Do You Need a Business Plan?

Photo from: getentrepreneurial.com
The short answer according to Rachel Lawley: yes. (See previous post for more details on Lawley.)

A good business plan will help you identify in detail the goals, purpose and strategies for your company.

“A business plan is the medium that forces current and prospective business owners to truly question their business, what and who will affect it, and what and who it will have an effect on,” she said.

As for the freelancer, consultant and contract employee, Lawley said you don’t necessarily need a complete business plan, but they are useful.

“Consider this, would you work for a company where they didn’t provide you with a description of your job, or offer you regular performance reviews?” she said.

Lawley added that creating a solid business plan early on will give you a solid foundation, so you can have confidence in your goals and in yourself.

“You can continue to adjust your plan, based on how your services or clients develop,” she said. “But it’s important to have that plan, to have a mission to stay focused on. Otherwise, you might find yourself accepting clients who need work that you know how to do, but hate doing, just for the money. That works short-term, but it diverts your attention away from your real goals.”

A business plan is necessary if you need investors or a business partner. This eliminates confusion and ensures you and your team are working in unison.

“When the company is still fresh and ideas are flying around, sit down with your partner (maybe with a mediator sometimes) and put ‘pen to paper’ about what your goals are, who you want your clients to be, where you want to be in a year, two years, five years,” Lawley said.

But the bottom line is, there is no best time to create a business plan.

“If you can draft it while the company is still in the idea stages, that’s perfect,” Lawley said. “But it isn’t always that simple. Maybe you start out casual, either solo or with a business partner. But by the end of the first six months to a year, you should write your plan, before you have any misunderstandings, and especially before you miss out on any great opportunities.”

For freelancers, the best time might just be when your business develops and takes on a new purpose.

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Interview Skills: Not Just for Reporters

Photo from: SEOsk.com
Do you feel like getting your questions answered for a project is like pulling teeth? Do you have to talk to clients every day and feel like you aren’t getting any more information than when you called the last time?

You would probably benefit from learning some basic interviewing skills.

The first and most important preparation tool is to do some research. Know as much as you can about the other person or topic and have that background in front of you. It is amazing what five minutes on Google can tell you. Or just looking over the previous information and writing the questions you still are unsure of the answer to. By doing a few minutes of background research, your subject will know you cared enough to spend the time to get to know them.

Now on to the harder part, the questions. As Ryan Knapp so aptly put it, “asking open-ended questions to help prompt discussion/longer answers.” Which is exactly what you want! A discussion that feels like a conversation and less like a one-sided information session. Good places to start are why and how. Not very many people can answer a why or how question with a yes or a no!

Don’t be afraid of the follow-up question. If you didn’t get the answer the first time, try rephrasing the question and asking it again in another way.

Also, don’t just be thinking about what the next question will be and tune out the answer. The answer may lead to a different follow-up question that you wouldn’t have thought to ask if you had not been listening.

Finally, relax. Unlike journalists, you probably aren’t investigating a story. You’re just trying to get the required information to make your project or business relationship better.