How to Write a Business Plan in 10 Easy Steps + Free Template

How to Write a Business Plan in 10 Easy Steps + Free Template

Creating a business plan isn’t just an administrative hurdle. This document lays a foundation for strategic decision-making, making it a powerful tool for every large or small business.

It helps transform a brick-and-mortar or an online business idea into a structured plan, organize operations, and secure funding.

However, you might feel overwhelmed when trying to write a business plan on your own.

In this guide, we’ll share 10 steps to help you write an effective business plan. With this overview, we aim to help small business owners navigate the intricacies of starting a business and achieving financial success. We’ll also include a free business plan template for your inspiration.

Download Business Plan Template

10 Steps for Writing a Successful Business Plan

No matter what your business idea is, an elaborate plan will help to make it a success.

Generally speaking, there are three formats to write a business plan:

  • Traditional business plan – offers a comprehensive blueprint for a business’s strategy and operations. This format includes various components of a business plan, such as the executive summary, company description, funding request, and an Appendix.
  • Startup business plan – emphasizes agility. It’s structured around a high-level overview of key business aspects using visual representations and bullet points. Focus elements cover sections like your key partnerships, value proposition, customer relationships, cost structure, and revenue streams.
  • Operational business plan – intensely focuses on a business’s short-term goals and internal workings. It covers areas such as production, inventory management, supply chain logistics, staffing, and location specifics.

In this article, we’ll focus on the traditional business plan format. Without further ado, here are 10 essential steps to turn your business idea into reality.

1. Start With an Executive Summary

The executive summary contains an overview of your business’s key elements. As it’s the first section, make sure to leave a strong impression that encapsulates your business essence and company focus.

When crafting an executive summary, aim for clarity and persuasiveness. Here are three components your executive summary should cover:

Purpose and Importance

An executive summary provides a snapshot of your business and entices potential partners or investors to explore the plan in further detail. It’s your opportunity to highlight what sets your business apart and why it’s geared for success.

Discuss your business model, key objectives, and the unique value proposition for customers or clients.

Mission Statement

Your mission statement is a fundamental component of the executive summary. It’s a clear, concise declaration of your business’s core purpose and values.

Besides reflecting what your business seeks to achieve, a mission statement also inspires and motivates your team and stakeholders. A well-crafted mission statement guides decision-making processes and sets the company tone.

Business Overview

A good overview provides a 360-degree perspective of your business concept. This brief business description should cover the following:

  • Mission – reiterate your business goals and align them with the mission statement.
  • Offers – describe your products or services and emphasize how they fulfill market needs or solve specific problems.
  • Leadership – introduce the key players in your business. Highlight their expertise, roles, and how they contribute to the business’s success. This aspect reassures investors about the capability and experience backing the venture.
  • Operations briefly touch upon the functional structures of your business. They include location, structure, and the day-to-day processes that ensure your business runs smoothly.

2. Write Your Company Description

The next step in crafting your business plan is to provide the company description. This section specifically looks into your new business activity, the niche it occupies, and its backstory.

Based on your executive summary’s groundwork, the company description should cover its unique value and foundational elements.

Detail Your Business

Start this section by describing your industry and target niche.

To highlight your competitive advantage, define the problem your new business aims to solve and explain how your products offer practical solutions. Unique selling point (USP) examples include an innovative approach, superior technology, and customer service excellence.

It’s also crucial to outline your business model, explaining how your company generates revenue. Detail the various revenue streams your business relies on, such as direct product sales, subscription services, licensing fees, and advertising.

This clarity helps demonstrate your business model’s viability. Additionally, whether your model is based on one-time transactions, recurring payments, or a combination of methods, such details show how your offerings support growth and sustainability.

Discuss Legal Structure and History

Clarifying your business’s legal structure is crucial for potential investors, business partners, and stakeholders, as it affects liability, taxes, and operational flexibility. This insight will provide a clear view of your company’s legal and financial setup.

Here are some of the most common business structures in the US:

  • Sole proprietorship – involves a single individual owning and operating the business. The owner receives all profits but is personally liable for all the business’s debts and liabilities.
  • Partnership owned and run by two or more people who share profits. It can be general, where all partners share day-to-day management and liabilities. Or limited, where some contribute financially but don’t partake in management and have limited liabilities.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – enables liability protection like a corporation and the tax benefits of a partnership. Members are protected from personal liability for debts and actions, while profits pass through to individual tax returns.

Additionally, discuss the company’s history to add depth to the business’s evolution. This narrative should touch upon the current stage of development, whether it’s a small business in its initial phases or an established entity exploring new opportunities.

Here are some prompt questions to answer:

  • When was the company founded?
  • What were the key milestones or pivots along its journey?
  • Have there been any significant changes in ownership, mergers, or acquisitions in the company’s history?
  • How have the company’s products or services evolved?
  • How has the company adapted to changes in the market or industry?

3. Set Your Objectives

After laying a solid foundation with the executive summary and company description, it’s time to write down your business objectives.

Objectives serve as the benchmark to evaluate your success and progress – make them aspirational and achievable.

The SMART criteria, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, can provide a robust framework for setting your business objectives. Here’s a more detailed look into the framework:

  • Specific – have answers to what, why, and how. A well-defined objective would be ‘to increase sales of product X by 10% within the next 12 months through targeted online marketing campaigns,’ as opposed to ‘increase sales’.
  • Measurable – every objective should have a quantifiable metric to monitor progress and results. For example, if your objective is to enhance user satisfaction, you can measure this through customer satisfaction surveys and use scores as a benchmark.
  • Achievable – set ambitious yet realistic objectives. Be sure to consider resources, time, and market conditions. Setting attainable objectives ensures your team remains motivated.
  • Relevant – your objectives should align with your business’s strategic direction and core values.
  • Time-bound – every objective needs a defined timeline to help with task prioritization.

When setting your business objectives, involve your team in the process. This collaborative approach makes sure the objectives are firmly based on your business’s operational capabilities, and that team members are aligned and committed to achieving them.

Additionally, regularly review and adjust your objectives as needed to reflect changes in your business environment.

4. Conduct a Market Analysis

Conducting a thorough market analysis is a foundational element of business planning. It gives you a solid understanding of the broader industry landscape and points out your business’s potential within that context.

A market analysis should provide critical insights into market trends, growth potential, competitive dynamics, and customer needs. In general, the process involves these steps:

1. Overview of the Industry

Conduct a comprehensive market analysis to uncover the size, key trends, and growth prospects within your business’s industry.

Google Trends shows the popularity of Google search queries related to your industry, which can indicate growing trends and opportunities.

Google Trends' homepage

To draw data on various industries, including market size, trends, and forecasts, Statista is an excellent statistics platform to explore.

Statista's homepage

Meanwhile, IBISWorld offers in-depth reports on a wide range of industries, providing insights into the market size, growth trends, and industry performance.

IBISWorld's homepage

Once you gain insights, discuss current trends affecting the industry, such as technological advancements, regulatory changes, and shifts in consumer behavior. Identifying these trends in a business plan is crucial for your strategy and positioning.

Highlighting the industry’s growth potential is also vital. Data and projections from credible sources can support your claims about the industry’s direction. These insights lend credibility to your analysis and help illustrate the potential business opportunities.

2. Define the Target Market

Your target market consists of the consumers or businesses most likely to be your clients. Focusing on a specific market allows you to tailor your product development, marketing campaigns, and sales strategies to align with the market’s needs and preferences.

Identifying your ideal customers is crucial in shaping your business strategy. To accurately define this group, consider segmenting the market based on:

  • Demographics – include age, gender, income level, and education.
  • Psychographics demonstrate your market’s interests, values, and lifestyles.
  • Geographic location – explain physical places where your target market is.
  • Buying behavior – add purchase habits, brand loyalty, or product usage rates.

Suppose your product is a high-end skincare line. In that case, your potential customers might be women aged 30-50 with above-average income from urban areas valuing organic ingredients.

3. Analyze Competitor Strategies and Market Positioning

A comprehensive competitor analysis helps you understand the competitive landscape and identify your unique value proposition. This analysis should also identify gaps in the market that your business can leverage.

Here are general steps for conducting a competitor analysis:

  1. Identify competitors – start by researching your direct competitors offering similar products and indirect competitors who address the same customer needs with a different solution. Utilize industry reports, market surveys, and online searches to create your list.
  2. Gather information – find out your competitors’ marketing strategies with tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs. Customer feedback platforms like Trustpilot provide insights into their strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Analyze strategies and positioning – to understand how competitors appeal to the target market, look at how they brand themselves along with their USPs. You should also take notes on their pricing models, distribution channels, and promotional tactics.
  4. Incorporate SWOT analysis – for key competitors, conduct a SWOT analysis to identify their strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats. This structured approach helps you compare your business directly with competitors on various fronts.
  5. Evaluate market gaps – based on your analysis, pinpoint what competitors are missing and how your business can fill those gaps. This can be a unique feature, a different pricing strategy, or an underserved customer segment.

Once you have completed your competitor analysis checklist, use the insights to refine your business strategy. This step ensures your products stand out from the competition and meet the market’s needs more effectively.

5. List Your Products and Services

Your business plan’s Products and Services section is where you showcase the heart of your business.

This section needs to do more than just list your products or services. It should articulate the value they bring to your customers and how they differ from competitors. Here are some tips for creating a solid Products and Services section:

Detail Products or Services

One of the initial steps is to write a detailed product or service description. It should include the features, functions, and any unique aspects that distinguish your business.

Go beyond specifications by focusing on the benefits. For instance, rather than stating that a product is made from high-quality materials, explain how this ensures durability.

This is also the perfect time to highlight any key intellectual property like patented technologies or trademarked processes vital to your products or services.

For example, if your product incorporates a patented technology, briefly describe its significance and how it enhances the product’s functionality or appeal.

Emphasize Customer Benefits

Explain how your products add value to your customers’ lives or businesses. Whether it’s saving time, reducing costs, improving health, or enhancing enjoyment, the benefits should be clear and compelling.

For example, if your service includes personalized customer support, highlight how this offers convenience to customers. If intellectual property contributes to these benefits, such as a unique software algorithm or a proprietary formula that improves efficacy, highlight these, too.

This customer-centric approach helps to make your business more attractive to your target market.

Connect Offers to Market Needs

You need to have a deep understanding of your target market to effectively promote your products. This process includes identifying the pain points, challenges, and desires of your potential customers.

Use insights from your market analysis to illustrate how your products or services, bolstered by your intellectual property, directly address customer needs or market gaps.

For instance, given that your eco-friendly product’s design is patented, explain how this patented innovation meets the growing demand for environmentally conscious products. Then, illustrate how it distinguishes your products in a crowded marketplace.

6. Develop a Marketing and Sales Strategy

Building on the foundation of your product and service offerings, outline how you intend to market and sell them.

This section should detail your approach to attracting and retaining customers through a strategic marketing plan and sales initiative.

Marketing Strategies

Your marketing strategy should serve as a comprehensive business plan that outlines the channels, tools, and tactics you will use to reach your target audience. Here are three factors to consider when developing your marketing strategy:

  • Channels – identify the most effective channels to reach your target market. These range from digital platforms like social media, email, and search engines to traditional media like print, television, and radio. Choose channels based on where your target customers are likely to see your messages and interact with your brand.
  • Tools – discuss the tools that will support your marketing efforts and help you execute, manage, and measure the effectiveness of your campaigns. They include marketing automation software, CRM systems, SEO tools, and analytics platforms.
  • Tactics – outline the specific marketing tactics you plan to employ. They range from content marketing and social media campaigns to paid advertising and direct mail campaigns. Each tactic should have a clear objective, such as building brand awareness or generating leads.

Sales Strategies

While marketing plans focus on generating interest and leads, sales strategies are all about converting those leads into buyers and maintaining excellent customer relationships. It covers these specifics:

  • Customer acquisition – define the process by which you will convert prospects into new customers. It might involve direct sales efforts, online sales funnels, or retail distribution. From initial contact through to closing the sale, ensure each step is set to move the prospect closer to a purchase.
  • Conversion strategies – discuss how you will persuade prospects to make a purchase, for example, with sales promotions, discounts, or free trials. It’s also essential to develop an SOP for how your sales team should handle objections and negotiate deals.
  • Retention strategies – often more cost-effective than acquisition, customer retention outlines how you plan to keep your customers coming back. Strategies might involve loyalty programs, regular follow-ups, and incentives for repeat purchases.

7. Organize Your Team Structure

A well-defined team structure is essential for effective decision-making, efficient operations, and achieving your business objectives. It should clearly articulate who is leading the company, their roles, and how the overall team’s composition supports your strategic goals.

Management Team

Your management team can be a significant factor in your business’s success.

Therefore, detailing the qualifications, experience, and roles of your management team members is crucial in demonstrating to potential investors, partners, and other stakeholders that your business is in capable hands.

  • Qualifications and experience – highlight the relevant backgrounds of your management team members, like previous successes, industry experience, and relevant skills. These details reassure stakeholders that your team possesses the knowledge and expertise to handle potential challenges.
  • Roles and contributions – outline each management team member’s specific responsibilities and how they contribute to the business’s strategic objectives.

Organizational Framework

Beyond the management team, present a clear picture of your company’s broader organizational structure. It includes the various departments, teams, and roles that make up your business and how they interconnect to support its objectives.

  • Organizational chart – a visual representation can be very effective in illustrating the hierarchy and relationships between different roles and departments within your company. It helps stakeholders understand how your team is structured and how information flows through the organization.
  • Supporting business operations – describe how your framework supports efficient business operations. It could also involve detailing each department’s functions and how they work together to achieve the business’s goals.
  • Aligning with objectives – show how your organizational structure supports your business objectives. For example, if rapid innovation is a key objective, highlight how your R&D team is structured to foster creativity and accelerate product development cycles.

8. Plan Logistics and Operations

Logistics and operations in your business plan detail how your company will run daily. This section should outline operational processes for efficient product or service delivery, effective supply chain management, and maintaining high-quality standards.

Day-to-Day Operations

Detailing the daily operations critical to your business’s functionality is a crucial first step. For this, describe the products’ manufacturing process, the procurement strategy for acquiring materials, and the approach for delivering services as applicable to your business model.

  • Production – for product-based businesses, outline the production process, including the stages of production, the equipment and technology used, and the timeline from raw materials to finished product. Discuss any innovative production techniques or efficiencies that give your business a competitive advantage.
  • Supply chain management – describe how you will run your supply chain, including sourcing raw materials and managing inventory. Information on your suppliers, inventory management strategies, and any backup plans to handle supply chain disruptions should also be disclosed.
  • Logistics – explain how you will deliver your products to customers. Include packaging, warehousing, and shipping methods. If you sell services, involve scheduling, location, and delivery mechanisms.

Quality Control Measures

Maintaining high-quality standards is important for customer satisfaction and long-term success. To ensure your products or services meet customer expectations and adhere to industry benchmarks, detail the following:

  • Quality standards – emphasize the exact quality standards that your products or services will maintain. These could encompass internal benchmarks from customer feedback and product testing or external standards set by industry organizations.
  • Quality control processes – regularly test at various production stages and do quality audits. Be sure to discuss how you will address potential quality issues, including corrective actions and continuous improvement processes.
  • Compliance – explain how your business will ensure compliance with relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards and how this will be integrated into your quality control processes.

9. Analyze and Project Finances

Now, let’s move on to addressing the financial health and projections in your business plan. This section is where you demonstrate the fiscal viability of your new business, detailing your current financial status, significant costs you plan to have, and your predicted future performance.

While analyzing, be realistic in your estimates. Clearly outline the assumptions you’ve made in your projections and include best-case, worst-case, and most-likely scenarios to demonstrate your business’s financial outlook.

Besides adding credibility to your projections, this strategy shows that you’ve thoughtfully considered different market and operational conditions.

Current Financial Analysis

Before developing future strategic financial plans, a thorough analysis of your business’s financial situation is necessary. This snapshot should include:

  • Capital structure – outline your business capital structure, covering any business loan and equity financing to provide insights into your strategy and risk level. Explain the debt terms, capital costs, and equity share structure, if relevant.
  • Liquidity – indicate your business’s ability to meet short-term obligations. Include current and quick ratios to demonstrate liquidity levels. This reassurance is vital for stakeholders who need to know that the business can handle cash flow and unexpected expenses effectively.
  • Historical financial performance – summarize past financial performance, covering income statements, balance sheets, a cash flow statement, as well as profit and loss statements. This data is vital for evaluating financial health and trends.

Financial Projections

These are forward-looking statements that estimate your business financials in the future. Financial projections should include:

  • Revenue streams – offer a thorough description of your revenue streams and illustrate how these streams can boost your business’s growth. The description might include detailed forecasts of sales revenue, service fees, licensing income, or any other sources central to your business model.
  • Profit and loss statements – project your income statement typically for the next three to five years. This forecast should include revenues, cost of operating expenses, goods sold, gross margin, and net profit. You should also explain your revenue projections by sharing market growth, pricing strategy, and sales volume.
  • Cash flow statements – show how you expect cash to flow in and out of your business over time to help stakeholders understand how your business plans to manage its liquidity and fund its operations. Essential aspects include operational cash flow, investments in assets, and financing activities.
  • Balance sheets – these data offer a future look at your business’s assets, liabilities, and equity. They aid in predicting the evolution of your financial position with operational and investment activities in mind.

10. Detail Funding Needs and Compile the Appendix

As you finalize your business plan, clearly state your funding needs and gather all supporting documents.

This final section is crucial for potential investors and lenders, as it directly addresses the funding request and financial commitment you’re seeking. It also provides the evidence to back up the claims in your business plan.

Detailing Funding Needs

Be clear about the amount your business requires over a certain period. Then, break it down by how you plan to allocate these funds across your business’s areas, which can be product development, marketing, inventory, equipment, and working capital.

Here are several aspects for further consideration:

  • Intended uses – your funding plan should align with your business objectives, marketing plans, sales strategies, and working capital. Demonstrating a clear linkage between funding and strategic initiatives reassures potential investors of how funding helps drive growth.
  • Potential return on investment (ROI) – investors and lenders want to know your business’s potential ROI. Outline your projected financial performance, such as revenue growth, profitability, and cash flow. Explain how these outcomes will yield returns for investors through profit sharing, equity appreciation, interest payments, or other means.
  • Exit strategy – an exit strategy is vital for venture capital or investors seeking clear ROI. It may involve buyouts, acquisitions, public offerings, or other events providing investor returns.

Compile the Appendix

The appendix serves as the repository for all the supporting documents and detailed information that validate the content of your business plan. Including these documents helps establish credibility and allows readers to understand the data behind your business plan better.

A business plan appendix often covers:

  • Legal documents – attach any relevant legal documents, such as business registration papers, licenses, permits, patents, intellectual property rights, as well as key contracts with customers and business partners.
  • Resumes of key management – include the full resumes of your management team members to showcase their qualifications, experience, and track record of success.
  • Market research – provide the complete market research report that supports your market analysis, including data sources, methodologies, and detailed findings.
  • Product/service information – offer detailed descriptions, specifications, and photos or drawings of your products or services. If applicable, attach information on patents, trademarks, or copyrights.
  • Financial statements and projections – if you have an established business, include full versions of your historical financial statements, along with financial projections. This document should encompass income statements, cash flow statements, and balance sheets.
  • Additional supporting materials – depending on your business, they include technical specifications, scientific research, proof of product efficacy, letters of intent from potential customers, testimonials, or other documents that strengthen your business plan.

Don't Rush to the Finish Line - Proofread Your Plan

Before considering your business plan complete, take the time to thoroughly review it for grammatical errors, typos, and any inconsistencies in data or formatting.

Additionally, have a trusted colleague or mentor check it as well. A well-polished business plan can significantly enhance its effectiveness and the impression it leaves on potential investors, business partners, and stakeholders.

Business Plan Template

To help you structure your business plan, we have prepared a downloadable business plan template. This can give you a better idea of how to create an effective yet lean business plan.


A well-crafted business plan lays a solid foundation for attracting new business partners and stakeholders. It articulates your vision, operational strategy, and financial plan.

Throughout this article, we focused on how to create a business plan using the traditional format. Let’s have a short recap:

  1. Start with an executive summary – as this section provides a concise overview of your entire business plan, make sure it leaves a strong impression.
  2. Write your company description – delve into your company’s foundational aspects, including the business model and structure.
  3. Set your objectives – clearly defined goals set a roadmap for success, guiding your business strategies and operational efforts.
  4. Conduct a market analysis – an in-depth understanding of market dynamics, customer needs, and competitive landscape informs strategic decisions and positions your business for growth.
  5. List your products and services – detail your offers to emphasize value, highlighting how you meet potential customers’ needs and stand out from competitors.
  6. Develop a marketing and sales plan – it helps reach your target audience and convert leads into customers.
  7. Organize your team structure – a well-defined organizational structure ensures clarity in roles and responsibilities, fostering efficiency and effective collaboration.
  8. Plan logistics and operations – streamlining your operational processes ensures your business can deliver products and services efficiently.
  9. Analyze and project finances – this process is vital for assessing your business’s fiscal health and viability, attracting investors, and planning for sustainable growth.
  10. Detail funding needs and compile the appendix – go over your funding requirements and back them with detailed data and documents in the appendix to solidify your business plan.

Now that you’ve learned about how to write a business plan, you’re at a good starting point to secure funding and foster growth. Good luck with your new business!

Further Reading

If you’re building a marketing agency, let’s create a marketing proposal to help streamline your client pitch process.

How to Write a Business Plan FAQ

Making a business plan is a crucial step in ensuring your company’s success and viability. Here, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions on how to write a business plan.

What Are the Three Main Purposes of a Business Plan?

A business plan primarily defines your business to identify key goals and strategies, provides a roadmap for business growth strategies, and communicates the business’s value proposition to potential investors and stakeholders.

What Are the Different Types of Business Plans?

Business plans vary based on their intended use and audience – traditional, lean startup, and operational. Each serves different goals, providing comprehensive documents detailing every aspect of the business, summarizing the key elements of the company, and internally managing the business goals and operations, respectively.

What Are Some Common Mistakes in a Business Plan?

Common pitfalls include lacking clarity or being overly complex, over-optimistic financial projections not supported by realistic market research, and failing to identify potential competitors and market challenges in your formal business plan.

The author

Linda Dwiastuti

Linda is a seasoned Content Writer specialized in website creation. With her passion for the written world and obsession with helping others, her goal is to deliver resourceful content pieces for all skill levels. When she’s not writing, Linda likes to cross stitch and watch films. Follow her on LinkedIn.