Your executive summary is the first part of your business plan, but you usually write it last because it is a summary of all the important parts.
The point of your Executive Summary is to get the reader’s attention quickly. Tell them what kind of graphic design business you have and how things are going. For instance, are you a new business, do you have a business that you want to grow, or do you run a chain of graphic design businesses?
Next, give an overview of each part of your plan that follows. For example, you could give a short summary of the graphic design industry. Talk about what kind of graphic design business you run. Detail your direct competitors. Tell us about your ideal customers. Give a quick summary of your marketing plan. Find the important people on your team. And explain what your financial plan is.
In your business analysis, you will explain what kind of business you are running.
For example, you might run one of the following types of graphic design businesses:
- Publishing graphic design is a type of business that makes pictures for books, magazines, and newspapers that catch the eye.
- Website graphic design is a business that makes website pages that are easy to use and look nice.
- Product graphic design: This kind of graphic design studio makes illustrations and prototypes of different products.
In the Company Analysis section of your business plan, you need to explain what kind of graphic design business you will run and give some background on the business.
Answers should be given to questions like:
- When did you start your business, and why?
- What important steps have you taken so far? Some examples of milestones are the number of client contracts, the number of contracts that are renewed, the amount of money made, the number of referrals, etc.
- Your legal structure. Are you set up as an S-Corporation? An LLC? A single-person business? Tell us about your legal structure.
First, learning about the graphic design business makes you smarter. It gives you a better idea of the market you are in.
Second, research can make your strategy better, especially if it helps you find market trends.
The third reason to do market research is to show your readers that you know a lot about your field. You do just that by doing the research and putting it in your plan.
In the industry analysis section of your graphic design business plan, you should answer the following questions:
- How much money does the graphic design industry make?
- Is the market going down or up?
- Who are your main rivals in the market?
- What changes are happening in the field?
- How fast is the industry expected to grow in the next 5–10 years?
- How big is the market that matters? That is, how big is your graphic design business’s potential market? You can figure out such a number by figuring out how big the market is in the whole country and then applying that number to the population in your area.
In the section of your business plan about graphic design called “Customer Analysis,” you should describe the customers you serve or expect to serve.
Some examples of customer segments are business owners and entrepreneurs, bloggers, and people who work in marketing.
As you might guess, the type of graphic design business you run will depend a lot on the customer segment(s) you choose. Entrepreneurs would need different service options and respond to different marketing campaigns than, say, bloggers.
Try to figure out who your ideal customers are based on how they look and how they think. In terms of demographics, talk about the ages, genders, locations, and income levels of the people you want to serve. On government websites, you can find out about the people who live in different places.
Psychographic profiles explain what your target customers want and need. The better you can understand and define these needs, the easier it will be to get customers and keep them coming back.
In your competitive analysis, you should list your business’s direct and indirect competitors and then focus on the direct ones.
Other businesses that do graphic design are direct competitors.
Indirect competitors are other places where customers can buy things that aren’t direct competitors. This includes Canva and other low-cost design and freelance platforms. You should talk about this competition to show that you know not everyone who needs graphic design will use a graphic design company.
When it comes to direct competition, you should talk about the other graphic design businesses that you are in direct competition with. Most likely, the graphic design businesses in the same niche will be your direct competitors.
Give an overview of each of these competitors’ businesses and list their strengths and weaknesses. Unless you’ve worked at one of your competitors’ companies, you won’t know everything about them. But you should be able to find out key facts about them, such as:
- What kinds of customers do they work with?
- What kinds of services do they offer for graphic design?
- How much do they charge (high, low, etc.)?
- What can they do well?
- What do they do wrong?
For the last two questions, try to answer them from the customers’ point of view. And don’t be afraid to ask the customers of your competitors what they like and dislike about them.
The last part of your competitive analysis section is to list the ways you are better than your competitors. As an example:
- Will you provide superior services?
- Will you offer things that your competitors don’t?
- Will you make using your services easier or faster for customers?
- Will you treat your customers better?
- Will you price things better?
Think about how you will do better than your competitors and write them down in this part of your plan.
Usually, a marketing plan has four parts: the product, the price, the place, and the promotion. Your marketing plan for a graphic design business plan should include the following:
Product: In the product section, you should repeat the type of graphic design business you described in your Company Analysis. Then, give specifics about the products you’ll be selling. For example, in addition to graphic design, do you offer free mock-ups, unlimited changes, and a dedicated project manager?
Price: Write down the prices you’ll be charging and how they compare to those of your competitors. In your marketing plan, the product and price sections are basically where you list the services you offer and how much they cost.
Place is where your graphic design business is located. Most likely, you can run your graphic design business from anywhere, and you can work with clients in different places at the same time. Talk about how your graphic design business, which you run from home, offers a lot of opportunities.
Promotions: The section on promotions is the last part of your graphic design marketing plan. Here, you’ll write down how you’ll get people to come to your store(s) or website. Here are some ways you could promote your business:
- Putting ads in newspapers and magazines in your area
- Contacting local websites
- Marketing with social media
- Local radio advertising
In the other parts of your business plan, you talked about your goals. In your operations plan, you talk about how you will reach those goals. Your plan for operations should have two separate parts.
Everyday short-term processes include all the tasks you need to do to run your graphic design business, such as managing projects, making sales and connections, and doing design work.
Long-term goals are the goals you want to reach in the future. These could be the dates when you expect to work with your 100th client or when you hope to make $100,000. It could also be when you expect to work with a big brand or finish your first graphic design case study.
Your graphic design business needs a strong management team to show that it can be successful. Showcase the backgrounds of your key players, focusing on the skills and experiences that prove they can help a company grow.
You and/or other members of your team should have experience running graphic design businesses. If so, talk about your experience and skills. But also highlight any experience you think will help your business succeed.
If your team is missing something, you might want to put together an advisory board. A two-to-eight-person advisory board would help your business in the same way that a mentor would. They would help answer questions and give advice on how to plan. If you need to, look for advisory board members who have run graphic design companies or small businesses well.
Your 5-year financial plan should include a monthly or quarterly breakdown for the first year, then an annual breakdown after that. Your income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement are all part of your financial statements.
A more common name for an income statement is a Profit and Loss statement, or P&L. It shows your income and then takes away your expenses to show if you made a profit.
You need to make assumptions in order to make your income statement. For example, how many clients will you have per year: 60 or 120? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% every year? As you might expect, the financial forecasts for your business will be greatly affected by the assumptions you choose. Do as much research as you can to try to make sure your assumptions are true.
Balance sheets show both your assets and your debts. Balance sheets can have a lot of information, but try to boil them down to the most important parts. For example, if you spend $50,000 growing your graphic design business, you won’t make money right away. Instead, it is an asset that you can use to make money for years to come. Likewise, if a bank gives you a check for $50,000, you don’t have to pay it back right away. Instead, you will have to pay that back over time.
Cash Flow Statement: Your cash flow statement will help you figure out how much money you need to start or grow your business and make sure you never run out of cash. Most business owners and entrepreneurs don’t realize that you can make money but still go bankrupt if you run out of money. For example, let’s say a marketing firm offered you a $75,000 contract to do graphic design work for their clients once a year. Let’s also say that the contract would require you to hire more people, which would cost you $75,000. Well, in most cases, you would have to pay that $75,000 now for things like employee salaries, software, image licenses, etc. But let’s say that the company took 180 days to pay you. During that time, you might run out of money.
When making your Income Statement and Balance Sheets, be sure to include some of the most important costs of starting or growing a graphic design business:
- Business set-up, including website design and branding fees, hosting, advanced digital security and encryption, etc.
- Costs of things like design software, high-speed internet, project management platforms, etc.
- Payroll or salaries given to employees
- Insurance for businesses
- Taxes and licenses:
- Legal expenses