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Annual Planning For Your Creative Small Business

If you’re a handmade or creative small business owner or solopreneur it can be tempting to never do any formal goal planning.

You think that because it’s just you and you know where you want your business to go, you don’t need to map anything out, right? Wrong!

Even if your business is just starting out, creating a plan that you can reference will help you grow your revenue faster and teach you foundational business skills that will set your business up for success.

I’ve outlined my high level planning process below for you to check out if this is your first time creating an annual or quarterly (i.e. 3 month) plan.

This process doesn’t need to take a long time. If you’re just starting out, set aside an hour and run through the process below.

Don’t focus on it being perfect or super in-depth in your first attempt. Just practice going through the motions, and get something rolling! You’ll learn so much as you go and you can revisit the process after your 3 month plan is close to the end. 

How do I go through my planning?

Look Back:

First, I look over my revenue numbers for the last year as well as the last 3 months.

Then I open a Google Doc and reflect on what I did well, where I need to grow my skills and what projects crashed-and-burned and I won’t do again. I note the highlights and lowlights for reference.

I think one of the most powerful things you can do as a business owner is to look back before you start looking forward.

I think it’s so important to look back because progress can be so incremental. You can miss trends or big wins (or big fails!) that grew over time. Or forget about smaller failures and potentially repeat them.

Specifically documenting my business’s (and my own) strengths and weaknesses over the last year helps me prepare to do even better in the upcoming one!

Mission Review:

Next, before I write down my 2021 goals and projects, I review my business mission. I.e. Why I run my business.

One thing that immediately became clear with this year’s review is that I need to update my mission for STITCH COLLECTIVE.

When I launched in 2019 my purpose was simply to provide the highest quality labels for modern makers (which I think was a fantastic place to start – keeping it simple is key!).

But as I’ve grown, it’s become increasingly important to me to welcome other makers and business owners into this space. We need more voices. More perspectives.

I’m still fine-tuning the mission statement itself, but having clarity around my new direction helps me outline targeted goals.

Goal/Project Brainstorming.

I write down 10-12 potential goals and/or projects for 2021 that align with my mission. You can definitely list more! But brainstorm at least 10.

I write each one on a Post It note. I like to stick these on a wall in my office so that I can rearrange them and get an easy visual for my plan.

I also envision where I want to be at the end of 2021. I write that larger goal on a Post Its too and stick it above everything else on my planning wall.

I think about high-level things like – how many stores I want my product to be in, what kind of products I want to offer, how many customers I want to serve, etc.

All of the smaller goals and projects I brainstorm should move me towards my year-end vision.

Revenue Targets: 

Next, I set my revenue target for the first quarter of the year (Jan-March). I decide on a specific goal for how much I want to be making monthly by the end of the quarter.

I want the target to be a stretch, but also attainable to keep me focused and excited.

Prioritize My Goals/Projects:

Now that I’m clear on my mission and my quarterly revenue target – I take my list of 10-12 project Post Its and prioritize them with a focus on which ones will get me to my revenue goal most quickly.

I focus on revenue in the prioritization process because making more money opens up more opportunities for my business than anything else.

Since I brainstormed a list of goals and projects that aligned with my mission right from the outset of planning – I know that I can simply select the most impactful ones!

Pick 3: 

I pick the top 3 ideas from the prioritized list and make those my Quarter 1 (Q1) goals or projects.

It’s tempting to pick more than 3, but if your business is just you, stick with 2-3 goals per quarter.

I don’t dive too deep into planning the rest of the year outside of mapping out where I want to be at the end of each subsequent quarter, revenue-wise. I’ll leave the specific project decisions for later.

Why? Small businesses change quickly, so I don’t do deep planning for more than the upcoming 3 months.

How Often I Plan: 

I repeat a version of this process every 3 months (each quarter).

So in March, I’ll look back on my Q1 goals – review what I did well and what didn’t go to plan. Then I’ll update my brainstormed list of goals and projects and map out Q2 – with a focus on the top 3 revenue driving initiatives.

Rinse and repeat every 3 months!

And remember – if this is your first time going through a planning process for your small business, keep it simple! Set a time limit and focus on taking action, not perfection! You can fine-tune as you go.

Is this your first time planning for your business?

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