How to Make a Business Plan for Your Life

Howtomakeabusinessplanforyourlife

What’s the meaning of life? is so rhetorical sometimes, so open to interpretation. It’s a question we ponder—a question that rarely has a concrete answer or solution attached. But what if you change that question to What’s the meaning of my life?

Allison Rimm can help answer that question, and she can do it in eight strategic steps designed to guide readers to realize their life potential and to help them achieve their ultimate goals.

“It is my mission to help others transform their skills and aspirations into a fulfilling life,” she says. “A life where our work is well done, our cherished ones well-loved and our potential realized. That’s what we’re all after, and it doesn’t just happen .”

The Joy of Strategy (biblio motion books + media, September 2013) is a business plan for life. It takes more than pondering the idea of what your life could be; it takes strategy to get to where your life should be.

“Because we’re not after just any success,” Rimm says. “We want soul-satisfying success.”

So, first thing’s first. Get organized—get strategic. These are Rimm’s steps for a life plan that balances all of the important things, like a career; relationships; and mind, body and spirit:

1. Mission: Find your purpose

“Your personal mission is nothing short of your purpose here on earth, and you’ll start your personal plan by spelling it out,” she says. She acknowledges that it sounds lofty, but she says the questions What do I love to do? and What am I good at? are a start to finding your mission.

2. Vision: Imagine the sweet smell (sound, look and feel) of success

“You can’t figure out what stands between where you are and where you want to be and how you’ll travel the distance until you can clearly see your destination.”

3. Name your critical success factors: What you need to succeed

“By writing it all down, you are taking a tangible step toward making your vision a reality.”

4. Find your sweet S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)

“This is the point in the strategic planning process where we finish looking at who we are and prepare to think about what we do.”

5. Set goals: What you need to do to get the results you desire

“Your goals and priorities represent what you want to do in the short-, medium- and long-term. When you complete this step, you will have a well-balanced view of what you want to achieve and how you would like to be spending your time.”

6. Perform a time and emotion study           

“A strategic plan for your life requires being mindful about what you want to achieve in your heart of hearts and deliberately using your limited resources (time, money, energy and attention) to get the results you want.”

7. Select successful strategies

“When there’s not enough time to do everything, it’s important to put your efforts toward those activities that are most efficient, effective and enjoyable.”

8. Get going! Your simplementation plan

“You will take one small step at a time until you build up some momentum and become an unstoppable force moving toward your vision.”

Rimm wants everyone to be able to look back on life and feel joy and total satisfaction. She says you don’t have to, and shouldn’t, leave your dreams to chance.

“The beauty of this process is that it meets you where you are and takes you where you want to go.”

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Jessica Krampe

Jessica Krampe is the digital managing editor for SUCCESS.com. A graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, Jessica has worked for news, entertainment, business and lifestyle publications. Outside of the daily grind, she enjoys happy hours, live music and traveling.

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Free business plan template (with examples)

Alan Bradley

Sierra Campbell

Sierra Campbell

“Verified by an expert” means that this article has been thoroughly reviewed and evaluated for accuracy.

Updated 3:37 a.m. UTC Feb. 12, 2024

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AzmanL, Getty Images

Starting a business can be a daunting undertaking. As with so many large projects, one of the most difficult challenges is just getting started, and one of the best ways to start is by putting together a plan. A plan is also a powerful tool for communication and can serve as a cornerstone for onboarding new partners and employees or for demonstrating your philosophy and priorities to potential collaborators. 

A solid business plan will not only provide a framework for your business going forward but will also give you an early opportunity to organize and refine your thoughts and define your mission statement, providing a guidepost that can serve as a beacon for your business for years to come. We’ve provided a business plan template below to help guide you in the creation of your new enterprise.

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Business plan template

What should a business plan include?

Regardless of the type of business you own or the products and services you provide, every business plan should include some core elements:

  • Mission statement. The definition and executive summary of your business.
  • Market analysis. A breakdown of the market segment and customers you hope to reach, built through primary (gathered by you) and secondary (gathered from outside sources) research.
  • Organization and logistics. The nuts and bolts of how your business is operated
  • Products or services. What your company provides its customers.
  • Advertising and marketing. How you intend to get your products in front of your customers.
  • Forecasting. Revenue forecasting for partners or potential investors.

Why do you need a business plan?

A business plan is a framework for success. It provides a number of key benefits:

  • Structure. The outline around which to design your business.
  • Operational guidance. A signpost for how to run your business from day to day.
  • Expansion. A vision for the future growth of your enterprise.
  • Definition. A platform to consider every element of your business and how best to execute your plans for them.
  • Collaboration. A synopsis of what’s exceptional about your business and a way to attract funding, investment or partnerships.
  • Onboarding. An efficient summary of your business for new or potential employees.

Business plan examples

We’ve created two fictional companies to illustrate how a business might use a business plan to sketch out goals and opportunities as well as forecast revenue.

Bling, Incorporated

Our first hypothetical example is a jewelry and accessory creator called Bling, Incorporated. A hybrid business that manufactures its products for sale both online and through physical retail channels, Bling’s mission statement is focused on transforming simple, inexpensive ingredients into wearable statement pieces of art. 

Market analysis includes gathering data around sourcing sustainable, inexpensive components, aesthetic trends in fashion and on which platforms competitors have had success in advertising jewelry to prospective customers. Logistics include shipping products, negotiating with retailers, establishing an e-commerce presence and material and manufacturing costs. 

Bling, Incorporated advertises initially through social platforms like TikTok and Facebook, as well as with Google AdSense, with plans to eventually expand to television advertising. Revenue forecasting is structured around a low overhead on the basis of inexpensive materials, no dedicated storefront and broad reach through digital platforms.

Phaeton Custom Cars

Phaeton is a custom car builder and classic car restoration business with a regional focus and reach. Its mission statement defines it as a local, family-owned business serving a community of auto enthusiasts and a broader regional niche of collectors. 

Market analysis breaks down the location and facilities of other competitor shops in the region as well as online communities of regional car enthusiasts likely to spend money on custom modifications or restoration projects. It also examines trends in valuations for custom parts and vintage cars. Logistics include pricing out parts and labor, finding skilled or apprentice laborers and mortgaging a garage and equipment. 

Phaeton advertises in regional publications, at local events and regional car shows and online through Facebook and Instagram, with an emphasis on a social presence highlighting their flashiest builds. Revenue forecasting is built around a growing reputation and high-value commissions.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

A business plan may not be a prerequisite for every type of business, but there are few businesses that wouldn’t benefit from one. It can serve as an important strategic tool and help crystalize a vision of your business and its future.

Business plans do just that: they help you plan the future of your business, serve as a platform to brainstorm ideas and think through your vision and are a great tool for showcasing why your business works to potential investors or partners.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy . The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Alan Bradley

Alan is an experienced culture and tech writer with a background in newspaper reporting. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine, The Escapist, PC Mag, PC Gamer, and a multitude of other outlets. He has over twenty years of experience as a journalist and editor and is the author of the urban fantasy novel The Sixth Borough.

Sierra Campbell is a small business editor for USA Today Blueprint. She specializes in writing, editing and fact-checking content centered around helping businesses. She has worked as a digital content and show producer for several local TV stations, an editor for U.S. News & World Report and a freelance writer and editor for many companies. Sierra prides herself in delivering accurate and up-to-date information to readers. Her expertise includes credit card processing companies, e-commerce platforms, payroll software, accounting software and virtual private networks (VPNs). She also owns Editing by Sierra, where she offers editing services to writers of all backgrounds, including self-published and traditionally published authors.

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

Business Eric Rosenberg

business plan

How to Write a Business Plan in 2023: The Ultimate Guide for Every Entrepreneur

Are you starting a new business or trying to get a loan for your existing venture? If so, you’re going to need to know how to write a business plan. Business plans give entrepreneurs the opportunity to formally analyze and define every aspect of their business idea .

In this post, you’ll learn how to put together a business plan and find the best resources to help you along the way.

business plan for your life

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business plan for your life

What is a Business Plan? 

A business plan is a formal document that outlines your business’s goals and how you will achieve those goals. Entrepreneurs who start out with business plans are 16 percent more likely to build successful companies , according to the Harvard Business Review.  Developing a business plan ensures sustainable success, guiding you as you grow your business, legitimizing your venture, and helping you secure funding (among countless other benefits). 

What Are the Main Purposes of a Business Plan?

Most financial institutions and service providers require you to submit a detailed business plan to obtain funding for your business. Online businesses will likely have a low overhead to start, so they may not need funding and therefore may not feel the need to write a business plan. That said, writing a business plan is still a good idea as it can help you secure a drastic increase limit on your credit card as your business grows or open a business account. This varies per bank.

If you’re growing your business, use it to help you raise expansion capital, create a growth strategy, find opportunities, and mitigate risks.Palo Alto software found that companies who make business plans are twice as likely to secure funding . .

→ Click Here to Launch Your Online Business with Shopify

If you’re just starting your business, making a business plan can help you  identify your strengths and weaknesses, communicate your vision to others, and develop accurate forecasts.

business plan format

How to Make a Business Plan: The Prerequisites 

Here are the prerequisites to creating a solid business plan:

  • Establish goals
  • Understand your audience
  • Determine your business plan format
  • Get to writing! 

Establish Goals

There are two key questions to ask here: 

  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish with your business plan?

Approaching your business plan through that lens will help you focus on the end goal throughout the writing process. These also provide metrics to measure success against. 

Before writing your business plan, gather the content and data needed to inform what goes in it. This includes researching your market and industry – spanning everything from customer research to legalities you’ll need to consider. It’s a lot easier to start with the information already in front of you instead of researching each section individually as you go. 

Turn to guides, samples, and small business plan templates to help. Many countries have an official administration or service dedicated to providing information, resources, and tools to help entrepreneurs and store owners plan, launch, manage, and grow their businesses. 

The following will take you to online business plan guides and templates for specific countries.

  • United States Small Business Administration (SBA) – The “write your business plan page” includes traditional and lean startup business plan formats, three downloadable sample business plans, a template, and a step-by-step build a business plan tool.
  • Australian Government – The “business plan template” page includes a downloadable template, guide, and business plan creation app.
  • UK Government Business and Self-Employed – The “write a business plan” page includes links to a downloadable business plan template and resources from trusted UK businesses. .
  • Canada Business Network – The “writing your business plan” page includes a detailed guide to writing your business plan and links to business plan templates from Canadian business development organizations and banks.

These business resource sites also offer a wealth of valuable information for entrepreneurs including local and regional regulations, structuring, tax obligations, funding programs, market research data, and much more. Visit the sites above or do the following Google searches to find official local business resources in your area:

  • your country government business services
  • your state/province government business services
  • your city government business services

Some Chamber of Commerce websites offer resources for business owners, including business plan guides and templates. Check your local chapter to see if they have any.

Banks that offer business funding also often have a resource section for entrepreneurs. Do a Google search to find banks that offer business funding as well as business plan advice to see the business plans that get funding. If your bank doesn’t offer any advice, search for the largest banks in your area:

  • business plan guide bank name
  • business plan samples bank name
  • business plan template bank name

If you’re looking for more sample business plans, Bplans has over 500 free business plan samples organized by business type as well as a business plan template. Their collection includes 116 business plans for retail and online stores. Shopify also offers business plan templates intended to help small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs identify functional areas of a business they may not have considered.

business plan for your life

Understand Your Audience

Because business plans serve different purposes, you’re not always presenting it to the same audience. It’s important to understand who’s going to be reading your business plan, what you’re trying to convince them to do, and what hesitations they might have. 

That way, you can adapt your business plan accordingly. As such, your audience also determines which type of business plan format you use. Which brings us to our next point…

Which Business Plan Format Should You Use? 

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) presents two business plan formats: 

  • The traditional business plan format is for entrepreneurs who want to create a detailed plan for themselves or for business funding. 
  • The lean startup business plan format, on the other hand, is for business owners that want to create a condensed, single-page business plan.

If the business plan is just for you and internal folks, draft a lean startup business plan or a customized version of the traditional business plan with only the sections you need. If you need it for business funding or other official purposes, choose the formal business plan and thoroughly complete the required sections while paying extra attention to financial projections.

If your business operates outside the U.S., clarify the preferred format with your bank.

How to Create a Business Plan: Questions to Ask Yourself

As you write a business plan, take time to not only analyze your business idea, but yourself as well. Ask the following questions to help you analyze your business idea along the way:

  • Why do I want to start or expand my business?
  • Do my goals (personal and professional) and values align with my business idea?
  • What income do I need to generate for myself?
  • What education, experience, and skills do I bring to my business?

business plan for your life

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

According to the business plan template created by SCORE, Deluxe, and the SBA , a traditional business plan encompasses the following sections. 

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Products & services
  • Market analysis
  • Marketing & sales
  • Management & organization
  • Funding request
  • Financial projections
  • SWOT analysis

Since not everyone is aware of the key details to include in each section, we’ve listed information you can copy to fill in your business plan outline. Here’s how to build a business plan step by step.  

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is the first part of your business plan, so this is where you need to hook readers in. Every business plan starts this way — even a simple business plan template should kick off with the Executive Summary. Summarize your entire business plan in a single page, highlighting details about your business that will excite potential investors and lenders. 

Explain what your business has to offer, your target market , what separates you from the competition, a little bit about yourself and the core people behind your business, and realistic projections about your business’ success.

While this is the first section of your business plan, write it after you’ve completed the rest of your business plan. It’s a lot easier because you can pull from the sections you’ve already written, and it’s easier to identify the best parts of your business plan to include on the first page.

Company Description

In the Company Description, share 411 about your business. Include basic details like: 

  • Legal structure (sole proprietor, partnership, corporation, etc.)
  • Business and tax ID numbers
  • When the business started
  • Ownership information
  • Number of employees

Your mission statement , philosophy and values, vision, short- and long-term goals, and milestones along with a brief overview of your industry, market, outlook, and competitors should also be in the Company Description.

Pro tip: These are the details you’ll use each time you create a business profile, whether that's on social media, business directories, or other networks. Keep your information consistent to reduce confusion and instill more confidence in potential customers. 

Products & Services

The Products & Services section details what you plan to sell to customers. For a dropshipping business , this section should explain which trending products you’re going to sell, the pain points your products solve for customers, how you’ll price your products compared to your competitors, expected profit margin, and production and delivery details.

Remember to include any unique selling points for specific products or product groupings, such as low overhead, exclusive agreements with vendors, the ability to obtain products that are in short supply / high demand based on your connections, personalized customer service, or other advantages.

For dropshipping businesses selling hundreds or even thousands of products, detail the main categories of products and the number of products you plan to offer within each category. By doing this, it’s easier to visualize your business offerings as a whole to determine if you need more products in one category to fully flesh out your online store.

Market Analysis

The Market Analysis section of your business plan allows you to share the research you have done to learn about your target audience — the potential buyers of your products. People requesting a business plan will want to know that you have a solid understanding of your industry, the competitive landscape, who’s most likely to become your customers. It’s important to demonstrate that  there’s a large enough market for your product to make it profitable and/or to make a strong return on investment .

To complete the Market Analysis component of your business plan, check out the following resources for industry, market, and local economic research:

  • U.S. Embassy websites in most countries have a business section with information for people who want to sell abroad. Business sections include a basic “getting started” guide, links to economic and data reports, trade events, and additional useful business links for a particular region.
  • IBISWorld is a provider of free and paid industry research and procurement research reports for the United States , United Kingdom , Australia , and New Zealand .  
  • Statista offers free and paid statistics and studies from over 18,000 sources including industry reports, country reports, market studies, outlook reports, and consumer market reports.   

Use these websites and others to learn about the projected growth of your industry and your potential profitability. You can also use social media tools like Facebook Audience Insights to estimate the size of your target market on the largest social network

Another way to research your market and products is through Google Trends . This free tool will allow you to see how often people search for the products your business offers over time. Be sure to explain how your business plans to capitalize on increasing and decreasing search trends accordingly.

Marketing & Sales

Knowing your target market is half the battle. In the Marketing & Sales section, share how you plan to reach and sell products to your target market. Outline the marketing and advertising strategies you intend to use to market your product to potential customers – search marketing , social media marketing , email marketing , and influencer marketing methods .

If you’re unsure how to market your business’ products, analyze your competitors for some inspiration. Discovering your competition’s marketing tactics will help you customize your own strategy for building a customer base and ultimately taking your business to the next level. 

Do a Google search for your competitor’s business name to find the websites, social accounts, and content they’ve created to market their products. Look at the ways your competitor uses each online entity to drive new customers to their website and product pages.

Then come up with a plan to convert a similar audience with your marketing and advertising messages. For dropshipping businesses, conversions will typically take place on your website as people purchase your products and/or by phone if you take orders over the phone. 

Management & Organization

In the Management & Organization piece of your business plan, describe the structure of your business. In terms of legal structure and incorporation, most businesses are classified as sole proprietorships (one owner), partnerships (two or more owners), corporations, or S corporations.

Draft a condensed resume for each of the key members of your business. If you’re a solopreneur , include how your past education and work experience will help you run each aspect of your business. If you have one or more partner(s) and employee(s), include their relevant education and experience as well.

Think of this as a great way to evaluate the strengths of each individual running your business. When self-evaluating, you’ll be able to identify the aspects of your business that’ll be easier to manage and which ones to delegate to freelancers, contractors, employees, and third-party services. This also makes it easier to find the best way to utilize their strengths for business growth.

Funding Request

Chances are, you don’t have a funding request for a startup dropshipping business since the appeal to dropshipping is the low upfront investment . If you’re looking for a loan, however, this would be the section where you outline the dollar amount you need, what you plan to invest in, and how you see the return on your investment.

Another way to use this section is to analyze the investment you have or plan to make when starting or growing your business. This should include everything from the computer you use to run your website to the monthly fee for business services.

Financial Projections

In Financial Projections, share your projected revenue and expenses for the first or next five years of your business. The idea here is to demonstrate that the revenue you’re anticipating will easily lead to a return on any investment, whether from your personal finances or a capital lending service.

business plan for your life

If you’re looking for funding, you’ll need to go into detail with projected income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and capital expenditure budgets. If you aren’t looking for funding, it won’t hurt to create these types of financial projections so you can realistically plan for the future of your business.

The Appendix of your business plan includes any supplemental documents needed throughout the sections of your business plan. These may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Credit histories
  • Product brochures
  • Legal forms
  • Supplier contracts

If you’re submitting your business plan for funding, contact the lender to see what documentation they want included with your funding request.

SWOT Analysis

In addition to the above sections, some business plans also include a SWOT Analysis. This is a one-page summary of your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The strengths and weaknesses you include will be internal, whereas opportunities and threats you include will be external. 

Depending on the revelations of this section, you may or may not want to make a SWOT analysis when submitting your business plan formally unless it is requested.

business plan for your life

Summary: How to Create a Business Plan

As you can see, creating a business plan for your dropshipping business is a great way to validate your business idea , discover your business’s strengths and weaknesses, and make a blueprint for your business's future.

In summary, here are the sections you will need to write for your business plan, step by step:

  • SWOT analysis (Optional)

If you haven’t already, take the time to create a business plan to launch or grow your business in 2023!

Want to Learn More?

  • How to Start a Dropshipping Business
  • How to Register a Business in the USA
  • How to Launch Your Ecommerce Store in Less Than 30 Minutes Flat
  • 30+ Amazing Startup Business Ideas That’ll Make You Money

business plan for your life

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24 of My Favorite Sample Business Plans & Examples For Your Inspiration

Clifford Chi

Published: February 06, 2024

Free Business Plan Template

business plan for your life

The essential document for starting a business -- custom built for your needs.

Thank you for downloading the offer.

I believe that reading sample business plans is essential when writing your own.

sample business plans and examples

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As you explore business plan examples from real companies and brands, it’s easier for you to learn how to write a good one.

But what does a good business plan look like? And how do you write one that’s both viable and convincing. I’ll walk you through the ideal business plan format along with some examples to help you get started.

Table of Contents

Business Plan Format

Business plan types, sample business plan templates, top business plan examples.

Ask any successful sports coach how they win so many games, and they’ll tell you they have a unique plan for every single game. To me, the same logic applies to business.

If you want to build a thriving company that can pull ahead of the competition, you need to prepare for battle before breaking into a market.

Business plans guide you along the rocky journey of growing a company. And if your business plan is compelling enough, it can also convince investors to give you funding.

With so much at stake, I’m sure you’re wondering where to begin.

business plan for your life

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  • Secure funding.
  • Get to work!

You're all set!

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Fill out the form to get your free template.

First, you’ll want to nail down your formatting. Most business plans include the following sections.

1. Executive Summary

I’d say the executive summary is the most important section of the entire business plan. 

Why? Essentially, it's the overview or introduction, written in a way to grab readers' attention and guide them through the rest of the business plan. This is important, because a business plan can be dozens or hundreds of pages long.

There are two main elements I’d recommend including in your executive summary:

Company Description

This is the perfect space to highlight your company’s mission statement and goals, a brief overview of your history and leadership, and your top accomplishments as a business.

Tell potential investors who you are and why what you do matters. Naturally, they’re going to want to know who they’re getting into business with up front, and this is a great opportunity to showcase your impact.

Need some extra help firming up those business goals? Check out HubSpot Academy’s free course to help you set goals that matter — I’d highly recommend it

Products and Services

To piggyback off of the company description, be sure to incorporate an overview of your offerings. This doesn’t have to be extensive — just another chance to introduce your industry and overall purpose as a business.

In addition to the items above, I recommend including some information about your financial projections and competitive advantage here too.:

Keep in mind you'll cover many of these topics in more detail later on in the business plan. So, keep the executive summary clear and brief, and only include the most important takeaways.

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

This example was created with HubSpot’s business plan template:

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example

This executive summary is so good to me because it tells potential investors a short story while still covering all of the most important details.

Business plans examples: Executive Summary

Image Source

Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

  • Start with a strong introduction of your company, showcase your mission and impact, and outline the products and services you provide.
  • Clearly define a problem, and explain how your product solves that problem, and show why the market needs your business.
  • Be sure to highlight your value proposition, market opportunity, and growth potential.
  • Keep it concise and support ideas with data.
  • Customize your summary to your audience. For example, emphasize finances and return on investment for venture capitalists.

Check out our tips for writing an effective executive summary for more guidance.

2. Market Opportunity

This is where you'll detail the opportunity in the market.

The main question I’d ask myself here is this: Where is the gap in the current industry, and how will my product fill that gap?

More specifically, here’s what I’d include in this section:

  • The size of the market
  • Current or potential market share
  • Trends in the industry and consumer behavior
  • Where the gap is
  • What caused the gap
  • How you intend to fill it

To get a thorough understanding of the market opportunity, you'll want to conduct a TAM, SAM, and SOM analysis and perform market research on your industry.

You may also benefit from creating a SWOT analysis to get some of the insights for this section.

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

I like this example because it uses critical data to underline the size of the potential market and what part of that market this service hopes to capture.

Business plans examples: Market Opportunity

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

  • Focus on demand and potential for growth.
  • Use market research, surveys, and industry trend data to support your market forecast and projections.
  • Add a review of regulation shifts, tech advances, and consumer behavior changes.
  • Refer to reliable sources.
  • Showcase how your business can make the most of this opportunity.

3. Competitive Landscape

Since we’re already speaking of market share, you'll also need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are.

After all, your customers likely have more than one brand to choose from, and you'll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another.

My favorite part of performing a competitive analysis is that it can help you uncover:

  • Industry trends that other brands may not be utilizing
  • Strengths in your competition that may be obstacles to handle
  • Weaknesses in your competition that may help you develop selling points
  • The unique proposition you bring to the market that may resonate with customers

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

I like how the competitive landscape section of this business plan below shows a clear outline of who the top competitors are.

Business plans examples: Competitive Landscape

It also highlights specific industry knowledge and the importance of location, which shows useful experience in this specific industry. 

This can help build trust in your ability to execute your business plan.

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

  • Complete in-depth research, then emphasize your most important findings.
  • Compare your unique selling proposition (USP) to your direct and indirect competitors.
  • Show a clear and realistic plan for product and brand differentiation.
  • Look for specific advantages and barriers in the competitive landscape. Then, highlight how that information could impact your business.
  • Outline growth opportunities from a competitive perspective.
  • Add customer feedback and insights to support your competitive analysis.

4. Target Audience

Use this section to describe who your customer segments are in detail. What is the demographic and psychographic information of your audience?

If your immediate answer is "everyone," you'll need to dig deeper. Here are some questions I’d ask myself here:

  • What demographics will most likely need/buy your product or service?
  • What are the psychographics of this audience? (Desires, triggering events, etc.)
  • Why are your offerings valuable to them?

I’d also recommend building a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be clear on why you're targeting them.

Target Audience Business Plan Example

I like the example below because it uses in-depth research to draw conclusions about audience priorities. It also analyzes how to create the right content for this audience.

Business plans examples: Target Audience

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

  • Include details on the size and growth potential of your target audience.
  • Figure out and refine the pain points for your target audience , then show why your product is a useful solution.
  • Describe your targeted customer acquisition strategy in detail.
  • Share anticipated challenges your business may face in acquiring customers and how you plan to address them.
  • Add case studies, testimonials, and other data to support your target audience ideas.
  • Remember to consider niche audiences and segments of your target audience in your business plan.

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. I’d suggest including information:

  • Your brand positioning vision and how you'll cultivate it
  • The goal targets you aim to achieve
  • The metrics you'll use to measure success
  • The channels and distribution tactics you'll use

I think it’s helpful to have a marketing plan built out in advance to make this part of your business plan easier.

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

This business plan example includes the marketing strategy for the town of Gawler.

In my opinion, it really works because it offers a comprehensive picture of how they plan to use digital marketing to promote the community.

Business plans examples: Marketing Strategy

Tips for Writing Your Marketing Strategy

  • Include a section about how you believe your brand vision will appeal to customers.
  • Add the budget and resources you'll need to put your plan in place.
  • Outline strategies for specific marketing segments.
  • Connect strategies to earlier sections like target audience and competitive analysis.
  • Review how your marketing strategy will scale with the growth of your business.
  • Cover a range of channels and tactics to highlight your ability to adapt your plan in the face of change.

6. Key Features and Benefits

At some point in your business plan, you'll need to review the key features and benefits of your products and/or services.

Laying these out can give readers an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use. It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.

Key Features and Benefits Business Plan Example

In my opinion, the example below does a great job outlining products and services for this business, along with why these qualities will attract the audience.

Business plans examples: Key Features and Benefits

Tips for Writing Your Key Features and Benefits

  • Emphasize why and how your product or service offers value to customers.
  • Use metrics and testimonials to support the ideas in this section.
  • Talk about how your products and services have the potential to scale.
  • Think about including a product roadmap.
  • Focus on customer needs, and how the features and benefits you are sharing meet those needs.
  • Offer proof of concept for your ideas, like case studies or pilot program feedback.
  • Proofread this section carefully, and remove any jargon or complex language.

7. Pricing and Revenue

This is where you'll discuss your cost structure and various revenue streams. Your pricing strategy must be solid enough to turn a profit while staying competitive in the industry. 

For this reason, here’s what I’d might outline in this section:

  • The specific pricing breakdowns per product or service
  • Why your pricing is higher or lower than your competition's
  • (If higher) Why customers would be willing to pay more
  • (If lower) How you're able to offer your products or services at a lower cost
  • When you expect to break even, what margins do you expect, etc?

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

I like how this business plan example begins with an overview of the business revenue model, then shows proposed pricing for key products.

Business plans examples: Pricing and Revenue

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

  • Get specific about your pricing strategy. Specifically, how you connect that strategy to customer needs and product value.
  • If you are asking a premium price, share unique features or innovations that justify that price point.
  • Show how you plan to communicate pricing to customers.
  • Create an overview of every revenue stream for your business and how each stream adds to your business model as a whole.
  • Share plans to develop new revenue streams in the future.
  • Show how and whether pricing will vary by customer segment and how pricing aligns with marketing strategies.
  • Restate your value proposition and explain how it aligns with your revenue model.

8. Financials

To me, this section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to figure out funding strategies, investment opportunities, and more.

 According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:

  • Profit/Loss Statement - This answers the question of whether your business is currently profitable.
  • Cash Flow Statement - This details exactly how much cash is incoming and outgoing to give insight into how much cash a business has on hand.
  • Balance Sheet - This outlines assets, liabilities, and equity, which gives insight into how much a business is worth.

While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details I’d include in this section.

Financials Business Plan Example

This balance sheet is a great example of level of detail you’ll need to include in the financials section of your business plan.

Business plans examples: Financials

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

  • Growth potential is important in this section too. Using your data, create a forecast of financial performance in the next three to five years.
  • Include any data that supports your projections to assure investors of the credibility of your proposal.
  • Add a break-even analysis to show that your business plan is financially practical. This information can also help you pivot quickly as your business grows.
  • Consider adding a section that reviews potential risks and how sensitive your plan is to changes in the market.
  • Triple-check all financial information in your plan for accuracy.
  • Show how any proposed funding needs align with your plans for growth.

As you create your business plan, keep in mind that each of these sections will be formatted differently. Some may be in paragraph format, while others could be charts or graphs.

The formats above apply to most types of business plans. That said, the format and structure of your plan will vary by your goals for that plan. 

So, I’ve added a quick review of different business plan types. For a more detailed overview, check out this post .

1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas.

If you’re planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business.

You can check out this guide for more detailed business plan inspiration .

2. Feasibility Studies

Feasibility business plans focus on that business's product or service. Feasibility plans are sometimes added to startup business plans. They can also be a new business plan for an already thriving organization.

3. Internal Use

You can use internal business plans to share goals, strategies, or performance updates with stakeholders. In my opinion, internal business plans are useful for alignment and building support for ambitious goals.

4. Strategic Initiatives

Another business plan that's often for sharing internally is a strategic business plan. This plan covers long-term business objectives that might not have been included in the startup business plan.

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

When a business is moving forward with an acquisition or repositioning, it may need extra structure and support. These types of business plans expand on a company's acquisition or repositioning strategy.

Growth sometimes just happens as a business continues operations. But more often, a business needs to create a structure with specific targets to meet set goals for expansion. This business plan type can help a business focus on short-term growth goals and align resources with those goals.

Now that you know what's included and how to format a business plan, let's review some of my favorite templates.

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

Download a free, editable one-page business plan template..

The business plan linked above was created here at HubSpot and is perfect for businesses of any size — no matter how many strategies we still have to develop.

Fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline give this one-page business plan a framework for how to build your brand and what tasks to keep track of as you grow.

Then, as the business matures, you can expand on your original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.

Why I Like It

This one-page business plan is a fantastic choice for the new business owner who doesn’t have the time or resources to draft a full-blown business plan. It includes all the essential sections in an accessible, bullet-point-friendly format. That way, you can get the broad strokes down before honing in on the details.

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

We also created a business plan template for entrepreneurs.

The template is designed as a guide and checklist for starting your own business. You’ll learn what to include in each section of your business plan and how to do it.

There’s also a list for you to check off when you finish each section of your business plan.

Strong game plans help coaches win games and help businesses rocket to the top of their industries. So if you dedicate the time and effort required to write a workable and convincing business plan, you’ll boost your chances of success and even dominance in your market.

This business plan kit is essential for the budding entrepreneur who needs a more extensive document to share with investors and other stakeholders.

It not only includes sections for your executive summary, product line, market analysis, marketing plan, and sales plan, but it also offers hands-on guidance for filling out those sections.

3. LiveFlow’s Financial Planning Template with built-in automation

Sample Business Plan: LiveFLow

This free template from LiveFlow aims to make it easy for businesses to create a financial plan and track their progress on a monthly basis.

The P&L Budget versus Actual format allows users to track their revenue, cost of sales, operating expenses, operating profit margin, net profit, and more.

The summary dashboard aggregates all of the data put into the financial plan sheet and will automatically update when changes are made.

Instead of wasting hours manually importing your data to your spreadsheet, LiveFlow can also help you to automatically connect your accounting and banking data directly to your spreadsheet, so your numbers are always up-to-date.

With the dashboard, you can view your runway, cash balance, burn rate, gross margins, and other metrics. Having a simple way to track everything in one place will make it easier to complete the financials section of your business plan.

This is a fantastic template to track performance and alignment internally and to create a dependable process for documenting financial information across the business. It’s highly versatile and beginner-friendly.

It’s especially useful if you don’t have an accountant on the team. (I always recommend you do, but for new businesses, having one might not be possible.)

4. ThoughtCo’s Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: ThoughtCo.

One of the more financially oriented sample business plans in this list, BPlan’s free business plan template dedicates many of its pages to your business’s financial plan and financial statements.

After filling this business plan out, your company will truly understand its financial health and the steps you need to take to maintain or improve it.

I absolutely love this business plan template because of its ease-of-use and hands-on instructions (in addition to its finance-centric components). If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of writing an entire business plan, consider using this template to help you with the process.

6. Harvard Business Review’s "How to Write a Winning Business Plan"

Most sample business plans teach you what to include in your business plan, but this Harvard Business Review article will take your business plan to the next level — it teaches you the why and how behind writing a business plan.

With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of " Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum ", you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service.

You’ll also learn the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.

This business plan guide focuses less on the individual parts of a business plan, and more on the overarching goal of writing one. For that reason, it’s one of my favorites to supplement any template you choose to use. Harvard Business Review’s guide is instrumental for both new and seasoned business owners.

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know writing a business plan is one of the most challenging first steps to starting a business.

Fortunately, with HubSpot's comprehensive guide to starting a business, you'll learn how to map out all the details by understanding what to include in your business plan and why it’s important to include them. The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you.

If you need further guidance on starting a business, HubSpot's guide can teach you how to make your business legal, choose and register your business name, and fund your business. It will also give small business tax information and includes marketing, sales, and service tips.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of starting a business, in addition to writing your business plan, with a high level of exactitude and detail. So if you’re in the midst of starting your business, this is an excellent guide for you.

It also offers other resources you might need, such as market analysis templates.

8. Panda Doc’s Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Panda Doc

PandaDoc’s free business plan template is one of the more detailed and fleshed-out sample business plans on this list. It describes what you should include in each section, so you don't have to come up with everything from scratch.

Once you fill it out, you’ll fully understand your business’ nitty-gritty details and how all of its moving parts should work together to contribute to its success.

This template has two things I love: comprehensiveness and in-depth instructions. Plus, it’s synced with PandaDoc’s e-signature software so that you and other stakeholders can sign it with ease. For that reason, I especially love it for those starting a business with a partner or with a board of directors.

9. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan.

Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need — a traditional or lean start-up plan.

Then, you can review the format for both of those plans and view examples of what they might look like.

We love both of the SBA’s templates because of their versatility. You can choose between two options and use the existing content in the templates to flesh out your own plan. Plus, if needed, you can get a free business counselor to help you along the way.

I’ve compiled some completed business plan samples to help you get an idea of how to customize a plan for your business.

I chose different types of business plan ideas to expand your imagination. Some are extensive, while others are fairly simple.

Let’s take a look.

1. LiveFlow

business plan example: liveflow

One of the major business expenses is marketing. How you handle your marketing reflects your company’s revenue.

I included this business plan to show you how you can ensure your marketing team is aligned with your overall business plan to get results. The plan also shows you how to track even the smallest metrics of your campaigns, like ROI and payback periods instead of just focusing on big metrics like gross and revenue.

Fintech startup, LiveFlow, allows users to sync real-time data from its accounting services, payment platforms, and banks into custom reports. This eliminates the task of pulling reports together manually, saving teams time and helping automate workflows.

"Using this framework over a traditional marketing plan will help you set a profitable marketing strategy taking things like CAC, LTV, Payback period, and P&L into consideration," explains LiveFlow co-founder, Lasse Kalkar .

When it came to including marketing strategy in its business plan, LiveFlow created a separate marketing profit and loss statement (P&L) to track how well the company was doing with its marketing initiatives.

This is a great approach, allowing businesses to focus on where their marketing dollars are making the most impact. Having this information handy will enable you to build out your business plan’s marketing section with confidence. LiveFlow has shared the template here . You can test it for yourself.

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

Sometimes all you need is a solid mission statement and core values to guide you on how to go about everything. You do this by creating a business plan revolving around how to fulfill your statement best.

For example, Patagonia is an eco-friendly company, so their plan discusses how to make the best environmentally friendly products without causing harm.

A good mission statement  should not only resonate with consumers but should also serve as a core value compass for employees as well.

Patagonia has one of the most compelling mission statements I’ve seen:

"Together, let’s prioritise purpose over profit and protect this wondrous planet, our only home."

It reels you in from the start, and the environmentally friendly theme continues throughout the rest of the statement.

This mission goes on to explain that they are out to "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to protect nature."

Their mission statement is compelling and detailed, with each section outlining how they will accomplish their goal.

4. Vesta Home Automation

business plan example: Vesta executive summary

This executive summary for a smart home device startup is part of a business plan created by students at Mount Royal University .

While it lacks some of the sleek visuals of the templates above, its executive summary does a great job of demonstrating how invested they are in the business.

Right away, they mention they’ve invested $200,000 into the company already, which shows investors they have skin in the game and aren’t just looking for someone else to foot the bill.

This is the kind of business plan you need when applying for business funds. It clearly illustrates the expected future of the company and how the business has been coming along over the years.

5. NALB Creative Center

business plan examples: nalb creative center

This fictional business plan for an art supply store includes everything one might need in a business plan: an executive summary, a company summary, a list of services, a market analysis summary, and more.

One of its most notable sections is its market analysis summary, which includes an overview of the population growth in the business’ target geographical area, as well as a breakdown of the types of potential customers they expect to welcome at the store. 

This sort of granular insight is essential for understanding and communicating your business’s growth potential. Plus, it lays a strong foundation for creating relevant and useful buyer personas .

It’s essential to keep this information up-to-date as your market and target buyer changes. For that reason, you should carry out market research as often as possible to ensure that you’re targeting the correct audience and sharing accurate information with your investors.

Due to its comprehensiveness, it’s an excellent example to follow if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store and need to get external funding to start your business .

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

If you’re looking for a SaaS business plan example, look no further than this business plan for a fictional educational software company called Curriculum Companion Suites. 

Like the business plan for the NALB Creative Center, it includes plenty of information for prospective investors and other key stakeholders in the business.

One of the most notable features of this business plan is the executive summary, which includes an overview of the product, market, and mission.

The first two are essential for software companies because the product offering is so often at the forefront of the company’s strategy. Without that information being immediately available to investors and executives, then you risk writing an unfocused business plan.

It’s essential to front-load your company’s mission if it explains your "Why?" and this example does just that. In other words, why do you do what you do, and why should stakeholders care? This is an important section to include if you feel that your mission will drive interest in the business and its offerings.

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

Culina's sample business plan is an excellent example of how to lay out your business plan so that it flows naturally, engages readers, and provides the critical information investors and stakeholders need. 

You can use this template as a guide while you're gathering important information for your own business plan. You'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do since Culina’s plan outlines these details so flawlessly for inspiration.

8. Plum Sample Business Plan

Sample business plan: Plum

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Create a Personal Business Plan That You'll Really Use Develop a customized tool that will serve to focus you on your most important objectives. Write it in user-friendly prose so you'll check it weekly.

By Marty Fukuda • Oct 7, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Every successful business leader I've encountered is in some way a prolific goal setter. For this reason, the single most important piece of advice I give any aspiring entrepreneur or business professional is to figure out exactly what you want, document it on paper and then attack it every day.

A personal business plan is something that I develop each year to help me put my own advice into action. Creating a plan can clarify your objectives for the coming year but don't just shove it in drawer. It is something that should become weekly, if not daily, reading material.

Related: Why Business Leaders Must Set a Personal Mission

1. Start with a simple brainstorming list.

Break down your role in the company into small parts and be sure it's comprehensive. This could mean taking each department that you oversee or are involved in, and breaking it down into further segments. For instance, for my company's graphic-design department, I would create separate objectives for its leadership development, equipment and software needs, anticipated hiring, the continued education plan and efficiency.

2. Prioritize objectives.

Your brainstorming list probably contains an overwhelming number of potential starting points. The key is narrowing them down into a manageable and realistic number of goals. Since you'll review the finished personal business plan often, don't write a novel.

I made the mistake of developing a massive 100-page personal business plan that I never looked at. The very thought of reviewing it was scary. A user-friendly one- to two-page document will do the trick.

Take your brainstorming list and organize it according to the biggest potential impact. You'll also have some must-dos (if not tackled business will fall apart). Then you'll have some items that aren't necessary or don't require much of your focus and perhaps can be delegated.

My company's CEO, Duane Hixon, does a wonderful job of narrowing down his list into what he refers to as his "rocks." These are the biggest areas of impact, the areas to which a person should offer most of his or her attention. These will make up the heart of the personal business plan.

Related: How to Build a Business Plan For Your Personal Brand

3. Be specific.

Once you've narrowed things down to a handful of rocks, be sure the plan includes specifics that will allow you to measure and track progress. For this year's plan, one of my rocks was maintaining company culture while building the team. Obviously, this is a broad, difficult-to-measure objective. For my plan, I developed a strategy for accomplishing the mission by including more details such as creating a company culture slide show and a plan for both current employees and new hires.

4. Set challenges but be realistic.

A goal that doesn't take much effort to accomplish isn't really a goal. Setting an objective that has a slim chance of realization, however, amounts to little more than a hope and can leave you feeling discouraged. Aim for a perfect balance between the two -- something that stretches you but doesn't break you.

Related: Write a Winning Business Plan With These 8 Key Elements

5. Set deadlines.

The beautiful thing about your personal business plan is that it's yours. You don't have to wait until the start of a new year to create one. While I create a plan annually, that doesn't mean that each objective has a deadline that's one year out. Set a deadline no matter what it is to keep you focused and provide a call to action (as opposed to adopting an open-ended objective).

6. Share the plan.

I recommend that you show your plan to a colleage whom you respect. Ask for feedback. This individual may think of an angle you have not. Equally important, this person will hold you accountable. It's a lot tougher to hit the eject button on a plan after you've shared it with someone you respect. And everyone can use a cheerleader in the workplace from time to time.

I personally love it when an employee shares a plan with me. It shows initiative and forward thinking. There are few things more impressive than when an employee has clear-cut objectives and works hard to meet them.

7. Revisit the plan weekly.

Creating the plan is just the first step. Put the plan in a prominent spot where you're going to remember to review it or place reminders in your calendar.If you've got a great plan, it can and will inspire you every time you see it.

Related: Your Mission Statement May Be Utterly Useless or a Gold Mine

Chief Operating Officer of N2 Publishing

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550+ Business Plan Examples to Launch Your Business

550+ Free Sample Business Plans

Need help writing your business plan? Explore over 550 industry-specific business plan examples for inspiration. Go even further with LivePlan , which harnesses AI-assisted writing features and SBA-approved plan examples to get you funded.

Find your business plan example

Accounting, Insurance & Compliance

Accounting, Insurance & Compliance Business Plans

  • View All 25

Children & Pets

Children & Pets Business Plans

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Cleaning, Repairs & Maintenance

Cleaning, Repairs & Maintenance Business Plans

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Clothing & Fashion Brand

Clothing & Fashion Brand Business Plans

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Construction, Architecture & Engineering

Construction, Architecture & Engineering Business Plans

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Consulting, Advertising & Marketing

Consulting, Advertising & Marketing Business Plans

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Education

Education Business Plans

  • Education Consulting
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Business plan template: There's an easier way to get your business plan done.

Entertainment & Recreation

Entertainment & Recreation Business Plans

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Events

Events Business Plans

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Farm & Agriculture

Farm & Agriculture Business Plans

  • Agri-tourism
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Finance & Investing

Finance & Investing Business Plans

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Fine Art & Crafts

Fine Art & Crafts Business Plans

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Fitness & Beauty

Fitness & Beauty Business Plans

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Food and Beverage

Food and Beverage Business Plans

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Hotel & Lodging

Hotel & Lodging Business Plans

  • Bed and Breakfast

Finish your plan faster with step-by-step guidance, financial wizards, and a proven format.

IT, Staffing & Customer Service

IT, Staffing & Customer Service Business Plans

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Manufacturing & Wholesale

Manufacturing & Wholesale Business Plans

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Medical & Health

Medical & Health Business Plans

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Nonprofit

Nonprofit Business Plans

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Real Estate & Rentals

Real Estate & Rentals Business Plans

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Retail & Ecommerce

Retail & Ecommerce Business Plans

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Technology

Technology Business Plans

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Transportation, Travel & Logistics

Transportation, Travel & Logistics Business Plans

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View all sample business plans

Example business plan format

Before you start exploring our library of business plan examples, it's worth taking the time to understand the traditional business plan format . You'll find that the plans in this library and most investor-approved business plans will include the following sections:

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally only one to two pages. You should also plan to write this section last after you've written your full business plan.

Your executive summary should include a summary of the problem you are solving, a description of your product or service, an overview of your target market, a brief description of your team, a summary of your financials, and your funding requirements (if you are raising money).

Products & services

The products & services chapter of your business plan is where the real meat of your plan lives. It includes information about the problem that you're solving, your solution, and any traction that proves that it truly meets the need you identified.

This is your chance to explain why you're in business and that people care about what you offer. It needs to go beyond a simple product or service description and get to the heart of why your business works and benefits your customers.

Market analysis

Conducting a market analysis ensures that you fully understand the market that you're entering and who you'll be selling to. This section is where you will showcase all of the information about your potential customers. You'll cover your target market as well as information about the growth of your market and your industry. Focus on outlining why the market you're entering is viable and creating a realistic persona for your ideal customer base.

Competition

Part of defining your opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage may be. To do this effectively you need to get to know your competitors just as well as your target customers. Every business will have competition, if you don't then you're either in a very young industry or there's a good reason no one is pursuing this specific venture.

To succeed, you want to be sure you know who your competitors are, how they operate, necessary financial benchmarks, and how you're business will be positioned. Start by identifying who your competitors are or will be during your market research. Then leverage competitive analysis tools like the competitive matrix and positioning map to solidify where your business stands in relation to the competition.

Marketing & sales

The marketing and sales plan section of your business plan details how you plan to reach your target market segments. You'll address how you plan on selling to those target markets, what your pricing plan is, and what types of activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success.

The operations section covers the day-to-day workflows for your business to deliver your product or service. What's included here fully depends on the type of business. Typically you can expect to add details on your business location, sourcing and fulfillment, use of technology, and any partnerships or agreements that are in place.

Milestones & metrics

The milestones section is where you lay out strategic milestones to reach your business goals.

A good milestone clearly lays out the parameters of the task at hand and sets expectations for its execution. You'll want to include a description of the task, a proposed due date, who is responsible, and eventually a budget that's attached. You don't need extensive project planning in this section, just key milestones that you want to hit and when you plan to hit them.

You should also discuss key metrics, which are the numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common data points worth tracking include conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, profit, etc.

Company & team

Use this section to describe your current team and who you need to hire. If you intend to pursue funding, you'll need to highlight the relevant experience of your team members. Basically, this is where you prove that this is the right team to successfully start and grow the business. You will also need to provide a quick overview of your legal structure and history if you're already up and running.

Financial projections

Your financial plan should include a sales and revenue forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and a balance sheet. You may not have established financials of any kind at this stage. Not to worry, rather than getting all of the details ironed out, focus on making projections and strategic forecasts for your business. You can always update your financial statements as you begin operations and start bringing in actual accounting data.

Now, if you intend to pitch to investors or submit a loan application, you'll also need a "use of funds" report in this section. This outlines how you intend to leverage any funding for your business and how much you're looking to acquire. Like the rest of your financials, this can always be updated later on.

The appendix isn't a required element of your business plan. However, it is a useful place to add any charts, tables, definitions, legal notes, or other critical information that supports your plan. These are often lengthier or out-of-place information that simply didn't work naturally into the structure of your plan. You'll notice that in these business plan examples, the appendix mainly includes extended financial statements.

Types of business plans explained

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. To get the most out of your plan, it's best to find a format that suits your needs. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.

Traditional business plan

The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you'll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or in any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual.

Business model canvas

The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.

The structure ditches a linear format in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It's faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations.

One-page business plan

The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan . This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business.

By starting with a one-page plan , you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You'll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan.

Growth planning

Growth planning is more than a specific type of business plan. It's a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, forecast, review, and refine based on your performance.

It holds all of the benefits of the single-page plan, including the potential to complete it in as little as 27 minutes . However, it's even easier to convert into a more detailed plan thanks to how heavily it's tied to your financials. The overall goal of growth planning isn't to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the growth planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and remain stable through times of crisis.

It's faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

Download a free sample business plan template

Ready to start writing your own plan but aren't sure where to start? Download our free business plan template that's been updated for 2024.

This simple, modern, investor-approved business plan template is designed to make planning easy. It's a proven format that has helped over 1 million businesses write business plans for bank loans, funding pitches, business expansion, and even business sales. It includes additional instructions for how to write each section and is formatted to be SBA-lender approved. All you need to do is fill in the blanks.

How to use an example business plan to help you write your own

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How do you know what elements need to be included in your business plan, especially if you've never written one before? Looking at examples can help you visualize what a full, traditional plan looks like, so you know what you're aiming for before you get started. Here's how to get the most out of a sample business plan.

Choose a business plan example from a similar type of company

You don't need to find an example business plan that's an exact fit for your business. Your business location, target market, and even your particular product or service may not match up exactly with the plans in our gallery. But, you don't need an exact match for it to be helpful. Instead, look for a plan that's related to the type of business you're starting.

For example, if you want to start a vegetarian restaurant, a plan for a steakhouse can be a great match. While the specifics of your actual startup will differ, the elements you'd want to include in your restaurant's business plan are likely to be very similar.

Use a business plan example as a guide

Every startup and small business is unique, so you'll want to avoid copying an example business plan word for word. It just won't be as helpful, since each business is unique. You want your plan to be a useful tool for starting a business —and getting funding if you need it.

One of the key benefits of writing a business plan is simply going through the process. When you sit down to write, you'll naturally think through important pieces, like your startup costs, your target market , and any market analysis or research you'll need to do to be successful.

You'll also look at where you stand among your competition (and everyone has competition), and lay out your goals and the milestones you'll need to meet. Looking at an example business plan's financials section can be helpful because you can see what should be included, but take them with a grain of salt. Don't assume that financial projections for a sample company will fit your own small business.

If you're looking for more resources to help you get started, our business planning guide is a good place to start. You can also download our free business plan template , or get started right away with LivePlan .

Think of business planning as a process, instead of a document

Think about business planning as something you do often , rather than a document you create once and never look at again. If you take the time to write a plan that really fits your own company, it will be a better, more useful tool to grow your business. It should also make it easier to share your vision and strategy so everyone on your team is on the same page.

Adjust your plan regularly to use it as a business management tool

Keep in mind that businesses that use their plan as a management tool to help run their business grow 30 percent faster than those businesses that don't. For that to be true for your company, you'll think of a part of your business planning process as tracking your actual results against your financial forecast on a regular basis.

If things are going well, your plan will help you think about how you can re-invest in your business. If you find that you're not meeting goals, you might need to adjust your budgets or your sales forecast. Either way, tracking your progress compared to your plan can help you adjust quickly when you identify challenges and opportunities—it's one of the most powerful things you can do to grow your business.

Prepare to pitch your business

If you're planning to pitch your business to investors or seek out any funding, you'll need a pitch deck to accompany your business plan. A pitch deck is designed to inform people about your business. You want your pitch deck to be short and easy to follow, so it's best to keep your presentation under 20 slides.

Your pitch deck and pitch presentation are likely some of the first things that an investor will see to learn more about your company. So, you need to be informative and pique their interest. Luckily, just like you can leverage an example business plan template to write your plan, we also have a gallery of over 50 pitch decks for you to reference.

With this gallery, you have the option to view specific industry pitches or get inspired by real-world pitch deck examples. Or for a modern pitch solution that helps you create a business plan and pitch deck side-by-side, you may want to check out LivePlan . It will help you build everything needed for outside investment and to better manage your business.

Get LivePlan in your classroom

Are you an educator looking for real-world business plan examples for your students? With LivePlan, you give your students access to industry-best business plans and help them set goals and track metrics with spreadsheet-free financial forecasts. All of this within a single tool that includes additional instructional resources that work seamlessly alongside your current classroom setup.

With LivePlan, it's not just a classroom project. It's your students planning for their futures. Click here to learn more about business planning for students .

Ready to get started?

Now that you know how to use an example business plan to help you write a plan for your business, it's time to find the right one.

Use the search bar below to get started and find the right match for your business idea.

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What is life planning?

5 benefits of having a life plan, how to make a life plan: a step-by-step guide, the right questions to ask when making a life plan, 5 areas to include in your life plan, how to create an accountability plan, a life plan template to help you get started, life planning helps you keep going.

We all have hopes, dreams, and aspirations in life. But how many of us actually achieve our goals?

Often we spend a lot of time thinking or talking about what we want. But we don’t take steps to achieve it.

It’s not because we’re lazy. It’s because we don’t know where to start. We don't have a plan.

Life planning, however, can serve as a roadmap or guide to making those dreams a reality.

Life planning can help you if:

  • Your life feels out of control
  • You struggle to make decisions
  • You feel lost and lack direction

Use this step-by-step guide and customizable life planning template to help you get started.

A life plan is both a guide and a reminder of what you want to achieve in your life. It helps you realize your dreams and meet your personal and professional objectives.

There’s no reason why you can’t achieve your goals, as long as they’re realistic. Often what holds us back is the fear of failure. 

A life plan can help you overcome this fear and reach your objectives.

It doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed. Instead, it serves as a general guide and should be flexible.

Life is unpredictable . Your life plan should leave room for unforeseen possibilities, changes, and crises. 

A case study at UCLA by psychologist Emily van Sonnenberg  asked students to keep an intention journal. Each morning, they wrote down their intentions for the day.

Sonnenberg found that students who wrote down their goals achieved them 92% more often than those who didn’t.

This result proves the power of planning. Let’s take a more detailed look at the benefits of life planning and how it helps you achieve your goals.

1. A life plan helps you make your dreams a reality

A life plan gives you the confidence to take action and  overcome your fears .

2. A life plan helps you prioritize

Making a life plan helps you identify your priorities. This way, you only focus on things that move you in the direction of your dreams.

3. A life plan helps you make better decisions

Knowing your goals and values can guide your decision-making process. This helps you make decisions that are in line with them.

4. A life plan keeps you motivated

Writing down your goals is essential for staying focused on them. Place your life plan somewhere you can see it and  read it every day to stay motivated .

5. A life plan makes you feel empowered

A life plan gives you a sense of control over your destiny. It reminds you that the ability to achieve your dreams is in your hands.

Follow this seven-step process to create your life plan.

1. Create a vision

To get started, imagine your dream life. Be as specific in the details as possible. 

Picture yourself already there and write out your vision. Use the following questions to inspire you:

  • What do you see, smell, or hear? 
  • What does the light look like? 
  • Who are you with? 
  • How do you spend your days? 
  • Where do you live? 
  • How do you feel? 
  • What do you do for a living?
  • How much money do you earn?
  • What is your daily routine?

Once you have written your vision, think about what you need to do to achieve it. Make a list of steps, such as gaining a new certification or reaching a certain income level.

Try to be realistic, but at the same time, don’t hold yourself back from dreaming big.

2. Perform a self-assessment

A self-assessment of your achievements so far gives you a starting point for your life plan.

Take stock of your successes as well as your failures. Look for the lessons learned and experiences you don’t want to repeat. Identify your strengths and weaknesses.

When doing your self-assessment, look at different areas of your life, including:

  • Relationships
  • Personal growth

Grade each area on a satisfaction level of one to five. This will help you identify your strengths as well as your areas for improvement.

woman-journaling-on-sofa-life-planning

3. Prioritize your life

Now that you have your vision and areas for growth, it’s time to prioritize.

You don’t need to set detailed goals at this stage. The aim of this step is to decide what’s essential and what you need to let go of.

Your time is precious, so you need to invest it wisely. Prioritizing will help you do so.

4. Identify your values

Analyzing your past can help you  identify your values . When you look back at past decisions, you can see what the motivating factors were behind them. 

For example, if your career trajectory has been one in which your income has steadily grown over time, it shows that money is one of your core values.

But if you've chosen fewer responsibilities at work in exchange for less money, it means you probably value less stress and more free time.

Negative past experiences also teach us about our values. They show us the things we want to avoid experiencing again.

Bearing your values in mind will help you make decisions that are in line with your dreams.

5. Establish SMART goals

Once you’ve identified your vision and take stock of your priorities and values, the next step is to set effective goals.

Aim to set both medium and long-term goals that are realistic and achievable.

Identify different goals for the areas of your life you evaluated in your self-assessment. Make sure they align with your priorities and values.

Use the SMART method to set effective goals.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific : each goal should be specific. For example, rather than “lose weight,” your goal should be “lose 10 pounds.”
  • Measurable : Establish how you will measure your goals.
  • Attainable : make sure your goals are realistic and possible to achieve.
  • Relevant : the goal should be relevant to your long-term vision and compatible with your priorities and values.
  • Time-bound : Set an ambitious but achievable deadline for the completion of your goal.

6. Outline an action plan

Your action plan should detail a step-by-step process that will help you work toward your intermediate goals. 

Identify the daily actions that will add up over time and help you build momentum. Schedule them in your calendar and commit to taking action every day.

Place your action plan somewhere you will see it — for example, above your desk.

Don’t forget to celebrate every milestone and reward yourself for your achievements.

7. Adjust as necessary

Remember, your life plan is a tool that guides you toward your goals. However, we all experience setbacks at some point, and that’s okay. 

If you miss a goal or take longer than planned to reach it, don’t give up.

Revise your life plan and make adjustments as needed.

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As you write your life plan, ask yourself the following questions, and keep your answers in mind: 

1. What results do you want to achieve?

As you create the vision of your dream life, try to be as specific as possible. Think about the results that accompany your desired outcome. 

For example, let’s say your goal is to become a director in your company. Ask yourself why you want to achieve this goal, and what difference it would make in your life.

Some of the possible results may include:

  • Greater financial stability for your family
  • Having greater influence and impact in your sector or field
  • Fulfilling a lifelong dream
  • Feeling more confident
  • Being able to pay for things or experiences that you otherwise couldn’t.

2. What actions will achieve those results?

Once you know the results, work backward to define the steps that will help you make continuous progress toward that objective.

Make sure you identify any actions that might require support. Make a list of trusted friends and loved ones and ask them to help you.

3. How will you stay motivated?

Writing a life plan can be fun and exciting. It can also increase your motivation levels.

But one day soon, something may happen that deflates your motivation like an old balloon.

Maybe you’ll come up against an unforeseen challenge. Perhaps you’ll fall out with your best friend. Or maybe you’ll just get out of the wrong side of the bed.

Whatever it is, you’ll lose your motivation. You’ll want to throw in the towel. 

And that’s why you need to prepare by asking yourself how you will stay motivated.

When you’re working toward a big goal, break it down into smaller goals. Celebrate and reward yourself for those achievements.

Ask your trusted friends and loved ones to help you stay motivated when the going gets rough.

4. How will you measure progress?

Setting milestone goals is a good way to measure your progress.

Going back to our previous example, becoming a company director is not something that’s likely to happen overnight. The best way to measure progress would be to break it down into smaller goals.

These goals might include developing new skills that are required for the role of director. For example, an intermediate goal could be to complete a training or certification.

Another progress goal for an aspiring director could be to steadily climb the ranks. If you start as a project manager, your next goal could be to become a program manager.

Set yourself deadlines to meet each progress goal. This will help make sure you implement your life plan within the specified time frame.

yoga-class-feet-life-planning

Some people want to plan every aspect of their lives. You might decide to plan in some areas, but not in others. It’s your life plan, so it’s up to you what to include.

To inspire you, here are five of the most common areas to include in your life plan:

1. Health and well-being

Health is true wealth. Without it, nothing else matters.

Whether you’re healthy, unhealthy, or somewhere in between,  health and well-being should be on your life plan .

Even if you’re fit and healthy now, it’s always wise to plan ahead — your future self will thank you for it. 

Ways to include it in your life plan:

  • Set a healthy eating goal, such as meeting your five-a-day requirement
  • Aim to drink at least two liters of water per day
  • Identify a healthy weight
  • Take 10,000 steps per day
  • Sign up for a fitness class
  • Hire a personal trainer, nutritionist, or health coach

2. Relationships

Whether you’re single or in a committed partnership, there are always ways to improve your relationships.

All relationships start with the relationship you have with yourself. If you’re bitter or self-loathing, those qualities can influence your relationships.

Beyond that, there are ways to learn to be a better partner, friend, parent, or relative. 

Perhaps you want to be a better listener. Maybe you want to be more patient with your kids. Or maybe you yearn for a deeper connection with your partner.

  • If you’re in a relationship, schedule quality time with your partner to avoid getting stuck in a rut.
  • Plan trust-building and intimacy activities that strengthen your bond with your partner.
  • If you’re single, set aside time each week to work on the qualities that you think would make you a better partner in the future.
  • If you’re looking for love, set yourself targets. For example, you might want to go on dates with two new people per month to improve your chances of meeting someone.

If you’re unhappy with your current job, you need a plan to change it. 

But even if you’re happy with where you are now, you still need to plan for your future growth and development. 

And if you’re an entrepreneur, you already know planning is a prerequisite for business success.

Ways to include it in your life plan

  • If you want to change your current job, set a goal to send out a certain number of job applications per week.
  • If you’re happy with your current job, imagine where you would like to be in five or 10 years from now. Then, define the steps and time frame required to achieve those results.
  • As a business owner, set annual objectives for your business. Consider  working with a business coach  to help you achieve them.

4. Finances

Financial planning is closely linked to your career aspirations. Set realistic financial goals according to the profession you choose.

When setting financial goals, think about your priorities and values. For example, if spending time with your family is important to you, you might decide to prioritize more free time over more money.

If that’s the case, you might not want to aim for the role of CEO. Therefore, you won’t aim for a CEO’s salary, either. Adjust your financial goals accordingly.

  • Set yourself a monthly budget and stick to it
  • Become familiar with the earning potential in your industry
  • Set long and short-term goals
  • Consider working with a financial advisor

5. Community

One of the secrets to a long and healthy life is to be part of a community.

According to research,  loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking . Yet only 53% of Americans have meaningful in-person interactions on a daily basis.

  • Schedule regular get-togethers with friends and family
  • Volunteer in your community, such as at a care home
  • Participate in religious or spiritual groups

women-laughing-with-basketball-life-planning

Creating your life plan is the easy part. The hard work starts when you have to implement it.

Sooner or later, you’ll face obstacles that will test your commitment.

It might be a professional setback, such as not getting the job you want. Or it may be a personal challenge, such as a breakup or health issue, that slows your progress toward your goals.

An accountability plan can help you stay on track. Here’s how to create one in three steps:

1. Find an accountability partner

Share your life plan and milestone goals with a trusted friend, family member, or mentor. 

Ask them to help you stay motivated as you work toward your goals. They can do this by being your accountability partner.

An accountability partner is someone who helps you stay motivated and overcome challenges when they arise.

If you don’t have a friend or family member who can help, you might want to  consider working with a coach .

2. Measure your progress

Agree on regular check-ins with your accountability partner. These could be weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on your objectives.

On the agreed date, give them an update in writing or in person.

Check on your SMART goals and measure your progress. Have your accountability partner celebrate any wins with you.

3. Revise as necessary

A life plan is a guide that helps move you toward your goals. 

It should be flexible enough to adapt when something isn’t working.

If you struggle to meet your goals, work with your accountability partner to adjust your life plan and set more realistic goals.

A life plan is a personal document. Each one is unique since we all have different priorities, goals, and values. 

You can customize this life planning template to suit your needs. Alternatively, use your creativity to create your own.

life planning template

Staying motivated through life’s challenges is not easy, but it is possible.

Small daily actions add up to significant changes over time. Life planning can help you keep putting one foot in front of the other until you achieve your goals.

Working with a coach is a proven way to achieve and even exceed your goals. Discover how  BetterUp’s expert coaches can help you reach them even faster .

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Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

Strategic planning: Read this before it's that time again

How to get your life together in 10 simple steps, why you need a self-care plan (and 5 ways to get started), contingency planning: 4 steps to prepare for the unexpected, being the boss: 10 tips to find work-life balance for managers, life purpose: the inspiration you need to find your drive, the only guide you’ll ever need for career planning, a marathon, not a sprint: work-life balance cycle versus achievement, the secret to finding your passion isn't looking, it's doing, similar articles, how a performance review template improves the feedback process, how to create a work plan (with template), 12 ambition examples that’ll inspire your goal-setting, wondering what you should do with your life let’s chat, the 3 year plan: build a roadmap to success, a goal for each part of your life: 13 types of goals that you need to set, strategy versus tactics: planning and executing on your goals, purpose, mission, vision: what drives what, what is a career statement, and should you write one, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..

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Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice. 

Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.

A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:

  • Product goals and deadlines for each month
  • Monthly financials for the first two years
  • Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
  • Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years

Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.

While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.

For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .

Business Plan Steps

The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Description of business
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Description of organizational management
  • Description of product or services
  • Marketing plan
  • Sales strategy
  • Funding details (or request for funding)
  • Financial projections

If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.

Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.

Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.

In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.

Step 1: Executive Summary

The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the vision and mission of the company?
  • What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?

See our  roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.

Step 2: Description of Business

The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:

  • What business are we in?
  • What does our business do?

Step 3: Market Analysis

In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:

  • Who is our customer? 
  • What does that customer value?

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:

  • Who is the competition? 
  • What do they do best? 
  • What is our unique value proposition?

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

  • What is the product or service?
  • How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?

Step 7: Marketing Plan

In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:

  • Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
  • What channels will you use to reach your target market?
  • What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
  • If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
  • How will you measure success?

Step 8: Sales Plan

Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts. 

Start by answering the following questions:

  • What is the sales strategy?
  • What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
  • What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
  • What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
  • What are the metrics of success?

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
  • How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
  • What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?

Step 10: Financial Projections

Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years. 

While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:

  • How and when will the company first generate a profit?
  • How will the company maintain profit thereafter?

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.

For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy. 

If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.

Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .

  • Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. 
  • Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision. 
  • Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
  • Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
  • Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
  • Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
  • Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
  • Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
  • Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting. 
  • Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.

Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates . 

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.

While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:

  • Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
  • List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
  • Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
  • Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
  • Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.). 
  • Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
  • Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
  • Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.

See our wide variety of  startup business plan templates for more options.

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.

In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.

  • Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
  • Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
  • Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
  • Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
  • Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”

Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.

Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.

“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”

Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.

Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships. 

Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.

Streamline Your Business Planning Activities with Real-Time Work Management in Smartsheet

Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change. 

The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. 

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time.  Try Smartsheet for free, today.

Discover why over 90% of Fortune 100 companies trust Smartsheet to get work done.

business plan for your life

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Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for Life

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  • ISBN-10 1629561428
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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Routledge; 1st edition (October 15, 2015)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
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business plan for your life

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Allison Rimm is an author, consultant, coach, and strategic planning expert who inspires individuals and organizational leaders to create breathtaking visions and practical plans to make them come to life. The former Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and Information Management at Massachusetts General Hospital, she engages the hearts and minds of her clients to drive performance and create teams joyfully committed to their collective missions.

In her book, The Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for Life, Allison presents eight practical steps to help readers find their purpose, set priorities, and fulfill even their most elusive goals. She is also a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review. A sought-after speaker, Allison presents on topics related to strategic planning, workplace engagement, and leadership development.

She has merged her passion for teaching and mentoring with her extensive professional repertoire to create the Business of Life™ workshop series where she sets participants on an organized path of self-discovery. Participants leave her programs with a sense of direction and balance, ready to move forward with confidence, focus and optimism.

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How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

  • 3 years ago

Have you ever wondered how to write a business plan step by step? Mike Andes, told us: 

This guide will help you write a business plan to impress investors.

Throughout this process, we’ll get information from Mike Andes, who started Augusta Lawn Care Services when he was 12 and turned it into a franchise with over 90 locations. He has gone on to help others learn how to write business plans and start businesses.  He knows a thing or two about writing  business plans!

We’ll start by discussing the definition of a business plan. Then we’ll discuss how to come up with the idea, how to do the market research, and then the important elements in the business plan format. Keep reading to start your journey!

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is simply a road map of what you are trying to achieve with your business and how you will go about achieving it. It should cover all elements of your business including: 

  • Finding customers
  • Plans for developing a team
  •  Competition
  • Legal structures
  • Key milestones you are pursuing

If you aren’t quite ready to create a business plan, consider starting by reading our business startup guide .

Get a Business Idea

Before you can write a business plan, you have to have a business idea. You may see a problem that needs to be solved and have an idea how to solve it, or you might start by evaluating your interests and skills. 

Mike told us, “The three things I suggest asking yourself when thinking about starting a business are:

  • What am I good at?
  • What would I enjoy doing?
  • What can I get paid for?”

If all three of these questions don’t lead to at least one common answer, it will probably be a much harder road to success. Either there is not much market for it, you won’t be good at it, or you won’t enjoy doing it. 

As Mike told us, “There’s enough stress starting and running a business that if you don’t like it or aren’t good at it, it’s hard to succeed.”

If you’d like to hear more about Mike’s approach to starting a business, check out our YouTube video

Conduct Market Analysis

Market analysis is focused on establishing if there is a target market for your products and services, how large the target market is, and identifying the demographics of people or businesses that would be interested in the product or service. The goal here is to establish how much money your business concept can make.

Product and Service Demand

A search engine is your best friend when trying to figure out if there is demand for your products and services. Personally, I love using presearch.org because it lets you directly search on a ton of different platforms including Google, Youtube, Twitter, and more. Check out the screenshot for the full list of search options.

With quick web searches, you can find out how many competitors you have, look through their reviews, and see if there are common complaints about the competitors. Bad reviews are a great place to find opportunities to offer better products or services. 

If there are no similar products or services, you may have stumbled upon something new, or there may just be no demand for it. To find out, go talk to your most honest friend about the idea and see what they think. If they tell you it’s dumb or stare at you vacantly, there’s probably no market for it.

You can also conduct a survey through social media to get public opinion on your idea. Using Facebook Business Manager , you could get a feel for who would be interested in your product or service.

 I ran a quick test of how many people between 18-65  you could reach in the U.S. during a week. It returned an estimated 700-2,000 for the total number of leads, which is enough to do a fairly accurate statistical analysis.

Identify Demographics of Target Market

Depending on what type of business you want to run, your target market will be different. The narrower the demographic, the fewer potential customers you’ll have. If you did a survey, you’ll be able to use that data to help define your target audience. Some considerations you’ll want to consider are:

  • Other Interests
  • Marital Status
  • Do they have kids?

Once you have this information, it can help you narrow down your options for location and help define your marketing further. One resource that Mike recommended using is the Census Bureau’s Quick Facts Map . He told us,  

“It helps you quickly evaluate what the best areas are for your business to be located.”

How to Write a Business Plan

Now that you’ve developed your idea a little and established there is a market for it, you can begin writing a business plan. Getting started is easier with the business plan template we created for you to download. I strongly recommend using it as it is updated to make it easier to create an action plan. 

Each of the following should be a section of your business plan:

  • Business Plan Cover Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Description of Products and Services

SWOT Analysis

  • Competitor Data
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Marketing Expenses Strategy 

Pricing Strategy

  • Distribution Channel Assessment
  • Operational Plan
  • Management and Organizational Strategy
  • Financial Statements and/or Financial Projections

We’ll look into each of these. Don’t forget to download our free business plan template (mentioned just above) so you can follow along as we go. 

How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page

The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions.

A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:

  • Professionally designed logo
  • Company name
  • Mission or Vision Statement
  • Contact Info

Basically, think of a cover page for your business plan like a giant business card. It is meant to capture people’s attention but be quickly processed.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 2. Create a Table of Contents

Most people are busy enough that they don’t have a lot of time. Providing a table of contents makes it easy for them to find the pages of your plan that are meaningful to them.

A table of contents will be immediately after the cover page, but you can include it after the executive summary. Including the table of contents immediately after the executive summary will help investors know what section of your business plan they want to review more thoroughly.

Check out Canva’s article about creating a  table of contents . It has a ton of great information about creating easy access to each section of your business plan. Just remember that you’ll want to use different strategies for digital and hard copy business plans.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 3. Write an Executive Summary

An executive summary is where your business plan should catch the readers interest.  It doesn’t need to be long, but should be quick and easy to read.

Mike told us,

How long should an executive summary bein an informal business plan?

For casual use, an executive summary should be similar to an elevator pitch, no more than 150-160 words, just enough to get them interested and wanting more. Indeed has a great article on elevator pitches .  This can also be used for the content of emails to get readers’ attention.

It consists of three basic parts:

  • An introduction to you and your business.
  • What your business is about.
  • A call to action

Example of an informal executive summary 

One of the best elevator pitches I’ve used is:

So far that pitch has achieved a 100% success rate in getting partnerships for the business.

What should I include in an executive summary for investors?

Investors are going to need a more detailed executive summary if you want to secure financing or sell equity. The executive summary should be a brief overview of your entire business plan and include:

  • Introduction of yourself and company.
  • An origin story (Recognition of a problem and how you came to solution)
  • An introduction to your products or services.
  • Your unique value proposition. Make sure to include intellectual property.
  • Where you are in the business life cycle
  • Request and why you need it.

Successful business plan examples

The owner of Urbanity told us he spent 2 months writing a 75-page business plan and received a $250,000 loan from the bank when he was 23. Make your business plan as detailed as possible when looking for financing. We’ve provided a template to help you prepare the portions of a business plan that banks expect.

Here’s the interview with the owner of Urbanity:

When to write an executive summary?

Even though the summary is near the beginning of a business plan, you should write it after you complete the rest of a business plan. You can’t talk about revenue, profits, and expected expenditures if you haven’t done the market research and created a financial plan.

What mistakes do people make when writing an executive summary?

Business owners commonly go into too much detail about the following items in an executive summary:

  • Marketing and sales processes
  • Financial statements
  • Organizational structure
  • Market analysis

These are things that people will want to know later, but they don’t hook the reader. They won’t spark interest in your small business, but they’ll close the deal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 4. Company Description

Every business plan should include a company description. A great business plan will include the following elements while describing the company:

  • Mission statement
  • Philosophy and vision
  • Company goals

Target market

  • Legal structure

Let’s take a look at what each section includes in a good business plan.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is a brief explanation of why you started the company and what the company’s main focus is. It should be no more than one or two sentences. Check out HubSpot’s article 27 Inspiring Mission Statement for a great read on informative and inspiring mission and vision statements. 

Company Philosophy and Vision

The company philosophy is what drives your company. You’ll normally hear them called core values.  These are the building blocks that make your company different. You want to communicate your values to customers, business owners, and investors as often as possible to build a company culture, but make sure to back them up.

What makes your company different?

Each company is different. Your new business should rise above the standard company lines of honesty, integrity, fun, innovation, and community when communicating your business values. The standard answers are corporate jargon and lack authenticity. 

Examples of core values

One of my clients decided to add a core values page to their website. As a tech company they emphasized the values:

  •  Prioritize communication.
  •  Never stop learning.
  •  Be transparent.
  •  Start small and grow incrementally.

These values communicate how the owner and the rest of the company operate. They also show a value proposition and competitive advantage because they specifically focus on delivering business value from the start. These values also genuinely show what the company is about and customers recognize the sincerity. Indeed has a great blog about how to identify your core values .

What is a vision statement?

A vision statement communicate the long lasting change a business pursues. The vision helps investors and customers understand what your company is trying to accomplish. The vision statement goes beyond a mission statement to provide something meaningful to the community, customer’s lives, or even the world.

Example vision statements

The Alzheimer’s Association is a great example of a vision statement:

A world without Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia.

It clearly tells how they want to change the world. A world without Alzheimers might be unachievable, but that means they always have room for improvement.

Business Goals

You have to measure success against goals for a business plan to be meaningful. A business plan helps guide a company similar to how your GPS provides a road map to your favorite travel destination. A goal to make as much money as possible is not inspirational and sounds greedy.

Sure, business owners want to increase their profits and improve customer service, but they need to present an overview of what they consider success. The goals should help everyone prioritize their work.

How far in advance should a business plan?

Business planning should be done at least one year in advance, but many banks and investors prefer three to five year business plans. Longer plans show investors that the management team  understands the market and knows the business is operating in a constantly shifting market. In addition, a plan helps businesses to adjust to changes because they have already considered how to handle them.

Example of great business goals

My all time-favorite long-term company goals are included in Tesla’s Master Plan, Part Deux . These goals were written in 2016 and drive the company’s decisions through 2026. They are the reason that investors are so forgiving when Elon Musk continually fails to meet his quarterly and annual goals.

If the progress aligns with the business plan investors are likely to continue to believe in the company. Just make sure the goals are reasonable or you’ll be discredited (unless you’re Elon Musk).

You did target market research before creating a business plan. Now it’s time to add it to the plan so others understand what your ideal customer looks like. As a new business owner, you may not be considered an expert in your field yet, so document everything. Make sure the references you use are from respectable sources. 

Use information from the specific lender when you are applying for lending. Most lenders provide industry research reports and using their data can strengthen the position of your business plan.

A small business plan should include a section on the external environment. Understanding the industry is crucial because we don’t plan a business in a vacuum. Make sure to research the industry trends, competitors, and forecasts. I personally prefer IBIS World for my business research. Make sure to answer questions like:

  • What is the industry outlook long-term and short-term?
  • How will your business take advantage of projected industry changes and trends?
  • What might happen to your competitors and how will your business successfully compete?

Industry resources

Some helpful resources to help you establish more about your industry are:

  • Trade Associations
  • Federal Reserve
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics

Legal Structure

There are five basic types of legal structures that most people will utilize:

  • Sole proprietorships
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLC)

Partnerships

Corporations.

  • Franchises.

Each business structure has their pros and cons. An LLC is the most common legal structure due to its protection of personal assets and ease of setting up. Make sure to specify how ownership is divided and what roles each owner plays when you have more than one business owner.

You’ll have to decide which structure is best for you, but we’ve gathered information on each to make it easier.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest legal structure to set up but doesn’t protect the owner’s personal assets from legal issues. That means if something goes wrong, you could lose both your company and your home.

To start a sole proprietorship, fill out a special tax form called a  Schedule C . Sole proprietors can also join the American Independent Business Alliance .

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is the most common business structure used in the United States because an LLC protects the owner’s personal assets. It’s similar to partnerships and corporations, but can be a single-member LLC in most states. An LLC requires a document called an operating agreement.

Each state has different requirements. Here’s a link to find your state’s requirements . Delaware and Nevada are common states to file an LLC because they are really business-friendly. Here’s a blog on the top 10 states to get an LLC.

Partnerships are typically for legal firms. If you choose to use a partnership choose a Limited Liability Partnership. Alternatively, you can just use an LLC.

Corporations are typically for massive organizations. Corporations have taxes on both corporate and income tax so unless you plan on selling stock, you are better off considering an LLC with S-Corp status . Investopedia has good information corporations here .

There are several opportunities to purchase successful franchises. TopFranchise.com has a list of companies in a variety of industries that offer franchise opportunities. This makes it where an entrepreneur can benefit from the reputation of an established business that has already worked out many of the kinks of starting from scratch.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 5. Products and Services

This section of the business plan should focus on what you sell, how you source it, and how you sell it. You should include:

  • Unique features that differentiate your business products from competitors
  • Intellectual property
  • Your supply chain
  • Cost and pricing structure 

Questions to answer about your products and services

Mike gave us a list  of the most important questions to answer about your product and services:

  • How will you be selling the product? (in person, ecommerce, wholesale, direct to consumer)?
  • How do you let them know they need a product?
  • How do you communicate the message?
  • How will you do transactions?
  • How much will you be selling it for?
  • How many do you think you’ll sell and why?

Make sure to use the worksheet on our business plan template .

How to Write a Business Plan Step 6. Sales and Marketing Plan

The marketing and sales plan is focused on the strategy to bring awareness to your company and guides how you will get the product to the consumer.  It should contain the following sections:

SWOT Analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Not only do you want to identify them, but you also want to document how the business plans to deal with them.

Business owners need to do a thorough job documenting how their service or product stacks up against the competition.

If proper research isn’t done, investors will be able to tell that the owner hasn’t researched the competition and is less likely to believe that the team can protect its service from threats by the more well-established competition. This is one of the most common parts of a presentation that trips up business owners presenting on Shark Tank .

SWOT Examples

Examples of strengths and weaknesses could be things like the lack of cash flow, intellectual property ownership, high costs of suppliers, and customers’ expectations on shipping times.

Opportunities could be ways to capitalize on your strengths or improve your weaknesses, but may also be gaps in the industry. This includes:

  • Adding offerings that fit with your current small business
  • Increase sales to current customers
  • Reducing costs through bulk ordering
  • Finding ways to reduce inventory
  •  And other areas you can improve

Threats will normally come from outside of the company but could also be things like losing a key member of the team. Threats normally come from competition, regulations, taxes, and unforeseen events.

The management team should use the SWOT analysis to guide other areas of business planning, but it absolutely has to be done before a business owner starts marketing. 

Include Competitor Data in Your Business Plan

When you plan a business, taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is key to navigating the field. Providing an overview of your competition and where they are headed shows that you are invested in understanding the industry.

For smaller businesses, you’ll want to search both the company and the owners names to see what they are working on. For publicly held corporations, you can find their quarterly and annual reports on the SEC website .

What another business plans to do can impact your business. Make sure to include things that might make it attractive for bigger companies to outsource to a small business.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing and sales part of business plans should be focused on how you are going to make potential customers aware of your business and then sell to them.

If you haven’t already included it, Mike recommends:

“They’ll want to know about Demographics, ages, and wealth of your target market.”

Make sure to include the Total addressable market .  The term refers to the value if you captured 100% of the market.

Advertising Strategy

You’ll explain what formats of advertising you’ll be using. Some possibilities are:

  • Online: Facebook and Google are the big names to work with here.
  • Print : Print can be used to reach broad groups or targeted markets. Check out this for tips .
  • Radio : iHeartMedia is one of the best ways to advertise on the radio
  • Cable television : High priced, hard to measure ROI, but here’s an explanation of the process
  • Billboards: Attracting customers with billboards can be beneficial in high traffic areas.

You’ll want to define how you’ll be using each including frequency, duration, and cost. If you have the materials already created, including pictures or links to the marketing to show creative assets.

Mike told us “Most businesses are marketing digitally now due to Covid, but that’s not always the right answer.”

Make sure the marketing strategy will help team members or external marketing agencies stay within the brand guidelines .

This section of a business plan should be focused on pricing. There are a ton of pricing strategies that may work for different business plans. Which one will work for you depends on what kind of a business you run.

Some common pricing strategies are:

  • Value-based pricing – Commonly used with home buying and selling or other products that are status symbols.
  • Skimming pricing – Commonly seen in video game consoles, price starts off high to recoup expenses quickly, then reduces over time.
  • Competition-based pricing – Pricing based on competitors’ pricing is commonly seen at gas stations.
  • Freemium services –  Commonly used for software, where there is a free plan, then purchase options for more functionality.

HubSpot has a great calculator and blog on pricing strategies.

Beyond explaining what strategy your business plans to use, you should include references for how you came to this pricing strategy and how it will impact your cash flow.

Distribution Plan

This part of a business plan is focused on how the product or service is going to go through the supply chain. These may include multiple divisions or multiple companies. Make sure to include any parts of the workflow that are automated so investors can see where cost savings are expected and when.

Supply Chain Examples

For instance, lawn care companies  would need to cover aspects such as:

  • Suppliers for lawn care equipment and tools
  • Any chemicals or treatments needed
  • Repair parts for sprinkler systems
  • Vehicles to transport equipment and employees
  • Insurance to protect the company vehicles and people.

Examples of Supply Chains

These are fairly flat supply chains compared to something like a clothing designer where the clothes would go through multiple vendors. A clothing company might have the following supply chain:

  • Raw materials
  • Shipping of raw materials
  • Converting of raw materials to thread
  • Shipping thread to produce garments
  • Garment producer
  • Shipping to company
  • Company storage
  • Shipping to retail stores

There have been advances such as print on demand that eliminate many of these steps. If you are designing completely custom clothing, all of this would need to be planned to keep from having business disruptions.

The main thing to include in the business plan is the list of suppliers, the path the supply chain follows, the time from order to the customer’s home, and the costs associated with each step of the process.

According to BizPlanReview , a business plan without this information is likely to get rejected because they have failed to research the key elements necessary to make sales to the customer.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 7. Company Organization and Operational Plan

This part of the business plan is focused on how the business model will function while serving customers.  The business plan should provide an overview of  how the team will manage the following aspects:

Quality Control

  • Legal environment

Let’s look at each for some insight.

Production has already been discussed in previous sections so I won’t go into it much. When writing a business plan for investors, try to avoid repetition as it creates a more simple business plan.

If the organizational plan will be used by the team as an overview of how to perform the best services for the customer, then redundancy makes more sense as it communicates what is important to the business.

Quality control policies help to keep the team focused on how to verify that the company adheres to the business plan and meets or exceeds customer expectations.

Quality control can be anything from a standard that says “all labels on shirts can be no more than 1/16″ off center” to a defined checklist of steps that should be performed and filled out for every customer.

There are a variety of organizations that help define quality control including:

  • International Organization for Standardization – Quality standards for energy, technology, food, production environments, and cybersecurity
  • AICPA – Standard defined for accounting.
  • The Joint Commission – Healthcare
  • ASHRAE – HVAC best practices

You can find lists of the organizations that contribute most to the government regulation of industries on Open Secrets . Research what the leaders in your field are doing. Follow their example and implement it in your quality control plan.

For location, you should use information from the market research to establish where the location will be. Make sure to include the following in the location documentation.

  • The size of your location
  • The type of building (retail, industrial, commercial, etc.)
  • Zoning restrictions – Urban Wire has a good map on how zoning works in each state
  • Accessibility – Does it meet ADA requirements?
  • Costs including rent, maintenance, utilities, insurance and any buildout or remodeling costs
  • Utilities – b.e.f. has a good energy calculator .

Legal Environment

The legal requirement section is focused on defining how to meet the legal requirements for your industry. A good business plan should include all of the following:

  • Any licenses and/or permits that are needed and whether you’ve obtained them
  • Any trademarks, copyrights, or patents that you have or are in the process of applying for
  • The insurance coverage your business requires and how much it costs
  • Any environmental, health, or workplace regulations affecting your business
  • Any special regulations affecting your industry
  • Bonding requirements, if applicable

Your local SBA office can help you establish requirements in your area. I strongly recommend using them. They are a great resource.

Your business plan should include a plan for company organization and hiring. While you may be the only person with the company right now, down the road you’ll need more people. Make sure to consider and document the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the current leadership structure and what will it look like in the future?
  • What types of employees will you have? Are there any licensing or educational requirements?
  • How many employees will you need?
  • Will you ever hire freelancers or independent contractors?
  • What is each position’s job description?
  • What is the pay structure (hourly, salaried, base plus commission, etc.)?
  • How do you plan to find qualified employees and contractors?

One of the most crucial parts of a business plan is the organizational chart. This simply shows the positions the company will need, who is in charge of them and the relationship of each of them. It will look similar to this:

Our small business plan template has a much more in-depth organizational chart you can edit to include when you include the organizational chart in your business plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 8. Financial Statements 

No business plan is complete without financial statements or financial projections. The business plan format will be different based on whether you are writing a business plan to expand a business or a startup business plan. Let’s dig deeper into each.

Provide All Financial Income from an Existing Business

An existing business should use their past financial documents including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement to find trends to estimate the next 3-5 years.

You can create easy trendlines in excel to predict future revenue, profit and loss, cash flow, and other changes in year-over-year performance. This will show your expected performance assuming business continues as normal.

If you are seeking an investment, then the business is probably not going to continue as normal. Depending on the financial plan and the purpose of getting financing, adjustments may be needed to the following:

  • Higher Revenue if expanding business
  • Lower Cost of Goods Sold if purchasing inventory with bulk discounts
  • Adding interest if utilizing financing (not equity deal)
  • Changes in expenses
  • Addition of financing information to the cash flow statement
  • Changes in Earnings per Share on the balance sheet

Financial modeling is a challenging subject, but there are plenty of low-cost courses on the subject. If you need help planning your business financial documentation take some time to watch some of them.

Make it a point to document how you calculated all the changes to the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement in your business plan so that key team members or investors can verify your research.

Financial Projections For A Startup Business Plan

Unlike an existing business, a startup doesn’t have previous success to model its future performance. In this scenario, you need to focus on how to make a business plan realistic through the use of industry research and averages.

Mike gave the following advice in his interview:

Financial Forecasting Mistakes

One of the things a lot of inexperienced people use is the argument, “If I get one percent of the market, it is worth $100 million.” If you use this, investors are likely to file the document under bad business plan examples.

Let’s use custom t-shirts as an example.

Credence Research estimated in 2018 there were 11,334,800,000 custom t-shirts sold for a total of $206.12 Billion, with a 6% compound annual growth rate.

With that data,  you can calculate that the industry will grow to $270 Billion in 2023 and that the average shirt sold creates $18.18 in revenue.

Combine that with an IBIS World estimate of 11,094 custom screen printers and that means even if you become an average seller, you’ll get .009% of the market.

Here’s a table for easier viewing of that information.

The point here is to make sure your business proposal examples make sense.

You’ll need to know industry averages such as cost of customer acquisition, revenue per customer, the average cost of goods sold, and admin costs to be able to create accurate estimates.

Our simple business plan templates walk you through most of these processes. If you follow them you’ll have a good idea of how to write a business proposal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 9. Business Plan Example of Funding Requests

What is a business plan without a plan on how to obtain funding?

The Small Business Administration has an example for a pizza restaurant that theoretically needed nearly $20k to make it through their first month.

In our video, How to Start a $500K/Year T-Shirt Business (Pt. 1 ), Sanford Booth told us he needed about $200,000 to start his franchise and broke even after 4 months.

Freshbooks estimates it takes on average 2-3 years for a business to be profitable, which means the fictitious pizza company from the SBA could need up to $330k to make it through that time and still pay their bills for their home and pizza shop.

Not every business needs that much to start, but realistically it’s a good idea to assume that you need a fairly large cushion.

Ways to get funding for a small business

There are a variety of ways to cover this. the most common are:

  • Bootstrapping – Using your savings without external funding.
  • Taking out debt – loans, credit cards
  • Equity, Seed Funding – Ownership of a percentage of the company in exchange for current funds
  • Crowdsourcing – Promising a good for funding to create the product

Keep reading for more tips on how to write a business plan.

How funding will be used

When asking for business financing make sure to include:

  • How much to get started?
  • What is the minimum viable product and how soon can you make money?
  • How will the money be spent?

Mike emphasized two aspects that should be included in every plan, 

How to Write a Business Plan Resources

Here are some links to a business plan sample and business plan outline. 

  • Sample plan

It’s also helpful to follow some of the leading influencers in the business plan writing community. Here’s a list:

  • Wise Plans –  Shares a lot of information on starting businesses and is a business plan writing company.
  • Optimus Business Plans –  Another business plan writing company.
  • Venture Capital – A venture capital thread that can help give you ideas.

How to Write a Business Plan: What’s Next?

We hope this guide about how to write a simple business plan step by step has been helpful. We’ve covered:

  • The definition of a business plan
  • Coming up with a business idea
  • Performing market research
  • The critical components of a business plan
  • An example business plan

In addition, we provided you with a simple business plan template to assist you in the process of writing your startup business plan. The startup business plan template also includes a business model template that will be the key to your success.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our business hub .

Have you written a business plan before? How did it impact your ability to achieve your goals?

Brandon Boushy

Brandon Boushy lives to improve people’s lives by helping them become successful entrepreneurs. His journey started nearly 30 years ago. He consistently excelled at everything he did, but preferred to make the rules rather than follow him. His exploration of self and knowledge has helped him to get an engineering degree, MBA, and countless certifications. When freelancing and rideshare came onto the scene, he recognized the opportunity to play by his own rules. Since 2017, he has helped businesses across all industries achieve more with his research, writing, and marketing strategies. Since 2021, he has been the Lead Writer for UpFlip where he has published over 170 articles on small business success.

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My Name is PRETTY NGOMANE. A south African female. Aspiring to do farming. And finding a home away from home for the differently abled persons in their daily needs.

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How to Start Your Life Coaching Business Plan & Template

Life Coaching Business

Perhaps like many of us, you’re unsure where to start. Maybe you’re disillusioned by the lack of clear, actionable information available and have shelved your plans – for the moment, at least.

But don’t give in. Help is at hand.

This article introduces many of the answers to the question, “How do I start a life coaching business?”

In doing so, we borrow heavily from a book written by one of our founders at PositivePsychology.com, Seph Fontane Pennock, The 7 Pillars of a Profitable Practice . It is a great read and highly recommended; however, this article offers a powerful starting point regardless, with actionable points, a business plan, and a free template.

This Article Contains

How to start your life coaching business, 3 requirements for setting up your practice, crafting your business model plan: a template, how to market and advertise your coaching business, 10 best names for coaching practices, building and promoting an online coaching business.

  • 10+ Software & Forms to Use in Your Practice

A Take-Home Message

Life coaching can have far-reaching and diverse positive impacts on clients’ lives (Clutterbuck et al., 2016).

Many of us have toyed with the idea of starting a life coaching business, helping people change health-related behavior, improve wellness, boost their careers, and strive for personal goals (Karmali et al., 2020; Mann et al., 2022).

You most likely feel you have something to give: highly transferable skills learned from harsh life lessons and/or expertise in psychology, learning, leadership, self-development, and communication.

Or perhaps you are simply great at making people feel so empowered that they stop being “stuck” and take the bold steps to overcome obstacles holding them back.

Whatever your reason and motivation, we will help you get there, and the best place to begin is right here.

Begin at the beginning!

We start by recognizing our barriers.

What’s stopping us? Most likely, it’s our mindset rather than something physical. The following beliefs are potential obstacles, blocking us before we even start:

  • Fear of failure : We are afraid we will not succeed.
  • Not enough time: “I would give it a try, but I simply don’t have enough time.”
  • Self-doubt: Our lack of confidence sabotages our entrepreneurial journey.

It’s not about ignoring the fear or letting it determine how we act; it’s about accepting it as an inherent part of our journey.

Accept fear as part of your journey.

Next, evaluate your existing time commitments. Prioritize your current tasks, dropping some of the nonessentials, and plan to set aside time to start your life coaching business. This is something you’ve dreamed of doing and aligns with your bigger life goals.

There will always be things to do, but by changing your mindset and prioritizing this dream, you will find the time to make it a reality.

Everyone has 24 hours in a day. What will you accomplish with yours?

Finally, recognize your feelings of self-doubt but don’t let them control you. Reflect on some of your past successes and reach out to those closest to you for their support, encouragement, and practical advice.

We’d like to share a great article with you that can help, as it includes tips for increasing your self-confidence. Have a look at What Is Self-Confidence? (+9 Proven Ways to Increase It) .

To build confidence, you have to practice confidence.

If we don’t start, we will never know

Now that we have faced our barriers and established a healthier relationship with them, it’s time to step outside our comfort zone and start the journey.

Who is our dream client?

We can’t be great at everything, so we need to narrow our focus and reach and find an authentic niche.

For example, perhaps you enjoy helping people in the workplace . So, maybe your dream client has worked for several years but now feels stuck in their career. They need help to reevaluate where they are, where they want to go, and how to change their mindset to move toward a more fulfilling career.

Once we’ve defined our ideal client, we can consider each of Seph’s seven pillars for starting and growing a coaching practice sustainably:

  • Pillar #1 – Promise We need to be able to make a pledge to our dream client. The five Ps will help: People : Who are we helping? Place : Where are we helping them? Problem : What are we helping them solve? Product : What will we use to do this? Price : What will we charge to do it?
  • Pillar #2 – Leads We need to attract more of the right sort of clients (ideally, they will contact us). We must think about how our dream client will find us, perhaps via YouTube, a blog post, a personal website, or social media (think LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, etc.).
  • Pillar #3 – Clients How will we convert leads into clients? It may involve screening out those who are not a good fit for our services (depending on our coaching philosophy ) and following up quickly with compatible ones.
  • Pillar #4 – Traffic Reducing the legwork associated with finding leads is crucial; ultimately, it gives us more time to help others.
  • Pillar #5 – Retention Attracting and converting new leads is vital, yet so is holding on to existing clients. What potential offers can we share with existing clients to maintain (or boost) engagement?
  • Pillar #6 – Products How can we generate more income without spending extra time? It might include offering group coaching sessions or additional training, downloadable PDFs, podcasts, or webinars.
  • Pillar #7 – Team We can’t achieve everything alone. Over time, a successful coaching business may expand and include dedicated staff performing those administrative activities that take our time away from coaching.

Best coaching platform

What is the best platform for a life coaching business?

Traditionally, life coaching was practiced face to face and involved a great deal of manual administration behind the scenes.

Thankfully, new technology and online platforms mean we can perform coaching remotely through video calls and set up meetings, share activities, and exercises, and take notes online (Ribbers & Waringa, 2015; Kanatouri, 2020).

Our very own Quenza has been designed by and for coaches, counselors, and therapists, and that is why we believe it is the best coaching platform out there. It allows life coaches to focus on client needs, goals, and overcoming challenges and is a scalable solution for a growing business.

Do you need a business license?

You do not need specific qualifications to set up as a life coach, but accreditation can boost potential clients’ confidence in your abilities.

However, obtaining a business license is required in some locations to provide life coaching services legally. If you’re unsure whether you need a license, check with your local government agencies or consult a lawyer or accountant familiar with your jurisdiction (Lumia, 2022; Blackbyrn, 2023).

3 Best life coaching certification programs

There are many life coaching courses available. However, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the world’s best-known and respected coaching program certifier.

We list three of our favorite life coaching certification programs, but many others exist.

Spend time researching the one that best matches your coaching plans, availability, and budget.

  • Coaching Out of the Box This fast track to ICF certification can help turn your dream of starting a life coaching business into a reality. It includes group and one-to-one coaching and certification and supports individuals as they obtain documented coaching experience.
  • Barefoot Coaching This ICF and university-accredited coach training offers online coaching expertise to develop the coaching skills required as a life coach, HR professional, or business leader.
  • Life Purpose Institute The institute offers the coaching tools and marketing expertise to build a life coaching practice plus the training hours required to get ICF credentials. The number of students in online courses is limited, and students can learn the skills needed to coach individuals, groups, and workshops.

For further training opportunities, see our articles, 19 Best Coaching Training Institutes and Programs and 8 Best ICF Coaching Certification Programs and Courses .

A life coaching business plan doesn’t need to be complicated and must remain current, capturing the key actions and challenges.

Use the Life Coaching Business Model Plan or one of our templates from our How to Write a Life Coaching Business Plan: 5 Templates article to create an initial plan.

In this example, we target people who feel stuck in their career or their life (or both).

Business identity

What is the business called? “Clarity Life Coaching”

Target client

Our target clients are individuals who feel stuck, lost, or uncertain in their personal or professional lives. We focus on mid-career individuals or those experiencing significant life changes, such as divorce or career transitions.

Client pain points

Our clients struggle with a lack of direction, feel overwhelmed, and lack clarity about their goals and values. They may feel stuck in unfulfilling jobs or relationships and experience high stress or anxiety.

Your solution

Clarity Life Coaching provides personalized coaching services to help individuals clarify their values, goals, and priorities. Our coaching process helps clients identify their strengths and areas for improvement, develop a plan to achieve their goals, and overcome obstacles that may stand in their way. We use various coaching techniques , including goal setting, visualization, and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

Your competition

Several life coaching businesses in the local area provide similar services, but our unique approach and personalized coaching services set us apart from the competition. We focus on a highly customized coaching experience tailored to each client’s needs.

Revenue streams

Our revenue streams include one-on-one coaching sessions, group coaching sessions, and workshops on topics such as goal setting and stress management.

Marketing activities

We use online advertising, social media marketing, and partnerships with local businesses and community organizations. We will also attend local events and conferences to promote our services and network with potential clients.

Existing and future expenses include rent for our coaching space, coaching materials, advertising and marketing costs, and attending events and conferences.

Team and their key roles

The team will consist of one life coach responsible for providing coaching services, managing client relationships, and handling administrative tasks such as scheduling and billing.

Initial thoughts on milestones include:

  • Launching the business and securing our first clients within the first three months
  • Expanding our client base by 25% within the first year
  • Increasing revenue by 35% within the first year
  • Hosting a successful workshop or seminar within the first six months of operation

Help mid-career individuals gain clarity and direction and achieve their personal and professional goals.

Your plan will evolve and should be revisited regularly to grow and manage your life coaching practice.

Marketing your business

For many of us, marketing and advertising can fill us with fear – an unknown and confusing process.

So here are a few valuable pointers drawn from Seph’s The 7 Pillars of a Profitable Practice and Steve Chandler’s book How to Get Clients: New Pathways to Coaching Prosperity .

Your coaching website should be like a funnel

  • When your visitor arrives on your website, they should:
  • Know which problem you can help them solve or which goal you can help them achieve.
  • Find clear evidence of your successful track record.
  • Be confident in your abilities and experience.
  • Be provided with some upfront value (perhaps a free e-book).
  • Do not overcomplicate the website. Consider removing unnecessary content. The goal is for traffic to arrive as visitors and leave as leads (or sales).
  • Make use of a call-to-action, either:
  • Offer a giveaway in exchange for their name and email.
  • Allow them to sign up for their first (complimentary) coaching session.

Productive conversations

Productive conversations and creating relationships lead to new clients.

  • Make sure that you follow up on discussions promptly.
  • After an initial chat, ask the potential client to complete a prequalification survey.
  • Don’t leave them wondering. Tell them when they will receive a follow-up email.
  • Don’t be needy (even if you would like their business).
  • Be aware that the client will remember how you made them feel rather than precisely what you said.
  • Talk less about yourself and your coaching and listen more to their problems.

Online writing

Writing for a personal blog or elsewhere can increase your reach, get you in front of clients, and help others take you seriously. But remember:

  • Aim for quality over quantity – you are targeting the right kind of traffic.
  • Change your mindset from “How do I find more clients?” to “How do my dream clients find me?”
  • Know what people are looking for and create resources on that topic.
  • Earned reach is the organic attention that you receive. Perhaps you got a mention in a podcast or on a news website. Paid reach has a cost, such as Facebook and Instagram ads or using the Google Ads Platform. Consider both.
  • If you post on your website, consider your owned reach. You should appear in the search results, so get to know which keywords people are searching for when they look for help.

In The 7 Pillars of a Profitable Practice , Seph covers in more detail how to rank for keywords and create a content marketing plan that includes platforms with active audiences, such as:

  • The Huffington Post
  • Entrepreneur

Ultimately, your goal is for people with problems to find you so that you can help meet their needs.

Finding the right name for your coaching business is not easy. Too obvious, and it is either likely to be already taken or so bland that it will not be memorable.

One approach involves using AI to create life coaching business names . Use it or your own research to consider and evolve potential names, thinking about:

  • The customers’ first impression
  • The identity and brand of your business
  • The type of customer you wish to attract
  • How memorable the name is (and for the right reasons)
  • Whether the name is already being used

Here are 10 names to start you off:

  • Coaching for Success
  • The Successful Living Academy
  • Evolve Coaching
  • Courage Coaching
  • The Breakthrough Coach
  • The Change Academy
  • Coaching for Vitality
  • Abundant Life Coaching
  • Positive Change Coaching
  • The Courage Academy

Building a life coaching busines

The following articles offer more suggestions regarding how to build and promote an online coaching business.

  • How to Get Clients for Life Coaching [5 Strategies] provides more information and guidance on nailing your business’s value proposition, marketing funnel, and online and offline strategies.
  • How to Start an Online Coaching Business: Step-by-Step Plan is a practical guide for building a successful and profitable business.
  • How to Start a Life Coaching Business From Scratch explores what you will need and your first moves to becoming an online coach.

10+ Software & Forms to Use in Your Practice

There are several online platforms for coaching, many of which are introduced in the article 12 Best Online Coaching Platforms & Tools .

PositivePsychology.com’s dedicated coaching software Quenza is compelling and unique because it:

  • Is extraordinarily user friendly and intuitive
  • Uses the latest SSL encryption to store client results to ensure HIPAA and GDPR compliance
  • Is highly scalable, growing with your business
  • Stores forms as customizable templates
  • Securely delivers exercises and forms to clients
  • Enables form completion on mobile, tablet, or desktop
  • Nudges clients when they need a reminder to do something

In How to Send & Build Counseling Client Intake Forms Digitally , we explore how to create and share online forms using the Quenza platform.

Next, our two articles, Coaching Forms Toolbox: 17 Templates for Your Sessions and How to Create Feedback Forms: 3 Templates + Best Online Tool , explain how forms can be created from scratch, copied, or modified within the tool.

We suggest using the following forms:

  • Pre-coaching questionnaire
  • A self-contract to encourage client accountability
  • Life domain satisfaction questionnaire
  • Strength interview form
  • Session rating scale
  • Coach evaluation form
  • End of therapy evaluation

Many other templates exist, including ones for visualization, mindfulness, goal setting, and benefit finding.

Fear, time constraints, and self-doubt can hold us back from starting a life coaching business. Learning to accept our barriers and shift our focus from ourselves to our clients can dramatically improve our chances of success.

Learning from the experiences of successful business owners like Seph Fontane Pennock can provide valuable insights and help us create a profitable and impactful practice.

You most likely feel like you have something to give to your dream clients. You wish to create an opportunity for positive change in their lives while delivering on a personal vision for a life coaching practice.

Creating a clear and achievable business plan can be simple and will help you find your ideal clients and offer them a path to setting and striving toward their goals.

Having read this article and been inspired to start your life coaching business, why not look at The 7 Pillars of a Profitable Practice and use the many lessons Seph learned along his journey to inform your business plans and give your clients their best chance of success?

  • Blackbyrn, S. (2023, February 17). Does a life coach need a business license? Coach Foundation. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from https://coachfoundation.com/blog/life-coach-business-license/.
  • Clutterbuck, D., David, S. A., & Megginson, D. (Eds.). (2016). Beyond goals: Effective strategies for coaching and mentoring.  Routledge.
  • Lumia. (2022, August 4). Does a life coach need a business license and insurance? Lumia. Retrieved April 20, 2023, from https://www.lumiacoaching.com/blog/does-a-life-coach-need-a-business-license.
  • Kanatouri, S. (2020). The digital coach . Routledge.
  • Karmali, S., Battram, D. S., Burke, S. M., Cramp, A., Mantler, T., Morrow, D., Ng, V., Pearson, E. S., Petrella, R., Tucker, P., & Irwin, J. D. (2020). Clients’ and coaches’ perspectives of a life coaching intervention for parents with overweight/obesity. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring , 18 (2), 115–132.
  • Mann, A., Leigh Fainstad, T., Shah, P., Dieujuste, N., & Jones, C. D. (2022). “It’s nice to know I’m not alone”: The impact of an online life coaching program on wellness in graduate medical education: A qualitative analysis. A cademic Medicine , 97 (11S), S166–S166.
  • Ribbers, A., & Waringa, A. (2015). E-coaching: Theory and practice for a new online approach to coaching . Routledge.

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Business Plan For Your Life

A Business Plan For Your Life (Craft Your Legacy)

Life is an incredible journey, full of twists, turns, challenges, and opportunities. Just like in the world of business, having a solid plan can make all the difference. So, imagine treating your life like a business venture, with a strategic plan that guides you towards success, fulfillment, and personal growth. Welcome to the concept of crafting a “business plan for your life” – a roadmap to navigate the complexities of life with purpose and intention.

Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by how business owners strategize, set personal goals , and adapt to changing circumstances. I realized that these principles could be applied to personal lives, allowing us to achieve our dreams with a clear vision and actionable steps. This notion became even more important when I faced crossroads and realized I needed a roadmap for my own journey.

In the following sections, we’ll dive into the components of creating your life’s business plan. We’ll discuss the importance of defining and creating your vision board , developing strategies, building your personal brand, and continuously improving yourself. We’ll explore how achieving work-life balance, financial wellness, and leaving a lasting legacy are all part of this comprehensive plan. By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with the tools to embark on this exciting adventure of intentional living.

So, let’s dive into the world of life planning – where dreams are turned into reality through strategic thinking and proactive decision-making. Are you ready to unlock the potential of your life with a business-like approach? Let’s get started on this transformative journey.

Table of Contents

Defining Your Vision

a hand holding a round checkmark on a yellow target background

1. Personal Mission Statement

Crafting a personal mission statement is like setting the foundation for your life’s business plan. It’s a succinct expression of your values, passions, and the ultimate purpose you aim to fulfill. This statement becomes your compass, guiding your decisions and actions toward a life that’s aligned with your true self.

For example, my personal mission statement is to “inspire creativity and curiosity in others while continually seeking growth and learning for myself.” This drives my choices in both my career and personal life, ensuring that I’m always pursuing activities and opportunities that resonate with my mission.

2. Defining Success

Success is a multi-faceted concept, and it varies greatly from person to person. When outlining your life’s business plan, it’s crucial to define what success means to you across different domains. Consider your career, relationships, health, personal growth, and any other areas that hold significance for you.

Personally, I view success as achieving a harmonious balance between my professional ambitions and personal well-being. It’s about continuous growth, fulfilling relationships, and a sense of purpose that extends beyond financial achievements.

3. Setting Goals

Goals are the stepping stones that lead you toward your vision. They provide direction and motivation, helping you measure progress and celebrate accomplishments along the way. Break down your long-term vision into manageable short-term goals that are (SMART) stands for : specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

For instance, if your vision includes becoming a published author, your SMART goal could be to complete the first draft of your novel within the next six months. This actionable goal keeps you focused on the immediate task that contributes to your larger vision.

By defining your vision, establishing a personal mission statement, and setting meaningful goals, you’re laying the groundwork for a life that’s purposeful, focused, and aligned with your deepest aspirations. Keep these components in mind as we continue to explore the various aspects of your life’s business plan.

Crafting Your Strategy

a puzzle with the word strategy arranging by several hands

1. SWOT Analysis

Much like a business assesses its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, it’s essential to conduct a personal SWOT analysis. This introspective evaluation helps you gain a clear understanding of where you stand and where you can improve. By identifying your strengths, you can leverage them to your advantage. Recognizing your weaknesses allows you to address them proactively. Exploring opportunities and threats helps you make informed decisions.

For example, identifying a strength like effective communication skills can guide you toward roles that require interaction and leadership. Recognizing a weakness in time management can lead to strategies for improvement.

2. Prioritization

In a world filled with distractions, effective prioritization is a skill worth mastering. Your life’s business plan demands that you determine which tasks and goals align most closely with your vision. Not every opportunity is equally valuable. Focus on activities that contribute to your overall success and well-being.

Personally, I use the Eisenhower Matrix to categorize tasks based on their urgency and importance. This simple technique helps me allocate my time and energy effectively.

3. Time Management

Time is a finite resource, and managing it efficiently is key to executing your life plan successfully. Create a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule that balances work, personal time, and activities that contribute to your growth. One thing that helps me a lot in making my time more efficient is by using bullet journaling for time blocking . So you could use your time more effectively. Allocate time for your goals, and don’t forget to include relaxation and self-care.

For instance, setting aside dedicated time for exercise, reading, or skill development ensures that you’re consistently working toward your vision.

With a well-structured strategy that includes a SWOT analysis, effective prioritization, and mindful time management, you’re equipping yourself with the tools to make informed decisions and stay on track toward your life’s goals.

Building Your Brand

colorful cube word

1. Personal Branding

Just like businesses create a brand identity to stand out in the market, you can shape your personal brand to leave a lasting impression on others. Define your unique qualities, values, skills, and passions. This cohesive image helps you connect with like-minded individuals and attract opportunities that align with your goals.

For example, if you’re known for your creativity and problem-solving skills, people will turn to you for innovative solutions.

2. Networking

Networking is more than just exchanging business cards; it’s about cultivating authentic relationships that can propel you forward. Building a strong network connects you with individuals who share your values, interests, and aspirations. These connections can lead to collaborations, mentorship, and new opportunities you might not have encountered otherwise.

For instance, attending industry events, workshops, or online forums can help you connect with professionals who inspire and support your journey.

By crafting a personal brand and nurturing your network, you’re positioning yourself as a valuable asset in your personal and professional spheres. These components of your life’s business plan contribute to your overall success and the impact you make on others.

Embracing Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement flowchart

1. Adaptability

Life is dynamic, and change is inevitable. Just as businesses adapt to evolving markets, you must also embrace adaptability. Be open to adjusting your plans when circumstances shift. Flexibility ensures that you can overcome challenges and seize new opportunities as they arise.

For instance, if a career path you initially pursued doesn’t align with your values anymore, be willing to explore alternative routes.

2. Learning

In both business and life, the quest for knowledge is unending. Invest in self-improvement by constantly learning and expanding your skill set. Attend workshops, read books, take online courses, and seek mentorship to stay current and gain a competitive edge.

For example, learning a new programming language can open up doors to different job opportunities and personal projects.

3. Feedback Loop

Regularly evaluating your progress is a critical component of your life’s business plan. Create a feedback loop by setting aside time to review your goals, assess your accomplishments, and identify areas for improvement. Celebrate your success, learn from your failures, and make necessary adjustments to your strategies.

Personally, I schedule a monthly habit tracker for my reflection session where I review my achievements, setbacks, and lessons learned. This practice keeps me accountable and focused on my vision.

By embracing adaptability, committing to lifelong learning, and maintaining a feedback loop, you’re cultivating a mindset of growth and improvement. These principles are fundamental to your journey of intentional living.

Achieving Work-Life Balance

Work, Balance and Life Words written on jigsaw puzzle

1. Setting Boundaries

Ensuring a healthy equilibrium between work and personal life is crucial for your overall welfare. Set clear boundaries between work, personal time, and rest. Steer clear of overexertion and refrain from letting work-related stress seep into your personal life. A bullet journal for relieving stress could also be helpful in setting boundaries between your work to your personal life. Create designated spaces and times for work and relaxation.

For instance, avoid checking work emails during your designated personal time to ensure you’re fully present with your loved ones.

2. Healthy Lifestyle

A balanced life goes hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and mindfulness practices contribute to your physical and mental well-being. Give precedence to self-care practices that rejuvenate your energy and alleviate stress.

For example, incorporating a daily meditation practice can enhance your mental clarity and resilience in facing life’s challenges.

3. Quality Relationships

Meaningful relationships are the cornerstone of a fulfilling life. Cultivate connections with family, friends, and colleagues. Invest time in nurturing these relationships, as they provide emotional support, companionship, and a sense of belonging.

Personally, I make it a point to have regular catch-ups with friends and spend quality time with my family. These interactions uplift my spirits and remind me of the importance of human connection.

By setting boundaries, embracing a healthy lifestyle, and nurturing relationships, you’re fostering a life that’s harmonious and fulfilling. Work-life balance ensures that you’re not only achieving professional success but also experiencing personal growth and happiness. With these strategies in place, you’re well-equipped to embark on the journey toward financial wellness – a vital component of your life’s business plan.

Cultivating Financial Wellness

a hand holding a magnifying glass looking on a chart

1. Budgeting

Financial wellness is a cornerstone of a stable and fulfilling life. Start by creating a budget that aligns with your goals and values. Tracking your income and expenses helps you make informed financial decisions and ensures you’re allocating resources wisely.

For example, budgeting for essentials like housing, groceries, and bills while also setting aside funds for savings and investments ensures a balanced financial life.

2. Income Diversification

Depending solely on one source of income can pose a potential risk. Explore opportunities for diversifying your income sources. This could include freelance work, investments, side projects, or even turning your hobbies into profitable ventures.

Personally, I ventured into my first freelance writing job and invested in stocks as additional income streams. This not only provides financial security but also allows me to pursue my passions.

As you focus on your financial wellness, remember that stability and flexibility go hand in hand. A well-managed financial plan not only supports your current needs but also paves the way for a secure future. With a solid financial foundation, you’re better positioned to give back to your community and create a lasting legacy – the final aspects of your comprehensive life’s business plan.

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Legacy word printed and luxury pen

1. Giving Back

Contributing to the community and causes you care about is a meaningful way to leave a positive impact. Giving back doesn’t necessarily require financial contributions; it can also involve volunteering your time, sharing your expertise, or advocating for important issues.

For instance, mentoring a young professional or participating in local clean-up initiatives are ways to give back that align with your values.

2. Documenting Your Story

Your experiences, wisdom, and lessons learned throughout life are invaluable. Documenting your journey through writing, recording, or other creative mediums can inspire future generations and provide them with guidance. Sharing your story can offer comfort, motivation, and insight to those who come after you.

Craft your Life Plan and your Legacy with the Free bullet journal templates

Free bullet journal templates

As we near the end of our journey in crafting a comprehensive life plan, it’s remarkable to reflect on the depth and breadth of what we’ve explored. We’ve journeyed through defining your vision, crafting strategies, building your personal brand, embracing continuous improvement, achieving work-life balance, and nurturing your financial wellness.

But where do you go from here? How do you put these concepts into action? That’s where the magic of bullet journaling comes in. By harnessing the creative potential of bullet journal templates, you can seamlessly integrate the components of your life’s business plan into your daily routine. These templates, designed with care and precision, provide you with a practical tool to track your goals, manage your time, and reflect on your journey.

Download your free bullet journal templates and embark on this journey of a lifetime. Let them be your companions as you navigate the complexities of life with intention and grace. Let them be the canvas on which you paint your dreams, one deliberate stroke at a time. Your legacy begins here, and your impact is boundless.

This is your life – crafted, planned, and lived on your terms. Let’s turn the page and write the next chapter together.

What is a business life plan?

The Business Life Plan provides cost-effective cover that is tailored to meet specific business needs, with significant financial rewards for managing your health.

Why is it important to have a business plan?

A business plan is a very important and strategic tool for entrepreneurs. A good business plan not only helps entrepreneurs focus on the specific steps necessary for them to make business ideas succeed, but it also helps them to achieve short-term and long-term objectives.

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Life Coaching Business Plan Template & Guidebook

If your goal is to build a successful life coaching business, the #1 Life Coaching Business Plan Template & Guidebook can help get you there. This comprehensive guidebook provides the essential tools to craft a powerful business plan and strategy that sets you up for successful growth in the life coaching industry. With comprehensive advice, step-by-step instructions, and real-world examples, this template and guidebook will give you everything you need to create a winning life coaching business.

Nick

Get worry-free services and support to launch your business starting at $0 plus state fees.

  • How to Start a Profitable Life Coaching Business [11 Steps]
  • List of the Best Marketing Ideas For Your Life Coaching Service:

How to Write a Life Coaching Business Plan in 7 Steps:

1. describe the purpose of your life coaching business..

The first step to writing your business plan is to describe the purpose of your life coaching business. This includes describing why you are starting this type of business, and what problems it will solve for customers. This is a quick way to get your mind thinking about the customers’ problems. It also helps you identify what makes your business different from others in its industry.

It also helps to include a vision statement so that readers can understand what type of company you want to build.

Here is an example of a purpose mission statement for a life coaching business:

The purpose of our Life Coaching business is to empower our clients to create and live a more fulfilling and meaningful life by helping them define and achieve their goals. We strive to create an atmosphere of acceptance, respect, and collaboration so that our clients can incorporate new tools, acquire understanding, and make meaningful changes in their lives.

Image of Zenbusiness business formation

2. Products & Services Offered by Your Life Coaching Business.

The next step is to outline your products and services for your life coaching business. 

When you think about the products and services that you offer, it's helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my business?
  • What are the products and/or services that I offer?
  • Why am I offering these particular products and/or services?
  • How do I differentiate myself from competitors with similar offerings?
  • How will I market my products and services?

You may want to do a comparison of your business plan against those of other competitors in the area, or even with online reviews. This way, you can find out what people like about them and what they don’t like, so that you can either improve upon their offerings or avoid doing so altogether.

Image of Zenbusiness business formation

3. Build a Creative Marketing Stratgey.

If you don't have a marketing plan for your life coaching business, it's time to write one. Your marketing plan should be part of your business plan and be a roadmap to your goals. 

A good marketing plan for your life coaching business includes the following elements:

Target market

  • Who is your target market?
  • What do these customers have in common?
  • How many of them are there?
  • How can you best reach them with your message or product?

Customer base 

  • Who are your current customers? 
  • Where did they come from (i.e., referrals)?
  • How can their experience with your life coaching business help make them repeat customers, consumers, visitors, subscribers, or advocates for other people in their network or industry who might also benefit from using this service, product, or brand?

Product or service description

  • How does it work, what features does it have, and what are its benefits?
  • Can anyone use this product or service regardless of age or gender?
  • Can anyone visually see themselves using this product or service?
  • How will they feel when they do so? If so, how long will the feeling last after purchasing (or trying) the product/service for the first time?

Competitive analysis

  • Which companies are competing with yours today (and why)? 
  • Which ones may enter into competition with yours tomorrow if they find out about it now through word-of-mouth advertising; social media networks; friends' recommendations; etc.)
  • What specific advantages does each competitor offer over yours currently?

Marketing channels

  • Which marketing channel do you intend to leverage to attract new customers?
  • What is your estimated marketing budget needed?
  • What is the projected cost to acquire a new customer?
  • How many of your customers do you instead will return?

Form an LLC in your state!

business plan for your life

4. Write Your Operational Plan.

Next, you'll need to build your operational plan. This section describes the type of business you'll be running, and includes the steps involved in your operations. 

In it, you should list:

  • The equipment and facilities needed
  • Who will be involved in the business (employees, contractors)
  • Financial requirements for each step
  • Milestones & KPIs
  • Location of your business
  • Zoning & permits required for the business

What equipment, supplies, or permits are needed to run a life coaching business?

  • Computer or laptop
  • Internet connection
  • Business license (Check with your local government)
  • Accounting Software or Services
  • Business Insurance (Check with your local insurance provider)
  • Marketing materials & website

5. Management & Organization of Your Life Coaching Business.

The second part of your life coaching business plan is to develop a management and organization section.

This section will cover all of the following:

  • How many employees you need in order to run your life coaching business. This should include the roles they will play (for example, one person may be responsible for managing administrative duties while another might be in charge of customer service).
  • The structure of your management team. The higher-ups like yourself should be able to delegate tasks through lower-level managers who are directly responsible for their given department (inventory and sales, etc.).
  • How you’re going to make sure that everyone on board is doing their job well. You’ll want check-ins with employees regularly so they have time to ask questions or voice concerns if needed; this also gives you time to offer support where necessary while staying informed on how things are going within individual departments too!

6. Life Coaching Business Startup Expenses & Captial Needed.

This section should be broken down by month and year. If you are still in the planning stage of your business, it may be helpful to estimate how much money will be needed each month until you reach profitability.

Typically, expenses for your business can be broken into a few basic categories:

Startup Costs

Startup costs are typically the first expenses you will incur when beginning an enterprise. These include legal fees, accounting expenses, and other costs associated with getting your business off the ground. The amount of money needed to start a life coaching business varies based on many different variables, but below are a few different types of startup costs for a life coaching business.

Running & Operating Costs

Running costs refer to ongoing expenses related directly with operating your business over time like electricity bills or salaries paid out each month. These types of expenses will vary greatly depending on multiple variables such as location, team size, utility costs, etc.

Marketing & Sales Expenses

You should include any costs associated with marketing and sales, such as advertising and promotions, website design or maintenance. Also, consider any additional expenses that may be incurred if you decide to launch a new product or service line. For example, if your life coaching business has an existing website that needs an upgrade in order to sell more products or services, then this should be listed here.

7. Financial Plan & Projections

A financial plan is an important part of any business plan, as it outlines how the business will generate revenue and profit, and how it will use that profit to grow and sustain itself. To devise a financial plan for your life coaching business, you will need to consider a number of factors, including your start-up costs, operating costs, projected revenue, and expenses. 

Here are some steps you can follow to devise a financial plan for your life coaching business plan:

  • Determine your start-up costs: This will include the cost of purchasing or leasing the space where you will operate your business, as well as the cost of buying or leasing any equipment or supplies that you need to start the business.
  • Estimate your operating costs: Operating costs will include utilities, such as electricity, gas, and water, as well as labor costs for employees, if any, and the cost of purchasing any materials or supplies that you will need to run your business.
  • Project your revenue: To project your revenue, you will need to consider the number of customers you expect to have and the average amount they will spend on each visit. You can use this information to estimate how much money you will make from selling your products or services.
  • Estimate your expenses: In addition to your operating costs, you will need to consider other expenses, such as insurance, marketing, and maintenance. You will also need to set aside money for taxes and other fees.
  • Create a budget: Once you have estimated your start-up costs, operating costs, revenue, and expenses, you can use this information to create a budget for your business. This will help you to see how much money you will need to start the business, and how much profit you can expect to make.
  • Develop a plan for using your profit: Finally, you will need to decide how you will use your profit to grow and sustain your business. This might include investing in new equipment, expanding the business, or saving for a rainy day.

business plan for your life

Frequently Asked Questions About Life Coaching Business Plans:

Why do you need a business plan for a life coaching business.

A business plan is essential for a life coaching business as it provides a roadmap to success by outlining operational strategies, marketing plans, and developing financial projections. It helps the business owner identify their goals and objectives, understand the potential markets for their services and plan for future growth. A comprehensive business plan also helps the life coach determine how much capital is necessary to start the business, and includes steps to take to make sure that their new venture is successful.

Who should you ask for help with your life coaching business plan?

A business consultant or mentor with experience in the industry can help you develop a life coaching business plan that is tailored to your individual needs and goals. Local small business development centers can often provide assistance as well. Additionally, online resources like SCORE and SBA.gov may also be of use.

Can you write a life coaching business plan yourself?

Yes, it is possible to write a life coaching business plan yourself. Creating a business plan will help you define and organize your thoughts and create an actionable strategy to achieve your goals. It will also help you secure funding from investors or lenders and attract key personnel to join your business. A basic business plan should include an overview of the business, a market analysis, a financial plan, and an operational plan. You should also consider including information about the services you will offer, your target customers, your marketing/promotion strategies and any other relevant details about your life coaching business.

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I'm Nick, co-founder of newfoundr.com, dedicated to helping aspiring entrepreneurs succeed. As a small business owner with over five years of experience, I have garnered valuable knowledge and insights across a diverse range of industries. My passion for entrepreneurship drives me to share my expertise with aspiring entrepreneurs, empowering them to turn their business dreams into reality.

Through meticulous research and firsthand experience, I uncover the essential steps, software, tools, and costs associated with launching and maintaining a successful business. By demystifying the complexities of entrepreneurship, I provide the guidance and support needed for others to embark on their journey with confidence.

From assessing market viability and formulating business plans to selecting the right technology and navigating the financial landscape, I am dedicated to helping fellow entrepreneurs overcome challenges and unlock their full potential. As a steadfast advocate for small business success, my mission is to pave the way for a new generation of innovative and driven entrepreneurs who are ready to make their mark on the world.

Money Talks News

Money Talks News

11 Guidelines for Building a Financial Plan for the Life You Want

Posted: January 4, 2024 | Last updated: January 4, 2024

business plan for your life

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement .

So much that is written about retirement planning is about rates of return, inflation, savings thresholds, tax mitigation, budgeting, asset allocations, and other relatively dry and often somewhat stressful topics.

However, most people care about their finances and planning for retirement because they have a dream for their future.

It is important to remember that financial strategies are merely a means to an end — the life you want. And, keeping the focus of your planning on those dreams can produce better outcomes.

Here are guidelines for using your dreams to help you build a financial plan for the life you want.

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We’ve been in the business of offering money news and advice to millions of Americans for 32 years. Every day, in the Money Talks Newsletter we provide tips and advice to save more, invest like a pro and lead a richer, fuller life.

And it doesn’t cost a dime.

Our readers report saving an average of $941 with our simple, direct advice, as well as finding new ways to stay healthy and enjoy life.

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<p>Credit scores are important for anyone with a credit card, mortgage, car loan, job and more — or anyone who wants those things.</p> <p>Many confusing details can <a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/slideshows/surprising-things-that-damage-your-credit-score/">bring your score down</a> for a long time, and consumers often get the same old advice on how to fix it: Pay your bills on time, dispute errors on your credit reports, leave cards open even if you’re not using them.</p> <p>All of those things are good tips, but you probably already knew them. Following are some tactics for raising your score that you maybe haven’t thought of.</p>  <p><a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com#newsletter">It’s not the usual blah, blah, blah. Click here to sign up for our free newsletter.</a></p> <h3>Sponsored: Find a Vetted Financial Advisor</h3> <ol> <li>Finding a fiduciary financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. <a rel="sponsored noopener" href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/out/aff_c?offer_id=33&aff_id=1000&ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.msn.com%2Fslideshows%2Flittle-known-tactics-to-raise-your-credit-score%2F">In five minutes, SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 financial advisors serving your area.</a></li> <li>Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. <a rel="sponsored noopener" href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/out/aff_c?offer_id=33&aff_id=1000&ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.msn.com%2Fslideshows%2Flittle-known-tactics-to-raise-your-credit-score%2F">Get on the path toward achieving your financial goals!</a></li> </ol> <p class="disclosure"><em>Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.</em></p>

1. Focus on Your Dreams, Not Your Savings Balances

When building your retirement plan, it is more meaningful and effective if you build your plan based on what you want to do and experience in the future rather than on an arbitrary savings balance.

In fact, don’t start with what you think you can save. Start with what your dreams are for the future. Those dreams may inspire you to do things differently starting now.

business plan for your life

2. Build a Future Budget for the Life You Want

You have probably read it before: Figuring out how much you need (and want) to spend is the single most important aspect of retirement planning.

Your future spending determines how much you need in retirement income and savings. The more detailed you get, the better.

Unfortunately, the message isn’t getting through to everyone. (According to a Merrill Edge report, many Americans have absolutely no idea how much they should have saved.)

<p>The most difficult task in planning for retirement might be determining whether you have enough money to last throughout your golden years.</p> <p>Experts have a lot of theories about how much you need to save, but nobody really knows the answer. So, we all make an educated guess, then do what we can to build up a nest egg of that size.</p> <p>Recently, Northwestern Mutual surveyed 2,381 adults for its annual Planning & Progress Study and asked them what they are doing to ensure they don’t <a href="https://filecache.mediaroom.com/mr5mr_nwmutual/178840/2022%20Planning%20and%20Progress%20Study%20Work%20and%20Retirement.pdf">outlive their savings</a>. Following are their answers.</p>  <p><a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=msn-newsletter-signup#newsletter">It’s not the usual blah, blah, blah. Click here to sign up for our free newsletter.</a></p> <h3>Sponsored: Add $1.7 million to your retirement</h3> <p>A recent Vanguard study revealed a self-managed $500,000 investment grows into an average $1.7 million in 25 years. But under the care of a pro, the average is $3.4 million. That’s an extra $1.7 million!</p> <p>Maybe that’s why the wealthy use investment pros and why you should too. How? With SmartAsset’s free <a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/smartasset-msn-nine"> financial adviser matching tool</a>. In five minutes you’ll have up to three qualified local pros, each legally required to act in your best interests. Most offer free first consultations. What have you got to lose? <strong><a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/smartasset-msn-nine">Click here to check it out right now.</a></strong></p>

3. Celebrate Milestones, Not Birthdays

Are birthdays the memories you want to make? Do you want the focus of retirement to be your age?

Eric, a reader on the NewRetirement Facebook group , writes that he is “Beginning to experience the need to create achievement goals to celebrate milestones other than age.”

For example, do you want to remember 2023 as the year you turned 66 or the year you and your family made a bid for a Guinness World Record?

Related: 6 Investing Tools That Help You Diversify

<p>The research is pretty clear that having a sense of purpose and meaning in your life is better for your emotional and physical well-being than a pursuit of happiness.</p> <p>As you dream about your future and set goals, consider how purpose fits into your pursuits. Here are a few resources for inspiration:</p> <ul> <li><a href="https://www.newretirement.com/retirement/prepare-life-retirement-ways-find-meaning-purpose-stage-life/">6 Ways To Find Meaning and Purpose in Retirement</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.newretirement.com/retirement/what-is-your-retirement-manifesto/">What Is Your Retirement Manifesto?</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.newretirement.com/retirement/okinawan-secrets-to-a-long-life-1-ikigai-2-moai-3-hara-hachi-bu-huh/">Okinawan Secrets to a Long Life: Ikigai, Moai, and Hara Hachi Bu</a></li> <li><a href="https://www.newretirement.com/retirement/okinawan-secrets-to-a-long-life-1-ikigai-2-moai-3-hara-hachi-bu-huh/">11 Ideas for How To Spend Money to Increase Happiness</a></li> </ul> <h3>Sponsored: Find a vetted financial advisor</h3> <ol> <li>Finding a fiduciary financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. <a rel="sponsored noopener" href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/out/aff_c?offer_id=33&aff_id=1000&ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.msn.com%2Fslideshows%2F11-guidelines-for-building-a-financial-plan-for-the-life-you-want%2F">In five minutes, SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 financial advisors serving your area.</a></li> <li>Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. <a rel="sponsored noopener" href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/out/aff_c?offer_id=33&aff_id=1000&ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.msn.com%2Fslideshows%2F11-guidelines-for-building-a-financial-plan-for-the-life-you-want%2F">Get on the path toward achieving your financial goals!</a></li> </ol> <p class="disclosure"><em>Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.</em></p>

4. Consider Purpose as You Plan Your Dreams

The research is pretty clear that having a sense of purpose and meaning in your life is better for your emotional and physical well-being than a pursuit of happiness.

As you dream about your future and set goals, consider how purpose fits into your pursuits. Here are a few resources for inspiration:

  • 6 Ways To Find Meaning and Purpose in Retirement
  • What Is Your Retirement Manifesto?
  • Okinawan Secrets to a Long Life: Ikigai, Moai, and Hara Hachi Bu
  • 11 Ideas for How To Spend Money to Increase Happiness

Sponsored: Find a vetted financial advisor

  • Finding a fiduciary financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. In five minutes, SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 financial advisors serving your area.
  • Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. Get on the path toward achieving your financial goals!

<p>Your 50s are pivotal years. You are near enough to retirement to feel its hot breath on your neck, and that can be a good thing.</p> <p>It sharpens your focus at a time when you may still have 10 or 15 years of work left, so there’s time to fatten your savings and watch the money grow. At this point, too, you may have been doing a job or honing a skill for long enough to feel a delicious sense of mastery and to be at the peak of your earning power.</p> <p>These peak earning years coincide with a peak chance for savings. If children finally are on their own, household expenses are lighter than they have been in decades. Rather than spend this freed-up money, sock away savings and pay off debt, which will bring you closer to the retirement you hoped for.</p> <p>Following are some critical financial moves to make in your 50s.</p>  <p>Join 1.2 million Americans saving an average of $991.20 with Money Talks News. <a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=one-liner#newsletter">Sign up for our FREE newsletter today.</a></p> <h3>Try a newsletter custom-made for you!</h3> <p>We’ve been in the business of offering money news and advice to millions of Americans for 32 years. Every day, in the <a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=blurb#newsletter" rel="noopener">Money Talks Newsletter</a> we provide tips and advice to save more, invest like a pro and lead a richer, fuller life.</p> <p>And it doesn’t cost a dime.</p> <p>Our readers report saving an average of $941 with our simple, direct advice, as well as finding new ways to stay healthy and enjoy life.</p> <p><a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=blurb#newsletter" rel="noopener">Click here to sign up.</a> It only takes two seconds. And if you don’t like it, it only takes two seconds to unsubscribe. Don’t worry about spam: We never share your email address.</p> <p>Try it. You’ll be glad you did!</p> <p class="disclosure"><em>Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.</em></p>

5. Be Flexible About How You Define Dreams

Sure, a lot of people probably dream of spending their days in the lap of luxury on a beach in the South Pacific, but that isn’t going to be affordable for everyone.

In fact, a lot of us have to work well into our 60s and 70s. In some cases, you may want to fit your dreams into that reality.

There is a lot of satisfaction that can be had from working. Jobs often provide meaning, purpose, and structure to your life — and, as discussed above, those are pretty good dreams.

<p>Retirement is supposed to be a time when people move to Florida to sip drinks on the beach or settle down in Arizona to play endless rounds of golf.</p> <p>But in reality, a huge percentage of Americans are happy to remain right where they are. A survey by Capital Caring Health found that nearly 90% of people age 50 or older want to retire in their current homes, as we reported in “<a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/slideshows/best-home-upgrades-for-retirees/">5 Home Improvements That Help You ‘Age in Place</a>.'”</p> <p>In fact, there are many good reasons for remaining in your hometown after retirement. Following are some of the best.</p>  <p><a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=msn-newsletter-signup#newsletter">It’s not the usual blah, blah, blah. Click here to sign up for our free newsletter.</a></p> <h3>Sponsored: Add $1.7 million to your retirement</h3> <p>A recent Vanguard study revealed a self-managed $500,000 investment grows into an average $1.7 million in 25 years. But under the care of a pro, the average is $3.4 million. That’s an extra $1.7 million!</p> <p>Maybe that’s why the wealthy use investment pros and why you should too. How? With SmartAsset’s free <a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/smartasset-msn-nine"> financial adviser matching tool</a>. In five minutes you’ll have up to three qualified local pros, each legally required to act in your best interests. Most offer free first consultations. What have you got to lose? <strong><a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/smartasset-msn-nine">Click here to check it out right now.</a></strong></p> <p class="disclosure"><em>Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.</em></p>

6. Dreams Don’t Have To Cost a Lot

Jeff opines, “While there is nothing wrong with budgeting for travel, my dreams are much smaller. I was lying in bed listening to the rain at around 4 am this morning.

“I can take the time to listen to the rain. Or, read a good book. Or, spend time with my wife. I do not have to go to work.”

He continues, “My budget has no line item for life at a slower pace with no stress, but I am living my dream.”

business plan for your life

7. Beware of Lifestyle Creep

Lifestyle creep happens when your income rises and former luxuries become necessities. You get used to spending more.

Karen warns, “People quickly become acclimated to whatever level they are at so in that respect the number [how much you need for retirement] keeps rising.”

To avoid lifestyle creep, it is important to assess what drives your happiness. Get to what is essential in your life. Understand what is “enough.” “Enough” is the dream.

<p>Work income enables you to delay making withdrawals to cover expenses. And, this delay enables the money to stay invested and continue to grow.</p> <p>So, the value of delaying a year can be equal to whatever you would have taken out of savings PLUS your returns on that money.</p> <p>Many people withdraw about 4% of their savings a year (review <a href="https://www.newretirement.com/retirement/retirement-income-strategies/">18 of the best withdrawal and retirement income strategies</a>) and the average retirement savings for someone in their 60s is around $200,000.</p> <ul> <li><strong>Gain of Delaying Retirement a Year: </strong>So, with those averages, delaying that withdrawal for a year would net you $8,000 plus however much your money might appreciate. (The appreciation might be $1,500 over 20 years assuming a 6% return.)</li> </ul>

8. Understand That Many Save Too Much

Saving too much is more common than you might think. It is not quite as common as not saving enough, but it happens.

Over saving often stems from wanting to be prepared for any and all possible future scenarios and a fear of running out of money.

It can also be an ingrained habit. It can be difficult to transition from a lifelong practice of saving to spending on yourself and your dreams.

Learn more about why people save too much and assess advice from others who have over saved .

business plan for your life

9. Put Spending in Perspective

Many of the wealthiest among us really worry about spending, especially spending on things that may not be deemed necessary like “dreams.”

A couple of people recommend putting spending in perspective.

Keith says, “I’m always amazed at how we reflexively resist spending amounts that are around the equivalent of one-hour fluctuation in the value of our portfolio.”

And, Ray added, “How true. I bought a car during the volatility surrounding the pandemic. I was negotiating a $400 difference when I realized that the day-to-day fluctuation in my net worth was easily worth 3 of other cars. That made me laugh.”

<p>One of the most frequently cited retirement goals is having enough money to feel peace of mind and to live carefree.</p> <p>David writes about his ultimate formula for knowing how much you need for retirement.</p> <p>He advises, “I told my brother-in-law last month who is five years to retirement that the key to happiness in retirement is to be able to just sit and enjoy life without having to worry about money and spending. That can be sitting on the deck and just enjoying life and family get-togethers to going on travels and not worrying about money and enjoying the experience.”</p> <p>Feeling carefree means that you have a holistic financial plan that:</p> <ul> <li>Will support you in a wide variety of future possibilities</li> <li>Accommodates your dreams</li> </ul> <p>The <a href="https://www.newretirement.com/planner">NewRetirement Planner</a> is the best online tool for building and maintaining this plan.</p>

10. Know What Savings Balance Enables You To Be Carefree

One of the most frequently cited retirement goals is having enough money to feel peace of mind and to live carefree.

David writes about his ultimate formula for knowing how much you need for retirement.

He advises, “I told my brother-in-law last month who is five years to retirement that the key to happiness in retirement is to be able to just sit and enjoy life without having to worry about money and spending. That can be sitting on the deck and just enjoying life and family get-togethers to going on travels and not worrying about money and enjoying the experience.”

Feeling carefree means that you have a holistic financial plan that:

  • Will support you in a wide variety of future possibilities
  • Accommodates your dreams

The NewRetirement Planner is the best online tool for building and maintaining this plan.

<p>How many times have you heard the phrase, “It’s really expensive to live here.” Maybe you’ve even said it a few times about where you live.</p> <p>Well, there are places in the U.S. where you might not hear that too often. U.S. News & World Report has identified these cheaper locales in its <a href="https://realestate.usnews.com/places/rankings/cheapest-places-to-live" rel="noopener">rankings of the most affordable places to live</a> in the U.S. for 2023-2024.</p> <p>But don’t look to the West. Tulsa, Oklahoma — ranked 20th — is the closest you’ll get to the West Coast on this list.</p>  <p>To determine its rankings, U.S. News & World Report looked at the median gross rent and annual housing costs for mortgage-paying homeowners in metro areas across the country. To determine overall, value and quality of life scores, U.S. News utilized data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Labor.</p> <p><a href="https://realestate.usnews.com/places/methodology">Value scores were determined</a> by looking at housing affordability, household income, annual housing cost and price parity. Quality of life scores were determined by looking at crime rates, qualify of education, commuting, air quality, health care and natural disaster potential.</p> <p>Let’s take a look at the cheapest places to live in the U.S., according to U.S. News & World Report.</p> <p>Join 1.2 million Americans saving an average of $991.20 with Money Talks News. <a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=one-liner#newsletter">Sign up for our FREE newsletter today.</a></p> <h3>Get smarter with your money!</h3> <p>Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then <a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=blurb#newsletter" rel="noopener">sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter</a> to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. <a href="https://www.moneytalksnews.com/?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=blurb#newsletter" rel="noopener">Sign up for our free newsletter today.</a></p> <p class="disclosure"><em>Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.</em></p>

11. Plan for the Future but Live in the Present

Planning for dreams is important. You aren’t going to achieve your goals without a plan.

However, you also need to find happiness in the present.

Explore eight tips for thriving where you are right now — no matter what your stage of life — and especially if you are in one of those awkward in-between phases.

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business plan for your life

Create a form in Word that users can complete or print

In Word, you can create a form that others can fill out and save or print.  To do this, you will start with baseline content in a document, potentially via a form template.  Then you can add content controls for elements such as check boxes, text boxes, date pickers, and drop-down lists. Optionally, these content controls can be linked to database information.  Following are the recommended action steps in sequence.  

Show the Developer tab

In Word, be sure you have the Developer tab displayed in the ribbon.  (See how here:  Show the developer tab .)

Open a template or a blank document on which to base the form

You can start with a template or just start from scratch with a blank document.

Start with a form template

Go to File > New .

In the  Search for online templates  field, type  Forms or the kind of form you want. Then press Enter .

In the displayed results, right-click any item, then select  Create. 

Start with a blank document 

Select Blank document .

Add content to the form

Go to the  Developer  tab Controls section where you can choose controls to add to your document or form. Hover over any icon therein to see what control type it represents. The various control types are described below. You can set properties on a control once it has been inserted.

To delete a content control, right-click it, then select Remove content control  in the pop-up menu. 

Note:  You can print a form that was created via content controls. However, the boxes around the content controls will not print.

Insert a text control

The rich text content control enables users to format text (e.g., bold, italic) and type multiple paragraphs. To limit these capabilities, use the plain text content control . 

Click or tap where you want to insert the control.

Rich text control button

To learn about setting specific properties on these controls, see Set or change properties for content controls .

Insert a picture control

A picture control is most often used for templates, but you can also add a picture control to a form.

Picture control button

Insert a building block control

Use a building block control  when you want users to choose a specific block of text. These are helpful when you need to add different boilerplate text depending on the document's specific purpose. You can create rich text content controls for each version of the boilerplate text, and then use a building block control as the container for the rich text content controls.

building block gallery control

Select Developer and content controls for the building block.

Developer tab showing content controls

Insert a combo box or a drop-down list

In a combo box, users can select from a list of choices that you provide or they can type in their own information. In a drop-down list, users can only select from the list of choices.

combo box button

Select the content control, and then select Properties .

To create a list of choices, select Add under Drop-Down List Properties .

Type a choice in Display Name , such as Yes , No , or Maybe .

Repeat this step until all of the choices are in the drop-down list.

Fill in any other properties that you want.

Note:  If you select the Contents cannot be edited check box, users won’t be able to click a choice.

Insert a date picker

Click or tap where you want to insert the date picker control.

Date picker button

Insert a check box

Click or tap where you want to insert the check box control.

Check box button

Use the legacy form controls

Legacy form controls are for compatibility with older versions of Word and consist of legacy form and Active X controls.

Click or tap where you want to insert a legacy control.

Legacy control button

Select the Legacy Form control or Active X Control that you want to include.

Set or change properties for content controls

Each content control has properties that you can set or change. For example, the Date Picker control offers options for the format you want to use to display the date.

Select the content control that you want to change.

Go to Developer > Properties .

Controls Properties  button

Change the properties that you want.

Add protection to a form

If you want to limit how much others can edit or format a form, use the Restrict Editing command:

Open the form that you want to lock or protect.

Select Developer > Restrict Editing .

Restrict editing button

After selecting restrictions, select Yes, Start Enforcing Protection .

Restrict editing panel

Advanced Tip:

If you want to protect only parts of the document, separate the document into sections and only protect the sections you want.

To do this, choose Select Sections in the Restrict Editing panel. For more info on sections, see Insert a section break .

Sections selector on Resrict sections panel

If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab .

Open a template or use a blank document

To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls. Content controls include things like check boxes, text boxes, and drop-down lists. If you’re familiar with databases, these content controls can even be linked to data.

Go to File > New from Template .

New from template option

In Search, type form .

Double-click the template you want to use.

Select File > Save As , and pick a location to save the form.

In Save As , type a file name and then select Save .

Start with a blank document

Go to File > New Document .

New document option

Go to File > Save As .

Go to Developer , and then choose the controls that you want to add to the document or form. To remove a content control, select the control and press Delete. You can set Options on controls once inserted. From Options, you can add entry and exit macros to run when users interact with the controls, as well as list items for combo boxes, .

Adding content controls to your form

In the document, click or tap where you want to add a content control.

On Developer , select Text Box , Check Box , or Combo Box .

Developer tab with content controls

To set specific properties for the control, select Options , and set .

Repeat steps 1 through 3 for each control that you want to add.

Set options

Options let you set common settings, as well as control specific settings. Select a control and then select Options to set up or make changes.

Set common properties.

Select Macro to Run on lets you choose a recorded or custom macro to run on Entry or Exit from the field.

Bookmark Set a unique name or bookmark for each control.

Calculate on exit This forces Word to run or refresh any calculations, such as total price when the user exits the field.

Add Help Text Give hints or instructions for each field.

OK Saves settings and exits the panel.

Cancel Forgets changes and exits the panel.

Set specific properties for a Text box

Type Select form Regular text, Number, Date, Current Date, Current Time, or Calculation.

Default text sets optional instructional text that's displayed in the text box before the user types in the field. Set Text box enabled to allow the user to enter text into the field.

Maximum length sets the length of text that a user can enter. The default is Unlimited .

Text format can set whether text automatically formats to Uppercase , Lowercase , First capital, or Title case .

Text box enabled Lets the user enter text into a field. If there is default text, user text replaces it.

Set specific properties for a Check box .

Default Value Choose between Not checked or checked as default.

Checkbox size Set a size Exactly or Auto to change size as needed.

Check box enabled Lets the user check or clear the text box.

Set specific properties for a Combo box

Drop-down item Type in strings for the list box items. Press + or Enter to add an item to the list.

Items in drop-down list Shows your current list. Select an item and use the up or down arrows to change the order, Press - to remove a selected item.

Drop-down enabled Lets the user open the combo box and make selections.

Protect the form

Go to Developer > Protect Form .

Protect form button on the Developer tab

Note:  To unprotect the form and continue editing, select Protect Form again.

Save and close the form.

Test the form (optional)

If you want, you can test the form before you distribute it.

Protect the form.

Reopen the form, fill it out as the user would, and then save a copy.

Creating fillable forms isn’t available in Word for the web.

You can create the form with the desktop version of Word with the instructions in Create a fillable form .

When you save the document and reopen it in Word for the web, you’ll see the changes you made.

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How China Broke One Man’s Dreams

Gao zhibin is among the thousands of migrants disillusioned with their home country who have risked the perilous crossing into the united states..

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email [email protected] with any questions.

From “The New York Times,” I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.”

Today, a crisis of confidence is brewing inside China, where the heavy hand of the government is turning true believers in the Chinese dream into skeptics willing to flee the country. My colleague Li Yuan on how that crisis is now showing up at the US-Mexico border.

It’s Thursday, February 15.

Li, you write about China for the “Times.” Tell us how it is that you first came to this story.

You know, I watch a lot of Chinese social media for my job. And in early 2023, I started seeing something quite surprising for me. I saw all these videos on social media of Chinese people crossing the US border with Mexico by taking the route, what we call the Darién Gap.

And most people taking the Darién Gap are from Venezuela, Ecuador, and Haiti. But what felt so unusual for Chinese people taking this journey is that unlike these other groups, these Chinese are fleeing the world’s second-largest economy.

Right. They are not, in most of the public’s imagination, in the same boat as the migrants from any of the countries we think of where people are fleeing violence and poverty and taking this very dangerous route, the Darién Gap.

And how many Chinese migrants are we talking about here?

Last year, in 2023, 24,000 Chinese crossed the Southern border.

Yeah, that’s more than the previous 10 years combined.

And if we step back and look at the history, China used to be a big country for migration. A lot of people were leaving, trying very hard to leave China in 1980s, when China was a very poor country. And then, as the economy grew, life became much better, the opportunities were abundant, and there were, like, hundreds of millions of Chinese middle-class.

And by 2012, very few Chinese were leaving. And about 80 percent of Chinese who studied abroad — people like me — went back to China, because why leave China, right? You could have Chinese dream.

As a play on the American dream, right?

Yeah, the American dream — we grew up watching Hollywood movies. We all know the term. And then, the Communist Party kind of —

Co-opted it?

— co-opted the term, and it became the Chinese dream, and many Chinese bought into that. But in recent years, the numbers of people leaving China have again started to go up. And actually, hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens left the country last year.

And the Chinese migrants who cross the Darién Gap represent those who are going to the most extreme lengths to leave the country. And so I’ve been really interested in finding out, why are they doing this?

And what do you come to understand about why thousands of Chinese migrants are making this journey? What explains it?

It might be better if I can give you an example — a man I met.

[SPEAKING MANDARIN]

His name is Gao Zhibin. He’s 39 years old. And he thought he realized the Chinese dream and ended up on the Darién Gap.

He was born in China’s eastern province, Shandong, in a poor village.

He said he grew up having, like, only two meals with meat a year. And he didn’t finish middle school, and —

— he worked hard labor, making very little money. But he dreamed about the world outside his village.

So he went to work at an electronics factory in Beijing, making about $300 a month, which was a fortune for him.

And he has a lot of street smarts. You can sense it when you’re talking to him. So after a few years, he started working for, kind of, like a human resources company, recruiting factory workers just like him. And then, by 2007, he made some money. And he leased a plot of land on the outskirts of Beijing and built an apartment building, and rented it out to migrant workers.

So he basically becomes a small-scale, almost, developer.

Yeah, a very small-scale developer. And he did pretty well, you know. He was making about $30,000 a year, which was pretty good money for anybody in China at that time.

And he got married, and he had a daughter. And a few years later, he had a son.

He moved his parents from their village to Beijing, which was a big success in Chinese culture. And he really believed he kind of made it. And his life was only going to become better and better.

What you’re describing feels like a middle-class existence in China’s capital, a success story, not exactly the kind of person you would expect to leave China.

Yeah. The Chinese government likes talking about hundreds of millions of Chinese lifted out of poverty. He was one of them. But then in 2018, everything changed for Gao.

He got a notice from the local government that they wanted to take back the land he leased and tear down the apartment building he had built.

The building he had built and subdivided?

The government wanted to use the land to sell it for big bucks to bigger developers.

Essentially, the government just wants to override the lease that he has for this land. They just don’t seem to respect it, and they’re putting up this sign and saying to him, it’s over.

And the government ordered everyone in Gao’s building to leave.

And Gao is like, no way, and he refused to leave. But the government cut off the water, the power, and they throw away the tenants’ belongings on the street.

And they dumped toilets sewage in the yard, because they wanted to make it unlivable for the people. And then on that day when the government came with police and bulldozers to tear the building down, he said he stood on the roof of the building.

He said he was so angry, his eyes just blacked out.

He had a brick in his hand. He wanted —

A brick in his hand.

Yes, he wanted to throw it and fight the police, the government officials. And his mom knelt down in front of him, begged him not to fight. You can’t fight the government. Just get over with it. Carry on with your life.

And he told me he just cried.

So what does Gao end up doing after the government takes away his land and this building?

Well, Gao didn’t want to give up. He decided to go to the higher authority, the central government, to petition his case. He thought at least he could demand some compensation for what he had lost.

But during that process, he said, he and his family started getting harassed by local authorities. They even went to his children’s school to ask the students with the same last name, Gao, to stand up.

To stand up in the classroom?

Yeah, to intimidate, basically. It got so bad that he legally divorced his wife to try to trick the authorities to stop harassing her and her parents.

And meanwhile, he had lost income from the apartment building. He was trying to make a living, doing odd jobs. And this went on for several years. And at the end of it, Gao got absolutely nothing in return for the loss of his property.

And at that time, he started to think about his world.

He said, I felt like I suddenly woke up.

He said, you know, he just found out, there is no way to pursue justice in his country.

He told me, I felt like I finally saw through this country’s reality, saw right through it.

His outlook for the country and for his own future just became very dark. That was what he said.

So at this point, it seems safe to say that his version of the Chinese dream has collapsed. And I wonder, as he’s telling you this story, Li, what you make of it.

To be honest, if you are a China correspondent, you cover China, this is the type of story you hear again and again. The space for the society just shrunk so much in the past decade or so under the government of Xi Jinping. It has become really hard for people from all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds.

You can get into trouble for anything, for being a Uyghur, Christian, Muslim, or you’re just an ordinary online user just making a comment on social media, or you’re just a Communist Party cadre who has a copy of a banned book, and you can be in trouble. The police can show up at your door in the middle of the night to knock on the door.

And everything goes away.

Yeah. You just live in constant fear. And all of these are happening at the same time when the unemployment rate is rising and the Chinese economy is falling apart. People just can’t see where their future is going to be.

The loss of confidence is — you can feel it in the air. That’s what people told me. So this is the moment that the idea of the Chinese dream — you work very hard, and the life will become better — kind of, is clashing with the reality of the Chinese government.

And it’s this moment that Gao saw the videos I saw on social media — of people crossing the Darién Gap.

And he thought to himself that, I can do this, too.

We’ll be right back.

Once Gao decides to leave China, why does he decide to leave this way? Why not go to a nearby neighboring country in Asia? Why not go to Europe? Why travel across the ocean to the US through such a particularly terrifyingly dangerous route as the Darién Gap?

Yeah. For many Chinese people, it’s pretty obvious that the US is the country they should move to. Because it is the wealthiest country in the world, and the wages are much higher here than in most countries. And also, the US still looms large in the imagination of Chinese people. For many people, the American dream never died.

The problem is, it’s not easy for ordinary Chinese people like Gao to get any kind of visa to go directly to the US. But Chinese passport holders can fly directly to Ecuador without a visa. And from there, there’s a well-traveled path to the Darién Gap. So many Chinese people just think that going from Ecuador to the Darién Gap is actually one of the best options for them to get to the United States.

But how aware is Gao of what is entailed in walking from Ecuador to the US border through that landscape?

He was aware of the danger.

He told me he knew that people died on the route. But —

— he told me his life was so risky, so dangerous, so uncertain in China, he decided he might just as well leave to start a new life.

Gao had never been out of China, and he didn’t even have a passport. He applied for a passport after he decided to leave. And he also convinced his family to let him bring his eldest child, his 13-year-old daughter, to come with him.

And they left Beijing late February last year.

They flew to Turkey, and then to Ecuador, and got connected with smugglers, who took them to the Darién Gap.

It was such a brutal journey, Gao told me.

On the first day, he had sunstroke.

On the second day, he could barely walk, and his daughter vomited and fainted on the ground.

I asked him what was going through his mind during the journey. He said it was despair.

But he just told his daughter, we have to keep going. We can’t get left behind. The journey took 35 days. They reached the border in late March and crossed from Mexico into Texas.

They were taken by border control agents.

Gao told his story about what he experienced in China, and he was let go.

This is where it feels like Gao’s story seems to intersect with a very long-running story in the United States, which is what’s going on at the border. Thousands, tens of thousands a week — migrants showing up at that Southern border, seeking asylum.

And because there’s such a backlog to process, the applications, folks are let into the US and remain here. That seems to be what happened to and his daughter.

Yeah. Gao and his daughter, they were lucky. They were let go within 48 hours, and immigration agents sent them to San Francisco. And that’s where he and his daughter have been ever since.

And what does his life look like in San Francisco?

So Gao and his daughter are living in a studio apartment at a housing shelter there.

He got a work permit and has been working, delivering packages for $2 per package.

He gets up at 6:00 AM every morning. And his daughter has to get up around the same time, because she cannot be at the family shelter alone.

So she would stay at the KFC until it’s school time.

He works really, really long hours.

And he told me he cries when he thinks about leaving her alone.

This sounds like a very difficult existence. I mean, the kind of difficult existence that might make somebody wonder if they had made the right decision.

You know, life isn’t easy for him and his daughter, but Gao is focusing on what the US is giving him.

He said the Chinese government took away his building, and he can’t believe the US government gave him an apartment to live for free.

And one thing he emphasized is the freedom he has here. He doesn’t need to fear for the knock on the door anymore.

I asked him, are you idolizing the US too much?

And he kept telling me, no, no, no. I never regretted my decision of coming here.

And he told me a story of one afternoon in November when Xi Jinping was in San Francisco to meet with President Biden.

And Gao saw on social media that there would be a protest in San Francisco. So he actually took the day off and went downtown.

[CROWD PROTESTING IN MANDARIN]

He said he joined a group of protesters and started chanting, “Xi Jinping, step down.”

And he was actually interviewed by a Chinese media outlet at the scene.

He sent me the clip. And the reporter asked him, Why are you here? He said, freedom is great.

Then he shouted, “Long live freedom. Xi Jinping, step down.”

He told me he felt amazing.

He said, in China, I wouldn’t dare say that.

But these were heartfelt words, and I could finally shout them out.

He said he felt like a completely different person after that.

So what’s the most likely outcome of this story for Gao? What do you think is going to happen to him?

So Gao applied for political asylum in May, and he’s waiting to see if it will be granted.

In the meantime, he dreams of one day settling down again in his own house, not in a shelter.

And he also wants to be reunited with his family.

Right, which, of course — the majority of which is still back in China.

For now, he tells his wife that he’ll be able to get a green card soon —

— which he says is a lie.

In reality, he’s not certain what will happen to him.

And a lot of people like him who made a similar journey here ended up going back to China. When I talked to them, they said things are just too hard.

But Gao said, even if he can’t make it here —

— he will never go back to China as long as the Communist Party is in power.

[SPEAKING MANDARIN] Bye-bye. Bye-bye.

Gao would seem to be exactly the kind of person on paper that China wouldn’t want to lose, somebody who made the journey that, as you said, China is so proud of — from rural China to urban China, who tried to create a business, a development, did so, brought his family to the big city. And yet, he’d rather risk his life and flee to the United States through the jungle than endure this version of China’s government.

And based on your reporting, hundreds of thousands of others are doing the same thing. And yet, the reality is that China is a country of huge numbers. I mean —

1.4 billion people.

Right. So even if hundreds of thousands of Chinese people are leaving, that’s still a pretty small proportion of the population. So is what we’re experiencing here, what you’re documenting, a threat to China’s future and something that it’s going to be taking seriously? Or is this just the cost of the authoritarian political model that China now has under Xi? And can it therefore tolerate this outflow?

I don’t think any country should take this lightly. It is a serious problem for any government. In the past year, I wrote about Chinese entrepreneurs, young professionals, intellectuals, artists, filmmakers, all kinds of people leaving, because they couldn’t suffer it anymore.

There’s even a term for that, called “runxue.” Running away from China is among the most popular buzzwords in China last year. Everybody talks about where they should move to what their options are. My friends told me that it’s also one of the hottest topics on dinner tables in China.

When people sit around and really get to talking and they get into their cups, you’re saying, they talk about fleeing.

Yeah. People are obsessed with this. I think what Gao and many people are doing is starting to look like a beginning of a great exodus of China. When the government became so harsh on its people, when the economy is not doing well and people can’t vote for their leaders, some people decided there’s only one way to vote, and that’s with their feet.

That was what Gao and many people did. And I believe many more people are going to do that.

Well, Li, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Here’s what else you need to know today. On Wednesday, a rocket fired from Lebanon struck a base in Israel, killing an Israeli soldier and wounding eight others, and prompting a massive response from the Israeli government. Hours later, Israel carried out extensive airstrikes on southern Lebanon that killed at least four people. The exchanges represent the kind of deadly tit for tat that could quickly spiral into a direct conflict between Israel and Lebanon, which Israel has twice invaded in the past.

And a celebration of the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory has turned into America’s latest mass shooting. One person was killed, and at least 21 others were injured — nine of them, children. Kansas City police said they had detained three people in connection with the shooting but offered few details and no motive.

Today’s episode was produced by Stella Tan, Shannon Lin, and Jessica Cheung. It was edited by MJ Davis Lin with help from Michael Benoist and Paige Cowett, contains original music by Marion Lozano, Rowan Niemisto, and Dan Powell, and was engineered by Chris Wood.

That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

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Hosted by Michael Barbaro

Featuring Li Yuan

Produced by Stella Tan ,  Shannon Lin and Jessica Cheung

Edited by M.J. Davis Lin

With Michael Benoist and Paige Cowett

Original music by Marion Lozano ,  Rowan Niemisto and Dan Powell

Engineered by Chris Wood

Listen and follow The Daily Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Amazon Music

A crisis of confidence is brewing inside China, where the government is turning believers in the Chinese dream into skeptics willing to flee the country.

Li Yuan, who writes about technology, business and politics across Asia for The Times, explains why that crisis is now showing up at the United States’ southern border.

On today’s episode

business plan for your life

Li Yuan , who writes the New New World column for The New York Times.

A young girl, lying on her side on the ground of a wooded area, clutches her stomach as a man with a shirt wrapped around his neck comforts her. Two other men are standing nearby.

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Why more Chinese are risking danger in southern border crossings to the United States.

More than 24,000 Chinese citizens have been apprehended making the crossing from Mexico in the past year. That is more than in the preceding 10 years combined.

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We aim to make transcripts available the next workday after an episode’s publication. You can find them at the top of the page.

The Daily is made by Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, M.J. Davis Lin, Dan Powell, Sydney Harper, Mike Benoist, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Rachelle Bonja, Diana Nguyen, Marion Lozano, Corey Schreppel, Rob Szypko, Elisheba Ittoop, Mooj Zadie, Patricia Willens, Rowan Niemisto, Jody Becker, Rikki Novetsky, John Ketchum, Nina Feldman, Will Reid, Carlos Prieto, Ben Calhoun, Susan Lee, Lexie Diao, Mary Wilson, Alex Stern, Dan Farrell, Sophia Lanman, Shannon Lin, Diane Wong, Devon Taylor, Alyssa Moxley, Summer Thomad, Olivia Natt, Daniel Ramirez and Brendan Klinkenberg.

Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Paula Szuchman, Lisa Tobin, Larissa Anderson, Julia Simon, Sofia Milan, Mahima Chablani, Elizabeth Davis-Moorer, Jeffrey Miranda, Renan Borelli, Maddy Masiello, Isabella Anderson and Nina Lassam.

Li Yuan writes the New New World column , which focuses on the intersection of technology, business and politics in China and across Asia. More about Li Yuan

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2. Think about what you want your retirement to look like

Being active in retirement is helpful to us physically and emotionally, but it will also require more retirement savings.

Retirement 20 years from now will look very different from our parents' retirement. If you anticipate big travel, major renovations to your home, a new car, or opening up that wine shop that you have always dreamed about, then you will need to factor that into your retirement plan and the amount that you will need to save. 

3. Plan for home maintenance

Think about what your housing situation will be during retirement. It is advisable to have home expenses taken care of heading into retirement, which for many means paying off the mortgage . But take it a step further and plan for home maintenance as well.

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Watch: A financial planner reveals an important money lesson young people can learn from the rich

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  5. How to Make a Life Plan That Works (With a Life Plan Template)

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