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  • Best Utah car insurance for having few customer complaints: American Family
  • Additional child tax credit
  • Submit recertification information every year
  • Dividend tax rate 2023
  • Schedule A tips and tricks for itemizing
  • Quick tips on avoiding Reg D related fees
  • Clothes, vintage and crafts
  • How much car insurance you need
  • Revisit your plan
  • What isn’t covered by personal property insurance?
  • Inflight entertainment
  • Your 401(k) lets you move your after-tax money
  • Alaska Airlines partner award chart
  • United℠ Explorer Card
  • Other hardship loan options
  • What is a good DTI ratio?
  • 4. Set up your LLC bank account
  • How do I get a refund from American Airlines?
  • How long does it take to make money with DoorDash?
  • Is the energy efficient home improvement credit refundable?
  • What is American Airlines Main Plus?
  • When should you take a first-time home buyer education course?
  • 7. Think about the future
  • Lower your bills
  • Pre-tax vs. Roth 401(k)
  • Where's my state tax refund? Track your state refund status
  • Don’t have to file a tax return? There’s a big reason you might want to do it anyway
  • Best insurance company for affordability: NJM
  • Money market mutual funds vs. money market accounts
  • How to safely make and receive P2P payments
  • 5. Etihad Guest for flights to Casablanca or Brussels
  • How e-closings benefit mortgage borrowers
  • Know which flights qualify for cash refunds
  • Who uses Shopify?
  • Get control of your personal finances
  • Can I use a personal loan for existing student loans?
  • 4. Delay impacts some state financial aid forms
  • Estimating your car payment
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • What if a seller lies on the disclosure statement?
  • The cost of AD&D insurance
  • What do closing costs include?

5. Do your market research

  • How the qualified business income deduction works
  • Additional costs for international wires
  • Gemini Credit Card
  • PE ratio example calculator
  • How to find the 2024 W-4
  • Tips to spend like a pro
  • 5. Get a work-study job
  • Cheapest car insurance after a speeding ticket: State Farm
  • How to calculate your credit
  • How does cryptocurrency work?
  • Compare the best savings and money market accounts
  • Best life insurance company for applicants with HIV: Guardian
  • How compound interest works
  • What is a W-9 form used for?
  • Disadvantages of irrevocable trusts
  • What is your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI)?
  • What is California's standard deduction?
  • Watch out for scams
  • Additional standard deduction
  • Consumer complaints
  • How can you make more money with DoorDash?
  • How much does Point.me cost?
  • If you’re looking to rebook and save with Delta
  • Dividend tax rate 2024
  • How to find business class lie-flat seats on domestic flights
  • Mortgage and refinancing benefits
  • Make more money
  • 6. Open a business bank account
  • Global Entry

6. Outline your marketing and sales plan

  • State tax department phone numbers
  • Consider the costs of cashing out your 401(k)
  • How to get a tax refund sooner
  • Legislation seeks to eliminate fees
  • What’s not deductible?
  • Emirates bathrooms
  • How are gas prices determined?
  • Benefits of Wave Accounting
  • Cheapest car insurance companies after a speeding ticket in California
  • Still not sure which budget system is best for you?
  • Credit limit and your credit score
  • Could we be in an AI bubble?
  • Best Utah car insurance for ease of use: State Farm
  • Managing expectations
  • When did all of the tech layoffs start?
  • Share resources with other strikers
  • Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland tickets
  • Best for emergency medical coverage: Allianz Global Assistance
  • How income tax brackets work
  • Other income that can lower your disability pay
  • Available Medicare Advantage plans
  • 2023 capital gains tax calculator
  • Compare Roth 401(k) vs. traditional 401(k)
  • Form W-9 vs. W-4
  • Other ways to cut wire-transfer costs
  • Drawbacks of QuickBooks for Nonprofits
  • Important considerations for both programs
  • SEP IRA vs. Roth IRA
  • 7. Monitor your credit regularly
  • You’ve got money left over for savings
  • Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card
  • Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
  • How to choose a money market fund
  • DTI isn't a full measure of affordability
  • Other Roth IRA rules
  • Credit unions and banks that don’t require Social Security numbers to open an account
  • 6. Work for an employer that pays for college
  • How quickly do P2P payments post to the recipient's account?
  • How the lifetime gift tax exclusion works
  • How much does it cost to invest in the S&P 500?
  • Consumer experience
  • How to claim the child tax credit in 2024
  • Compare the best CD accounts
  • If I do want a personal loan, what are my options?
  • 5. Student Aid Index (SAI) replaces EFC
  • How to get American Airlines Main Cabin Extra Seats for free
  • If you need help applying, contact your servicer
  • AD&D insurance vs. life insurance
  • 2023 state income tax rates and brackets
  • No-closing-cost mortgages
  • 7 ways to reduce your 401(k) taxes
  • Why some cars cost more to insure
  • Extra personal property coverage for valuable items
  • How to claim the mortgage interest deduction
  • By loyalty program
  • What part of my income gets taxed by California?
  • The cons of the Southwest loyalty program
  • Do I have to update my W-4 every year?
  • What to do if your W-2 is wrong
  • What percent down payment do you need for a house?
  • Hotel credit card availability
  • Tips to qualify for a personal loan
  • The bottom line
  • How to find lost luggage on American Airlines
  • How are cryptocurrencies created?
  • How much does a home buyer class cost?
  • How to report dividend income on your taxes
  • Traditional IRA withdrawal rules
  • U.S. Bank Shopper Cash Rewards™ Visa Signature® Card
  • Work with an agent to get free car insurance quotes
  • Who should consider paying for EarlyBird Check-In?
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express

7. Perform a business financial analysis

  • Watch out for IRS phone scams
  • What is hyperinflation?
  • What is the difference between bookkeeping and accounting?
  • Who counts as a qualifying child for the earned income credit?
  • Claiming tax-deductible donations on your tax return
  • How to file your sole proprietorship tax returns
  • Premium car rental protection
  • Opening new accounts
  • Don’t be afraid of debt relief
  • EveryDollar, for simple zero-based budgeting
  • 7. Understand your startup financing options
  • Consider reapplying with another lender
  • Is APY variable?
  • Form W-9 vs. W-2
  • More on WebBank
  • Alternatives to QuickBooks for Nonprofits
  • How much money can you put in a Roth IRA?
  • Alaska and Oneworld elites
  • Wells Fargo vs. Bank of America business checking: For small businesses that need robust banking services
  • Contributing too much to a Roth
  • Exchange frequently? Consider a multicurrency account
  • Cheapest car insurance after an accident: State Farm
  • What do P2P payments cost?
  • What mortgage lenders get out of e-closings
  • Compare the best checking accounts
  • How to find a home buyer education course
  • Hotel partner elite status matches
  • Earn more with loyalty
  • How to protect against inflation
  • Your W-2 information is not a secret
  • 6. Qatar Qmiles for Qsuite awards to Doha or beyond
  • Can you get rich off penny stocks?
  • How to minimize the tax impact of a bonus
  • Full list of the best car insurance companies in Utah
  • 6. Pell Grant award expands
  • Closing costs for the buyer
  • How to control your dividend tax bill
  • How to confirm if a flight has business class lie-flat seats
  • Best life insurance company for consumer experience: Northwestern Mutual
  • Alignment Health Plan Medicare Advantage service area
  • Cheaper ways to send money
  • Electronics
  • Benefits of driving
  • Am I a resident for California state tax purposes?
  • Bottom line
  • When is the new IDR plan available?
  • How to adjust your Form W-4
  • United℠ Business Card
  • 'Holds' on a credit card
  • If your DTI is high
  • How to apply for a personal loan
  • When to expect your child tax credit refund
  • Why are there so many kinds of cryptocurrency?
  • What is 100% or full reserve banking?
  • The big question: Is AD&D insurance worth it?
  • Who should skip EarlyBird Check-In?
  • Applying for SSDI benefits
  • Capital gains tax rates 2024
  • Types of gas
  • Can I claim the EITC without a child?
  • Standard deduction for dependents
  • 7. Take out federal loans if you have to
  • Frequently asked questions about P2P payments
  • Where do I offer feedback or send a complaint to American Airlines?
  • Are these the best dividend stocks?
  • Compare the best banks, credit unions and cash management accounts
  • What if I’m enrolled in Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
  • How to use a Delta Companion Certificate to book a flight
  • Seller-paid closing costs
  • How to save on car insurance
  • Drawbacks of Wave Accounting
  • Frequently asked questions about W-2 forms
  • The best place to exchange currency at the end of your trip
  • Using your credit card for rental car coverage
  • Should you invest in AI stocks?
  • Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland resorts
  • Roadside dispatch
  • 8. Get a business credit card
  • What is the average and median retirement savings?
  • Best insurance company for accident forgiveness: Geico
  • Common bookkeeping terms
  • How much is the gift tax rate?
  • Lemonade vs. competitors
  • What is the money multiplier formula?
  • More 401(k) resources
  • How to purchase EarlyBird Check-In on Southwest

8. Make financial projections

  • Other benefits of flying premium economy on Emirates
  • Citi Custom Cash® Card
  • How to claim the earned income tax credit
  • Charitable deductions 2023
  • What happens if I’m denied?
  • 7. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club for Delta flights
  • Is Point.me worth the price?
  • Consequences of a child tax credit error
  • Compare the best bank accounts for students and kids
  • Best for travelers with pre-existing medical conditions: Travel Guard by AIG
  • What is a marginal tax rate?
  • Capital gains tax rules and considerations
  • World of Hyatt Credit Card
  • When can't you take the standard deduction?
  • Where to exchange currency: Frequently asked questions
  • Cheapest car insurance after a DUI: Progressive
  • Pros and cons of increasing your credit limit
  • If you're curious about the car rental benefits on The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Other home insurance companies to consider
  • 7. Application available in more languages
  • Disney World vs. Disneyland resorts
  • Credit cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Summary of the best banks and credit unions of 2024
  • Nontraditional and membership-based auto insurance reviews
  • Is Disneyland or Disney World better?
  • Best life insurance company for coverage amounts: New York Life
  • 9. Choose the right accounting software
  • The future of blockchain technology
  • Additional resources
  • Anti-fraud preauthorizations
  • What’s a good down payment for a house?
  • Buying rental car insurance on your own
  • 8. Fewer questions
  • What is a no-credit-check loan?
  • How to get cheap car insurance quotes
  • Empower Personal Dashboard, for tracking wealth and spending

9. Add additional information to an appendix

  • How much personal property insurance do you need?
  • How will Robinhood make money from its IRAs?
  • Why are California gas prices so high?
  • Wells Fargo vs. Bank of America business checking: The final word
  • 8. Borrow private loans as a last resort
  • Should I invest in an S&P 500 index fund or S&P 500 ETF?
  • Companies that offer return-of-premium riders
  • How does the Universal Express Unlimited Pass from a Premier hotel work?
  • State child tax credits
  • Are cryptocurrencies financial securities, like stocks?
  • Additional Visa Signature benefits
  • Partner reward benefits
  • If you're looking to book business class lie-flat seats
  • U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
  • What are the tax rules for a Roth IRA?
  • Alternatives
  • Who can sign up for the new repayment plan?
  • Consequences of an EIC-related error
  • How much is my 2023 standard deduction?
  • Do you pay taxes when you receive a gift?
  • Is Main Cabin Extra worth it on American Airlines?
  • What is an effective tax rate?
  • World of Hyatt Business Credit Card
  • What not to do
  • If you're looking for the best way to use Citi ThankYou Points
  • 9. You can list more colleges
  • How to access these lounges
  • 10. Prepare to pay your taxes

Business plan tips and resources

  • How to avoid gift tax
  • If you’re choosing between Holiday Inn vs. Holiday Inn Express
  • How does return-of-premium life insurance work?
  • Universal hotels with free Express Pass, recapped
  • What is the $500 credit for other dependents (ODC)?
  • Benefits you 'may' have
  • Final thoughts on EarlyBird Check-In with Southwest
  • How to reduce taxes owed
  • Options trading examples
  • Emirates premium economy routes
  • The Hilton Honors and SLH exclusive partnership recapped
  • How to earn Alaska miles with airline partners
  • Cheapest auto insurance for poor credit: Geico
  • If you’re trying to compare Disney World vs. Disneyland size
  • How to purchase a laundromat franchise
  • The drawbacks of PE ratio analysis
  • Best insurance company for having few customer complaints: American Family
  • When to file sole proprietorship taxes
  • Are there drawbacks to investing in the S&P 500?
  • Child tax credit vs. child and dependent care credit
  • 10. Sibling discount removed
  • And the winner is …
  • Best life insurance company for permanent life insurance: Pacific Life
  • Who should avoid American Airlines?
  • Benefits of flying
  • More resources on investing
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Can I still get a past year's earned income tax credit?
  • 11. Protect yourself with business insurance
  • Best for those who pack expensive equipment: Travel Insured International
  • Which program is the best?
  • How to make a personal property claim
  • Does the president control gas prices?
  • W-4 calculator
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card
  • 2023 vs. 2024 standard deduction
  • What if you spend more than your credit limit?
  • History of the child tax credit
  • Pros and cons of cryptocurrency
  • Receipt Hog
  • How to avoid, reduce or minimize capital gains taxes
  • How to apply
  • How much does Emirates premium economy cost?
  • California state tax credits
  • What’s the catch with return-of-premium life insurance?
  • Alternatives to whole life insurance
  • 5 reasons to enter the laundromat industry
  • If you’re thinking of joining the Southwest Airlines loyalty program
  • Other changes to income-driven repayment in the works
  • Family travel considerations
  • If you visit a Priority Pass lounge at DFW
  • What it's like to take the American Airlines bus service
  • Trailing vs. forward PE ratio
  • If you're considering flying American Airlines ...
  • When to claim the standard deduction
  • The bottom line: Do you need rental car insurance?
  • FHA vs. conventional loans: Summary
  • Mutual fund types
  • PocketGuard, for a simplified budgeting snapshot
  • 12. Establish your online presence
  • If you're considering SENTRI or Global Entry
  • When to drive vs. fly
  • The bottom line on the new Robinhood IRA
  • How does the Israel-Hamas war affect gas prices?
  • What else to know about Form W-4
  • Why trade options?
  • By customer satisfaction
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Best life insurance company for customer satisfaction: State Farm
  • Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
  • Why does your credit limit matter?
  • British Airways first class lounge access
  • ROP life insurance pros and cons
  • Auto insurance reviews for high-risk drivers
  • Things to consider about loans with no credit check
  • 13. Set up a payments system
  • More about whole life insurance
  • Rental car alternatives
  • Best insurance company for financial strength: Auto-Owners
  • Cheapest car insurance for young drivers
  • U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card
  • Cryptocurrency legal and tax issues
  • Is the Delta Companion Certificate worth it?
  • Best for adventurous travelers: World Nomads
  • Best stocks for beginners
  • Using PE ratio to analyze the entire market
  • Is return-of-premium life insurance worth it?
  • 14. Hire employees
  • Credit cards that reimburse Global Entry application fees
  • Other life insurance options for seniors
  • What is the best car rental company?
  • Earn Alaska miles with hotel, car rental and shopping partners
  • Disney’s new FastPass, recapped
  • Discover it® Cash Back
  • Best life insurance company for older applicants: AARP
  • 15. Get financing to grow your business
  • Other cash-back apps to consider
  • British Airways first class lounge at LHR, recapped
  • Your decision: Is cryptocurrency a good investment?
  • Honeydue, for budgeting with a partner
  • Credit cards that reimburse Clear application fees
  • Citi Premier® Card
  • More about top-rated life insurance companies
  • Closing costs for the seller
  • How to shop for no-credit-check loans
  • More about buying life insurance as a senior
  • The bottom line on investing in stocks
  • A history of Emirates premium economy
  • California sales tax
  • Cheapest car insurance for senior drivers
  • Business travel considerations
  • Discover it® Miles
  • Clear vs. TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry
  • Final thoughts on Alaska Airlines partners
  • Best insurance company for discounts: Amica
  • How do mutual fund profits work?
  • Emirates premium economy: is it worth it?
  • Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card
  • No-credit-check loan alternatives
  • Best term life insurance companies of 2024
  • Best for medical coverage: Travelex Insurance Services
  • 6 things to know about California state tax
  • Other hardship assistance
  • Can United Club passes be used at Star Alliance-operated lounges?
  • The bottom line on PE ratio
  • Should you get both Clear and Global Entry?
  • Best whole life insurance companies of 2024
  • Credit cards do cash back too
  • How to make money from home
  • Cheapest car insurance by state
  • Auto insurance buying guide
  • Budgeting resources from NerdWallet
  • Star Alliance lounges offer a nice alternative
  • If you’re choosing between Hilton vs. Marriott
  • How we picked the apps
  • Best no medical exam life insurance companies of 2024
  • Hardship financing to avoid
  • Mutual funds vs. ETFs vs. stocks
  • Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
  • How to choose the best life insurance company
  • Other notable options
  • Methodology to identify the best budget apps
  • Best insurance company for customer satisfaction: State Farm
  • How to get cheap car insurance
  • Best if you have travel credit card coverage: Seven Corners
  • Major issuers and their policies on instant credit access
  • Other ways to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Risks of getting cheap car insurance
  • American Express® Gold Card
  • Best insurance company for military members: USAA
  • How to make money offline
  • Why you can trust NerdWallet
  • Best for long-term travelers: IMG
  • Target REDcard™ Credit Card
  • Full list of the best car insurance companies
  • How to find the best car insurance company for you
  • Best for travelers with unpredictable work demands: Tin Leg
  • Different types of car insurance
  • Best for booking travel with points and miles: TravelSafe
  • Why is car insurance so expensive?
  • Instacart Mastercard®
  • Best for group travel insurance: HTH Insurance
  • Car insurance costs by state
  • How to find the best home insurance policy in five common scenarios
  • Types of travel insurance
  • How to compare homeowners insurance
  • Watch out for making money scams
  • What does travel insurance cover?
  • What’s not covered?
  • Find the best homeowners insurance in your state
  • How we ranked the best homeowners insurance companies
  • How much does it cost?
  • Do I need travel insurance?
  • How to choose the best travel insurance policy
  • What are the top travel destinations in 2024?
  • More resources for travel insurance shoppers
  • Methodology

A business plan is a document that outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them. A strong, detailed plan will provide a road map for the business’s next three to five years, and you can share it with potential investors, lenders or other important partners.


Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing your business plan.

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is the first page of your business plan. Think of it as your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services offered, and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description, which should contain information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, it should cover the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

sample small business plan

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out exactly what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the long term.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain why you have a clear need for the funds, how the financing will help your business grow, and how you plan to achieve your growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity presented and how the loan or investment will grow your company.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch the new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

Your sales strategy.

Your distribution strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

You may also include metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

» NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

List any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere, such as resumes of key employees, licenses, equipment leases, permits, patents, receipts, bank statements, contracts and personal and business credit history. If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to help your business plan stand out:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business loan at a local bank, the loan officer likely knows your market pretty well. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of loan approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors, taking their mind off your business and putting it on the mistakes you made. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. You can search for a mentor or find a local SCORE chapter for more guidance.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

On a similar note...

Find small-business financing

Compare multiple lenders that fit your business

One blue credit card on a flat surface with coins on both sides.

Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice. 

Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.

A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:

  • Product goals and deadlines for each month
  • Monthly financials for the first two years
  • Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
  • Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years

Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.

While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.

For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .

Business Plan Steps

The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Description of business
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Description of organizational management
  • Description of product or services
  • Marketing plan
  • Sales strategy
  • Funding details (or request for funding)
  • Financial projections

If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.

Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.

Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.

In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.

Step 1: Executive Summary

The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the vision and mission of the company?
  • What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?

See our  roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.

Step 2: Description of Business

The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:

  • What business are we in?
  • What does our business do?

Step 3: Market Analysis

In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:

  • Who is our customer? 
  • What does that customer value?

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:

  • Who is the competition? 
  • What do they do best? 
  • What is our unique value proposition?

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

  • What is the product or service?
  • How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?

Step 7: Marketing Plan

In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:

  • Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
  • What channels will you use to reach your target market?
  • What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
  • If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
  • How will you measure success?

Step 8: Sales Plan

Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts. 

Start by answering the following questions:

  • What is the sales strategy?
  • What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
  • What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
  • What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
  • What are the metrics of success?

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
  • How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
  • What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?

Step 10: Financial Projections

Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years. 

While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:

  • How and when will the company first generate a profit?
  • How will the company maintain profit thereafter?

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.

For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy. 

If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.

Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .

  • Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. 
  • Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision. 
  • Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
  • Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
  • Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
  • Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
  • Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
  • Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
  • Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting. 
  • Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.

Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates . 

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.

While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:

  • Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
  • List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
  • Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
  • Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
  • Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.). 
  • Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
  • Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
  • Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.

See our wide variety of  startup business plan templates for more options.

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.

In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.

  • Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
  • Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
  • Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
  • Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
  • Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”

Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.

Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.

“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”

Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.

Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships. 

Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.

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