Investors require them. Banks expect them. And business owners dread
them. A simple 35-page document can skyrocket a fledgling entrepreneur into
unparalleled success -- or send them scrambling.
What's this crucial document that savvy business owners can't do without,
but don't have time to write themselves? It's a business plan -- and business
plan writing is a hot home business.
Ever drive in unfamiliar territory and get hopelessly lost? Business plans
are like maps that clearly define what a business does, who its competition
is and what its projected incomes are.
"The body of the business plan can be divided into four distinct sections:
the description of the business; the marketing plan; the financial management
plan and the management plan," according to the Small Business Administration
Without a business plan, owners can easily lose their focus and aimlessly
flail around, losing valuable time and money. In fact, these documents are
necessary before bank financing, investor financing and small business loans.
No business plan = no cash. Period.
Time-strapped business owners may not have the time (or the knowledge)
to research and create an airtight business plan. And that's where a freelance
business plan writer grabs the reins.
Business plan writers are part marketing guru and part financial wizard.
After extensive interviews with the owners or officers of a company, they
compose a slick, marketable document any bank will go gaga over -- and quickly
cut a check.
Meet Your Friendly Business Plan Writer
Believe it or not, business plan writers aren't ex-Harvard management consultants.
Nor are they $10,000-a-day lecturers. Successful business plan writers come
from all walks of life -- ex-business owners, CPAs, management consultants
and journalists -- and write plans full or part time.
In fact, because business plan writers usually combine their skills with
other ventures, the National Writer's Union doesn't track how many people
are involved in the field.
Steve Crow is an example of a successful businessperson channeling his
skills into a plan-writing empire. Crow's business, A Better Business Plan,
in Illinois began as a favor, and was eventually transformed into a lucrative
"My business began when I had the opportunity to help a friend of a friend
develop a business plan for a business he hoped to start. The experience was
engaging, fun and stimulating." Crow did some initial market research and
realized writing for profit could be a lucrative endeavor.
"[My] further research indicated that business plan writing was a good
potential business. Some months later, I was in business."
Crow's business didn't take off overnight. A 20-year veteran of the business
world, he realized it takes money to make money. Business plan writers need
a complete home office setup to work successfully, and that can set you back
from $5,000 to $10,000.
"To start this business, a person would need a good computer, basic software,
laser printer, fax machine, copier, phone system, desk, etc.," advises Crow.
If this seems like a huge chunk of change, take note -- you will be well compensated.
"Plans can range in price from $1,500 to $5,000. [My] total income depends
on how many plans can be sold in a given time," states Crow.
Crave a flexible schedule? Like many home-based business owners, Crow's
time is (almost) his own. "I start my workday by checking e-mail and clearing
any leftovers from the previous day. I may spend an hour or two meeting with
clients either in person or over the phone," says Crow.
"I may spend an hour or two in online research or research at my local
library. The rest of the day is spent writing and editing and interacting
with new potential clients," recounts Crow.
Sound easy as pie? Think again. Although Crow's schedule is flexible, self-employed
owners must occasionally pull late nights or weekend duty. However, a satisfied
client can make those long hours worthwhile.
"I delivered a finished plan to three young owners of a new business. The
three young men took the plan that same night and delivered it to the person
from whom they hoped to generate the start-up financing they needed -- $150,000."
His clients got financing and Crow collected his fee. "It was one of my best
days," recounts Crow.
Of course, writing a successful business plan takes passion and perseverance.
Have you ever worked on a boring research project and turned in snore-friendly
work that made your teacher drool? Successful writers need to find something
-- anything -- interesting about their clients and immediately transform that
"You must be excited about the industry you're writing about. When I take
on a job, I get inside the person's head and get really excited for them,"
explains Karen McCoy, business plan writer.
McCoy, a full-time journalism student and part-time business plan writer,
believes excitement sells -- and gets results. Although anyone can purchase
business plan software, there's a big difference between a canned business
plan and one that grabs investors and screams, "Finance me now!"
"I like to wow them up front and make it creative, not dry. I build a picture,
as if you were the customer and what you would see, hear, feel and experience
walking into the establishment," says McCoy. "The first rule of good writing
is to show them, not tell them."
There is one difficulty. While business plan writers are "showing, not
telling," future business prospects are yelling, "Show me the money!" With
online templates, easy-to-use programs and a multitude of books, hiring a
business plan writer may seem expensive.
"I charge $30 to $40 an hour, or $200 to $250 a day. Many people do their
own [business plans] because they don't want to spend the money," admits McCoy.
However, time-strapped executives who require large start-up costs are strong
prospects; $1,500 for a business plan is nothing if it can net $1,000,000
in seed money.
So, dust off your keyboard and brush up on your financial terminology.
Business plan writing may be "write" up your alley.
Writing A Business Plan
Useful information from the Small Business Association
Sample business plans and helpful information