Between Lori Widmer’s focus on business planning this month at Words on the Page and the fact that I’m overhauling my own business plan for 2013, I’ve had business plans on the brain.
When I first went into business for myself (full-time PR firm, part-time writing and blogging), I had a pretty standard formal business plan. But over the years I went with a much simpler model. I’ve even released the templates I use here, so feel free to use them for your own short-form planning.
This year I’m going back to the long-form business plan model. That’s because I’m in the process of overhauling my company, and with three distinct segments of the business, the one page business plan just doesn’t cut it for me right now.
While I was working on my business plan earlier today I thought about the blog side of my business. And it occurred to me that most bloggers I know — even those trying to make money blogging — don’t have a blog business plan. So today I’d like to help you create one.
What a Blog Business Plan Should Include
A blog business plan should include much of the same information as a business plan for a traditional small business. But it can help to look at some of the sections a bit differently. Here’s a list of what you might want to include — finding your own balance between formal structures and a casual short-form plan.
- Introduction – This is often called an “executive summary,” but just think of it as an intro to your plan for the year. It should be the last thing you write because you’ll need some of the information you come up with for later sections.
- Background – In this section you’ll offer basic background information about your blog. For example, you’ll note whether you work as a sole proprietor, an LLC, or corporation (and you might want to note your reasons for that choice in case you want to reevaluate it later). You’d mention when the blog was launched, what the niche focus is, how many bloggers contribute (and a bit about their background), and other tid bits that might prove useful in planning or evaluations. You would also include information on your own background — such as past blogging experience or credentials in the niche of your blog.
- Revenue Streams – You don’t necessarily have a product or service to sell like a traditional small business owner would. But if you’re treating your blog as a business, you should have some revenue streams in mind. Here are a few examples to point you in the right direction: site memberships, contextual ads, affiliate ads, e-book sales, and webinars. This section could also include the “4 Ps of Marketing” in a general way where appropriate.
- Market Research – In this section you’ll talk about your competitive position in the market. For example, you’ll post statistics that show a market actually exists for your blog’s specialty. You’ll also identify major competitors and your strengths and weaknesses in comparison to them. You can do this using our SWOT Analysis worksheet.
- Goals, Strategies, and Tactics – This is largely the marketing plan portion of your blog business plan (alongside your market research). You’ll map out specific and measurable goals, your general strategies for reaching those goals, and the specific tactics and tools you’ll use to meet the business goals you set for your blog.
- Financials – In this final section of your blog business plan, you’ll cover your financial plans. For example, you might set your budget for hosting, domain renewals, Web design work, advertising, file hosting for e-book sales, payments to blog contributors, or payment processor fees on the payments you receive. You’ll also include financial projections noting how much you intend to earn over the year (and you can stretch that into 3-5 year projections if you want to).
These are some of the bare bone basics you’ll want to include in a blog business plan of your own. Check back next week when I’ll post a downloadable blog business plan template you can use.
Update: You can now download our free blog business plan template.