Small Business Resource Guide: How to Find Free Business Plan Templates

Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Business Start Up Advice [ 0 Comments ]

Writing a business plan isn’t as easy as taking a night off from reality TV and firing up the old laptop.

“Writing a business plan gives you a chance to thoroughly evaluate your idea inside and out, uncover its upsides and potential pitfalls, and, most crucially, think up ways to avoid them before they happen. It’s your chance to stare long and hard at your ideas’ weaknesses and decide whether or not you can overcome them,” website founder Annabel Acton said on Forbes.com.

It’s not just a flashy presentation designed to amaze potential investors. It’s meant to be a living document that’s revisited and tweaked regularly and ultimately helps you decide if your pie-in-the-sky dreams can become a reality.

Plan to spend several weeks writing your plan. And since it’s a summary of all the previous sections, save writing that Executive Summary for last.

If this is your first time writing a business plan, rest assured that the web is jam-packed with sample plans (often categorized by industry) to help get you started. But don’t be tempted to just copy and paste a plan similar to what you have in mind and change relevant information.

Instead, check out one of the many free downloadable business plan templates available on the web to help you figure out what questions you need to ask (and answer), and how to appropriately format your plan. If you get stuck, lean on organizations like SCORE and the U.S. Small Business Administration for coaching and tips.

To get you started on your business-plan-writing adventure, we rounded up a variety of free business plan templates:

Artemis: Available as as a Word Doc or PDF, this basic, one-size-fits-all template offers section-by-section instructions for completing your business plan and can be easily customized for any business.

BDC: The Business Development Bank of Canada offers a simple business plan, complete with a glossary available as a Word document with a financial appendix available in Excel. While the template isn’t easily customizable, it should appeal to an entrepreneur who wants to cover all the bases without worrying about extra bells and whistles.

BizGym.com: Get access to 14 business planning, pitch script and marketing templates that can be filled out and saved on your own time.  They also offer step-by-step tips to help you through the process. Each template shares content with other templates, which means you won’t have to fill the same information out multiple times and your plans and presentations will all be consistent.

Bplans.com: The site offers a free template for becoming a member, plus access to more than 500 sample business plans in a range of industries from restaurants to retail.

Butler Consultants: While not a downloadable template, this generic plan has 18 sections of questions that cover everything you’ll need to include on a plan of your own design.

Enloop.com: Just enter your e-mail address and a password and you’re on your way to creating an online business plan that can easily be downloaded as a professionally-formatted PDF. With the service, you also get three-year customizable financial forecast, a plan performance score, financial ration analysis, and a free business loan finder.

Entrepreneur.com: The magazine targeted to entrepreneurs, startups and small business owners has a page that contains several basic templates in Word or PDF formats available for free (you’ll pay for templates with the word “premium” in the name). In addition, find HR strategy plans, sample plans, checklists and presentations.

GrowThink.com: The company that has helped more than half a million entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses offers a downloadable template with easy-to-follow steps and expert advice for each of the 10 sections of your plan.

Invoiceberry.com: If you don’t want to clog up your inbox with unwanted business planning-related e-mail, you can download free plans, presentations and checklists in Word, Excel, Open Office and Powerpoint simply by liking the site on Facebook or giving it a +1 on Google+.

Office by Microsoft: This no-frills template provided by SCORE offers 150 questions you should answer when planning your business. The site also offers templates for business plan presentations, marketing and financial plans and more.

PlanWare.org: This 48-page template comes with a detailed framework for writing your plan, along with sample text and common tables and charts used in most business plans. There’s also a 100-page complimentary guide that can walk you through all aspects of the plan: from writing your mission statement to marketing strategies to financial planning.

RocketLawyer.com: This bare-bones, web-based template walks you through basic questions regarding your business and includes helpful tips on starting a business and legal advice at the click of a button.  Don’t want to fill out your plan in one sitting? Save it on the site and come back later.

SCORE: The nonprofit focused on helping nurture entrepreneurs and small business owners offers two basic, customizable plans: one for a start-up business and the other for an established business. Download the template, then meet with a SCORE mentor for expert advice on planning your business.

Start It Up Now: This site was created for the purpose of helping those who want to start an internet business but don’t know where to begin. While the business plan template was created with online start-ups in mind, it can easily be translated to any small business.

Summer Alexander Research: After searching high and low for her a good business plan template, this CEO decided to create her own. Using research from SCORE, SBA.gov and business plan writing books, she devised a plan ideal for solo entrepreneurs that won a Chicago-area business plan writing competition.

Teneric: Used by more than 120,000 business owners in the UK, this basic template comes with a free step-by-step course — including examples — to help you complete each section of your plan. The site contains several additional guides and templates to help you through the start-up process, as well as tools like a cash-flow calculator.

Think Do Business: If you’re overwhelmed by the flood of information available on starting a business and writing a plan, this guide is no-nonsense and easy-to-follow — plus you’ll get weekly updates to inspire and improve how you do business.

U.S. Small Business Administration: The SBA’s step-by-step guide allows you to create a living business plan that can be updated and saved as often as you need (once you’ve created a login). The document can be saved as a PDF and shared with a mentor or counselor from an SBA resource partner like SCORE, Small Business Development Center or Women’s Business Center.

Vfinance.com: Used by more than a quarter of a million entrepreneurs since 1995, this is site offers basic, 30-page templates for nearly 30 industries. By downloading the plan, you can get a $75 coupon toward a three-month professional plan posting or $25 toward basic plan posting.

Learn more about writing a business plan on ResourceNation.com.

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.Net


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