So this is another one of those “learn from my mistakes” kind of posts. As I’ve mentioned before, in articles like Advice for Starting a Business or Freelance Career, I didn’t have a lot of clarity when I was starting out. So i *wasted* (though I hate to use that term, because it’s all learning!) a lot of time in trial-and-error phase, instead of setting specific goals and organizing my systems and processes.
So my advice if you are starting an online business, or just taking a moment to reorganize, is to put pen to paper and create a ‘holistic’ business plan!
Typical business plans are often focused mainly on finances- figuring out your overhead costs, predicted income, pricing structure, etc. This is very important, especially if you’re looking to secure financing via a loan. A typical business plan might also include research into your niche market, and comparing competitors’ products or services to your own. This is a great place to start, before you start delving into the ‘meat and potatoes’ of what your business will actually look like. But once you have assessed the viability of your business and the financial reality you’re walking into, there’s still a lot of planning to be done!
The reason I use the term Holistic Business Plan, is to emphasize all of the interconnected parts of your online business, and how they fit together. In the HBP template that I’ve created for you, I break it down into 4 parts:
1. Goals & Finances
This section looks a little bit like a traditional business plan- organizing your financial goals, and overhead costs, but also asking yourself the big WHY of your business. Before going any further into planning, I suggest you write down your WHY or a “mission statement” that can guide you through the rest of the planning stages.
Nowadays “your brand” is synonymous with your business, which means that you have to start strong with design elements that express the purpose of your brand, who your “tribe” is, and why they should work with you/ buy from you. When I am working with a client on their website or marketing, the brand is the foundation that we start with. Once that is solid, everything else will fall into place much easier. In the HBP you can download here, I help you clarify your brand’s personality and how that might be expressed visually.
3. Your Website
For an online business, the website is as important as a storefront is to a brick-and-mortar business! Whether you hire a web designer or DIY-it, organization is key when designing and building a website. Inevitably, once you start to consider all the functions that your website needs, you will realize that the scope of the website is bigger than you originally expected. In my Holistic Business Plan, I walk you through a step-by-step process for getting clear on the scope of your site. Then if you end up working with a web designer, this will be hugely helpful to them when getting started.
This is a broad topic, but I suggest at least having a basic marketing plan in mind, and/ or knowing what your options are, as soon as possible in your planning. Social media, email marketing, SEO and blogging are just some of the free/ cheap ways to start marketing your business and providing value to your ideal audience. So you want to have these accounts & systems integrated with your website as you’re building it. Of course, you also want your marketing and your branding (the look and feel of your business) to be in sync from the get-go. Holistic = everything in sync!
Again, I’ll plug my Holistic Business Plan that you can download FREE to help get organized and clear on your goas and “to-dos”. The Marketing section has another quick checklist of must-do items to start building an audience and driving traffic to your website.
Need more support?
If you’ve gone through the Holistic Business Plan and still have questions about getting started online, schedule a Holistic Consultation! We will spend up to 2 hours talking (via Zoom) about what the bigger picture of your business is and how to take a holistic approach to improving it. We can go through your HBP page-by-page and create tangible action steps to help you proceed.
Your initial consultation is only $200, and if we end up working on a bigger project together (a new website or branding package), that fee is deducted from the overall cost.