Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Business Plan: Next Steps

Created as an exercise in the GIMP class I'm taking.

Last week I blogged about developing a business plan (here) using some of the ideas found in The 7 Step Business Plan For Writers, These seven steps cover the basics of planning - brainstorming goals, identifying themes, grouping and prioritizing, and detailing the specific tasks needed to accomplish your goals. For my own plan, I added two additional steps: checking my progress, and modifying my activities if things aren't working.

Remember: Plan - Do - Check - Act.

I'm not putting this out there because I'm some kind of business expert, or because I'm raking in the big bucks selling books. Quite the opposite, in fact, which is why I feel the need to take steps to regroup and refocus. There are no guarantees, though I'm optimistic that by both applying structure to my writing life and by taking it more seriously, I'll be able to accomplish more.

And I put it all in a blog post so people can learn along with me.

In my last post, I came up with several goals so I could create an example of a business plan. Over the weekend, I took another look at those goals and refined them. The thing to remember when you create goals is they should be within your control. Researching agents to query is within your control. Getting an offer from an agent isn't. Keep it concrete and do-able, and you'll increase your chances for success.

I looked at my new list of goals and came up with three themes. My next steps were to lay things out over the year, so I don't feel the pressure to do everything at once. For example, my project for January is to come up with a weekly schedule template, so that I have a set number of hours dedicated to writing, and I have a general idea of what I want to accomplish on any given day. My hope is that I'll be able to get more done in less time, because I won't be fooling around on Facebook during hours I know I should be writing. (Many of you probably already do this because it's common sense. Apparently I need special help.)

Here's what the time management goal looks like on my business plan:

Action Items
Increase Productivity
Improve time management with a weekly schedule template
1. Track activities for one week.
2. Use data to create a weekly template that takes into account whether or not I’m working.
3. Apply template to organize work.
Use template for three months, then take a week to track activities

The Modification box is empty, but I'll fill it in this spring with my response to what I learn in the evaluation step. While I mostly work night shifts on the weekends, my work schedule can be variable, so coming up with a template might not be realistic. Even so, I think the exercise will be useful in helping me see how I'm really spending my time.

Another example of how I took timing into consideration is this goal from my second theme, Increase Visibility.

Action Items
Increase Visibility
Develop one writing-related class.
1. Brainstorm topics.
2. Talk to Rhay about what makes a good e-class.
3. Generate a list of possible teaching opportunities.
4. Apply for teaching opportunities
After I present a class, track how much fun I had and if I sold any books as a result.

I like to teach, and I've learned a lot in the last five years. Hopefully I'll be able to turn that knowledge around and share it with others. Which is all very worthy, but if I had to deal with this at the same time I'm coming up with a schedule template and blogging and keeping up the (crazy high) word count goal I set myself, I'd implode. So I set this project aside for next summer. If an opportunity slaps me in the face between now and then, I'll take action, but for the most part this is something I'll set aside for now.

The plan I created is pretty comprehensive, but it doesn't cover every possible action I could take to develop myself as a writer. For example, I haven't made enter (x-number) contests a goal. I know contests are a great way of getting your name out, but they're not something I get all excited about. With my plan in mind, the next time someone suggests I enter a contest, I can smile and nod, knowing it's not on my list of goal/action items so I don't have to feel guilty for saying no. Now, if in six months or a year I haven't seen much progress, I can go to my evaluation/modification columns and add enter contests to my bullet points, if I think that'll move me ahead faster.

Bottom line: I've prioritized certain goals that I believe play to my strengths, and by limiting the number of those goals (2-4 for each of my three themes) I'll be able to hone in on these areas with less distraction.

One final thought about the evaluation step...I tried to keep things as discretely measurable as possible. One of my goals is to blog regularly, and the measure for that is to track blog hits. I'll also be looking at whether blogging interferes with my word count goals, which is a little more nebulous, but I want hard data wherever possible. Another goal is to publish two more of my short stories over the next six months, and for those I'll track Amazon sales rank and (if I can figure out how) author rank.

So, here are the bullet points for my writer's business plan:
  • Plan - do - check - act
  • Keep goals within my control
  • Consider timing - I don't have to do it all at once
  • Specific and focused but flexible
  • Measurable outcomes
When I started the post last week, I thought I'd need a few posts to cover everything, but this pretty much sums it up. The next time I blog about my business plan will be in a couple months, to take a look at how it's going - unless something relevant happens between now and then. Meantime, I hope you find something useful here. 


Do you have a business plan or have you thought about developing one? Why or why not?


  1. My plan is a bit fuzzier, but I do have one. I like your ideas.

  2. Thanks M! I'm glad I'm not the only one headed in this direction.