Can Technical Writers Write Business Plans?

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The other day, a colleague asked if I write business plans. My first thought was, “No, except for my own.”

Then, she said, “After all, it is rather technical.”

Well, of course, technical writers are perfectly skilled for writing business plans. Let’s see, what does it entail?

  • Research
  • Presenting information in a nontechnical manner
  • Designing pages that are readable.

Need I go on?

I then went to the Internet and searched “what to charge to write a business plan.” That became a guessing game. I found everything from $500 to thousands of dollars. It really depends on several things:

Are you an expert?

By nature of what we do, technical writers are experts at writing business plans. We know how to do the research, we know how to write, and we know how to present material clearly. If we are not sure how to do something, we look it up. That is how we always work.

If you are familiar with the industry for which you will write the business plan, all the better. Your credibility will allow a higher fee.

What type of business is hiring you?

For business startups, it is best to keep the fee as low as possible without putting yourself in the poorhouse. Remember, startups do not have a lot of money. At this point, it is the principal’s money. The business plan will help get the new company investment capital – that is, if you do your job in writing the business plan, the company will get their working capital.

If the company is already established, the likelihood of it affording more is higher. Although you might not need to do as much research, you can charge more for creating the new plan.

How much information already exists?

If you do not need to do a lot of research, you can charge less as the time spent on the project will be less. Many companies already have stastitics about their industry that you can use in the business plan.

If, however, the company has no research data, you must consider how much time you need to complete the research. Research could take a long time.

If the company already has an older business plan, you might have enough data to create a better, more resourceful business plan. Consider the amount of time saved if you have a document to use at the start.

Where do I find out what goes into a business plan?

There are literally thousands of web sites that talk about business plans. I found one that seems to have all the answers, including examples of over 500 business plans. That site is www.bplans.com. I found a wealth of information on the site.

I am sure there are other good sites, but this one came up on the first page of search results. It gave me everything I needed, so I highly recommend it.

OK, how do I start?

Write a business plan for your own business. See how much time it takes you. How much research do you have to complete? How long does it take you to actually write the plan?

Look at the outline on Bplans web site. It is rather extensive, but it is a place to start writing your own business plan. Then, you can figure out how long it would take you to write one for a client. Most of the information I found suggested a month if one person were to do the plan fulltime. I saw one site that said they put five people on each project and can get it done in one week. Lucky them.

How should I charge?

You need to set a project fee to write business plans. Businesses shy away from the hourly rate we technical writers tend to use. However, remember to include what constitutes a complete business plan. For example, how many edits will you include in the project? There just has to be an ending point.

Get going

OK, now get started on your business plan. See how it goes. Then, you can add “business plans” to your inventory of services

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Published in: on June 17, 2009 at 1:51 PM  Comments (5)  
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3 Easy Steps to Create an Outline

You have to write a document. It does not matter what kind of document –e-mail message, report, proposal, whatever. You want to ensure you cover every necessary topic. Create an outline to make sure you collect all the information you need.
How do you do that? My favorite way of starting is brainstorming with myself.
1. The Storm of Ideas
I just start writing down everything that I think needs to be in the document. I write it down (or type it) as it comes to mind. Even if something seems silly or unrelated, if it comes to mind, it goes on the list. The important thing is to get all ideas down on paper. Do not “edit” your list.
Keep adding to the list for 15 minutes. Just let it flow.
Then stop. Put the list away for a while – an hour, a day, whatever time you have.
2. The Weeding Process
After you let the list sit for a while, start the weeding process. Cross out any ideas that either do not fit with the topic or are unnecessary to the knowledge of the reader(s). I do not delete any ideas, yet. It is possible that you could cross out an item that later turns out to be a necessary piece. If you just cross it out, you can remember it later; if you delete it, it might be lost forever.
3. Building the Logic
Now that you have the list of items to include in the document, put them in a logical order. Group like items together. Perhaps draw an “umbrella” over the grouped items. Depending on the document, that umbrella could represent a chapter, a section within a chapter, a new paragraph, and so forth.
Next, rank the groups. In other words, decide what needs to be first, second, and so forth. Let the logic lead you.
Now you are ready to write your first draft.
In the long run, taking the time to create your outline will save you time. It might not seem like it when you are doing it, but when you find you left something out, looking at the outline to placement is far easier than going through the entire document to find its right place. If your document is a simple, one-paragraph e-mail message, you can probably do the three steps on a scrap of paper, or even in your head. Even for these short communiqués, some sort of outline helps you ensure that you cover everything necessary.

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 1:22 PM  Leave a Comment  
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