14 Point Freelance Business Plan Template for Creating Your Road to Success

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freelance business plan

Are you always busy doing stuff because…well, because you just know it needs to be done? If yes, then pause for just a moment and think about where your business needs to go and what you must do to take it there. That could possibly be one of the best investments you make in your own success. Try a new approach — instead of plans in your head, put your freelance business plan in writing and act on it.

As a freelancer, you’re a one-person organization — from branding to sales to delivery to finance — the buck stops at you.

You probably feel like you know exactly what you need to do — find more clients, deliver high-quality work within deadlines, send invoices and recover payments. Although you may not realize it, you do need a business plan. A well thought out and structured business plan adds tremendous value. It helps to craft your strategy and tactical approach, defines tasks and budgets that you can track, and increases your chances of success.

The 14 Point Freelance Business Plan Template

Let’s dive right in, then we’ll cover some of the basics after. My business plan template for you consists of 14 questions.

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Take some time off work when you are working on the business plan for the first time, and try not to take calls until it’s done. You could review your plan every week and this will only take a few minutes. You could also do a monthly review when you enter your revenue and expense figures of the month, but this should not take too long either.

Let’s take a look at the freelance business plan steps below and the guidelines for answering the 14 questions. Download a copy of the template here and follow along as you fill yours in.

1. Company name

We start with the company name – pretty straightforward.

2. Purpose

Question 2 is about your purpose, or why you started your company. It may seem that every business starts with profit as a motive, but when you really think about your own motivation you will find a purpose above profit. Did you start your brand design business because you are passionate about helping entrepreneurs create a distinct identity? Or did you start a video content studio to help more brands get the power of video easily?

3. Target Market

We now come to your target market. If you are in the B2B market then you should define the profile of organizations that you target as well as the specific roles within those organizations who make decisions to purchase from you. If you have done a user persona exercise, you could describe the personas here. If you’re not sure about who your target audience is, The Magic of Choosing a Target Audience will be helpful here.

4. Location

The fourth point refers to the geographical areas where you operate.

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5. Products/Services

Next we come to a description of your products or services. Do you work on a project basis – with the scope defined by the client? Or do you have any standard products or packages? What is included in your offer? For example, do you offer freelance video creation as a service, and price depending on the scope of each project? Or have you created some standard packages, such as $350 for a 30 second video, with a 200 word script and incorporating 2 rounds of customer reviews?

6. Competitors

The sixth question is about your competitors. You should research before you answer this question because competitors are not always those who provide similar products or services, rather they are those who help users to solve the same problem. This means that your competitors could be from completely different product categories. You will find these insights by speaking to current and potential users.

7. Differentiation

Question 7 is about your differentiation. If you have not articulated this before, then it’s an excellent outcome of working on your business plan. As you clearly write your differentiation, you will be able to communicate it much more strongly during sales pitches or in your marketing material.

8. Problems

Now we come to the problems that you solve for your users. What were they doing before they started using your products or services? This knowledge helps you to find more users with similar challenges. What’s keeping them up at night? They may not say that it’s graphic design or creative needs, and you need to understand how your work helps them. My course is helpful here.

9. Benefits

Question 9 is about the benefits that your product or services deliver. It is extremely useful to articulate this and lends clarity to sales and marketing communications.

10. Marketing

Next we come to Marketing. How does your target audience get to know you? Are you doing anything to reach out to potential customers? You can mention meetups, events, social media, advertising, email campaigns, SEO, or anything else that’s working for you, here.

11. Goals

The next question is about your business goals for the next 6 months. I have suggested 3 goals but you can make a longer list if you want. One of your goals could be related to the new business that you want to generate. You may also have the goal of adding a revenue stream. Goals could be related to expansion, for example, launching in new geographies or adding new products. You may have sales or marketing goals such as creating a branding package, or a product to sell online. You may also have operational goals such as implementing a project management tool or better bookkeeping.

12. Milestones

In point 12, list the weekly milestones that you must complete in order to achieve your goals. You should review this every week, and refine as needed.

13. Targets

Question 13 is to define your monthly revenue targets. I have said 3 months, but you can set targets for a longer-term if you want. This is a good time to consider, are you charging enough to reach your goals? If you charge $1,000 for a logo, how many logos do you need to do to meet your revenue goal?

14. Expenses

Question 14 asks you to put down your budget for expenses. This helps you to be more conscious of how you are spending, and when you think about revenue targets and expenses together, you can manage your profitability better. It’s all about profitability. If your expenses are higher than your sales, you’ve got a problem!

freelance business plan template

What Is a Freelance Business Plan?

Let’s back track for a quick minute. A business plan is a document that lists your business objectives, targets, milestones, timelines, and budgets. Think of it as a roadmap that provides direction to your efforts, shows you the landmarks along your route and helps you avoid roadblocks.

Every business needs a business plan but most freelancers never get around to creating one. I have worked with many, many creative freelancers, and I know that some of them are aware of what a business plan is, but believe that only large businesses need it, while others are just not fully aware of the advantages of having one.

A freelance business plan is created with the specific requirements of freelancers in mind. I strongly believe that the template of the plan should be simple and should not consume too much of your time when you need to create, update or modify it.

Business plans of shorter timeframes say 3 to 6 months, are usually most suitable for freelancers. The work environment for most freelancers is just too dynamic to be able to plan ahead for the next few years.

I’ll share my preferred template for a freelance business plan here, and take you through the steps. But first, let’s see who needs a freelance business plan and what are the benefits of creating one.

Who Needs a Freelance Business Plan

Is a business plan essential for all freelancers? Maybe not, so take a look at the list below and decide whether you need one.

You will benefit from having a business plan if:

1. Freelancing is your main source of income

A plan may not be important for someone who has a job or another primary source of income and is freelancing as a side gig. But if you depend mainly on your freelance business, then the business plan should be a high priority for you.

2. You want to grow your business

If you have the ambition to grow your business, possibly planning to create more bandwidth when you get busy or build a team, then a business plan will help you to achieve that growth.

3. You plan to seek external advice or funding

If you are considering discussing your business with potential mentors, investors or consultants, a business plan is a good starting point.

Benefits of a Freelance Business Plan

The time and effort that you invest in creating your business plan will yield a variety of benefits.

Clearer direction and focus

The process of listing your goals and the steps that you must take in order to achieve them brings tremendous clarity and a sharper focus to your efforts. You will consciously pursue business relevant to your goals rather than respond to every opportunity that comes your way.

Prioritize better

If your working days are a blur of meetings, deliveries, and firefighting, chances are that you don’t have the time to do tasks that are important rather than urgent. Once you list these tasks down as weekly milestones that must be achieved for your goals to be realized, you are much more likely to make time for them. Maybe you need to attend networking events in your vicinity in order to attract talent, or maybe you need to spend time creating marketing collateral. Putting these tasks down in the plan makes it much more likely that they will get done.

Track your financial performance

Your business plan helps you track whether you are achieving your revenue targets and keeping expenses within control, or in other words, manage your profitability.

Builds the confidence of external stakeholders

When you need to discuss your business with investors, mentors or other external stakeholders, the business plan will inspire confidence in them and show them that you have thought things through.

Now, go make yours!

Although my template is a little longer than some others, I have seen that it works really well for freelancers. It takes some time when you do it for the first time, then regular reviews and updates are pretty quick. I’m confident that you will find this time well worth it, for the direction, focus, and clarity that you gain from your freelance business plan.

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  1. After 30 years of freelancing, I believe these tips are on-target. Since freelancing usually deals with creative services and products, there is the potential for many variables, creating situations requiring counterintuitive management. In defense of this savvy article, I would like to make the following comments:
    #1. Liability is usually not a concern, especially if your understanding with the client is sound #13.
    #2. If you are people first and business second, most will write the checks to you. It doesn’t matter how they are processed at the bank if you have your recordkeeping set up right at home. Of course, financial instruments are being reinvented with technology.
    #3. An accountant is different from a bookkeeper. The difference is determined by the volume and complexity of the “business” you are conducting. Most freelancers should learn to do their own bookkeeping first and then hand it off to a bookkeeper if things really pick up. At the end of the year that bookkeeping can be handed off to a tax preparer (who may or may not be an accountant for higher end businesses.)
    #4. Educate yourself on copyrights, business documents and anything else related to your business. Once established, there really isn’t much legal trouble a one person, sole proprietorship can get into.
    #5. Agree with this. It can be as simple as registering for a DBA. Again, if you are providing services, it is different from running a business with inventory, employees, office/manufacturing buildings etc.
    #6 I think he means, do not depend on a flashy logo to generate your reputation. The clients are interested in the product/service you provide for them. Most designers will not be able to resist creating one for themselves though; might as well have one to plug into documents and packaging if you feel like it.
    #7. A business plan is usually constructed to present to a bank to ask for loans. This is not what you want. You want a “services” plan including a place to put ideas for marketing and financial strategies; paragraphs to use for press releases, gallery brochures or articles etc. All this will be creative and not in the same spirit as a business seeking capital support. This is more for yourself.
    #8. Plug this into your “business plan” section on finances. This won’t necessarily list potential ways of generating revenue, but also ways you have been able to generate revenue. This will not be used to ask for funding from a bank, but to help you remember where you can find clients and cash. Don’t forget to count all forms of resources including bartering, skimping, paring down etc. (#9)
    #10 An affordable accountant is you, a bookkeeper if necessary, and a tax preparer. Think shoestring business to support doing what you love (and are strong at.)

    #11. Google your name. If thousands of people with the same name come up, you better be pretty good at SEO. You’re and artist, you can afford a unique name.
    #12. Here is where you may want to spend some money on a pro. It is sometimes awkward to sell yourself.
    #13. Start with a gentleman’s agreement approach, but know your bottom line financially. Structure your interactions to be a simple as possible. No one is going to deal with “small print” these days. Hey, you’re a designer, making things simple is what you’re hired to do.
    #14. Your strengths are usually your labors of love.
    #15/16/17 I disagree with these: when selling anything start first with what the market is likely to bear; then figure out how you can supply it at a lower cost, thereby realizing a profit. Be a professional, and know how to whip stuff off. Have an inventory of ideas you can use in a flash, keeping your time and aggravation to a minimum (you may have to keep a day job along with this.)
    Of course the nice thing about a freelance business is that you can do the business part creatively as well.

  2. Warning, warning, warning.
    To those who didn’t catch the mistakes. You must do the following to be a reputable selfsustaining business.

    1. Separate your personal & business I.D. & money.

    2. Business license.

    3. Know your zoning, you may be able to start from your home.

    4. You ARE the professional, do your own PROFESSIONAL grade business I.D. (Logo, card, letterhead, envelope, possible packaging look, Obviously only Pantone colors)

    5. Yes do a business plan. I did 20 years in the U.S. Navy & those that fail to plan plan to fail. Make your roadmap & monitor the journey with updates.

    6. I’m spoiled, as my wife is capable of doing my finances, but if you don’t know someone it’s worth the cost.

    7. If you are capable of going Gov’t contractor, like me, the there are other concerns to know. If invited, I can write about that.

    It seems the person that wrote the article we are responding to was either, lucky & didn’t run into the needs, was intentionally attempting to thin the herd & get rif of competition on technicalities, or by the looks of the article was NOT that smart & truly believed the BAD gouge that was being put out.

    Charles R. Williamson Jr.
    EW1(SW/MTS) USN(Ret.)
    AF&AM (Warwick Lodge #336)

    [email protected]

  3. Thanks for ur post….I am freelancer designer in kuwait, i don’t need license right?

  4. I have to agree with some of the comments made here……some of the points….mmmm…well, lets just say they don’t apply for everyone. Point 1-7 only apply for certain business. For example, if you are a freelance designer, your logo design is very important because it shows what you can do. So, if you have a boring normal logo…guess what? How can a client count on you to create something good for them?

    Anyway, the point is….there are some great tips in this article, its up to us to take the ones that apply to us.

  5. Um. What? Some of these later ideas are valid, but most of the first ones go against everything I believe you should do to set yourself up to win.

    I’ve got a series of articles about starting your own business that disagree with many of your points here: http://aptdesignonline.com/young-business-part-1

    These seem like ideas for someone who wants to do freelancing on the side and not ever grow or make a full living off of it. Which, it looks like the author is doing here – writing a few design articles while selling print cartridges.

    1. @Brad,
      Point well taken. I agree with you entirely. The filtering process was a little flawed in this instance and we’re working to make sure an article of this caliber never slips through the cracks again.

      1. @Preston D Lee, I would really love to see you write a re-do of this advice fromyour perspective taking into account this article. I would be interested to hear the advice someone who has been immensely successful in the design industry has to offer. I think since sometimes it is hard to balance being an artist and also a business owner and advice that speaks to both is always great.

  6. As a graphic design, #6 makes me sad. 🙁

    But seriously, a logo is a large part of #12: Marketing and Branding. Can you do without? Sure. But a consistent and clean, professional looking logo communicates a level of competence and implied superiority that is otherwise exhausting to convey. But this is butcher here trying to sell you a steak, so you can take my opinion with a grain of salt.

    #2 is pretty timely. I had just got my business license (the #5 thing you say not to do but in Ontario to get a “Master Business License” for a Sole Proprietorship online costs $60 and takes less than 10 minutes), and I was unsure whether I should open a separate bank account for my business but I think I probably won’t. If anything I might just add a savings account to my current chequing account and just use that to separate my monies. The one thing I’m unsure about is now that I have a business license, can I show that to my bank and cash cheques made out to my business. I’ve had issues in the past where I couldn’t cash a cheque because it was to a business (my business, “Ulrich Design”) that didn’t actually exist. Can you spread any light on this?

    Great article. I’ve bookmarked it and plan to come back from time to time. Thanks! 🙂

  7. I have to agree with the above comments. It seems that most of your points are backwards or conflict with each other.

  8. Hi there, thanks for taking a look at the article.

    Nomeni-I apologise if my points were unclear! I guess I was a bit too vague, but what I meant is that it’s wise to not have an overly expensive accountant helping you out, and you could easily find cheaper services elsewhere. An accountant CAN be valuable however, so it’s always something to consider as their expertise really can come in handy.

  9. It would be nice if you really drove the point harder that your recommendations are for FREELANCE work. Because frankly, just about everything you’ve written is backwards. You’ll probably receive a 1099 and their are limits on the revenue before tax is due. Even freelancers have tax obligations and maintaining accurate records essential. And, if you had consulted a lawyer and CPA you would have learned the benefits of protecting your personal assets from the business by incorporating your business.

    1. @Joann Sondy,

      Great points! I agree some of his advice from a financial prospective is irrational and unwise.

  10. That are some pretty good tips, but I don’t understand this
    3. Do not get an accountant
    and on point 10 says.
    10 Get an accountant.
    -_- so what is it?

    1. @Nomeni, He says don’t get an expensive accountant. If you are pulling in any type of legitimate revenue you should have a Tax accountant at the very least! I totally disagree with not getting a business checking account, its not safe or smart to not have one. Your business account could be as simple as a personal free checking account…its smart to keep it separate for many reasons. Also if you are doing work with potential liability issues an LLC is a really REALLY smart idea. Unless you don’t care about your credit.

      I’d say that most of his advice is good but the financial advice is questionable… This isn’t uncommon for artistic types because Accounting and Art rarely get along well. Finally if any contract is substantial you should talk to a lawyer to make you are covered. I have a line in my head currently for contracts I would consider large enough to clear through lawyers. This is in spite of the fact that I am doing almost 100% bartering of services right now.

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