Sarabwritings's Blog

July 31, 2012

Updates

Filed under: Business Building,Business Plan — by sarabwritings @ 9:53 pm
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Sorry for such a late posting today.  Life happened today (and is still happening) and I am not happy with the next Business plan post – if I can get it the way I want tonight I will post, but I believe it needs a little more work and will be ready (and perfected tomorrow) – tomorrow’s plan than becomes for 2 posts. I do apologize, as I’ve noticed some of the same readers coming back and viewing those posts.

So, brush up on the previous topics and they will resume fresh tomorrow:

Thanks,

Sara

July 30, 2012

Ideas needed! Where to look?

So, we know you want to be successful, right?  I thought so!  You know you need a business plan to be successful as well!  And, I know you are eager to get started.  So how do you generate ideas and then get them on paper?  Do you remember when you were in school and your teacher would tell you to brainstorm?  This is like that time when you were given 1 word or 1 phrase and told to think of as many things as you could and write them all down.  Easy, right?  I promise it won’t hurt at all 🙂

Today’s post is geared towards those of you who either need a new product in your business (or venture to rev things up a bit) or know you want to work for yourself but might not be 100% sure which direction to take.

Our brainstorming session is a little different from middle school; I am using this form from the Dummies series because it is easy to use and very self-explanatory:

 

MY FAVORITE THINGS

My Personal Strengths Things I Like to Do Products or Services I Really Like What I’d Do If I Won The Lottery
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fill in this table to generate ideas – you will quickly start to see a pattern!

Now you are going to take the ideas in each column and bring them together.  Choose one item from each column and combine them into a business idea – your new sentence will have 4 components.  You can mix and match, choose at random, or work across each row.  Voila!! You now have 3 business (or product) ideas!!

 

THE IDEA BLENDER

A personal strength:  
something I really like to do:  
Product or service I really like:
If I won the lottery, I’d:

Here is another great form from the “Dummies” series you can use!

Now, you want to think of challenges you and your business may face – don’t worry everyone faces challenges (for me it is marketing and being competitive without selling myself to low)!

  1. What are the most important challenges we currently face?
  2. What created these challenges?
  3. Which can we change (effectively)?
  4. What is the strategy to make the change?

Don’t forget to work with others on this – anyone who is part of your business can have input (or at least be a sounding board).  And if you have a business already, listen to your customers to see what they want to see from your business in the future – you can have a great idea, but if your customers don’t buy into it, it will not work!

Once you have your ideas and you’ve listed your challenges and how to overcome them, it is time to put a framework together:

  1. Describe your business opportunity in 2 sentences.
  2. List the 3 most important things of the your proposed product or service
  3. What basic customers needs will you fill?
  4. Briefly (2-3 sentences) describe who will purchase your product or service
  5. What are 2 or 3 similar, existing products?
  6. Why choose yours over the competition?
  7. How will you reach your customers?
  8. How do you plan to make money?

This is a lot to take in, so work on this and we will continue tomorrow.  Don’t forget to go back to earlier posts (listed under Business Building if you need to)!

Sara

July 29, 2012

You are not alone – researching and delegating

When you write your business plan, remember you do not need to do this alone!  There are many resources out there that you can use to help you with your plan – there is NO NEED to reinvent the wheel:

  • Use the internet to do some research – markets, customers, your competition, even what a plan looks like (though you will never 2 exactly the same)
  • Library – yes, an actual library can be useful – check out their periodical section on trends and markets – read some books
  • Business school – maybe you could take a class or a seminar on business
  • Journals – are there journals specific to your area?  I am pretty sure the answer is YES!!!  They are a great investment
  • US Small Business website – wealth of information
  • Trade shows, professional groups, networking groups and the list could go one and on

Talk to others in your field who have started their own business.  Call, make an appointment for an interview, be prepared with your questions ahead of time.  They were once you are now, so they are an excellent source of information.

Who are the people who can help you with your planning process?   Maybe you are only able to get your notes down but not in an articulate way?  Do you know someone who can help?  If not, hire someone to polish your plan?  Have your partner look at it first.  I’ve talked about it before, but Elance is a great website for hiring someone to create your plan for you.  Depending on how much work you’ve done will determine the cost.

Don’t try to do it alone – a support system (even if they don’t help with the writing is still essential)!!

Tomorrow we will start getting in to the nitty gritty of it all – generating ideas that will be the basis for your plan 🙂

Sara

July 27, 2012

Business planning – elements to include

Good evening,

This morning I went over audience for your business plan. I decided to split the days information to make it a little more accessible and less daunting. I find smaller chunks of information are much easier to work with.

Business plans are all different. Many will have similar components, but some will have more or less than others. The most important part is to say what YOU need to say and be done – more does not always mean better: quality versus quantity here!!!

Table of contents: this is really only needed if your business plan ends up being more than 10 pages

Executive summary: summarizes the key points of your plan; use this if your plan exceeds 10 pages; if you use it, keep it under 2 pages

Company overview: this describes your company and nature of it; this is where you will put your mission and vision statements; descriptions of your products or services would go here as well. Also include what makes you unique and opportunities you know of.

Business environment: in this section you will analyze your industry and your competitors; take a close look at your customers here (who they are, what they want/like, and how they buy). Basically, this is the section that reviews all the elements about the business that are out of your control.

Company description: here you will discuss your team, the entire organization, technology, products, services, and company operations. You will also discuss marketing in this section.

Company strategy: here you will bring together resources with your business environment and plan out how to move forward with your plan.

Marketing plan: how do you plan to reach clients? Prospects? Sell your product? Make a profit?

Financial review: what is the state of your finances at the present moment? What do you expect in the future? This section usually has financial statements, income statements, balance sheet and cash flow statement.

Action plan: detail steps to implementing your business plan and how each fits with your goals and objectives.

Appendix: includes any detailed information that supports your business plan; could be reports, surveys, or even legal documents.

This may look daunting, but remember, you only need what fits with your business. That being said you DO need to write everything down. This will help you stay organized and implement your plan.

You will want to complete a timeline for yourself. What order and in what time frame do you want to complete the items in your plan? For example, month 1 you want to complete your business plan; month 2 secure loans; month 3 begin looking for space; and you can go out as far as you need to, but I wouldn’t go further than a year or if you do, revisit it at about 7 or 8 months. This will help you stay focused.

More info to come this weekend!!

Sara

Business Planning – Audience is important

Yesterday I talked about the first steps in Business Planning – check it out here!!  Need another reason why a plan is so important?  MONEY!!

The Kaufman Center for Entrporenurial Leadership conducted a survey and found that “companies with written business plans had 50% greater sales growth and 12% higher gross profit margins than companies without plans”.

Remember, in a business plan you are creating the blueprint for your endeavor.  So, who is your audience?  You need to know who you will be appeal to when you write your plan:

  • Potential Investors
  • Current/Prospective employees
  • Potential customers (especially for us freelancers who need them more than cash in the beginning)
  • Also, a freelancer’s plan may focus more on what they need to do – potential problem solving (so self)

This is just  small list (the most often used).  You may have others to add to this list (distributors, vendors, regulators, etc).  Now that you’ve thought about your audience, what’s the message you want to convey?  Think about what each group may want to hear.  For example:

  • A banker wants to see profit prospects (charts, planning, stats, etc)
  • Potential employees want to now what is in it for them?  Why work for a start-up company instead of an established company?
  • Clients (for a freelancer) will want to see services, competitive rates, and testimonials

The next step is for you to choose YOUR top 3 audiences and jot down your information – what will they need to hear and why?  Knowing them is going to help you keep each section of your plan focused.  Now what?  You’ve identified your target audience.  Later this evening we will review the different parts that make up the business plan…

Sara

July 26, 2012

Business Plan: First things first

First, what is a business plan?  Well, it is exactly what is says:  a plan for your business.  All businesses, small and large should have a plan:

  • Plan in the beginning
  • Change/modify the plan along the way
  • Different stages of your business will need different plans
  • Will help you think clearly about your business
  • Can help procure funding

These are just a few of the things a business plan can help with and why you should have one.  It may seem like a daunting task, but if you break if down in to steps and manage each one as they come, it will not be as bad – also it is important to remember that every plan will be different because every business is not the same.  I will be sharing my plan for my Business:  Sara Beth’s Writing – I am a freelancer, so I will have less sections (and some different ones) compared to that of a restauranteur or a store owner.

Because I am starting my business these blog posts will focus on start-ups!  There are some questions you must ask yourself if you are starting a new business:

  1. Does this venture have a good chance at getting off the ground?  Yes, I am a strong writer.  It has always been my passion and desire to write and help others.
  2. How much money will it need to be up and running?  Little (a couple hundred for flyers, website, business cards, etc)
  3. Who are the customers?  Anyone who needs editing, proofreading, resume writing, blogging, etc.
  4. How will I reach my customers?  Social Media (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, website, WordPress), flyers, business cards, word of mouth, elance, guru
  5. Who are my competitors? All other freelancers who perform same types of writing services
  6. What is the best way to outrun them? Provide quality work, be professional, acquire testimonials of previous clients
  7. Why will/should a new customers choose us over them? Once they realize my work is competitive and achieves results

Write the answers to these down – they may only be a few sentences right now – you can always add to it later as your planning progresses.  I’ve put my answers briefly in bold after each questions.  Some of these questions are easier than others.

These are some things to think about before you start writing your plan.  Tomorrow, I will go over your audience and the various parts of the business plan as well as creating a time line, so hold yourself accountable.

Sara

Productive… Take 2

Hello world,

Another great day – dogs at daycare by 8:30 meant an entire day with my wonderful fiance before he had to head to work!!

  1. Started the day with placing the security deposit on our new apartment 😀 (keys on August 15)
  2. Beach for an hour (too windy); lunch instead
  3. I’ve managed to start reading the “Dummies” book for business plans 🙂
  4. I FINISHED all the remaining i9tems needed for the book I was editing!!!!

So, I am celebrating with my 2nd glass of wine at the moment!  Starting tomorrow I will post business plan steps from the beginning – maybe I can help some of you as I work through this new journey – it will force me to focus, help others, and give me something new to learn that I can possibly contract out for clients – so triple rewards!

Short post tonight since I need to read to be ready for tomorrow 🙂

Sara

P.s  I know I am all smiley faces today and yesterday, but I can’t help it – so excited about so many things in my life right now!

www.sarabethswriting.com

Avon

July 24, 2012

Productive day… and still going

Filed under: Business Building,General Posts — by sarabwritings @ 9:38 pm
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Don’t you just love a productive day?  How about a day where you know you’ve accomplished a lot?  Those really are the best.  Some days once you think about all you’ve done your list looks great but you may still not feel like you have anything to show for it.  Today, I actually can see the fruits of my labor, which makes it that much better 🙂

I completed 2 blog posts for my political/con-fiction blog today:

I’ve completed my RI certification so I can sub when we move – got to make a little extra money while I build my writing career.  I’ve even started an Avon page – again need to support myself while the writing takes off and I start to earn steady money!!

I am back to work since the mini-vacay is over and am working on putting together the final product for the book editing job I took.  Already gotten a huge chunk done today, so I am optimistic I will be completed by the end of the week 🙂

The only area lacking is my business plan – I really need to get that done  for a couple reasons:

  1. Every business needs a plan
  2. I want to document the steps here to help anyone else who may not be sure how to get started

We have an appointment to start the lease for our new place tomorrow 😀 Big smiles on that 😀 The best part?  We can move in slowly over a two week period and nothing really big to move in so it will be easy!!!  That means I need to start packing though – August 15 will arrive quicker than I can possibly imagine!!  Can’t wait though – should be interesting 😉 It will be our first place together and the first time either of us has gotten a place with someone – in the past someone has moved in with us – so it will be an adventure…lol

Time to get back to work,

Sara

July 23, 2012

Mini – vacation

Filed under: General Posts — by sarabwritings @ 11:43 pm
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The vacation is officially over.  I am home from dropping Miss Nicole off at the airport.  Time to get back to work – the author of the book I edited finally got everything back to me so now I can put it all into one document  and get that back to him 🙂

Today, before heading to the airport we stopped at the Sam Adam’s Brewery– that was definitely fun!!  The tour part was so-so as we couldn’t actually here anything.  I know he talked about hops at one point.  We got to taste 3 beers while there – VERY yummy and we were able to keep the glass – oh and the tour is FREE – they ask for a donation which they distribute to various charities.

Tour gift!

So, this was definitely the fun part of the trip.  Last night was great too!  Peter took us both out to dinner at Plum Point Bistro in Saunderstown, RI. This time our server was Steven and he was amazing!!!  Food was delicious just like last time.  We sat outside this time and the light breeze was perfect!

The only down side to this vacation (other than Nicole having to head back to PA) was Ned Devines in Boston at Faneuil Hall.  The food was good and the service so-so, but our waitress charged me twice and I’ve called twice now (today alone as I thought maybe one was just a pre-auth) and no manager is ever available to talk to me and no one has called me back.  So, I know I will never be going there again – my bank is now taking care of it for me on their end though the restaurant should be the ones fixing the problem.
Faneuil Hall Martketplace – fun times; we walked part of the freedom trail and I showed Nicole some of my favorite places in Boston along the way.  And, of course, we stopped at Mike’s for cannolis!!!  If you are ever in that area they are a MUST – just don’t forget your cash since they don’t take cards or checks 🙂

Writing is calling so off to work I go,

Sara

July 18, 2012

And… eLance it is

Filed under: Business Building — by sarabwritings @ 11:48 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I don’t usually post twice in one day, but….

Last month I posted about Elance and Guru (both freelancing websites) – you can read that blog if you would like.  In it, I went through what I saw as the pros and cons between the two sites.  After using them both, I’ve decided to downgrade my Guru membership to the Basic and free one.  Why?

  • Seems like a lot of Bogus jobs (no hires ever made)
  • Quite a few proposals with people trying to get free work before they will even consider your proposal – I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like working for free
  • Underpaid adds – y this I mean people putting right in the job description that they want a 50 page report single spaced within one week but only willing to pay $30

So, that being said I’ve decided to stick with eLance as my main source of freelancing – most of the jobs seem more legit.

Ok, just some thoughts for the evening,

Sara

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