Why you need a plan for your creative business (but not a business-plan)

How to make a plan for your creative business, why it's so important to have a plan for your maker-business, Creating a plan for your creative business

As someone who could happily draw up plans all day long, has made itineraries for hen weekends complete with daily schedule and who's always got a huge quarterly planner on my wall, it never occurred to me that people might not see the value in planning. 

Then I started meeting these go with the flow people, I was intrigued.

Some makers and designers aren't compelled to plan out their route to growing their business, and for some it works and they grow organically by following the opportunities and ideas that come up along the way. But, I still strongly believe that if you want to make something big happen in your creative business, whether that's launch a new website, create a new product line or introduce a new income stream, you gotta have a plan, ideally on the wall, somewhere where you'll see it every day. 

If you’re not convinced by the idea of having a plan for your creative business, here are a few reasons why I feel it’s so important and how to get started with creating the most basic and flexible of plans

Open notebook with a ball of wool and cup of tea - creative business plan

First, let’s define plan because I don't want to scare anyone off. When I say plan, for me it’s a quarterly wall chart that sits on my wall in my work space that I can glance at throughout each day. I’m NOT talking about a 16 page word document with sections called ‘annual projections’ or 'executive sumarry'. I set three goals for each month plus an income goal, depending on what I want to focus on that quarter and I map out the steps to completing each goal week by week over the following 12/13 weeks. It's not set in stone and I haven't got each day planned out for the next 3 months, that wouldn't be anywhere near flexible enough. This way of planning is flexible but focused on how I'll achieve my quarterly goals.  

Unless you’re seeking investment rather than looking to grow organically, I don’t see any need for you to have a formal business plan, unless it's something that you think will focus you over the long term.

I do however strongly believe that a quarterly plan that's stuck to your studio wall, that you can glance at everyday is a really powerful tool that will help you achieve those goals you've got for your business. Here's why.

Pile of notebooks and a cup of tea

It keeps you focused

Having a quarterly plan on the wall in your work space keeps your goals at the front of your mind. And seeing how your goals break down into weekly actions will mean you know exactly what you need to do each week to achieve your quarterly goal.

I also recommend having a box for an ideas waiting list where you can jot down any ideas that you don't have time to work on during that quarter so that your ideas don't take you off in tangents, pulling you away from where your focus needs to be be. When you come to plan the next quarter, you can reconsider those ideas then. 

It ensures that you’re working on the right things

By being intentional about setting your goals based on what you want your business and lifestyle to look like, you can be confident that the actions you're taking each week are working towards your bigger picture dreams and ambitions. 

It saves your brain power for more important things

When you’re spending precious tokens of brain power each day on deciding what you need to be working on; that’s an inefficient use of your energy. When you have your actions all mapped out by week, all you need to do each week is decide on which days you'll work on each action. This can save a lot of time and mental energy.

You can see what you've ACHIEVED over time

Having a physical plan that you can scribble on and cross actions off shows, in one glance how much you're achieving each week and how much you've achieved over time. The best part of having a plan like this is that you can look back at the end of each quarter and see all of those actions crossed off - meaning you've reached those goals you set all those weeks ago. In the day to day, it's difficult to keep track of what you've achieved over time, and the satisfaction of crossing actions off a plan is pretty unbeatable. 

[over to you]

  • If you're still in the go with the flow camp, that's cool. You don't need to go all out and start making quarterly or even monthly plans, but you might want to give this a go. At the beginning of each day ask yourself what is the one thing I can do to move my business forward today and focus on getting that one thing done each day.
  • If you're feeling inspired and totally excited to make a plan of your own, why not start by getting really intentional about where your focus is, check out my guide to finding your focus.
  • Finally, if you're off to make a plan of your own right now, I salute you. I'd love to know how it goes. By the way, the back of a roll of wall paper works well for a make shift wall planner, you can pick up wallpaper samples for free at hardware stores, using a marker pen just draw out 13 boxes on the back and those boxes become your weeks. Write the actions you want to take over the next 13 weeks in each box (a quarter is usually 13 weeks long).  I really hope this helps you to achieve those ideas that have been kicking around in your mind for far too long :)