Do Writers Really Need A Business Plan?
God may speak to some directly, but everyone else requires a plan
One indestructible myth in the world of writing is that writers simply need to write from the soul, and the words will speak for themselves. Like old-Testament prophets repeating the words of God himself, writers are expected to be pure creatives. Successful writers are magically born with artistic genius.
That’s all nonsense.
Writing is a craft. One is not born to write. No baby appears from the womb able to read and write. Like any craft, writing is something that is learned through study and practice. The most successful writers didn’t reach the pinnacle of their careers because of their art; instead, they did so because they carefully planned their trajectory.
You absolutely need a writer business plan if you want to enjoy a successful writing career.
Wait, Is This a Career or a Business?
Don’t businesses require business plans? Careers just sort of…happen, right?
For starters, careers don’t happen. Jobs happen. Careers are orchestrated and worked on over time. Lawyers spend years at school, followed by more years of mentorship. Salespeople attend workshops and conferences, honing their skills over time.
Businesses are much the same. Whether its a car manufacturer or an Etsy sweater-knitting shop, both require careful planning, setup, and marketing. Business and careers require plans. Making a living from writing is no different.
So is writing a business?
Professional writing is a business. Your goal is to produce something in exchange for money. You don’t have an employer who will pay you for your time. Instead, you get paid for what you produce, just like a factory or a blacksmith.
Or is writing a career?
Writing is a funny thing. It is also a career. After all, you have honed your skills and are passionate about what you do. It’s how you pay your bills and how you work. Writing is a business and a career.
That’s not too strange though. Think of the small boutique clothing store owner. Her store is also her career. The mechanic may own a garage, but he’s also a mechanic. You are a writer, who owns a writing business.
The Writer’s Business Plan
World-class writers are usually businesspeople first. They sat down, plotted out their brand, their career trajectory, their finances, and their marketing. They plan every single angle of their book before they start writing, but that’s a discussion for another time. Still, it goes to show how the successful writer leaves as little to chance as possible. That is the secret to their success.
This may leave you wondering what a writer’s business plan looks like. Thankfully it’s actually rather simple. As a writer, you’re not looking for venture capital or A/B split marketing. That means you can leave out enormous chunks of the typical business plan. I’ve always said that you need to keep your business plan simple. There are some basic foundations to remember when creating a writer’s business plan.
KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Don’t worry about getting technical in your writer business plan. You are the only person who is ever going to read it. You’re not trying to impress anyone. What you’re trying to do is roadmap your way to success.
Start with a niche
Should you have a niche? Yes, absolutely. You need one niche that you are known for. If you have to have two niches, make sure they overlap somewhere. Ignore the advice that says beginning writers can be generalists, because that’s not how the industry works. Get known for something first, and then branch off from there.
What is your niche?
- What do you love writing about when you sit down at the keyboard?
- What are you extremely knowledgeable about?
When you figure out where those two questions overlap, you’ve figured out your niche.
Your products and services
As a business, you need to offer something you can sell. In our writer’s world, that’s written content. But what kind of written content? There’s so much variety out there and so many ways to make money. It’s important to know what you’re going to sell.
If you’re a freelance copywriter, then you may want to consider blog posts, site content, sales copy, marketing emails, etc.
A fiction writer would sell things like short stories and novels, while a non-fiction writer would aim for magazine articles, trade magazines, and books.
When it comes to content offerings, the sky is the limit. Just make sure they all fit within your niche. After all, a mommy blogger will have a difficult time selling a science fiction book about space battles.
Once you’ve figured out your niche, you need to figure out your brand. Every writer needs a brand. Your writer’s business plan should incorporate a few sections to define who you are.
Catch your voice
How do you write? Every writer is known for the way they write, and no two writers are really alike. It can be extremely difficult to find your voice at first.
One way to help find your writing voice is to think about how you talk. Modern writing is extremely conversational when compared to the flowery sophistication of, say, the 19th Century, so if you can capture on paper the way you talk, you’ve found your voice.
Another way to find your voice is to write. When you read it back to yourself, does it make you cringe? If so, that may not be the right voice for you.
Who is your audience? Knowing your readers is your key to success, and also key to your brand. If you’re a copywriter for medical blogs, then your audience is most likely highly technical adults with graduate degrees. If you’re a Young Adult author, then your audience is Gen Y. The first writer will have great success with self-promotion on LinkedIn, while the latter should stick to TikTok.
How do you want your readers to see you? Are you a fun-loving party girl? A serious thinker? A happy parent? A tech nerd?
Knowing how to market yourself is a major part of your writer’s brand. This doesn’t always have to align with how you are as a person. It should, however, match what your audience expects of you. After all, you’re running a business here.
Jot down your image, including your public writer’s style.
Your Roadmap to Success
Once you’ve figured out your brand, you can start working on how to get from point A to point Z. You may have already started writing, in which case you could be at point C or G. If you’re just starting out on your writing journey, you’re definitely at the very beginning of our metaphorical alphabet. No matter where you are now, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to get to the top of your career.
One year plan
What will you write now? Think in terms of the next year. If you want to write for clients, then how many? This will help you determine how much marketing you should do. Do you want 10 repeat blog clients? Get out there and start pushing to get 10 clients. Don’t stop until you have them.
Maybe you want to make money by self-publishing. In that case, how many books will you create for Kindle this year? You need to plot a timeline for each. Give yourself hard deadlines and hit the keyboard. Don’t forget you need time to edit, format, create cover design, and market each book.
Three year plan
Next, what’s going to happen in three years? Maybe your goal is to become a published author. In that case, you need to know build up an email list and a brand now, otherwise publishers aren’t going to notice you. Get writing your book and spend the next three years building a following of devoted fans.
If you’re running a copywriting business, then what do you want it to look like in three years? How much money do you want to be making? Some people start to convert their freelancing copywriting business into a full-blown agency at this point. Do you want to get an office and hire some help?
Knowing where you plan to be in three years is essential to roadmapping your writing career.
Your end goal
In the end, it’s the legacy we leave that matters. As a writer, what do you hope to have achieved when you retire? Maybe you’ll leave a business for your children to take over. Or perhaps you’ll be a world-reknown author with dozens of books in hundreds of libraries.
Or you can keep it simple. For example, you can stay a freelance writer with a few dozen clients all your career, enjoying your life, writing on the beach on holidays, and retire happy and relaxed.
The point is that this is your life, and your career. Your writer’s business plan needs to reflect that.
What’s Best For You?
At a simple level, a writer’s business plan is really a life plan. You don’t need to worry too much about marketing plans or finances. Those things change and evolve with your changing life. What your plan needs to do is encapsulate who you are as a writer, who your readers are, and where you plan on going in your career.
Remember that you can alter your plan anytime. Things change. Stuff happens. Your writer’s business plan needs to remain flexible. Make your plan for what’s best for you. And above all, keep it simple, stupid!