10/28/2014 05:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Roadmap to Leaving Your Corporate Job and Starting a Creative Business (Part 2 of 6)


Last time, I talked about how to get started with an actionable plan at least 1 year before you launch your creative business. Now that you have taken some of those steps, you're ready to start visualizing what your business will look like with a one page business plan. I recommend writing the business plan at least 6 months before you launch your business. This will give you enough time to mull over it and make any necessary tweaks. You should also consider sharing it with your friends, partners, and mentors who may have valuable insights for improvement.

Why a one-page business plan as opposed to the traditional 75-page one? While the traditional in-depth business plan has its place in getting you to think through the details, I recommend starting with a one-page plan as it helps you outline the key building blocks of your business. Since, in the beginning, your ideas are not yet fully baked and are changing often, a one-page plan is much easier to update. In fact, it serves as a solid tool for thinking through your concepts. It also helps you simplify and hone in on the core of your business before you dig deep into all the nitty-gritty.

There are many one-page business models out there, but I have simplified it for product-based businesses here. A good and simple business plan consists of the following parts:

1. Your business vision & mission:
What is your vision of the world as a result of your work and why your business exists? Why does your business matter? It is extremely important to create a business that your audience will care about. Your vision and mission should exist beyond your products. It should also be scalable to allow you to create new offerings in the future.

2. Value proposition:
In order to create a successful business, it is extremely important to create products and services that are better than what already exist out there. You need to offer value to your customers that keeps them coming back. I teach how to create value in your business (beyond your products) that your customers care about in my branding class on Madesmith Academy and would like to share how you can do that here. At a high-level you can do this by defining what products you are offering and what value you offer that makes you different (from others trying to sell similar products). For example, you can create value through added services such as lifetime customer service, repairs, educational services around your product, insights into your process and other relevant content.

3. Customer segments:
Who are your customers? What are their problems and needs that you are trying to solve? Make sure to talk to as many potential customers as possible and really get to know who they are and what are their pain points.

4. Revenue streams:
How are you going to make money in your business? And most importantly, is it enough to create a sustainable business where you can take a salary and still grow your business? How many units will you have to sell on a monthly/weekly basis to achieve sustainability in your business? Your business must generate revenue and as early as possible. Otherwise, it can prove to be a very expensive and not a very rewarding hobby.

5. Channels:
How and where you find your customers gets defined by the marketing and distribution channels you pursue. It also contributes to how your brand is perceived. Therefore, it is important to define your channels up front as brand perception is extremely hard to change at a later stage.

Plan your channels at a high-level by defining where are you going to sell your product. E.g. online, offline wholesale, holiday markets etc. Where are you going to market it? How will you find your customers and how will you entice them? e.g. social media, paid advertising, flyers, etc. Remember, the market is crowded with similar products so you will have to get really creative and active in your marketing. Also, if the market is not already crowded, and you have a good product, there will be copy cats. Make sure to create customer loyalty through your brand value.

6. Partnerships:
Alliances and relationships with others who can propel your business is not only beneficial but necessary in today's economy. Start by answering who do you need to partner with in order to create value and market your business? And what do you need to offer your partners? E.g. guest posts on relevant blogs, collaboration with other designers etc. Who are your suppliers? How can you create better relationships to get great deals? Make sure to create a simple screening process while choosing your partners based on your brand and what stage of business you're in.

7. Costs:
What resources do you need and what costs you need to incur in order to function? Are these fixed or variable costs? How will you pay for these? Do these costs leave you enough profit (Revenue-Costs)? Although, in the beginning when you're trying to get going, your costs might be higher than your revenue. However, depending on your financial threshold, your costs must be well under your revenue soon after launch (6 months to a year after you start selling your product).

Business plans can be a great exercise to help you visualize your business. In the next installment of this series, I will show you how to master the process of designing and developing your product.

I would love to hear your thoughts on where you are in your planning process. Tell me what business plan items you struggle with most in a comment below.