overhauled.
Now that we're beginning another new year, consider dusting off your business plan and updating it.
3 Reasons to Update Your Freelance Writing Business Plan Now
Here are some signs that your business plan is due for an update, whether for the new year or not.
1. Your business goals are out of whack.
This could mean you set unrealistic goals initially and you can't seem to meet them. If you routinely struggle to meet most of your goals, consider scaling them back a bit. Sometimes it helps to take steps, such as smaller income growth each year until your reach your larger goal. And sometimes goals are set before fully understanding something, such as setting unrealistic traffic goals for your professional site because you mistakenly compared it with traffic from publication-style sites instead.
At the same time, if you're meeting every goal with ease, that's not great either. It might mean your original goals weren't ambitious enough so you aren't anywhere near your potential yet.
In either case, consider making adjustments to your expectations and your plans for reaching them moving forward.
2. Your available budget changed.
A business plan isn't just about goals. It's a budget-centric document that helps you make the most of your available resources, no matter how great or minimal they might be.
If you've hit a financial setback and can't invest as much in your business as usual, that calls for an update to your freelance writing business plan. You might have to cut out tools or marketing tactics you've been using in favor of free or more affordable options. That, or you'll know you need to adjust income goals to account for those expenses.
The same is true if you're at the point of being willing and able to invest more than you have in the past. That could mean hiring help, getting access to better research and reporting tools, or upgrading your home office.
3. Your competitive situation changed.
I know plenty of writers who don't like the word "competitor" in freelancing. They often parrot something along the lines of "other writers are my colleagues, not my competition." But that's BS. They're both. If you can't acknowledge who your competitors are, you can't accurately identify your competitive place in your market.
If you haven't accounted for competition before, now's the time to update your freelance writing business plan to do that. But even if you have, your competitive situation might have changed. Some competition might have left your market. New competition can emerge. Or you might find changes to competitors' business and marketing strategies (like new tools you hadn't considered) that can influence your own plans.
It's OK if you like your competition and respect them as colleagues. But that doesn't change the fact you're competing with writers in the same specialty areas. Keeping an eye on the competition and using that research in creating better-informed business plans is a simple reality of being self-employed. Does your business plan reflect that?
Whether you routinely update your freelance writing business plan yearly (or even more often), or you haven't looked at yours in ages, put some fresh eyes on it. Is it still serving you well, or is it time for an overhaul? No one knows that better than you.
This post was originally published on August 1, 2012 at All Freelance Writing. It has since been updated and expanded for Freelance Writing Pros Readers.