There are many ways to approach writing a business plan, and some are better than others. Can you find a completed business plan that matches your business, change the names, and call that your own? Well, you could, but a business plan template might be a better idea.
Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of using a business plan template to start your planning process. Or, if you want to jump right in, fill out the form on the right to download our free business plan template and get started.
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.
A great business plan template will also provide instructions for each step of your plan and show you what an investor-ready and SBA-approved business plan should look like.
There are tons of free business plan templates available (including the one you can download right here on this page). You can also find business plan templates specific to your industry by searching our sample business plan library.
However, be careful—there are lots of people out there who will try and charge you for a template. Don’t get tricked into paying for one when there are so many free business plan templates available that will help you get started on your business plan.
If you need more than a free and simple template can provide, look into online business planning solutions like LivePlan, which provides more help and customization options than any template can.
While there are benefits to using a business plan template, depending on your situation it 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.
You'll also have to know enough about the process to be sure you're getting all the numbers in the right places. And, typically there are limited instructions to go along with a free 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.
Finally, merging data from Excel spreadsheets into your Word document is harder than it looks. It’s not easy to keep everything completely up-to-date as you make changes to your numbers. And integrating the right charts and graphs into your business plan template is not as easy as it seems.
However, if you’re new to business planning and just want to get a sense of what a plan looks like and want to get the process started quickly (and cheaply!) then downloading a free template is a great way to get started.
If this template, or any of the other business plan templates we have here on Bplans don’t give you the flexibility and guidance you need to finish your business plan, you might want to take a look at business plan software. Good software will include step-by-step guidance, video tutorials, automatic financial forecasting, automatic formatting, and chart creation, plus much more. In our studies, we’ve found that good software can save hundreds of hours of work compared to building a plan in Word and Excel. So, if using software is the right fit for you, you can spend more time starting your business and less time planning.