Monday, 20 June 2022

Business planning for freelancers: the minimalist approach

When you have little time, how do you make time for working on your business? I recommend a basic business plan, which will map out the purpose of what you do day in and day out, and will provide direction for your business.

The neuroscientific background: writing something down
signals to your brain that it is important!

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)


Every now and then I pull out my business plan to review progress, amend it in line with any circumstances that may have changed, and tackle what’s up next for me, such as marketing, CPD-related tasks, or other actions.

A business plan: a simple road map

My business plan, admittedly, is anything but perfect (in that, for example, it contains only skeletal financial information), but for me it fulfils its purpose. It contains a mission statement, a SWOT analysis and a marketing plan.

I wrote my first business plan back in 2007 as part of one of the modules of the ITI’s Peer Support Group (PSG) (which has been replaced by SUFT), and a few years later wrote a new one (in my mother tongue, German), and then another one. It’s always been my go-to document, setting out who I am, as well as the nature of my business.

The PSG, by the way, has had a similar profound impact on me as a translator as minimalism has had on my life in general: I’ve been working as a translator full-time since 2010 and I do know that without my wonderful PSG mentors, I wouldn’t be where I am today! Similarly, minimalism has changed my life in that it’s equipped me with the tools for leading a much more relaxed and (relatively) clutter-free life.


Working on (rather than just in) the business

My business plan has always been a useful tool for placing my enthusiasm for working as a freelancer and the skills I provide to my clients on a solid footing. I have taken a minimalist approach in that my business plan is fairly basic. It is modelled simply on the concepts described in a German book entitled “Businessplan für DUMMIES”.

The last time I pulled out my business plan (on 17 May 2022) I was pleased to realise that the items I had highlighted as important during a previous review were actions I had managed to carve out time for outside my busy translation schedule. For example:

- I had made the effort to re-establish contact with a few companies I had enjoyed working for in the past, but who I hadn’t collaborated with in recent years.

- I had spent significantly more time on reading about and experimenting with my Raspberry Pi and the Sense HAT (which, admittedly, had sometimes felt arduous, but then turned out to be ever so relevant to my translation projects).

- I had taken concrete measures to improve my Italian by listening to Italian radio, signing up for a short translation course in Italy, and finding an Italian conversation tutor for Skype sessions (the lovely Giulia Lucania, who also runs Giulia Lucania Translations in Palermo, Sicily).

A basic business plan can serve as road map that will provide direction for your business

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

Insights of minimalist planning

Regardless of whether or not you already rely on a business plan, here are three insights that have arisen from this post. They will be useful to business planning or, indeed, any planning in general:

1) The power of an uncluttered mind 

To create a business plan, you need to have a clear, uncluttered mind. It will enable you to compile a sleek description of your business, the services or products you sell, and the clients you sell to. A business plan should be a formal, written document. 

I have previously published blog posts about the power and the value of uncluttering both your mind and any environments around you: for example, here or here.

2) Writing it down: one simple act, potential astonishing results

I won’t try and delve into the neuroscientific background of this, but basically, writing something down signals to your brain that it is important! A Harvard Business Study found that you are three times more likely to see success if you write down your goal(s).

This applies to any situation: if you write something down (as opposed to not writing it down), it is way more likely to bear fruit. 


3) It is never as hard as anticipated, and there is no wrong way 

As with most things in life, it’s never as hard as you initially think it will be. If writing a business plan sounds like an overwhelming task to tackle, how about breaking it down initially into “mini-plans”, such as a marketing plan, a pricing plan etc.?

A plethora of business writing tools is available, and there is no wrong way to go about writing a business plan, as long as what you come up with meets your own needs (and you write it just for your own needs).

When you’re constantly busy, how do you make time for working on your business (rather than just in it)? I recommend a basic business plan, compiled with minimal means, as a road map that will provide direction for your business.