Free Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Write a Business Plan

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A business plan is an essential document that outlines the key features of a business. You typically use a business plan as a map and outline when first starting a business, and also to show potential investors your business strategy. Writing a business plan takes time, dedication and perseverance. It's not something you should take lightly, because it can set the proper foundation for a successful business. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are several key sections you should include when writing a business plan: an executive summary, a market analysis, a description of your company, details about your organization and management, a sales and marketing strategy, information about your service or product line, financial information and possibly a request for funding.

  • Write the executive summary section. Include an overall outline of the business plan and a summary of the most important points you want the reader to know after reading the business plan. Include a "mission statement" that explains the underlying goal of your business.

  • Write the company description section. Begin with a short description of your industry, then describe your business. Give a high-level overview of the products or services your company will offer. List the unmet needs your company will satisfy in the marketplace.

  • Write the market analysis section, which details the marketplace in your industry. First include a paragraph about your target market, which is the group of customers you want to sell to. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, you should include content in this section about the size, structure, growth prospects, trends and sales potential in the marketplace. Also include information about your competitors' positioning in the market and then state how your company will be positioned to take advantage of your competitors' weaknesses. Discuss pricing for you and your competitors, and provide information about how competitors distribute and market their products and services.

  • Write a section about how the management and organization of your company will be structured. Include details about who owns your company; your leadership and management teams; and your board of directors, if applicable. Discuss how your organization will be structured and include an organizational chart to illustrate this.

  • Write the marketing and sales strategy section. This section should outline how you will promote and sell your products and services. Include the strategies and marketing channels you'll use to target your customers, your proposed marketing budget and your sales force strategy.

  • Include detailed information about your product or service. Write about what you are selling, what your product's life cycle looks like, your research and development strategies and any relevant copyright or patent information.

  • Write the financial analysis section. Include a detailed description of how you will allocate resources in your company, as well as revenue forecasts, balance sheet and cash flow projections and capital expenditure budgets.

  • Ask for money if you don't have funding secured for your company. If you're asking for money, here are some things you should include in this section, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration: your current funding requirements; funding requirements over the next five years; how you will allocate the funding you get; and long-term financial strategies.

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