Freelance Writer Business Plans: How In Depth Should They Be?

on May 26, 2009 in Freelance Writing Business

When you first launched your freelance writing career, did you compile a business plan or marketing plan? Do you update it every year? How in-depth are your plans?

Do You Need a Business Plan at All?

I'm a big believer in research and planning. Without it, it's impossible to make decisions that are going to give you the best return on the time or money you invest.

There's no good reason to be a shot-in-the-dark kind of freelance writer--the type who tries every marketing tool or tactic for example, because they didn't bother to do the market research to know what methods would have the best potential reach from day one.

Not only do business and marketing plans help you figure out where to go next, but they help you evaluate where you've already been. When you review your plan(s) each year to plan for the next, you're forced to take a hard look at where you were then versus where you are now. Did you reach your original goals? Did you manage to get the most out of your budget? What worked exceptionally well, and what mistakes did you make that you can avoid next year? Your business plan helps you get a better handle on your business.

Does Your Business Plan Have to be Long-Form?

You've probably seen business and marketing plan templates ranging anywhere from 10 - 30 pages or more. To freelance writers who are attracted to freelancing in part due to the ease of entry, the thought of putting in that much work might make them opt to neglect it altogether.

Now I'm a fan of long-form business planning, and I do strongly recommend that you go that route, especially in your first year. But I'm also a realist. I come across freelance writers all the time who haven't even considered a business plan, nonetheless written one.


In those cases, I fully support the idea of using abbreviated business plans. In fact, as you may remember I actually released a one page marketing plan template and a one page business plan template previously that you can download.

While it may not be true of all things, this is a case where it's absolutely better to do something rather than nothing. Why? Because even if the plans are abbreviated in their written form, you still have to invest the time into researching your market and competition in order to complete them. In other words, they still make you think about how you're going to be able to best manage your freelance writing career over the coming year.

So tell me. Do you keep updated business plans? Do you use a traditional format or an abbreviated one, or something in between? Do you consider them a necessesity in handling the business side of your career, or do you look at them as an unnecessary hassle? Share your thoughts!

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.

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  1. Hazel May 26, 2009 Reply

    Jennifer, thanks for this discussion. One of my clients asks me every fall what my goals are for the next year and how her company fits in. I always just make it up. After reading your post I realize that I need to have a business plan so that I can answer such questions.
    I’ve always used a “to-do” list in place of a business plan. I’ll put writing a business plan on my list!

  2. Anne Wayman May 29, 2009 Reply

    Well darn, Jennifer! I’ve done very little planning over my 30+ years of freelancing. I couldn’t figure out exactly what to plan and I had so many wacko ideas about money it’s not surprising it took way longer than it needed to to become truly self-supporting through my writing. Now I make a nice income. I do make what I call a income plan annually.

    I start with any contracts that are spilling from one year to the next, and since I ghost books that often happens.

    Next I list work I have good reason to believe will come in even though it isn’t signed.

    Finally I create a section I call “Wildly Speculative”. Since I track income and expenses monthly the spending plan helps me see what’s really what with my writing business.

    Confession time… have downloaded both your templates… I may end up with a marketing plan and a business plan after all.Thanks

    And along you come with two great templates for easy planning!

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