Writing business plans is a substantial chunk of my income. If I wanted to, I could spend all my time as a business plan writer and make a good living from doing so.
Although being a business plan writer is really interesting work, because you get to find out about people’s different business ideas, I love the other parts of my business (such as writing up business ideas for you, and seeing my business mentoring clients) too much to just be a business plan writer all the time.
But there is definitely potential to build a business just around writing business plans for other people. This idea concentrates on writing investment-based business plans for banks, peer-to-peer lending or crowdfunding, but watch this space for other recipes based on other sorts of other business plans as well.
A business based on writing business plans for other people is a great one for anyone with a good understanding of what banks are looking for and somebody who likes researching and putting together spreadsheets. It’s a relatively well-paid service business – and it could be the one for you.
This is an sample business idea from New Business Ideas Collection, where I’ve got tons of new ideas for successful businesses, plus all the instructions for how to set up that kind of business. Take a look and see what you think
How being a business plan writer works
First of all, get some practice in writing business plans.
Unless you’ve written a few of them before, you’ll need to see a few pilots to work out how to do it (and the best way to build the templates that you’ll need) and to see if this suits you. I would contact a few local businesses and offer to write a business plan for them, either to help them to get investment or just help them organise their business better and do their cash flow planning. Not everybody will be up for your offer of something free, some people will think that there’s a catch in it, and other people will say yes, but won’t have the time to put in to give you the information about their business that you will need for the business plan.
I know from my own experience that people who want a business plan, even when they’re desperate to get funding for their business, often don’t have the time to give me the information or work on it with me. So don’t be put off if it takes you a few tries to get the pilot – it’s nothing to do with you, it’s all to do with the amount of time they have to spare.
The next stage is to write some really good templates. You could have a look around at some of the business plan templates that are available online, but I warn you that many of these are either overly simplistic because they’re aimed at start-up businesses, or they are very old-fashioned. It’s a good starting point, but I guarantee that you’ll have to write your own templates, including the ones for the Excel spreadsheets.
It would also be worthwhile looking at some of the crowdfunding sites, such as crowdcube.com, and getting hold of some of the business plans on these sites as a reference point for what other people are producing. I would also have a chat with some friendly bank managers, firstly so that you’ve got somebody you can introduce your customers to when they’ve got their business plan, so you look good; and secondly, so the bank manager can tell you what they are looking for in a good business plan.
Then you need to get yourself some customers.
This would be a mixture of different sorts of marketing.
You would definitely need a website, and I would pay attention to both search engine optimisation and content marketing.
I would also probably follow a pattern of developing a lead magnet, so you can develop an email list and then be able to regularly talk to people who are interested in business plans but maybe aren’t quite ready yet, so that when they do need the business plan you’re the first person that they come to.
You can find lots of information and tips on the main part of my website about this kind of marketing.
I would also get out there and do lots and lots of business networking, and find the right networking groups for you in your area. If you’re in Brighton in the UK, there’s a link of all the networking groups in my area on my site as well.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date, and take some time to reignite all your LinkedIn contacts, to make sure that people know what you’re doing now.
As a specialist service, it might take you a little while to get going, but that’s okay because it gives you plenty of time to build up the content on your website and keep adding to your email list.
How much does this cost to get going?
There would be a time cost to you here, to learn how to do this well, and to get your marketing setup, plus a bit of time to wait for the first commissions to come in.
Remember that you’ll need to allow a budget for you to live on for a few months while this gets going.
You’ll also need to spend some money on setting up a good website, including some money for a decent design, and possibly some training courses. I would budget at least £1500 for the set-up cost of the business.
Who would be a good business plan writer?
This is probably a business that is suited to somebody who is more introverted than extroverted. If you follow this business recipe idea, you are likely to spend quite a lot of time sitting in front of your computer, writing business plans, doing research, and drawing up spreadsheets, plus writing lots of text for your email and content marketing.
If you’re the kind of person who always needs someone around you, or you work best as part of a team, this probably isn’t the business for you. But if you work well on your own, can set your own deadlines and are happy putting your music on and getting down to work, this could be just the role for you.
What skills will I need to be good at this?
You’ll need to be very good at writing – it’s your job to bring this business to life and communicate that well to potential funders and lenders.
And a business plan needs to be written in relatively formal language, so you’ll need to be comfortable with this sort of English (or whatever language you’re going to be writing it in.)
Plus, you’ll need to be very familiar with Excel, not so much the fancy tricks like macros, but being able to handle quite complex documents – the kind of documents where multiple worksheets interrelate with one another. In particular, you’ll need to know about the world of business, and how it works in practice.
What’s the trick to making this work?
I like this business idea because you’re offering a specialist service as a business plan writer.
And you can offer a number of different levels of business plan. Some people will want something that is cheap and cheerful – maybe for £1000, and that represents a couple of days of work for a start-up plan. Other people will need something much more advanced that will take you three to five days of work, and they’re looking to raise a million pounds.
How much money would I make?
I charge between three and five thousand pounds to write a good business plan. And I tend to turn down the business plans at the lower end.
I’ll give you my secret, which is that my day rates for this kind of work (which I never tell to clients) is between £850 and £1000. Remember that you won’t be able to bill for every day, nobody does, but if you can build this kind of money for 60 days out of each year, that makes for a good income, especially as your overheads are going to be very low – just a computer, some software, and your marketing costs.
Great variations on the idea of being a business plan writer
You might have great knowledge of a particular industry sector, where you can specialise in writing business plans.
For example, you write might write business plans specifically for the pharmaceutical industry or for restaurants. If you have this, I would make a feature of it and dive deep into the sector, because you can always charge more if you specialise.
Other things to remember
On the legal side, you’ll need professional indemnity insurance to cover you just in case anything goes wrong with the business plan that you wrote. And remember to get part of the fee upfront, and part of the fee on completion, which is good for your cash flow, and also means that you do get paid.