Business plans can seem daunting to someone who has never written one. The business idea itself might be fairly simple to explain, but if you want to apply for a loan, raise investor capital, or simply have a solid, documented direction for your company, you're going to need to write a business plan.
Luckily for entrepreneurs, there are templates out there that allow you to plug in all of the information, instead of struggling with formatting and figuring out what you need to include. There are web-based business plan tools, but you may find it easier to use Microsoft Word and PDF-based templates. Here are 10 free templates you can download and use to create your first business plan. [See Related Story: The Dos and Don'ts of Writing a Great Business Plan]
Bplans.com, known as the authority on business plans, offers a free Word business plan template, complete with instructions and a table of contents. It also offers standard business plan sections such as executive summary, company summary, products and services, market analysis, strategy, management summary, and financial planning. Once you register, you will be able to download the materials and choose from a wide range of businesses in different industries in which to base your plan. Whether your business is online, service-based, or a food establishment, Bplan's Word business plan templates are comprehensive and are a great option for beginners and new business owners.
Entrepreneur.com provides business tools, with a collection of business plans free in PDF, PowerPoint and Word. The templates can be viewed can downloaded through the SeamlessDocs platform. The site includes a template for a variety of specific business types, a business plan model that outlines the different parts of a business plan, and customizable templates that allow users to add their logos and business information. If you need a guide to writing a business plan, Entrepreneur.com also provides a download for that.
This step-by-step business plan builder, offered by Law Depot, covers structure, product marketing, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), operations, and details specific to your business in their templates. Once the template is complete, you can download and print. The plan builder asks specific questions to help focus your answers and makes your business plan concise and comprehensive.
My Own Business Institute
MOBI, or My Own Business Institute, is part of Santa Clara University's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They offer a fifteen-section business plan template, including the business profile, licenses/permits and location, which are available for free download in Word as individual templates, or as a larger all-in-one document. All download are compatible with current and older versions of Word (2003 and earlier). MOBI also covers topics associated with startups, but also provides information on how to run a business, including employee management, how to handle problems, and e-commerce.
Office Depot's Business Resource Center contains free business plan samples for retailers, manufacturers and service providers. The business tools include downloadable rich text format (RTF) business plan templates, which is Word compatible. Excel business plan financials are also available for manufacturers and service providers, while the retailer business plan template is complete with forecasting and financial tables, but this requires Microsoft Word version 6.0 or later.
Catering to businesses owned by women, Oprah.com's free one-page business plan templates can be used by anyone who wants to start a business. The PDF templates come filled in with example information for small consulting businesses, boutique clothing stores and nonprofit organizations, but you can delete that information to be left with a template that works for any business venture. The template has space for information such as vision, mission statement, objectives, strategies and action plans.
When you create a free business plan with Rocket Lawyer, you get the advantage of an attorney's advice to make sure your document is legally sound. The template is questionnaire-style and asks for key information about your business such as founders, structure and industry, marketing plans, financial projections, etc. Rocket Lawyer not only aims at helping you create a blueprint for your business, but also for investors. Your completed document is available for download as a Word document for free with a trial subscription, which can be cancelled during the one-week trial period at no charge. The document is $10 on its own without a subscription.
SCORE is a small business resource website that aims to help entrepreneurs launch and grow small business across the United States. Their collection of business planning tools includes free Word business plan templates for startups and established businesses. They also provide a sales forecasting template, competitive analysis charts to determine your business' strengths and weaknesses, and financial planning templates such as startup expenses, profit and loss projections, and financial statements. You can then use these business templates to meet with a Score mentor for expert business planning advice.
Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers an online business plan template and guide to help you build your business plan, step by step. Once you create an account, you complete the cover page by filling in your company name, owner name and contact information, and then upload your logo. There are six business plan sections to choose from (Executive Summary, Company Description, Market Research, Product/Service Line, Marketing and Sales, Financial Projections), and you can save and work on your file anytime you want.
The $100 Startup's One-Page Business Plan
Looking for a no-fuss business plan template that gets straight to the point? The $100 Startup, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller, offers the One-Page Business Plan, a simple form that asks several questions you can quickly answer to get up and running. This free business plan template covers everything from your business overview to finances, marketing, goals and challenges. Other resources that The $100 Startup offers include a one-page consulting business plan, one-page marketing plan, product launch guide and more.
Additional reporting by Sara Angeles and Marci Martin.