I won’t lie…the topic of “business development” has always had me scratching my head. Even with a degree in business, the picture still isn’t crystal clear for me. Perhaps it’s because the topic is so subjective. People use the term “business development” to cover a broad range of activities and processes. When someone mentions business development, I always feel the need to clarify exactly what they mean by it. So don’t feel intimidated if the idea of business development seems kind of fuzzy to you.
As I said early on, much of what you put in the various sections of your plan will overlap with other sections. The “business development” section is no different. Here you’ll list specifics about what it is your business is going to sell, how you’re going to create it, any outside help you might need, and how things are all going to flow once the clients start rolling in.
Entrepreneur.com, calls this the “Design and Development” section of your business plan. If we were a toy maker, this part of our plan would cover how we plan to design specific toys, the budget we’d need, who we would hire (or already have hired) and things of that nature. It would also cover budgets for development of the product itself and the necessary infrastructure within your business to bring the product to market. According to Entrepreneur.com, there are three parts to business development:
For a freelance writer, the business development section of your business plan is rather simple. Answer these questions: What products will you offer? How will those be delivered? What will you charge? Who will you need to hire? Before you answer that last one with “I don’t need to hire anyone – I’m doing all this myself,” there are some things to think about.
First Stop…Whatcha Gonna Do?
Stop for a minute and think about what you plan to do as a freelance writer. If you’re going to work with private clients, you’ll need a website. If you want to showcase your writing for editors/agents/publishers, you’ll need an online portfolio. If you’re trying to build a platform, you’ll need to establish an entire web presence. How good are you with html, SEO, and writing marketing copy? What about social media? Do you need help with any of those things? Are there things you need to learn (like CSS or how to use Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest?)
All of these elements should go into your business development section. Start with what you have or what you want to offer – this is the product design & development stage. Say, for example, you want to work with private clients. You want to write their marketing copy, business white papers, press releases, newsletter articles, blog posts, and similar stuff. (That’s what I do for private clients, by the way.) Make a list of every type of writing you plan to offer or market you plan to serve. This is your product offering list. Your product development blurb should outline each distinctly different type of writing you plan to offer and what it will cost.
That’s Just the Beginning…
Imagine all the steps from Suzie Q figuring out she needs to hire a writer, to you depositing her money in your bank account. Imagining all these steps will lead you through the product development, marketing development and organizational development.
First, Suzie has to find you. This is the marketing development stage. “Suzie” is your ideal client, so before you can work towards helping her find you, you have to figure out who Suzie IS, in your eyes. That way, when Suzie does find you (or you find her) she “hears” the message that you’re the perfect writer for her.
We’ll talk a lot more about ideal clients/target markets and how to make yourself findable to those people later. For the time being, we’ll assume that work’s been done and Suzie, your ideal client, is out there looking for you. For Suzie to find & choose you, you’ll need some pretty basic stuff – like a website, some of your own marketing collateral (business cards, brochures, or whatever, depending on how you plan to market yourself), probably a social media presence, and samples of previously published works. Make a list. (You’ll need that list for both your business development section AND your marketing strategies section.)
Now go back and look at your list. Are you going to need to hire someone to build a website for you? Do you need to take a class on html/CSS or whatever? If so, outline the who’s, what’s, where’s and whatnots – don’t forget to figure out the costs for these things. Your list of needs, the cost to create them, and the timeline for creating them are all part of your marketing development. Once you’re done here, it’s time to move on to organizational development.
Behind the Scenes
By now, you should have a rough idea about your product and marketing development portions. But how will you go from Suzie finding you and hiring you, to delivering the goods & collecting your pay? This is the organizational development part of your business development section. Here you need to answer some basic questions about how things will work behind the scenes.
There’s a lot of specifics to iron out for your business development section. You’ll find yourself going from “oh, I want to write blog posts for private clients” to “I’m going to offer 500 word articles for .10 per word, using up to 3 keyword phrases at 1% density. I’ll need 48 hours to write a particular piece and another 48 hours for revisions. The clock starts ticking as soon as the client returns my info sheet with pertinent information. I’ll give them 3 business days after receipt of the first draft to request a revision.” It helps to envision the whole process so you can work out the details before you get started.
Your homework for tonight:
Just remember – none of this is written in stone. You may develop parts of your business development section, only to find they don’t work well in the real world. You’ll have to go back and revise many, many times over the course of your writing career. Your business plan is the rough draft of your writing life, and we all know, first drafts are never perfect. Think things through to the best of your ability and get everything down on paper, just like you would an article or chapter rough draft. You can always go back and edit later.