Now that the November writing craze is over, it’s time to turn attention to more long-term goals. Most nonfiction writers only create business plans for their books, producing proposals or a form of this document for their self-published books. In fact, if you want to succeed as a nonfiction writer of any type—journalist, essayist, corporate writer, editor, ghostwriter, blogger, or author, it’s essential to produce a business plan for your career. What better time to create this plan than in December—just before the New Year and possibly right after meeting a major writing goal that could influence your future as a writer?
To create a business plan for your successful nonfiction writing career, focus on seven key areas. These become the essential elements in your business plan.
1. Mission Statement
Start your business plan by stating your purpose, or mission. Why do you write? What do you want to accomplish with your writing, your books or articles, or with your writing business? This overriding mission should guide all your activities so you every action you take or decision you make always keeps you “on purpose.”
2. Market Analysis
No matter what type of nonfiction you write—articles, essays, books, blogs, or corporate reports—you need to know to whom you want to sell your work. Develop a description of your market that begins narrow, with the ideal customer or client, and gets broad to include the actual number of people who fit that description. Don’t forget to also include information on where to find them so you know how to target them. This allows you to analyze if you have a large enough market to make a living selling to this group of people.
3. Competitive Analysis
Study your competition—other journalists, authors, books, blogs, etc. This helps you determine how to produce unique work or services that those in your market actually need and want. Here’s key to success: Produce quality work that is different and necessary in your target market. In other words, fill a need in the marketplace. To do that, you must be familiar with others who produce similar work or provide similar services to your target audience or customer/client.
Anyone who wants to sell anything needs a platform from which to sell it. A writer’s platform is pre-promotion specifically to your target market to create an audience for you and your written work. However, you can create platform for any type of work, whether that work is a speech, a course on your area of expertise, a podcast, or something else entirely. This involves creating visibility and influence in your target market so you create a built-in audience (or buyers) for whatever you are selling or offering.
Your business plan should include a list of all the ways in which you currently create platform, such as social media, speaking, writing for publications, radio and television appearances, or professional affiliations. This list should indicate how many people you currently “reach,” or have contact with (such as friends or followers). Then create a plan to increase that reach. This might include getting involved in new social networks or improving how you interact on your current ones, speaking more often, submitting more articles to publications in your target market, or joining a key organization in your target market. You also want to increase “engagement” with your audience and theirs with you.
The larger your platform, or the more engaged your platform (the more interaction you actually have with those you know and reach), the more likelihood you have of actually selling your work. You will be seen as an expert in your subject area, or an authority.
5. Products and Services
Create a list of all the products and services you offer. Determine which products and services currently produce the most income and which ones you want to pursue in the coming year. Do they dovetail? If not, determine how you will reconcile this difference. Where will you spend your time?
Create a list of products and services you would like to create or offer this coming year. Make a to-do list with dates by which to take action to help you create your new products. These can be anything including writing services, classes, professional speaking, online courses, or articles for publication.
6. Articles, Books and Spin-offs
This section of your plan should read like a series of mini article or book pitches. Simply make a list of all the articles, essays or books you’d like to write for the next year or two (or more). Include short descriptions—pitches or elevator speeches. You also can include a sentence or two of market description.
Consider how your articles and books are related to one another, or “spin off” to develop a sense of expertise in a subject area. For instance, you could write a book and then articles related to that topic; you could then write two more spin-off books on related subjects. Or you could plan to write 5-10 articles on a particular topic for major publications, thus establishing your authority on the subject. After that, you might write two related books. Instead, maybe you decide to produce a blog on a topic, thus establishing your expertise. From this, you could spin-off both articles and books.
Create a time line for when you want to produce your spin-offs. Be sure to also write down any action items so you know need to get done to achieve these goals.
7. Visions and Goals
Last, but not least, your business plan should include quantifiable goals. Write them out clearly. For example, you might say, “I will publish six articles in mainstream financial magazines by November 2014 related to the topic of how couples can save money.”
Your goals should include quantifiable action plans. For instance, to achieve the goal above, you would need to send out quite a number of query letters early in the year; magazines publish, on average, six to nine months after receiving an article or a query. An action plan might read: “Send 15-20 query letters for my article on how couples save money by January 30. Send another 10 query letters by February 29.”
Also, it’s important to have a vision of the success you desire in your plan. Most successful people use creative visualization as a tool. They write a vision of their best possible future, which includes their Best Possible Self (a term used in psychology), and then visualize it daily—sometimes several times a day. This helps them keep that vision forefront in their mind and actually convinces their minds they can achieve those goals.
Compose your vision as if your goals have already come to pass (in the past tense). Include information on how success has affected every aspect of your life. Then visualize how it will feel to actually have this level of success in your life. See it, feel it, smell it, taste it…Write your vision of success like fiction but know it will become reality. This may seem too “out there” and woo woo to some people. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in the Law of Attraction or conscious creation; numerous studies show that visualization helps people achieve goals, and most successful people from all walks of life employ these methods.
Revisit your plan on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis. Adjust it as needed. In this way you will achieve your nonfiction writing goals.