Last Updated 21 June 2017 | By:

The Definitive Guide to Writing a Business Plan

Write a Business Plan This free step-by-step guide to writing a business plan was built just for you, if you aren’t really sure what planning a business is all about. To save time, stress and energy we’ll walk you through everything you need to know without fluff or heavy brain work.

Instead, we’re focusing on the basics. If you’re looking to create a super-dense collegiate 40-page plan, then you should probably take a business planning course at the nearest college.

This guide just covers what your average startup needs to dramatically increase chances of follow-through and success. Enjoy!

Step 1) Create A Business Plan Shortcut

For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re the most gifted cat burglar on earth– a real savvy savant of the steal. Put yourself in the mindset where strategy and planning are time-erasing pleasures, delicious treats that reward you with immense prosperity– not complex tasks that can be skipped or shelved.

Too many entrepreneurs perceive putting a business plan together as some kind of chore. It’s not. When the product or service is something you believe in, it’s as awesome as it is for those cat burglars in the movies, except you’re plotting honest work.

Fact: It’s possible to create your initial business plan in less than an hour!

Let’s build a “lean plan” that’s simple to create and helps you identify core assets. You start with a pitch, a single page overview which can become your executive summary later on. It’s your business strategy all on one page that’s easy to update as you evolve.

You may be thinking,

Wait a minute. If I’m not raising money from investors, why do I need a pitch?

Well, after years working with entrepreneurs we’ve found a pitch is really the ideal format to document your business idea, share it with others, and quickly adjust as you learn more about/analyze how you’re going to build your brand.

Furthermore, once you have your pitch done you can easily convert it into a presentation-ready business plan with massive clarity. To begin, follow the simple outline below or allow tools like LivePlan (what we used for Startup Savant) to walk you through the entire process with examples and video tutorials.

 

What To Include in Your Pitch

As you tackle your one-pager, mentally channel Twitter and try to keep each section as short/concise as possible– the size of a solid tweet.

  • Mini-Pitch: Typically a refined sentence summarizing your USP (unique selling proposition).
  • Market Need: The problem your business solves for your customers.
  • Your Solution: How you’re solving the problem through your products and services.
  • Primary Competition: The products and services your customers choose today instead of yours.
  • Target Market: This is where you detail your ideal client and niche.
  • Sales & Marketing: How you plan on marketing.
  • Budget & Sales Goals: How much do you project/calculate you’ll sell and how much is it going to cost to make your product or deliver your service? Also, show other key expenses when your business is up and running.
  • Milestones: What you’ve achieved so far and your major goals for the next few months and years.
  • Team: Why you and your team are the right people to make your company successful.
  • Partners & Resources: List primary companies/organizations needed to go the distance.
  • Funding Needs: If you need to raise money, how much and where will this capital be going (channels)?

That might seem like a fair amount of work if you’ve never put together a real pitch before, but remember, that’s just one page of content. Another way to look at it is a one page resume for your business.

 

A Couple Writing Tips

First, you start with the putty. Don’t try to self-edit or curate, just barf everything out on paper as it flows from your brilliant mind. Format each section out and just let it go. That’s putting the basic shape together.

Now you need to let it dry, so walk away for a day (week) or two. After that, begin chipping away and condensing. Cut the fat and keep tightening the ideas until you’re down to one page. Be brutal! Stick to the facts. Numbers are easier, but when you’re tackling words remember the average person these days has a shorter attention span (if not compelled by your ideas) than a goldfish.

 

Taking Action on This Step

Create a pitch outline from the points mentioned above and refine down to one or two sentences. If you need help, check out LivePlan. It’s a solid tool that walks you through the entire process. Plus, they offer a 50% Discount.

Step 2) What To Include in Your Plan

Now that you have a running outline, it’s time to go deeper into the framework of your platform.

Perhaps you’re thinking the one-page pitch is all you’ll need? That would be like going on a road trip in unfamiliar territory with a map that only shows destinations– no routes, no roads, no other icons whatsoever. Even if you never plan on showing this to anyone, the process of creating a solid plan optimizes everything about you and your business!
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Here’s a quick overview of what you need to include in your business plan:

  • Cover Page/Pitch
  • Executive Summary
  • Products & Services
  • Target Market
  • Marketing & Sales Plan
  • Milestones & Metrics
  • Company & Management Team
  • Financial Plan
  • Appendix

If you need extra space for product images, detailed financial forecasts, or general additional info, use the appendix. There are three layers of complexity here. First, your pitch with a very brief summary. Then, your Executive Summary that adds details and context. Then into the finer points of the overall business plan.

Not too shabby, right?

 

Taking Action on The Step

Please revisit your pitch and find a good way to optimize it just a smidgen. The better your pitch, the better the overall plan.

As you fill in the structure, first focus on providing “mental barf” data you can go through and optimize later. Remember, if you need help, LivePlan will walk you through the entire process with video tutorials and examples.

Step 3) Create a Unique Selling Proposition

When copywriters are given a business idea to optimize, they often begin by defining the USP (unique selling proposition) and mini-pitch. A USP can be just a couple words or an incomplete sentence, while the mini-pitch is usually one or two concise sentences.

Just in case you’re fuzzy on the whole copywriter thing, these folks are paid big bucks to write sales and marketing copy which often includes core slogans.

As an example, here’s what the USP and Pitch for Startup Savant sound like:

USP: “Entrepreneurship Simplified

Pitch: “Startup Savant is a free website that shows you how to start a business and own your future.”

Now let’s get past the “How to Write Your USP 101” stuff and dive straight into three core truths.

 

USPs & Pitches Evolve

The first thing a copywriter will tell you if you’re struggling with this is to relax. They know sales and branding copy optimizes (matures) over time, especially in the first 2-5 years in business.

If possible, avoid thinking your USP is set in stone, never to be altered. It’s more like a sculpture that the market chips away at. Your pitch evolves as you and your platform do. What matters is whether your USP & Pitch are as refined as they can be based on where you are now.

  • USPs can be creative & full of personality, but they also need to make sense.
  • Is your pitch wordy and confusing? Hazy or unclear?
  • Sometimes you have the right words, they just need to be in an optimized order.

Always be ready to “kill your darlings” as copywriters would say. Meaning, get rid of any and all words,

That aren’t necessary for the idea or concept you’re conveying to make perfect sense within the context it’s delivered, and to whom it’s being written to.

You can begin with half a page, but systematically chisel down to a core concept like, Entrepreneurship Simplified.

 

Your Ideal Customers Will Do It For You

Copywriters care what you have to say as a business owner or marketing manager, but they know you’re not the ultimate authority in terms of advertising copy.

They’re writing for buyers. In any and all ways your business can optimize over the years, your customers, clients and users should steer the course as much as possible. Be on the lookout for their valuable signals and indications!

 

Hop at 20 Questions

Copywriters ask TONS of questions. They’re a bit like copy-detectives in how they search high and low for very precise data from their clients. Never fear giving your users, clients or customers a megaphone with which to bark their concerns.

We all love sharing our opinions, right? Yes we do. Let us. Prompt us. Ask us. Bribe us with incentives and discounts… then listen… carefully. Easily 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs are given the ultimate USPs on silver platters by their customers but fail to recognize when they see, read, or hear them.

 

Taking Action on This Step

  • If you’ve been stressing on your USP, relax. If it doesn’t feel perfect right now, or 100% distilled, let it happen naturally.
  • Your audience can and will steer the course if you choose to notice their cues. Ask three people you haven’t spoken to before how they feel about your product or service.
  • Are there any indications out there waiting to be plucked? Blog or social media comments and reviews are primary starting points. It only takes one solid indicator for the magic “pivots” to cause your business or brand to see huge boosts.

Step 4) Crafting the Executive Summary

In brief, what exactly is an executive summary? An executive summary (ES) is an overview of your business and your vision. It comes first in formal/informal business plans and is ideally 1-2 pages.

The ES introduces your business to your reader. If you don’t nail it, no one’s going to read any further. And if an ES sucks, despite it being professionally crafted, then the business model itself needs work or isn’t worth your time. Every ES should include a brief overview of the following:

  • The problem your business addresses.
  • Your solution.
  • Your target market.
  • Why the timing’s right for your brand.
  • Financial forecast highlights, along with initial/current customer acquisition costs (CAC) and lifetime customer value (LCV).

If you’re raising money or presenting to investors, you’ll also want to cover:

  • Your existing team and partners.
  • How much money you’re looking to raise and the type of exit strategies in place.

Ideally your ES should fit on one or two pages and be able to stand alone, apart from your business plan. A common strategy is to send your ES out to investors/family/friends and then the complete plan if more detail is requested.

Remember to try and position your writing for people who don’t know anything about your business before they start reading. Explain things simply so that anyone can understand your opportunity, whether they be an in-tune player, an 8th grader, or a grandma.

 

Taking Action on This Step

  • Over the next couple weeks, refresh your ES!
  • Who is the first person you’re going to send your ES to that has no real previous knowledge of what your business is? It helps having someone in mind when writing.
  • Find one amazing ES to read over and see what you can learn from it. Here and here are two great examples.

Well done, in the next step we’ll help you explain your product or service and how it makes an impact on customers.

Step 5) Understanding Customers

Once upon a time there was this lovely, vibrant and ambitious entrepreneur who decided to sell organic breast enlargement cream. It sold well for a while, but then her numbers plateaued, and eventually began to decline.

She knew her business needed a makeover after years in the trenches. So, she created an automated incentive program, a 25% discount coupon code offer sent with every order in exchange for an anonymous review with a photograph. Just a simple before/after image showing the front of their body from neckline to belly button (to confirm usage).

They started rolling in and here are the gems she unearthed:

  • A small portion of her customers were husbands buying a discreet gift for their wives/girlfriends, but most (85%) were transgender folks in transition.
  • For the vast majority of her cis-female customers, larger breasts had more to do with enhancing self-esteem/identity and filling out clothes than attracting mates.
  • Almost 100% really hammered down on the fact her cream was all-natural, organic and didn’t cause irritation or allergic reactions.

She went back and dusted off her original copy she put together years before.

From:
A certified organic breast enlargement cream.

To something more along the lines of:
Increase confidence and femininity through an organic non-allergenic breast enlargement cream.

When stuck in a rut, and we all get there as entrepreneurs, the quickest and most effective way out is to look at your predicament from different perspectives.

Begin with the fundamental question, “What problem does my product/service solve for customers?” then look deeper and from unique angles. Who are your buyers? They have the answer. And remember, actions speak louder than words.

Oftentimes we rationalize buying things for one reason, but in reality have a more potent ulterior motive. Sure, her customers want larger breasts, that’s what prompt initial sales. But the needs her product solves in their day-to-day lives are more interesting. It actually made her customers feel more confident, happy, and healthy.

 

Taking Action on This Step

Find one deeper way your product or service materializes in everyday life for your customers. Pay close attention to the simple verbiage you and others use to describe it, e.g. “Your earphones really get rid of all the noise on the bus.”

If possible, get hold of one fresh buyer perspective. Who and where are they? That woman in our example had spent years excluding nearly half her customer base in her advertorial copy. Do you use your own product or service? If so, find a way to record yourself explaining it in the most natural language possible. Use a smartphone or leave yourself a voicemail. Then, just listen.

But wait, what if you’re just starting out and don’t have much to draw on in terms of direct customer or user feedback? Glad you asked! In the next section we’re going to talk about competition, which is another valuable source of indicators.

Step 6) Leveraging Competition

What products and/or services are people choosing instead of yours?

Whether you’re new to the market or not, these so-called “competitors” are really the ideal source of optimization for your brand. And it’s not about being better per se. All things equal, it’s more about uniqueness.

Would you rather be a prettier, more flashy brand trying desperately to stand out, or develop intense brand-character that the right people notice? Once you’ve narrowed down your competitors, look at them from new angles to discover what makes you distinctive.

  • Can they help you better define your target market/sub-markets?
  • How effective are their social media marketing methods and website copy?
  • What do you know about their buyers’ needs?
  • What do they make “stand out” when shoulder to shoulder with your brand?

A common practice entrepreneurs use in pitch presentations to venture capitalists or investors is the Comparison Matrix.

Comparison Matrix

You’ve seen these a zillion times. In short, list your competitors across the top of the page and your features and benefits along the side, then check the boxes for which company offers each. Don’t forget you can be creative here. You may even already use one of these on your website, or within some other marketing media.

  • Could these features and benefits be communicated in different, more compelling ways?
  • What real need-based copy is being left out?
  • How can you simplify it? An easy way is to reduce the number of competitors, so shoot for less players with more interesting copy.

 

Taking Action on This Step

Got time to put something simple together? In reality what we’re looking for are the things about your competitors that help you stand out.

  • Think about your biggest competitor: what do they make obvious about your brand?
  • What are you doing with more personality from the perspective of ideal clients or customers?
  • Could you take your primary competitor’s copy and make it clearer, or more optimized?

All in all, understanding your competition is an important part of the planning process. This is where you find your true competitive advantage.

For a more in-depth look at how you stand up to the competition, check out LivePlan’s Benchmark feature. You can see at-a-glance how you compare to companies just like yours. Tell LivePlan your industry and location, and it shows if/how you’re doing better or worse than your competition.

Now let’s talk about your unique marketing approach. This will help you stand out and connect with your customers on multiple levels.

Step 7) Create a Marketing Plan

Fred is a brand spanking new entrepreneur with a neat new fitness product he believes is going to make a big splash.

He knows exactly who his ideal customers are and his niche is carved out like a Renaissance marble sculpture. Fred’s also managed to get his hands on $100k in debt-free funding (don’t ask us how, this is hypothetical)…

  • His product costs exactly $32 to source, make and package.
  • To be competitive, and account for shipping/processing, he’s going live at $55.
  • Initial margin is about $13 per sale.

Admittedly, that would be pretty amazing, but that’s because we’re coming from a standpoint of experience. Fred’s just showing up to the 21st-Century party. He’s never built, owned, or managed a business before, let alone an ecommerce platform.

He’s never outsourced a graphic artist or content writer before; never had to choose which analytic dashboard to use; never designed a conversion model or tangled with paid advertising platforms. Let’s say Fred called and begged us to lunch. We accepted. And so there we are, the three amigos with Fred sitting on a huge meal ticket drooling for answers.

 

How Do I Market My Product?

Once the table conch gets passed to us, we’re going to hit him hard with massive bombshells:

  • Tight responsive funnels can be constructed in a couple months with the right designer, or design agency (website, landing pages, ecommerce setup, branding packages, etc.).
  • Initial market testing and adjustment can be bootstrapped.
  • There are a variety of intuitive and relatively simple software tools, apps, plugins, add-ons, and cloud-based solutions that range from free to expensive.
  • It takes a savvy mix of highly-focused content, social exposure and paid advertising.
  • It takes a team.

Question is, what advice would you give Fred? That’s what we’d like you to consider. And it needs to be marketing-based. The money’s there, the production system’s in place, it’s just a matter of reaching his fitness-based audience and selling.

 

Taking Action on This Step

Let’s imagine Fred’s offered you a lifetime, no questions asked, 5% share of his company from now till doomsday. All you have to do is provide valuable direction in these three areas:

  1. Content: What kind of content should he invest in? Blogs, video, infographics, imagery, etc.
  2. Social: How to handle social media if he a) doesn’t have the time, b) has no clue what works?
  3. Paid Advertising: AdWords? Facebook? TV? Magazine ads? How does he get to buyers?

Just let your mind wander, and don’t worry, in the next section we’ll talk about setting milestones for your business.

Step 8) Set Milestones

If there’s one specific part of the entrepreneurial journey that we get really nerdy about, it’s the way people verbally describe their trials and successes. We’re listening intently for clues as to how they set milestones and metrics and then track them.

Let’s spend some time pondering the way(s) you’re measuring your journey and how you approach KPIs (key performance indicators) in relation to both your marketing and your competition. Or, if you’re trying to figure out how viable a product idea is, how you’re calculating acceptable setbacks and struggle.

What have you achieved so far and what are your major goals for the next few months or years?

Sure, it’s cliché to talk about tracking milestones in an era of big data, but truth be told too many aspiring entrepreneurs either skip this part until much further down the road when it can’t be ignored anymore, or they only take it seriously in the beginning then fail to stick to the plan.

Avoid Drowning Out Customer Journey!

Of course there are folks who obsess on this part and try to manage a small army of analytic dashboards and amazing software solutions like FreshBooks or Xero.

Once it becomes too much they end up transforming their perspective of the customer journey from something organic into a mesh of math and graphs. Most of their day is spent pouring over dense numbers or marketing data and trying to figure out how to alter this metric or that.

  • How many of your milestones are focused entirely on your customers instead of you and your business?
  • Instead of views, likes, and shares, what about the amount of service calls you’re getting? How many people are actually reaching out with questions and concerns?
  • How well do your metrics allow you to understand each part of their trek from initially discovering your business to making a purchase?

Find ways to do more with less data. It’s always within reach these days, especially when you’re tuned in to your customers!

 

Taking Action on This Step

  • Find one way to streamline how you’re dealing with milestones/metrics, or how you intend to.
  • Also, look for one single way to be more holistic in your approach to setting goals.
  • Find a part of your customer journey/behavior and decide if current metrics help or hinder it.

Need help in this area? LivePlan has a really impressive dashboard to help you set goals and stay accountable over the lifetime of your business. This dramatically increases your chances of success.

Step 9) Refine Aquisition Costs

Without question, failure to clearly know the cost of acquiring customers is a mighty new business demolisher. It’s crushed more entrepreneurial dreams than every economic collapse combined since the creation of fiat currency. To come to grips, or optimize your Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC), begin by figuring out exactly how you’re reaching customers.

Or, if you’re building an initial business plan, how much will it cost to reach buyers on the platforms where they spend their time? Your financials should easily allow you to calculate CAC.

Now, in the simplest terms here’s how:

  1. Take (estimate) the entire cost of sales and marketing over whatever period of time you’re dealing with, for example when forecasting sales and financials. Make sure to include salaries and any other headcount-related costs.
  2. Divide that number by the amount of buying customers/clients/users that were acquired within this time.

If you happen to run a purely web-based business, headcount likely doesn’t need to grow as you scale customer acquisition, but it’s a useful metric to include nonetheless.

The second part of this is your Lifetime Customer Value, or LCV, because in most cases 80% of your revenue will come from 20% of overall customers and happen AFTER the initial sale. Never shortchange the follow-through!

If your CAC is too high, it must be able to come down through optimization. If LCV is horrid, then in the long run it’s an unsustainable business model. Or in other words, once CAC exceeds LCV, something needs to change or you’ll have to close shop.

 

Taking Action on This Step

  • Begin looking at one stream of cost per lead. So for example, maybe a Google AdWords or Facebook advertising campaign.
  • What’s one single way you could get more in touch with a hot-spot within your customers’ buyer experience?
  • Let your mind stew a little on the level of ‘touch’ required to increase LCV. How can you up-sell or generate more revenue from each customer long term?

After you make these calculations three or four times, it starts becoming second nature. LivePlan’s forecasting handles this pretty well. It walks you through creating expenses that are a certain percentage of sales.

Step 10) Forecast Sales

Smart entrepreneurs start forecasting sales early on.

And while ‘the numbers’ part of business planning can be intimidating, this exercise is definitely a small mountain worth karate chopping down.

Keep in mind that if you get stuck at any point, LivePlan’s Forecasting and Budgeting feature is extremely helpful. Whether you’re starting a bakery, a subscription software business, or a manufacturing company, LivePlan walks you through the entire forecasting process within a few clicks.

 

How Detailed Does it Need to Be?

Don’t be too generic and just forecast sales for your entire business. But on the other hand, don’t go nuts and create a forecast for everything you sell if you’ve got a large assortment.

For example, if you’re starting a restaurant you don’t want to create forecasts for each item on the menu.

Instead, focus on broader categories like lunch, dinner, and drinks. Or if you’re starting a clothing brand, forecast key categories like outerwear, casual wear, and so on.

 

Top-Down or Bottom-up?

In our humble opinion, forecasting “from the top down” can be costly. What that means is figuring out the total size of the market you’re in and trying to capture a small percentage.

For example, in 2015, more than $1.4 billion smartphones were sold worldwide. It’s pretty tempting for a startup to say they’re going to get 1% of that total market. After all, 1% is such a tiny little sliver it’s got to be believable, right?

The problem is this kind of guessing isn’t based on reality. Sure, it looks like it might be credible on the surface, but you have to dig deeper.

  • What’s driving those sales?
  • How are people finding your new smartphone company?
  • Of the people that find out, how many will buy?

Instead of “from the top down,” do a “bottom-up” forecast. Just like the name suggests, bottom-up starts at the bottom and works its way up to a forecast. Start by thinking about how many potential customers you might be able to make contact with.

This could be through advertising, sales calls, or other marketing methods. Of the people you can reach, how many do you think you’ll be able to bring in the door or get onto your website?

And finally, of the people that come in the door, get on the phone, or visit your site, how many will buy?

Here’s an example:

  • 10,000 people see my company’s ad online,
  • 1,000 people click from the ad to my website,
  • 100 people end up making a purchase.

Obviously, these are all nice round numbers, but it should give you an idea of how bottom-up forecasting works. The last step of the bottom-up forecasting method is to think about the average amount that each of those 100 people in our example ends up spending (remember LCV).

On average, do they spend $20? $100? It’s fine to guess here, and the best way to refine your guess is to go out and talk to potential customers. You’ll be surprised how accurate a number you can get with a few simple interviews.

 

How Far to Forecast

Try forecasting monthly for a year into the future and then just annually for another three to five years.

The further your forecast into the future, the less you’re going to know and the less benefit it’s going to have for your company. After all, the world’s going to change, your business is going to change, and you’ll be updating your forecast to reflect them.

And don’t forget, all forecasts are wrong—that’s fine. Your forecast is just your best guess at what’s going to happen. As you learn more about your business and your customers, you’ll adjust. It’s not set in stone.

 

Taking Action on This Step

  • First, remind yourself that ALL forecasts are wrong. Forecasting is more about learning and evolving.
  • Without adding too much to your plate, take a look at your monthly sales chart and see what kinds of optimizations forecasting might bring to light. If you aren’t already charting sales, start today or begin planning how.
  • Try two easy bottom-up projections with nice round numbers to get the feel for it.

Just remember that sales forecasting doesn’t have to be hard. Anyone can do it and you, as an entrepreneur, are the most qualified to do it for your business. You know your customers and you know your market, so you can forecast your sales.

But if you decide you’d appreciate help, we highly recommend forecasting your sales with LivePlan. LivePlan automatically generates all the charts and graphs you need and automatically includes them in your plan.

Wrapping Up: Formatting Your Plan

The format of your business plan is critical. It goes a long way toward refining and achieving your goals: raising money, setting the strategy for your team and growing your platform. That being the case, let’s breeze through seven tips that can help you create, refine, and optimize your brilliant business plan.

 

1. Always Start with Your Executive Summary

An ES should be written for ideal readers, customers, potential investors or team members, or even just to help you ‘goal-map’ your way to where you need to be. Regardless, nailing the Executive Summary is critical in terms of understanding the potential behind your business idea.

 

2. End with Supporting Documents

The appendix is composed of key numbers and other details that support your plan. At a minimum, your appendix should include financial forecasts and budgets. Typically, it’s wise to include a Profit & Loss statement, Cash Flow forecast, and a Balance Sheet. With practice and a smidgen of savvy software like LivePlan these pages can take a couple hours or so.

You might also use your appendix to include product diagrams or detailed research findings, depending on your business, your industry, and how deep your business plan needs to go given the reader/purpose.

Quick Recap of the Lineup
Pitch
Executive Summary
Products & Services
Target Market
Marketing & Sales Plan
Milestones & Metrics
Company & Management Team
Financial Plan & Appendix

 

3. Keep it Short

Let’s face it: no one has time to read a 40-page business plan. If you’ve nailed your ES, you’ll want to follow up with 8 to 12 additional pages at most in support. Instead of trying to cram everything in using small fonts and tiny margins, focus on trimming down your writing (‘kill your darlings’). Use direct, simple language that gets to the point.

 

4. Get Visual

As the old adage goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is especially true when you’re formatting a business plan. Use charts and graphs to explain forecasts. Add pictures of your product(s). Again, there are plenty of software solutions that make it easy to do more showing and less telling. That said…

 

5. Don’t Obsess on Looks

It’s your ideas that matter. A beautiful plan that talks about an ill-conceived business with incomplete financial forecasts is never going to beat a plan that’s formatted poorly but discusses a great, clearly explained vision. Spending days making a beautiful plan isn’t going to make your business ideas better. Instead, focus on polishing the words. Trim extra content you don’t need, and make sure ideas are well-presented.

 

6. Keep Formatting Simple

  • For general formatting use single spacing with an extra space between paragraphs.
  • If you’re printing your plan, use a nice serif font like Garamond or Baskerville.
  • If your plan will mostly be read on a computer screen, go with a sans serif font like Verdana or Arial.

Why choose different fonts for on-screen versus off-screen? Well, research shows readers have higher comprehension when they read a document with a serif font on paper, and higher comprehension reading with a sans serif font on a screen.

Don’t stress too much about this, though. Choose any one of the four fonts mentioned above and move forward.

  • For font size, 10 to 12 point is usually ideal and readable for most people. If you need to reduce the font size to make your plan shorter, then you should be cutting content, not adjusting the font size.
  • The same rule goes for margins: use typical one-inch margins to make the plan readable.

Cover pages are always a good idea, too. Use the cover page to show off your logo, tagline, and pitch.

Finally, make sure your plan document flows well and doesn’t have any “widows” or “orphans” when it prints out. A “widow” is when the last line of a paragraph appears alone at the top of a page, and an “orphan” is a single word that gets left behind at the bottom of a paragraph.

 

7. Get a Second Pair of Eyes

The last piece of advice is to get a second pair of eyes. When you’re the only one working on your plan, you can become blind to common errors. Recruit a friend or family member, or even hire a copy-editing professional to give it that last bit of polish. There’s nothing worse than a plan with grammatical or spelling errors. A second pair of eyes will go a long way toward catching the majority of those potential problems or holes.

 

Taking Action on This Step

  • Who’s your second, third, and possibly fourth pair of eyes going to be?
  • What’s one part of your business plan you could optimize today?
  • What’s one piece of visual content you could add to your appendix?

Exclusive Bonus: If you’d like to try LivePlan yourself, here’s an exclusive 50% off LivePlan promo code offered to our readers. You’ll have 60 days of risk free planning with their 100% money back guarantee. Enjoy!