The only useful thing I know about writing your business plan is this: if it doesn’t make you laugh, you aren’t enjoying your freelancing status nearly enough.
If you’re running your business on your own dime, no one’s going to see your business plan. The bank won’t see it. All your kajillion potential investors won’t see it (what, you don’t have a kajillion potential investors? Me neither, it’s all right. None of the cool kids have them). Your mother won’t see it unless you show it to her. No one will see the business plan.
Which is why mine is tricked out to look like a con job.
I don’t know about you, but running a business scares me, especially on days when I catch myself taking it all too seriously. But I’m a rogue. Pretending to be a bank robber makes me all giddy inside. Approaching my business plan as though it were a high-level con job is amusing to me, and it makes the whole venture more fun.
Really, when you think about it, launching a business is exactly like running a con. You get your people together, you plan, you hit all the right set-up points, and if you do it right, you walk away with the money. You are frickin’ Ocean’s Twenty-Six. Or whatever number we’re up to.
A proper con needs:
A Mark: This is your target demographic. They don’t know you’re going to hit them, but they’ve seen your kind before, so they are naturally suspicious. You have to be smooth, savvy, come at them from an angle they’re not expecting. They have to like you, not too much, not enough to want to latch on to you, but a little, enough to trust you. If you pull off the job right, they’ll practically hand you their money. They’ll even be a little glad you have it. That’s the mark of a true rogue, when they feel like they got their money’s worth.
A Con Man. This, needless to say, is you. He’s the one who came up with the job and planned how to execute it. The most important attribute of the con man is that he knows his own strength and plays to it. Clooney didn’t try to re-wire the vault alarm, did he? No, Clooney charmed the socks off of people, because that’s what Clooney does. Translation: if you’re a writer and a good networker, that’s what you do. If you’re a web designer and an awesome accountant, that’s what you do. You probably know bits and pieces of the whole con job, but if you want it done right, you need to get yourself some cohorts.
Cohorts: Your cohorts are anyone who is helping you out. Ocean had a safe-cracker, a pickpocket, a demolitions expert, etc. You have a website designer, a marketing expert, a fellow entrepreneur. Your cohorts should only be people you trust, and they should only be people who are very, very good at what they do. They should be helping you mostly because they like you, a little because there’s profit. The guy who is only helping you for the paycheck is the one who’s going to cop out at the wrong moment. Screw that guy. He messes the whole thing up. He doesn’t even like the Bellagio fountains.
Logistics: Get yourself out a calendar. Mark off the days for each of your tasks. These have to be done in order, or it won’t fall right. Put your website up. Order your business cards. Attend a networking meeting and smoothly interest several patsys in your business. Kill the competition (wait, what?). Plan out each day of the first month of your new business. Down to the minute. Trust me. You won’t stick to it – it’s the mark of a good rogue to ad-lib when necessary – but you will be glad you had it.
A Cover: You should have a couple of current clients who continue to fund you throughout the execution of your plan. If anyone asks about your secret business launching plan, you can act all bewildered and say, “What are you talking about? I’ve been here with Johnny the whole time.” And Johnny will confirm. Because it’s true. Johnny is also your investor (he may or may not know this). Johnny is the reason you can spend half your time working on the secret business plan. You may not need Johnny later. The loyalty might keep you from getting rid of him, though. Depends on how ruthless you are.
A Payoff. If your payoff is not worth the amount of effort you are putting into the con, it isn’t worth the job. Make your payoff something worth having. My personal payoff is $50,000. Why? Because that’s the amount of money I need to pay off my debt by the time I hit my 25th birthday, pay my rent, eat out a few times a month, and fix my car. If I execute my plan properly, I’ll get my payoff. If not, the whole thing may blow up in my face. If that happens, I fall back on my cover, and I try to pull the con all over again when I’ve bounced back.
That’s the best part of the con. You can do it over and over again. It becomes more exciting, though, to do all the mundane little tasks that need to be done throughout your day. The next time you’ve got an assignment you don’t really want to do, pretend the building will explode if you don’t get it done by 5:00 p.m. It ramps you right up.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go dress in black and climb into a building.
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