Business Planning 101: The Freelance Edition

Freelance life: Keep your momentum going for freelance success in 2017

Back Web Only Jan 17, 2017 By Cherise Henry

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and again and again): Living the freelance life is all about creating your own rules that work for you and your business. Freedom and flexibility is what this career path is all about. While we’re blazing our own trail as freelancers and solo entrepreneurs (I like to call us “solopreneurs”), we’re still running a business. And like any business owner will tell you, you need a plan of attack.

I’m talking about creating a business plan. We’re already a few weeks into the new year and this is a good time as any to get going on some serious (or not-so-serious) business planning.

For us freelancers, it might look a little different than what you learned in college Business 101 or have completed for corporate companies prior to jumping into the freelance world. To be quite honest with you, I’ve only created an actual heavy-duty business plan (relatively speaking) twice. Once when I started freelancing almost four years ago and a second time when I adjusted my services and goals after having had my first kiddo.

It was necessary. It served its purpose. And I’ll probably do another one again when it makes sense. But in the years in between, including last year, I’ve gone with the “Let’s just jot down a few big and small goals to help guide the next 12 months.” And you know what? It has worked just fine for me and my business.

I’m not saying a full-on business plan isn’t worth it or that you shouldn’t consider doing one each and every year. It’s a matter of doing what is right for you and your business. Sometimes that looks like a comprehensive business plan. Other times, it might be a few notes that help keep you in check for the next few months.

Related: Finding Your Wolf Pack

If you’re going the comprehensive route, here are a few tips that have helped me draft and stick to a solid freelance business plan year after year.

Just because you’ve outlined a big, attractive and professional business plan, doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to touch it once the ink has dried. If priorities change, make adjustments. If your services change, make adjustments. If your dream clients change, make adjustments. Think of it as a living document that reflects your current business strategy.

Don’t recreate the wheel; ask other freelancers or entrepreneurs what business plan they’ve used and see if it appeals to you. If so, grab an empty template version so you can have a business plan ready for your business.

Many big-scale business plans have extra categories that may not apply to you. Let them go, and move on. Done and done.

And if you’re going for the quick-and-dirty route, here are a few tips to make sure that napkin business plan treats you right.

Related: Work Smarter, Not Harder

Use a napkin! That is to say, it doesn’t matter what it’s written on, just get your ideas down on paper (or Google Docs). And you never know when inspiration will hit for business planning, so be on the ready for a list of “things I want to accomplish this year.”

Don’t compare your shortened list to another freelancer’s shortened list. Comparison is the worst and reaching for someone else’s goals won’t help advance your career or freelance happiness.

Make it super simple: “Land one cash cow client.” Or “Be published in XYZ magazine.” Or “Earn $X annually.” Or “Take a one-hour lunch break every day at noon.” Also, adding in a timeline is preferred to keep you on track: “Land one cash cow client by May.” Or “Be published in XYZ magazine once per quarter.”

What matters most is having something, anything, written down on your laptop, iPhone notes or pen and paper that lays out some sort of goals and dreams for you to reference throughout the year to keep your momentum at full speed ahead for freelance success.

On that note, remember that success looks different for everyone. It might be an income level to hit, a publication to be published in, a client project to win or a set number of hours to work (or not work). Whatever it is, make it work for your freelance life.

Follow Cherise’s journey every month as she navigates the freelance life.


Tony Oliver (not verified)January 24, 2017 - 11:18am

Terrific post, Cherise. Often daunting, sometimes terrifying, but always necessary, the business plan not only provides legitimacy to your goals but also serves as a forcing function to make steps concrete and ideas attainable. It's OK to do it a little bit at a time; even the greatest (and lengthiest) novels were not written in one fell swoop.

Val (not verified)January 25, 2017 - 11:08am

Im on twitter and lancebase and I posted my service in classifieds, but still not much business. I'm going to do a facebook page next to see if it helps. How do I get more traffic to my service?

Maryann (not verified)August 7, 2017 - 11:11pm

Well thank you for this very interesting article and thank you for giving us a great information. I am an entrepreneur also and business planning is not that easy to do. You need to layout first the plans of course and what is your goals etc or targets. You need to create rules that will benefit you and that will help you with your business etc. Of course you need to work smarter, because a smart worker always knows how to have a job well done.

Maryann Farrugia LinkedIn Profile

Adam Carey (not verified)August 30, 2017 - 12:25am

Yes, I completely agreed with the fact that freelancing means creating our own rules that work for us and for our business. It is really essential for every business to do proper planning and create an effective strategy so that we can easily grow our business success. The business plan includes everything related to business success and here from this article, we can get every single detail of business planning and how to implement strategies. Thanks for highlighting such important points.

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