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Blogging Business Plans 101

This guest post is by Adarsh Thampy of ConversionChamp.com.

Do you know what the biggest mistake is when starting your own blog?

I’d argue that it’s probably lack of proper planning. At the starting point, you should consider writing a business plan for your blog.

“A business plan?” you might ask. “A blog is not necessarily a business!” I have guest posted over at branding personality about this topic. Blogging is a tool to promote your business or brand. So it’s essential that bloggers too have a business plan.

One of the successful entrepreneurs I respect the most, Neil Patel, is not a big fan of business plans, and he’s written about why you shouldn’t write a business plan in the first place. However, the plan I am talking about in this article is not based on any traditional models. Most people search the Internet to create a business plan and finally give up. It’s probably because they find it too difficult. I have to agree with this feeling: writing a business plan is no walk in the park.

But there is good news for people looking to start a blog, who want a plan that’ll help.

Unlike traditional business plans, the one you need to create for your blog is fairly simple. You don’t have to worry about structure, wording, or content. Your business plan will be short and easy to prepare.

Why do I even need a business plan?

All entrepreneurs know they need a business plan. But not many know why they actually need one. If I am talking on a high level, I can say that it is needed to acquire venture capital, optimize business operations, and so on, though I bet most bloggers never even remotely think of such things before they start a blog.

In layman’s terms, here’s why you need business plan:

  • It can give you an overall idea about your business (even before you start one). This makes sure that you approach blogging from a business perspective, and not just the mindset of content creation alone.
  • You will have a better understanding of the requirements of your business. (Can you provide consulting through your blog? Or how is it that you are going to make money from it?)
  • You’ll have a better overview about cash flow in your business. (Cashflow is nothing but how and when money comes in and goes out). How much are you going to invest in your blog, and how much do you expect it to make over a given period of time?
  • It encourages you to take a more realistic approach towards your business.
  • It helps you discover the challenges that lie ahead for your blog and the business associated with it.

How to prepare a business plan for your blog

Here comes the good part, and I must say that it’s actually fun too.

To create a blog, you’ll have to do research on your target market, figure out the operational and start-up costs, and so on. So why not document those things along the way, in a business plan that guides you, and provides a reference for the future?

Step 1: Business idea

In this section, you will have to note down what your business idea is. To make it more fun, write down how you actually zeroed down on your business idea. Make it short: don’t go over one page. In fact, try not to go over half a page.

Example: “My business idea is to start an online store which will sell superman merchandise to kids. I wanted to do this since my children love Superman toys and there isn’t any store that exclusively sells them online. I can entertain my kids as well as make some profit. I’ll use my blog to engage my customers and build a loyal following.”

Step 2: Business requirements

What does your business or blog require to get started? What is the timeframe in which you expect each task to be completed? It’s good to make an Excel spreadsheet and paste it into your business plan so you have all the information in the same document.

Don’t include costs here. When it comes to the timeframes you’ll need to factor in, be realistic. Optimism is good, but your business decisions needs to be based on facts.

Example for small blog business: “My online store will be ready in approximately three months’ time. I’ll also need the help of some web designers and developers to build my online store. Then I need to get a decent hosting for my business website.

“I will spend three hours a day on this project, as I have a full-time job as well. For my blog, I’ll write the contents. I’ll also hire an editor to manage the content of this site (and occasionally contribute to it while I am busy with my main business).”

  • “Designing the site: 15 days (I am smart so I’ll use the StudioPress theme for my blog—the one that powers problogger.net)
  • Coding for the site: 45 days
  • Tweaks: 5 days
  • Setting up merchant account with Google Checkout: 5 days
  • Getting necessary stock: 10 days
  • Planning for the launch: 1 day
  • Hiring people to maintain my business: 10 days”

“So that makes it a total of around three months for the site to go live. I’ll also need to put some money aside for this. I think I have it in my savings account. If not, maybe I’ll ask my wife really nicely.”

See how I broke down the requirements into smaller requirements? This makes it easier to adjust your plan if something goes off track. Also, don’t try to be formal in the way you phrase things. Your business plan is for your reference, not for someone else.

Step 3: Business model

There are many business models you can choose from. Normally for ecommerce stores, the business model is kind of traditional: you make a product, then customers pay for items they want. But in certain businesses, the model may be different. For your blog, your business model might be selling services, selling other peoples products for commission (affiliate marketing), or something else.

Whatever it is, make sure you have a very clear idea about how you are going to make money from your business. This is very important.

Example 1: “I’m going to use my online store to sell products. I will get product from <insert your vendor here> for a nice discount if I buy in bulk. Then I will sell it for a slightly higher price.

“My payment processor will be Google checkout. I have set to receive weekly payments and they will pay straight to my bank account. I will also sell customized services through my blog.”

Example 2: “I have a blog on health and wellness where I post articles on health-related issues. So, my main income source would be Google AdSense. Whenever user clicks on an advertisement on my site, I will get paid. The payment threshold is $100 and I will receive checks via mail when I reach that threshold.”

You need to document this business model very clearly. This will ensure that you do not lose focus on your end goal.

Step 4: Finance

In this section, you need to focus on the start-up costs as well as the running costs of your blog, and your business. Do some research and find out how much it will cost you to keep your online business going.

Again, this is very important as it will help you get an overview about business cash flow and profitability.

Example: “My online store will require the following to get started.

  • Domain: $30 (Registered for three years with Namecheap. Billing is every three years.)
  • Hosting: $85 (Registered with Hostgator for a year. They will bill me yearly.)
  • Design: $250 (Paid a freelancer for the excellent design. Was delivered in PSD format as well as JPEG.)
  • Coding: $3000 (Will pay another freelancer with good reputation on Odesk. Work will be completed in 45 days from start of payment.)
  • Miscellaneous costs: $250 (Includes a launch party for my friends.)

Total: $3615

Operational costs

  • Domain: $40 (Every three years)
  • Hosting: $85 (Every year) [Note: I may need to upgrade to a more expensive plan as my site grows]
  • Shipping costs: $5 (per shipment)
  • Promotions and discounts: Vary from 2% to 10% discount depending on the market conditions”

This is just a small example. In some cases the finance required might be very small; in some cases it’ll be huge. If you want to factor in your time as well, then you can come up with an hourly rate that reflects your work, and put it in the operational cost section.

Also note that the running costs will vary over time. When your blog starts getting popular, you might need to move to better hosting, or you might need to develop more features, which will require a larger investment of money.

Step 5: Business goals

In this section, you need to set business goals. Make sure they are achievable. Relax your goals a bit. It’s better to achieve a small goal rather than fail to achieve a big goal.

Example 1:  “I need to break even in one years’ time. In another year, I will expand my collection to include more toys. After three years, I will launch my own brand of toys. My goal for profits is 0% the first year (that is, I’ll break even), another 5% the second year, and increase by 2% in the coming years.”

Example 2: “Right now I am going to start with just my blog and offer consultation services. Later on I will be adding informational products. So I expect to break even in one year, get a minimum of 1000 subscribers and land two or three consulting gigs. I also want to set a monthly traffic goal of 25,000 site visitors by the end of year one.”

You need to constantly refer to your business goals so that you do not lose focus.

Step 6: Operational model

You need to figure out how you’re going to run your business. Is it a one-man show? Are you going to hire employees to manage certain tasks?

Example:  “Here is how I plan to operate my blog and the business associated with it:

  • Work part-time for three hours a day during the first six months.
  • Write content myself. My blogging schedule will be to post three articles each week.
  • Quit my full-time job and work 12 hours a day for my site for the next six months.
  • Allow guest posts from the sixth month onwards. Hire an editor to take care of managing the guest posts.
  • Hire an accountant to maintain records so that I can easily file my tax returns.
  • Hire marketing people to take care of site promotion, or do site promotion myself.
  • Teach my wife how I run this business and ask her to take on some of the roles.”

Step 7: Marketing strategy

Here you will define how you’ll market your business. Don’t go into depth while laying out your marketing strategy. Marketing strategies vary greatly over time. In the early 1900’s no one would have thought about marketing online. Yet, now online marketing is one of the best ways to get customers for your business.

Put in the main points and leave it at that—you can always revise the plans in more detail as you come to put them into practice. This will also help you evaluate how your previous marketing strategy helped you, and how the new one is doing.

Example:  “I am going to promote my online store in the following ways:

  • Use blogging as a powerful content marketing tool. Create awesome content and post it on my blog. This will attract a loyal audience.
  • Hire a good SEO consultant/learn SEO myself.
  • Ask friends to recommend my site to others.
  • Buy a small ad in my local newspaper about my online store.
  • Write articles on related sites for free, in exchange for a link to my site (guest posts).”

Step 8: Exit strategy

This is something not many entrepreneurs want to think about. An exit strategy is something you use when you want to close your business.

People don’t want to think about it because it spreads a negative vibe, and you don’t want anything negative in your business. However, you certainly need an exit plan.

Most entrepreneurs never make an exit strategy the first time, so if their business or blog isn’t as successfully as they’d hoped, they get disheartened and quit. If you have an exit strategy, you can save all the stress and exit gracefully. I have personally started around ten blogs and only few of them were successful. I lost several thousand dollars initially because I did not plan on a proper exit strategy.

Example:  “In the rare case that my business fails or I decide to quit my business, here is my plan:

  • I will try to sell my business online for what it is worth at the time.
  • I will cancel all services associated with my business.
  • Customers will be informed of the business’s sale well in advance.
  • I have kept a reserve amount in my bank account should anything bad happen.
  • I will take a break for one month before I venture into another business again.”

A blog business plan in 8 steps

So there you have it: eight steps and you’re done. Now you have a well thought out, personal business plans for your internet business.

I highly recommend that each year you review your business plan and create a new, more specific one for the coming 12 months. The old one should be kept to provide a yardstick against which you can manage your business growth, chart the change in strategies, and so on over time.

Have you created a business plan for your blog? Let us know how it’s helped you in the comments.

Adarsh Thampy is a blogger, inbound marketing consultant for small business and a SEO guy. He writes about getting more customers for your business over at ConversionChamp.com. You can add conversionchamp to the Google plus circle.

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Comments

  1. Kuong says:

    Great post!

    I’ve been writing blog for a couple years and I’ve never had a business plan before. And now I think I should have one.

    I think in any kind of business to big or small, online or offline, we must have a business plan.
    Business plan is just like a road map that we need to walk in.

    Thanks for this amazing post!

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Thanks for the kind words Kuong. You are right about having a business plan.

      Cheers :)

  2. IamNTB says:

    So many people fail to plan their blogging adventure and that is why the blog winds up in the blogging abyss after a short while. Thanks for helping emphasize the need for proper planning and development. If people would spend the extra time up front to figure out what they want and how they are going to go about getting it, then the hurdles the come across later will be easier to overcome.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Hi PL,

      Although there are cases when I have succeeded without any planning whatsoever, I have found that my personal success has been from those that I have planned carefully.

      Thanks for your comment and glad that you found value in my post.

  3. Maybe this is where i have gone wrong with our blog sometimes.
    I have just had an idea and started writing.
    Our blogs are mostly about the work and services we provide. Maybe i should write about something more exiting!!

  4. Business plans help create order in the mind Adarsh. This can keep you calm, focused and engaged in goal-achieving acts.

    While I am not huge on biz plans I am big on setting a plan, broken down into specific steps, which I follow each day.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Ryan,

      Glad you could chime in. You are right about creating an order. That’s what matters. Then the next thing is getting things done.

  5. I can’t believe this article doesn’t mention at all the many blogs start as hobbies. This is only applicable if you’re going from zero to FT blogger overnight. Yes that needs a business plan. My blog is a hobby, and while it is technically a profitable business I don’t have time to make a plan, much less actually execute it.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Not everything applies to everyone!

      This might not bee needed for a hobby blog. And going from zero to full time blogger is never an overnight process.

      Thanks for sharing your insights. Appreciate it much.

  6. Anna says:

    Thank you for the helpful tips. Don’t forget about the legal side also. Even though my blog is small and still-growing, I filed as a LLC. It’s not just about protecting your business, but also about separating and protecting personal assets. I took a four week start-your-own-business class at a local business education center, and then filed the paperwork by myself. I view the annual renewal cost as cheap insurance.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Anna,

      That’s a huge step you have made. Congratulations on that.

      I really appreciate your professionalism. I am not a legal person, so not sure about the legal requirements and benefits. Maybe you can elaborate on that a bit? I am sure most of us would find it helpful.

  7. I agree writing a business plan and proper planning along with good research will enable anyone to develop a successful blog.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Theoretically yes. Problem is many of us find it hard to stick to a schedule (I know I do, and so do most bloggers I personally know). Thanks for sharing your insights.

  8. But Darling, what if the blog is for fun and it takes off like a rocket? How do you incorporate a plan for business when it was just for fun and then all of a sudden… you’re the new girl at the school dance and everybody wants to dance with you? Thinking about a plan muddles my lipstick a bit, but I guess maybe I should consider it… Thanks for the tips… xoxo

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      If we blog for fun, then I wouldn’t really worry about a business plan. But most people who blog and read problogger might be in it for financial gains in the long run.

      If it takes off virally, then great. We can make course corrections at any time. It’s just that we need to be ready to incorporate the changes.

  9. Great writeup, thanks. I understand the need to have a plan for my online business but it seems to take a while to complete. I use Business Plan Pro software and might be overkill. I’ll try out your 8 steps.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Chromilo,

      Thanks for sharing your views.

      And, yes, I think business plan pro can be an overkill for a blog. When we try to make thinks complex, we often put things apart.

      The thing is to get started. If we need a pro plan, we can always hire someone to do it for us at a later stage.

  10. Thanks for the advice, been blogging part time for 3 years and it is difficult…..

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Yep.

      Difficult, very difficult indeed if you don’t really enjoy it.

      I don’t come from a writing background. I hated writing and reading.

      But when I write about things I love, it somehow automatically overcomes my resistance to write. Guess I am reading too much of “The War of Art”

  11. Business plan for a blog? Sounds a bit far fetched to me. What about finding a topic first that someone wants to read about, design/branding, reaching out to find your audience (not SEO) through smart strategies like the ad planner, videos, webinars, podcasts.

    I am sorry to say but this sort of over analysis promotes the “wantrepreneur” mentality and not action.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Anshul,

      While a normal business plan can definitely be a bit far fetched, a simple plan can be very helpful.

      The reason is because simple plans are easy to follow and helps keep us on track. The topics you mentioned is also an important part of blogging. It’s just an add on or a quick over view of your blog you want to accomplish with a simple business plan.

  12. Hando says:

    This type of general business plan is defiantly good idea to have and I suppose most people have it in their head anyway. It would be better of course to write it down so you can review your plan time to time and make changes and addition if needed. But very detailed business plans, something that you can take to the bank or to investors I don’t thing anybody is doing these to start a blog or a website, I think that mapping out and doing market research and so on would cost more that actually just trying it out.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Hando,

      You are right about the detailed plan.

      That’s why I don’t suggest anyone do that. A simple plan is always the best if you want to really make it work.

  13. I created a blogging business plan last year and was stunned by how much I’d have to make to cover what I make on my job. It was a real eye opener and changed the direction of my blogging. Every quarter, I revisit my business plan to make sure I’m still on track and make adjustments where it’s necessary.

    Thanks for sharing these tips. They’ll come in handy when I update my plan later this month.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Kimberly,

      That’s awesome. Great to see people putting things into action. Cheers :)

  14. I agree that the biggest mistake is the lack of planning, I run about a dozen websites/blogs right now and all were started without a proper plan. I decided at the start of this year to make a plan for each one to get things to were I want them and I’m very happy I did that, it’s so much more efficient.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Jamie,

      Great to know that a plan is working for you. Your story tells that a business plan can work at any stage of a blog.

      Thanks for sharing.

  15. Liane says:

    This seems to reflect the story of my blogging career. Haha. I subscribed to the idea that blogging doesn’t need to have a business plan… how wrong I was. I ended up not having a direction at all! Well, lesson learned :P Now my new site is definitely built on a strong plan. I just forgot about the exit strategy part, but I guess I’ll think of something soon enough. Thanks!

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Liane,

      Great to know that a business plan is helping you stay on track.

      Keep rocking.

      Cheers :)

  16. A business plan is a must for every business model, blog too !

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Especially if you have a business plan software to sell :)

  17. I read your article and i agree with you. Blogging business plan is a great business.Thanks for your information.

  18. Daniel says:

    Very thorough post on blog planning, Adarsh.

    One of the main things to do, you advice near the end of the article. And that would be to review progress, at particular intervals(end of year—monthly—-quarterly,etc) then to make needed adjustments that are tailored for the following year(Or target time frame).

    Thinking about a blog as a Business, is probably one of the big hurdles for many new Bloggers.
    When I first started out(not too long ago) I had no idea of the amount of work that is often required.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Daniel,

      Yeah, the thing is, we need to be able to make changes. At first my blog conversionchamp started off as a CRO blog. Then I later shifted my focus to content marketing.

      Thanks for sharing your story. It was great to read from experienced people like you.

  19. Gloria Miele says:

    Brilliant. So many areas of our businesses need planning, including this one. I create monthly and quarterly plans for various aspects of my business, including social media (blog included). I love how you’ve applied a business plan template specifically to a blog. Thanks for sharing. I’ll do the same.

  20. Carlee says:

    Great tips! We’ve had our business for about 2.5 years and started a blog style site about a year ago. It’s helped a lot regarding getting our site out on the web. It’s nice to have a business plan in mind first, to help get your ideas in order, rather than just kind of going along with it. Thanks!

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Very true Carlee. It’s always better to have a sense of direction rather than just letting fate guide us.

  21. Ryan Cripps says:

    My first blog was very successful without a business plan. I winged it and it was lucky. My last 5 blogs have sunk within months because of no business plan.

    I’m starting a personal blog (because I hate writing on specific niches, been doing it for years). And I think I need a business plan this post helped me realize that.

    Once again pro blogger has helped me.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Great to know that you are going to apply a business plan for your new blog Ryan.

  22. Adarsh Thampy says:

    I’d love to reply to all of your comments guys. But right now I am not in a position to use the internet properly. Please excuse me for a few days while I am back from my vacation and I will respond to each of your comments personally.

    Thanks all.

  23. Smitha says:

    HI Adarsh,

    Congrats, u could present it very well. Looking forward to read more

    Regards
    Smitha

  24. I think basically, what is needed for a new blog is for the blogger to know what he/she expects from the blog, who the target audience is, how they plan to monetize it (if they plan to) and their dreams for the blog then pt it all down in readable form. Visit this written ‘plan’ occasionally and revise if you need to. For those that might feel a bit intimidated by what Adarsh suggests (even though I highly recommend it), you can start with this then scale up when you’re ready.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Sharon,

      True. Some people get scared when they hear business plan because they have a traditional approach to planning. Your approach is good for those people who find it difficult to implement what I said.

      Thanks for sharing this. Appreciate that!

  25. This goes right along with the 6 p’s saying: “proper planning prevents piss poor performance”. I head this early in college and have sense planned out everything! Once you do it a few times you realize its totally worth it! A business plan seems so overwhelming, most bloggers just want to write, they dont even think about the business end. If you want to take your blog to the next level, this seems like a great way to get started!

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Thanks for sharing your ideas Chris. And you are spot on when you say “most bloggers just want to write, they dont even think about the business end”. That’s one major mistake when you blog.

  26. Eplatforms says:

    Thanks for sharing the information. It is really nice information.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Glad you found it helpful. As a content marketer, delivering quality information is what I believe in.

  27. Sadie says:

    I have been looking for a good business plan article, going to pin this. :) It is so important for us to remember that even though we love our blogs and they’re fun, they’re still a “job”. Still a business. You wouldn’t run any other business without a plan, so of course you shouldn’t run a blog without one. That’s hard but I have to keep that in mind!

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Sadie,

      Glad you are going to keep this in mind. Cheers :)

  28. Mike says:

    This is essential! I’ve even written one before I started a blog. Its a bit short though but having something planned out can be a great way to ensure that you have a start and a direction. Even if the business fails, you can always have the experience for when you get started on another business.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Mike,

      Nice to hear your story. No matter what the length of the blog post is, you need to see to it that it covers all the basics and don’t get too complicated. In fact, I believe short business plans are even better.

  29. Anne-Sophie says:

    I am so not a big fan of business plans but the way you described it, it seems to be manageable. Thanks for the great information.

    • Adarsh Thampy says:

      Anne,

      Glad to know I could provide you with a manageable solution for your problem.

      The fact is, we all simply over complicate things. Whether it’s blogging or marketing or simply life.

      Make things simpler and you’ll find that you’ll enjoy what you are doing even more.

  30. Jaison says:

    In one of the freelancer site I have posted the project and after awarding it to a freelancer the project delivery did not happen after 2nd phase. The site does not have any backup or alternative persons to complete the project. I end up in reposting the project again. But recently I signed up with http://www.hireprogrammers.in, where they have backup resource for the project posted and ensure the timely delivery of the modules. I strongly recommend Hireprogrammers as we are sure of getting our work done on time!

  31. I am trying to understand how this works as do you need to pay these folks to become experts on your subject before they start blogging?

  32. benita wheeler says:

    i started a business blog for young executives. i love it. it helps me sharpen my own business skill but i also share my own wisdom how i think business should be done in coporate.

  33. Never thought about starting a business plan until a few days ago. Great tips to get me started thanks.