There are a lot of ways to approach writing your business plan, and some are better than others. Should you use a free business plan template? Can you find a completed business plan that matches your business, change the names, and call that your own?
As business planning expert Tim Berry says, using somebody else's business plan "makes as much sense as buying a medical checkup already done and on paper, instead of going to a doctor." So that rules out using somebody else's plan. Is a template a better idea? Depending on your needs, it can be. Let's look at the pros and cons.
A good business plan template can really help you get your thoughts organized. It can provide a guideline, so that you're not stuck looking at a blank page trying to figure out where to start. And it can show you the general layout of a standard business plan.
There are tons of free business plan templates available (including the one you can request above), which makes them a good value. Don't get tricked into paying for one! If you need more than a free template can provide, look into software solutions like Business Plan Pro, which provides more help and customization options than any template can.
Or if you're interested in business planning online, Web applications like LivePlan make it easy.
A business plan template may not be the absolute best way to complete your plan. There is still going to be a lot of work involved — for instance, not only do you have to complete the financial spreadsheets, but you have to do all the math yourself.
And you have to know enough about the process to be sure you're getting all the numbers in the right places. Also, typically there are no instructions to go along with a template, so if you don't already know what you're doing, the process of writing your business plan isn't going to be that much easier with a template.
If you're not sure how to get started, download our free business plan template. It's a simplified version of the outline from Business Plan Pro, the best-selling business plan software in the world. This template provides you with a guideline to help you write your plan in a format preferred by banks and SBA lenders.