Business plans are used by entrepreneurs to secure funding for their business idea or by small business owners to refine their business strategy. Regardless of the purpose, having templates at the ready can be helpful.
If you've never written a business plan before, or you just want to save time and effort, here are 10 websites where you can download a business plan template and get started, full business plan samples, and additional information covering everything you need to know about business plans.
Free business plan template example via The Balance
Business Plan for Company Name at Date
Address ________________________________Phone ___________ Email ________________
This section should articulate your hopes and dreams for the business. You can write a vision statement. For example:
What are you building?
What do you see this business becoming in x years?
How do you plan to grow the business and to what degree? For example, will you hire employees, open up branch outlets, or take the business public?Do you eventually plan to sell the business for profit or to provide money for your retirement?
|Business Overview (or Mission)|
The business overview or mission should describe how you intend to achieve your vision. For example:
What services will you provide?
What is your target market – who will buy your services?
How will your service offerings address the needs of customers? For example, what is your unique selling proposition?How will you provide your services? Will you offer your services online, through your home business, or at a business location?
The pricing strategy section needs to demonstrate how your business will be profitable. Summarize your projected revenue and expenses:
How much will you charge for your services?
Briefly describe how your pricing will be competitive enough to attract customers but be high enough to generate a profit after subtracting expenses.Consider breakeven analysis and pricing strategies.
|Advertising and Promotion|
This section describes how you intend to get the word out to customers about your services. For example:
What are the most efficient ways to market your services? For example, will you market them via business website, email, social media, or newspapers?
Will you use sales promotional methods such as pricing discounts for new customers?
What marketing materials will be used – business cards, flyers, or brochures?What about referrals?
This section lists your objectives and metrics for success by time frame, as well as potential questions or challenges. For example:
Capture 20% of the local market share by year end.
Gain five steady customers in the first six months of operation.
Earn a net income of $50,000 for the first fiscal year.
List any obstacles or concerns. For example:Winter season or poor spring weather reduces demand for landscaping services.
Briefly describe the action items needed to achieve your objectives, using milestone dates. For example:
By "date," a fully equipped home office will be completed.
By "date," business licenses and insurance acquired.
By "date," purchase of delivery van negotiated with dealer.
By "date," launch business website with description of services and price list.
By "date," social media marketing plan in place and potential customers connected via Facebook and LinkedIn.
By "date," subscribed to cloud-based accounting software and set up customer invoice templates.
Describe possible solutions for any potential obstacles:
|If landscaping services cannot be delivered due to bad weather, look into providing other services such as snow clearing or tree pruning.|
What should go on the cover page of your business plan depends entirely on your audience and how you'll use the plan.
"If it's being used for fundraising, you should include a legal disclaimer," said Brian Cairns, founder of ProStrategix Consulting. "You should speak to an attorney for the appropriate language, but whenever you are making forward-looking statements, it needs to be clear that they do signify a guarantee of performance. You will also want some nondisclosure language as well."
Regarding the executive summary, another crucial section of your business plan, Cairns offered a few key points for you to include:
- How the business is unique or, if not unique, how it plans to differentiate itself in the marketplace
- How the business will make money
- Basic business model
- Business objectives and goals
- Market factors and business environmental factors that could impact the business
- Key strategies to reach goals and objectives
- High-level financial summary, revenue, and profit for the first and second year if it's a three-year plan, plus the third year if it's a five-year plan
The Balance's business plan template is broken down into sections to help you complete the best possible business plan, whether you are creating it for funding or strategy. The website also breaks down each section and provides instructions on how to download and fill in the template. Each section can be transferred into Word, Excel or a similar word processing app by simply copying and pasting the text.
Editor's note: Looking for a business plan template or service for your business? Use the questionnaire below to receive free information from a variety of vendors:
Additional free business plan templates
Bplans' investor-approved business plan template has been used by Princeton University and Babson College to teach entrepreneurs how to start a business. The template starts with an executive summary and then guides you through the other elements, including the financial plan and company overview. Bplans also provides a step-by-step guide for writing a business plan and a library of sample business plans to ensure you're on the right track.
My Own Business Institute
My Own Business Institute (MOBI), part of the Santa Clara University Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, offers a business plan template consisting of 15 sections, including the business profile, licenses and permits, and location sections. MOBI provides helpful suggestions for how to fill in each section and who should review it. You can download the template for Word.
One of the cool things about the SCORE business plan template is that, once you've completed it, you can meet with a SCORE mentor for expert advice in business planning. SCORE offers options for startups and established businesses, and you'll find plans for business planning, financing, marketing, and other areas you might want to implement.
The One-Page Business Plan Company
The One-Page Business Plan Company offers exactly what the name says: a one-page business plan for those who don't need an elaborate plan. The one-page business plan is separated into several sections that encompass your vision, mission, objectives, strategies and action plans. You can answer all of the questions using keywords and short phrases.
New York StartUP!
This is the official template for the New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition. The PDF business plan template was adapted from Rhonda Abrams' Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies (The Planning Shop, 2010). Each section includes instructions for the type of information you should enter. In addition, the template includes a SWOT analysis and optional technology plan.
PlanBuildr offers a step-by-step guide to help you complete each section of its business plan template, which is especially helpful for those who have never written a business plan before. It takes less than 10 minutes to complete, and PlanBuildr automatically calculates financials for you. You can choose from 10 professional designs for your business plan.
Legal Templates' free business plan template is available for download, and you simply print it out upon completion. You can also download a filled-in version to use as reference. The eight-chapter template explains what information needs to go in each section and why.
You can sign up for a 14-day free trial to download PandaDoc's business plan templates. You'll find templates for general businesses as well as specific templates for restaurants, bakeries, hotels, startups, coffee shops and salons. Once you sign up for the free trial, you can customize a template to fit your business's needs by adding photos, pricing tables, videos and a theme that fits your branding. Once you're done, you can send it out and track opens and views through PandaDoc.
InvoiceBerry is primarily an invoicing and tracking platform, but the company offers free business plan templates for freelancers and small businesses. Plans are for Word, Excel, OpenOffice and PowerPoint, and you can download them directly from the website. The site also provides a business plan checklist to ensure you're including all the right information, as well as marketing plans and executive summaries you can insert into your business plan.
What should really go in your business plan?
A good business plan should answer the following questions, according to Cairns.
- What are the business's objectives and goals?
- What market factors and business environmental factors could impact the business?
- What strategies will you use to reach your objectives and goals?
- Who is your ideal target, and how will you reach them?
- How much will it cost to execute your plans?
Free vs. paid business plan templates
It's nice to use templates at no cost, but there are some drawbacks to free business plan templates.
"The process of writing a business plan lets you personally find the kinks in your business and work them out," said Attiyya Atkins, founder of A+ Editing. "Now, starting with an online template is a good start, but it needs to be reviewed and targeted to your market. Downloadable business plans may have dated market prices, making the budget inaccurate. If you're looking to get money from investors, you need a customized business plan with zero errors."
Janil Jean, head of overseas operations at LogoDesign.net, said that free templates offer limited customization (such as the company name and some text) and are used by a ton of people, so if you use one to secure funds, investors might be tired of seeing that business plan format.
The benefit of paying for business plan templates – or paying for an expert to review your business plan – is the accuracy of information and high customization. [Looking for help with your business plan? Check out our picks for the best business plan software and services.]
"Your audience gets thousands of applications per day. What's to make your business plan stand out from the crowd when you're not there in the room when they make the decisions about your enterprise?" said Jean. "Visuals are the best way to impress and get attention. It makes sense to get paid templates that allow you maximum customization through design, images and branding."
Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.