Starting out with a great business plan is especially important for online startups (like blogs, professional sites & eCommerce stores) because knowledge and understanding rule the highly competitive Web based economy.
A great business plan can help you learn how to startup online, while avoiding some of the most common pitfalls that prevent many aspiring entrepreneurs from making sustainable profits.
A business plan helps entrepreneurs understand their business, its value offering and the market. It is also offers evidence of competence and motivation for potential investors.
In reality, the Internet is just like any other type of medium. With a good idea, proper research, an understanding of the niche and target markets, and the skills and determination to drive growth, you can be successful.
So, if you need to understand the challenges posed by online enterprises then our free outline (ideal as an eCommerce business plan) is just what you need to get started.
I recommend you read through every section here on this page before putting pen to paper. When you are ready to get started, download a copy of the plan here:
Remember, it's important to be prepared before you actually begin working - there is a lot of information you will need to research before being able to complete every section. It pays to know beforehand what, where, when and who you will need in order to successfully complete a plan, to the standards required of potential investors.
Even if you aren't trying to find investors, or get a loan from a bank, the act of researching and completing a business plan is a worthwhile exercise.
After completing a proper plan, you will have a much better understanding of what is required to get through launch and become operational, and how to go about it.
Business plan template
SME Pals' template comes in a pretty standard format, and is intended for small or home based online startups. But, what makes this particular plan unique is that it has plenty of links, resources and advice that will help you find the right information quickly and easily.
The remainder of this article is a copy of the download for you to explore before getting started - once you're ready, download the WORD version, and fill it in.
Table of contents
Company description & overview
Products and/or services
Organization & management
Expenses & capitalization
Let's look at each of these in more depth
1. Executive summary
An executive summary is read first by investors and banks, but completed last by the applicant (you).
Think of it as your elevator pitch. Once you have researched and understood every aspect of the idea/startup, it is now time to distil it all down into a professional summary.
Professional, yes. But convey your excitement and enthusiasm too. After all, people invest in other people and they want to know that you have the energy and drive to see it through.
2. Company description & overview
Complete this section with a mission statement, a list of objectives, and an overview of the market and your niche. This is especially important for eCommerce websites because online retailing is a very competitive industry, and it is hard to compete directly with the likes of Amazon.
Include motivation as to why your company is going to succeed in this market. What skills and insight do you have that sets you apart? Bloggers, for example, might want to talk about published articles or books, or noteworthy things about themselves that help to bring a unique perspective.
3. Products & services
The Internet is unusual in the sense that your product may also be your marketing. Bloggers deal in content, and content is also the way they market their blog and drive Web traffic and revenue. Unless you are starting an online shopping site, or offering traditional services via a website, then the product you are selling is information, in the form of content.
If you do intend selling physical or digital products, then describe what gives your products an advantage in the market - arguably one of the most important aspects of any eCommerce business plan.
4. Marketing plan
Online marketing is a whole new ballgame, and there is a lot of research required in order to succeed in this arena.
Research aside, the fundamental basis of any good Internet marketing strategy is high quality content. Without great content it will be difficult or expensive to generate a flow of highly targeted, high converting Web traffic.
Your plan will need to include a content publishing strategy based on SEO and market research, as well as in-depth research into competitors, and the level of competition in your niche.
Operations for online startups are generally simpler than traditional businesses. The exception is eCommerce, which requires an understanding of the entire supply chain from manufacture and storage, to distribution, and so on.
Otherwise, focus on what personnel, skills, equipment and services are needed in order to work efficiently and grow quickly.
Another area where Internet companies have an advantage over traditional enterprises is in startup costs, which can be very low indeed. Depending on the type of Web platform required, the cost of creating content, marketing & advertising, it is possible to get away with relative low startup and operating costs.
Be sure to think carefully about how much everything will cost (startup costs have a way of being a lot more than people plan for), what funds are being brought in, who is providing them, and what conditions are attached.
Check out some of our ideas to save on costs (bootstrap):
Include a detailed one year profit and loss projection. This part is often pretty frustrating because it is often a thumb-suck - even if you have done your homework. The main thing to know is whether it is possible to operate long enough to start generating a stable stream of income and become profitable.
Also important are:
Cash flow analysis
Opening day balance
MoneyWeek did a pretty good job of explaining what a cash flow statement is. Definitely worth a watch:
Starting an online venture is such a diverse and dynamic challenge that you'll probably end up looking for all sorts of weird and wonderful bits of information, at one point or another.
The purpose of this template is really to help owners get started. If the information in this plan is not sufficient to meet your needs, there are excellent, professional templates and software packages available (see below).
Here's a list of articles and resources that should help get you going:
What did you think of our plan? Did it help you to discover important and valuable information about your operation? What else would you like to see covered in this template? Share your startup tips and advice in the comments.
Found This Useful?
Share it on your own site using this quick link (and tell us about it in the comments so we can read your article too).
<a href="http://smepals.com/business-plan/free-business-plan-template">Free business plan for online startups</a>
Starting a business can be a daunting task - often made all the more difficult by a small advertising/marketing budget and an insufficient network of contacts to help get things off the ground.
It's a good thing then that there is always one fantastic, free strategy to generate some high-quality buzz and exposure for your startup that will not only put your idea in front of plenty of the "right" people, but also, potentially, lead to some much-needed funds, influential connections, and media coverage.
I'm talking about university business competitions.
The Web is arguably the best medium from which to earn a passive income because content, software and online services can persistently drive traffic and revenue for years at a time.
In other words - build once; earn indefinitely.
The downside is that because there is this great potential to make money, a lot of people are trying it. And, with a lot of people, comes a lot of competition that makes starting out tricky. One thing's for sure; if you're not prepared to put in work upfront, forget about earning a passive income online.
It’s hard work trying to find the time to develop a new business idea, create a business plan, build a website, create content, marketing, promotions, networking, investments, and everything else that has to get done.
Being an entrepreneur is one of the best vocations in the world because it encourages you to view everything as an opportunity for innovation. And, once you have an idea, you have to challenge it. Break it down. Make it better. Throw it away. Start again. Fail. Fail. Fail. Until you succeed.
Whatever you can imagine, you can do. Provided you have the drive and determination to see it through.
Coming up with innovative new ideas can be a frustrating ordeal unless you know where to look for inspiration. The good news is that there are people making a lot of money doing things you may not have dreamed of.
So, if you are feeling bold and adventurous I've got a list of killer business ideas that are working for people right now. Who knows, perhaps one of them is perfect for you.
I run a small eCommerce business and it's proving extremely hard to get any visitors to the site. Of the few that...
An SME (Small & Medium Enterprise), sometimes called an SMB (Small & Medium Business), is any business under a certain size. With so many differing definitions, we focus on the people responsible. Smart Modern Entrepreneurs.