It is possible to be self-employed or to even start-up a business or organisation without a business plan. However, producing one will help you to formulate your medium to long-term objectives and will enable you to present your ideas to interested parties such as potential financiers, customers or suppliers. A business plan:
- helps you to ask yourself the right type of questions
- helps you not to lose strategic focus as you deal with day-to-day issues
- helps you to communicate the objective and nature of your business to other people
- is essential if you require external funding, whether from banks, business angels, venture capitalists, government agencies, or grant making charities
A business plan would normally include the history of your venture so far, a description of the business opportunity or social need you plan to address, information on your product or service, your marketing and sales strategy, operational details, financial forecasts and details of the funding you need. Templates and help with business plan writing is available from a number of sources, including the UK government, (Prepare a business plan) high street banks (e.g HSBC: How to write a business plan) and media organisations (e.g BBC: How to write a business plan). The former, for example, offer training courses for business plan writing and these are often offered free or for a nominal charge. In addition, ByteStart offers an excellent multi-part guide for anyone who is thinking of starting their own business and Startups provides an essential checklist for those preparing to enter the planning process. You can also find guidance with Walkerstone business writing (How to write business plans) and information on pricing with Taprun.
Another, potentially very effective and financially lucrative, alternative is to learn by doing and to enter one of the growing number of business plan competitions, including the LSE's very own Pitch It!. These can also give you access to feedback on your ideas from established entrepreneurs, offer excellent networking opportunities and may even provide direct access to funding.