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  The 10 Components of a Writer's Business Plan
By Beth Mende Conny

Writing is a business, like any other. You may not have a storefront or factory, but you produce a product, be it a book, a screenplay, or series of articles. It's critical then to have a business plan to help you achieve success.

1. Identify your product.
What do you intend to produce? A book, article, series of promotional pamphlets? A service by which you enrich, encourage, inform others through the written word? Be as specific in your description as you can. And while you're at it, give your product-to-be a working title.

2. Identify your customers.
Who exactly are they? Men, women, children? Doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs? Baby boomers, working women, recovering alcoholics? Where and how do they live? How old are they? What's their educational or financial level? Where do they stand politically, spiritually? What do they most need and want in their lives—and how can you, through your written product, deliver it?

3. Develop a mission statement.
All businesses have one, and so should you. In other words, pinpoint what you are trying to achieve—and why. After all, it's not enough to bring a product to market; it also has to serve a purpose.

4. Identify what you have in start-up capital.
What do you bring to the table as you launch your venture? Some items will be tangible (e.g., a computer, work space, financial reserve). Others will be intangible but critical nonetheless (e.g., key skills, and personal and professional experiences, etc.).

5. Identify what you do not yet have.
Now that you know what start-up capital you have on hand, take a moment to pinpoint what you still need. Again, these things can be tangible or intangible. For example, you might need a workable writing space, a solid enough knowledge of your subject area, a ghostwriter, etc. Next, brainstorm ways to obtain each item you have listed.

6. Determine how much money you will need.
Every writing project requires some kind of expenditure, be it for file folders, travel, time off from work, etc. List your expenses and realistically ask yourself if you can afford to undertake your venture. If not, determine what you can do to cut a few corners, create a reserve, or "beg, borrow, or steal."

7. Know how much time you'll need—and where to find it.
All businesses take time to establish. Writing businesses are no exception. What is the minimum amount of time your project requires on a daily or weekly basis to keep it going? Multiply this out over the course of several weeks, months, or, if need be, years. Brainstorm ways to match and create additional pockets of time to keep your venture on track.

8. Create a board of advisors.
All businesses need a core group of advisors (attorneys, CPAs, and the like) if they are to grow and prosper - and so do you. Your core group will have a different make-up, obviously; still, these are the folks you'll turn to for advice and encouragement. They don't all have to be writers, by the way. They should, however, support you in personal and professional ways, and hold you to a higher standard.

9. Develop a contingency plan.
Successful business people put together business plans that prepare their companies for success - and setbacks. For writers, these setbacks include rejections, creative blocks, the sudden death of a computer, etc. To keep on track, anticipate what you'll need to do should you find yourself up against a sticky challenge.

10. Shift gears when necessary.
While it's important to follow a plan, you may, at times, have to divert. It might be that your "product" isn't turning out as planned, or that it won't deliver what you and your customers need. Holding on to your plan longer than you should wastes time and energy. There are simply too many other writing projects awaiting your attention.

2001 Beth Mende Conny

Beth Mende Conny is the founder and co-president of WriteDirections.com. She has published more than three dozen books and collections, and works with individuals and businesses to jump-start their creative projects. She can be contacted at Beth@WriteDirections.com.

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