Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice. 

Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.

A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:

  • Product goals and deadlines for each month
  • Monthly financials for the first two years
  • Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
  • Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years

Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.

While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.

For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .

Business Plan Steps

The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Description of business
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Description of organizational management
  • Description of product or services
  • Marketing plan
  • Sales strategy
  • Funding details (or request for funding)
  • Financial projections

If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.

Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.

Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.

In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.

Step 1: Executive Summary

The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the vision and mission of the company?
  • What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?

See our  roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.

Step 2: Description of Business

The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:

  • What business are we in?
  • What does our business do?

Step 3: Market Analysis

In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:

  • Who is our customer? 
  • What does that customer value?

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:

  • Who is the competition? 
  • What do they do best? 
  • What is our unique value proposition?

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

  • What is the product or service?
  • How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?

Step 7: Marketing Plan

In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:

  • Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
  • What channels will you use to reach your target market?
  • What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
  • If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
  • How will you measure success?

Step 8: Sales Plan

Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts. 

Start by answering the following questions:

  • What is the sales strategy?
  • What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
  • What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
  • What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
  • What are the metrics of success?

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
  • How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
  • What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?

Step 10: Financial Projections

Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years. 

While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:

  • How and when will the company first generate a profit?
  • How will the company maintain profit thereafter?

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.

For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy. 

If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.

Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .

  • Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. 
  • Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision. 
  • Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
  • Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
  • Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
  • Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
  • Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
  • Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
  • Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting. 
  • Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.

Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates . 

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.

While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:

  • Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
  • List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
  • Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
  • Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
  • Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.). 
  • Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
  • Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
  • Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.

See our wide variety of  startup business plan templates for more options.

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.

In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.

  • Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
  • Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
  • Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
  • Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
  • Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”

Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.

Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.

“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”

Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.

Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships. 

Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

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What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.

ZenBusiness

ZenBusiness

A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

a good written business plan

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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Business plans might seem like an old-school stiff-collared practice, but they deserve a place in the startup realm, too. It’s probably not going to be the frame-worthy document you hang in the office—yet, it may one day be deserving of the privilege.

Whether you’re looking to win the heart of an angel investor or convince a bank to lend you money, you’ll need a business plan. And not just any ol’ notes and scribble on the back of a pizza box or napkin—you’ll need a professional, standardized report.

Bah. Sounds like homework, right?

Yes. Yes, it does.

However, just like bookkeeping, loan applications, and 404 redirects, business plans are an essential step in cementing your business foundation.

Don’t worry. We’ll show you how to write a business plan without boring you to tears. We’ve jam-packed this article with all the business plan examples, templates, and tips you need to take your non-existent proposal from concept to completion.

Table of Contents

What Is a Business Plan?

Tips to Make Your Small Business Plan Ironclad

How to Write a Business Plan in 6 Steps

Startup Business Plan Template

Business Plan Examples

Work on Making Your Business Plan

How to Write a Business Plan FAQs

What is a business plan why do you desperately need one.

A business plan is a roadmap that outlines:

  • Who your business is, what it does, and who it serves
  • Where your business is now
  • Where you want it to go
  • How you’re going to make it happen
  • What might stop you from taking your business from Point A to Point B
  • How you’ll overcome the predicted obstacles

While it’s not required when starting a business, having a business plan is helpful for a few reasons:

  • Secure a Bank Loan: Before approving you for a business loan, banks will want to see that your business is legitimate and can repay the loan. They want to know how you’re going to use the loan and how you’ll make monthly payments on your debt. Lenders want to see a sound business strategy that doesn’t end in loan default.
  • Win Over Investors: Like lenders, investors want to know they’re going to make a return on their investment. They need to see your business plan to have the confidence to hand you money.
  • Stay Focused: It’s easy to get lost chasing the next big thing. Your business plan keeps you on track and focused on the big picture. Your business plan can prevent you from wasting time and resources on something that isn’t aligned with your business goals.

Beyond the reasoning, let’s look at what the data says:

  • Simply writing a business plan can boost your average annual growth by 30%
  • Entrepreneurs who create a formal business plan are 16% more likely to succeed than those who don’t
  • A study looking at 65 fast-growth companies found that 71% had small business plans
  • The process and output of creating a business plan have shown to improve business performance

Convinced yet? If those numbers and reasons don’t have you scrambling for pen and paper, who knows what will.

Don’t Skip: Business Startup Costs Checklist

Before we get into the nitty-gritty steps of how to write a business plan, let’s look at some high-level tips to get you started in the right direction:

Be Professional and Legit

You might be tempted to get cutesy or revolutionary with your business plan—resist the urge. While you should let your brand and creativity shine with everything you produce, business plans fall more into the realm of professional documents.

Think of your business plan the same way as your terms and conditions, employee contracts, or financial statements. You want your plan to be as uniform as possible so investors, lenders, partners, and prospective employees can find the information they need to make important decisions.

If you want to create a fun summary business plan for internal consumption, then, by all means, go right ahead. However, for the purpose of writing this external-facing document, keep it legit.

Know Your Audience

Your official business plan document is for lenders, investors, partners, and big-time prospective employees. Keep these names and faces in your mind as you draft your plan.

Think about what they might be interested in seeing, what questions they’ll ask, and what might convince (or scare) them. Cut the jargon and tailor your language so these individuals can understand.

Remember, these are busy people. They’re likely looking at hundreds of applicants and startup investments every month. Keep your business plan succinct and to the point. Include the most pertinent information and omit the sections that won’t impact their decision-making.

Invest Time Researching

You might not have answers to all the sections you should include in your business plan. Don’t skip over these!

Your audience will want:

  • Detailed information about your customers
  • Numbers and solid math to back up your financial claims and estimates
  • Deep insights about your competitors and potential threats
  • Data to support market opportunities and strategy

Your answers can’t be hypothetical or opinionated. You need research to back up your claims. If you don’t have that data yet, then invest time and money in collecting it. That information isn’t just critical for your business plan—it’s essential for owning, operating, and growing your company.

Stay Realistic

Your business may be ambitious, but reign in the enthusiasm just a teeny-tiny bit. The last thing you want to do is have an angel investor call BS and say “I’m out” before even giving you a chance.

The folks looking at your business and evaluating your plan have been around the block—they know a thing or two about fact and fiction. Your plan should be a blueprint for success. It should be the step-by-step roadmap for how you’re going from Point A to Point B.

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How to Write a Business Plan—6 Essential Elements

Not every business plan looks the same, but most share a few common elements. Here’s what they typically include:

  • Executive Summary
  • Business Overview
  • Products and Services
  • Market Analysis
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Financial Strategy

Below, we’ll break down each of these sections in more detail.

1. Executive Summary

While your executive summary is the first page of your business plan, it’s the section you’ll write last. That’s because it summarizes your entire business plan into a succinct one-pager.

Begin with an executive summary that introduces the reader to your business and gives them an overview of what’s inside the business plan.

Your executive summary highlights key points of your plan. Consider this your elevator pitch. You want to put all your juiciest strengths and opportunities strategically in this section.

2. Business Overview

In this section, you can dive deeper into the elements of your business, including answering:

  • What’s your business structure? Sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc.
  • Where is it located?
  • Who owns the business? Does it have employees?
  • What problem does it solve, and how?
  • What’s your mission statement? Your mission statement briefly describes why you are in business. To write a proper mission statement, brainstorm your business’s core values and who you serve.

Don’t overlook your mission statement. This powerful sentence or paragraph could be the inspiration that drives an investor to take an interest in your business. Here are a few examples of powerful mission statements that just might give you the goosebumps:

  • Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
  • Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
  • InvisionApp : Question Assumptions. Think Deeply. Iterate as a Lifestyle. Details, Details. Design is Everywhere. Integrity.
  • TED : Spread ideas.
  • Warby Parker : To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.

3. Products and Services

As the owner, you know your business and the industry inside and out. However, whoever’s reading your document might not. You’re going to need to break down your products and services in minute detail.

For example, if you own a SaaS business, you’re going to need to explain how this business model works and what you’re selling.

You’ll need to include:

  • What services you sell: Describe the services you provide and how these will help your target audience.
  • What products you sell: Describe your products (and types if applicable) and how they will solve a need for your target and provide value.
  • How much you charge: If you’re selling services, will you charge hourly, per project, retainer, or a mixture of all of these? If you’re selling products, what are the price ranges?

4. Market Analysis

Your market analysis essentially explains how your products and services address customer concerns and pain points. This section will include research and data on the state and direction of your industry and target market.

This research should reveal lucrative opportunities and how your business is uniquely positioned to seize the advantage. You’ll also want to touch on your marketing strategy and how it will (or does) work for your audience.

Include a detailed analysis of your target customers. This describes the people you serve and sell your product to. Be careful not to go too broad here—you don’t want to fall into the common entrepreneurial trap of trying to sell to everyone and thereby not differentiating yourself enough to survive the competition.

The market analysis section will include your unique value proposition. Your unique value proposition (UVP) is the thing that makes you stand out from your competitors. This is your key to success.

If you don’t have a UVP, you don’t have a way to take on competitors who are already in this space. Here’s an example of an ecommerce internet business plan outlining their competitive edge:

FireStarters’ competitive advantage is offering product lines that make a statement but won’t leave you broke. The major brands are expensive and not distinctive enough to satisfy the changing taste of our target customers. FireStarters offers products that are just ahead of the curve and so affordable that our customers will return to the website often to check out what’s new.

5. Competitive Analysis

Your competitive analysis examines the strengths and weaknesses of competing businesses in your market or industry. This will include direct and indirect competitors. It can also include threats and opportunities, like economic concerns or legal restraints.

The best way to sum up this section is with a classic SWOT analysis. This will explain your company’s position in relation to your competitors.

6. Financial Strategy

Your financial strategy will sum up your revenue, expenses, profit (or loss), and financial plan for the future. It’ll explain how you make money, where your cash flow goes, and how you’ll become profitable or stay profitable.

This is one of the most important sections for lenders and investors. Have you ever watched Shark Tank? They always ask about the company’s financial situation. How has it performed in the past? What’s the ongoing outlook moving forward? How does the business plan to make it happen?

Answer all of these questions in your financial strategy so that your audience doesn’t have to ask. Go ahead and include forecasts and graphs in your plan, too:

  • Balance sheet: This includes your assets, liabilities, and equity.
  • Profit & Loss (P&L) statement: This details your income and expenses over a given period.
  • Cash flow statement: Similar to the P&L, this one will show all cash flowing into and out of the business each month.

It takes cash to change the world—lenders and investors get it. If you’re short on funding, explain how much money you’ll need and how you’ll use the capital. Where are you looking for financing? Are you looking to take out a business loan, or would you rather trade equity for capital instead?

Read More: 16 Financial Concepts Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Startup Business Plan Template (Copy/Paste Outline)

Ready to write your own business plan? Copy/paste the startup business plan template below and fill in the blanks.

Executive Summary Remember, do this last. Summarize who you are and your business plan in one page.

Business Overview Describe your business. What’s it do? Who owns it? How’s it structured? What’s the mission statement?

Products and Services Detail the products and services you offer. How do they work? What do you charge?

Market Analysis Write about the state of the market and opportunities. Use date. Describe your customers. Include your UVP.

Competitive Analysis Outline the competitors in your market and industry. Include threats and opportunities. Add a SWOT analysis of your business.

Financial Strategy Sum up your revenue, expenses, profit (or loss), and financial plan for the future. If you’re applying for a loan, include how you’ll use the funding to progress the business.

What’s the Best Business Plan to Succeed as a Consultant?

5 Frame-Worthy Business Plan Examples

Want to explore other templates and examples? We got you covered. Check out these 5 business plan examples you can use as inspiration when writing your plan:

  • SBA Wooden Grain Toy Company
  • SBA We Can Do It Consulting
  • OrcaSmart Business Plan Sample
  • Plum Business Plan Template
  • PandaDoc Free Business Plan Templates

Get to Work on Making Your Business Plan

If you find you’re getting stuck on perfecting your document, opt for a simple one-page business plan —and then get to work. You can always polish up your official plan later as you learn more about your business and the industry.

Remember, business plans are not a requirement for starting a business—they’re only truly essential if a bank or investor is asking for it.

Ask others to review your business plan. Get feedback from other startups and successful business owners. They’ll likely be able to see holes in your planning or undetected opportunities—just make sure these individuals aren’t your competitors (or potential competitors).

Your business plan isn’t a one-and-done report—it’s a living, breathing document. You’ll make changes to it as you grow and evolve. When the market or your customers change, your plan will need to change to adapt.

That means when you’re finished with this exercise, it’s not time to print your plan out and stuff it in a file cabinet somewhere. No, it should sit on your desk as a day-to-day reference. Use it (and update it) as you make decisions about your product, customers, and financial plan.

Review your business plan frequently, update it routinely, and follow the path you’ve developed to the future you’re building.

Keep Learning: New Product Development Process in 8 Easy Steps

What financial information should be included in a business plan?

Be as detailed as you can without assuming too much. For example, include your expected revenue, expenses, profit, and growth for the future.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a business plan?

The most common mistake is turning your business plan into a textbook. A business plan is an internal guide and an external pitching tool. Cut the fat and only include the most relevant information to start and run your business.

Who should review my business plan before I submit it?

Co-founders, investors, or a board of advisors. Otherwise, reach out to a trusted mentor, your local chamber of commerce, or someone you know that runs a business.

Ready to Write Your Business Plan?

Don’t let creating a business plan hold you back from starting your business. Writing documents might not be your thing—that doesn’t mean your business is a bad idea.

Let us help you get started.

Join our free training to learn how to start an online side hustle in 30 days or less. We’ll provide you with a proven roadmap for how to find, validate, and pursue a profitable business idea (even if you have zero entrepreneurial experience).

Stuck on the ideas part? No problem. When you attend the masterclass, we’ll send you a free ebook with 100 of the hottest side hustle trends right now. It’s chock full of brilliant business ideas to get you up and running in the right direction.

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About Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a writing zealot focused on creating killer content. He’s spent almost a decade writing about startup, marketing, and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped business. A writer by day and a peak bagger by night (and early early morning), you can usually find Jesse preparing for the apocalypse on a precipitous peak somewhere in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

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Home > Business > Business Startup

How To Write a Business Plan

Stephanie Coleman

We are committed to sharing unbiased reviews. Some of the links on our site are from our partners who compensate us. Read our editorial guidelines and advertising disclosure .

How-to-write-a-business-plan

Starting a business is a wild ride, and a solid business plan can be the key to keeping you on track. A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your business — outlining your goals, strategies, market analysis and financial projections. Not only will it guide your decision-making, a business plan can help you secure funding with a loan or from investors .

Writing a business plan can seem like a huge task, but taking it one step at a time can break the plan down into manageable milestones. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to write a business plan.

Table of contents

  • Write your executive summary
  • Do your market research homework
  • Set your business goals and objectives
  • Plan your business strategy
  • Describe your product or service
  • Crunch the numbers
  • Finalize your business plan

a good written business plan

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Step 1: Write your executive summary

Though this will be the first page of your business plan , we recommend you actually write the executive summary last. That’s because an executive summary highlights what’s to come in the business plan but in a more condensed fashion.

An executive summary gives stakeholders who are reading your business plan the key points quickly without having to comb through pages and pages. Be sure to cover each successive point in a concise manner, and include as much data as necessary to support your claims.

You’ll cover other things too, but answer these basic questions in your executive summary:

  • Idea: What’s your business concept? What problem does your business solve? What are your business goals?
  • Product: What’s your product/service and how is it different?
  • Market: Who’s your audience? How will you reach customers?
  • Finance: How much will your idea cost? And if you’re seeking funding, how much money do you need? How much do you expect to earn? If you’ve already started, where is your revenue at now?

a good written business plan

Step 2: Do your market research homework

The next step in writing a business plan is to conduct market research . This involves gathering information about your target market (or customer persona), your competition, and the industry as a whole. You can use a variety of research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and online research to gather this information. Your method may be formal or more casual, just make sure that you’re getting good data back.

This research will help you to understand the needs of your target market and the potential demand for your product or service—essential aspects of starting and growing a successful business.

Step 3: Set your business goals and objectives

Once you’ve completed your market research, you can begin to define your business goals and objectives. What is the problem you want to solve? What’s your vision for the future? Where do you want to be in a year from now?

Use this step to decide what you want to achieve with your business, both in the short and long term. Try to set SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound benchmarks—that will help you to stay focused and motivated as you build your business.

Step 4: Plan your business strategy

Your business strategy is how you plan to reach your goals and objectives. This includes details on positioning your product or service, marketing and sales strategies, operational plans, and the organizational structure of your small business.

Make sure to include key roles and responsibilities for each team member if you’re in a business entity with multiple people.

Step 5: Describe your product or service

In this section, get into the nitty-gritty of your product or service. Go into depth regarding the features, benefits, target market, and any patents or proprietary tech you have. Make sure to paint a clear picture of what sets your product apart from the competition—and don’t forget to highlight any customer benefits.

Step 6: Crunch the numbers

Financial analysis is an essential part of your business plan. If you’re already in business that includes your profit and loss statement , cash flow statement and balance sheet .

These financial projections will give investors and lenders an understanding of the financial health of your business and the potential return on investment.

You may want to work with a financial professional to ensure your financial projections are realistic and accurate.

Step 7: Finalize your business plan

Once you’ve completed everything, it's time to finalize your business plan. This involves reviewing and editing your plan to ensure that it is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

You should also have someone else review your plan to get a fresh perspective and identify any areas that may need improvement. You could even work with a free SCORE mentor on your business plan or use a SCORE business plan template for more detailed guidance.

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The takeaway

Writing a business plan is an essential process for any forward-thinking entrepreneur or business owner. A business plan requires a lot of up-front research, planning, and attention to detail, but it’s worthwhile. Creating a comprehensive business plan can help you achieve your business goals and secure the funding you need.

Related content

  • 5 Best Business Plan Software and Tools in 2023 for Your Small Business
  • How to Get a Business License: What You Need to Know
  • What Is a Cash Flow Statement?

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24 of My Favorite Sample Business Plans & Examples For Your Inspiration

Clifford Chi

Published: February 06, 2024

Free Business Plan Template

a good written business plan

The essential document for starting a business -- custom built for your needs.

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I believe that reading sample business plans is essential when writing your own.

sample business plans and examples

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As you explore business plan examples from real companies and brands, it’s easier for you to learn how to write a good one.

But what does a good business plan look like? And how do you write one that’s both viable and convincing. I’ll walk you through the ideal business plan format along with some examples to help you get started.

Table of Contents

Business Plan Format

Business plan types, sample business plan templates, top business plan examples.

Ask any successful sports coach how they win so many games, and they’ll tell you they have a unique plan for every single game. To me, the same logic applies to business.

If you want to build a thriving company that can pull ahead of the competition, you need to prepare for battle before breaking into a market.

Business plans guide you along the rocky journey of growing a company. And if your business plan is compelling enough, it can also convince investors to give you funding.

With so much at stake, I’m sure you’re wondering where to begin.

a good written business plan

  • Outline your idea.
  • Pitch to investors.
  • Secure funding.
  • Get to work!

You're all set!

Click this link to access this resource at any time.

Fill out the form to get your free template.

First, you’ll want to nail down your formatting. Most business plans include the following sections.

1. Executive Summary

I’d say the executive summary is the most important section of the entire business plan. 

Why? Essentially, it's the overview or introduction, written in a way to grab readers' attention and guide them through the rest of the business plan. This is important, because a business plan can be dozens or hundreds of pages long.

There are two main elements I’d recommend including in your executive summary:

Company Description

This is the perfect space to highlight your company’s mission statement and goals, a brief overview of your history and leadership, and your top accomplishments as a business.

Tell potential investors who you are and why what you do matters. Naturally, they’re going to want to know who they’re getting into business with up front, and this is a great opportunity to showcase your impact.

Need some extra help firming up those business goals? Check out HubSpot Academy’s free course to help you set goals that matter — I’d highly recommend it

Products and Services

To piggyback off of the company description, be sure to incorporate an overview of your offerings. This doesn’t have to be extensive — just another chance to introduce your industry and overall purpose as a business.

In addition to the items above, I recommend including some information about your financial projections and competitive advantage here too.:

Keep in mind you'll cover many of these topics in more detail later on in the business plan. So, keep the executive summary clear and brief, and only include the most important takeaways.

Executive Summary Business Plan Examples

This example was created with HubSpot’s business plan template:

business plan sample: Executive Summary Example

This executive summary is so good to me because it tells potential investors a short story while still covering all of the most important details.

Business plans examples: Executive Summary

Image Source

Tips for Writing Your Executive Summary

  • Start with a strong introduction of your company, showcase your mission and impact, and outline the products and services you provide.
  • Clearly define a problem, and explain how your product solves that problem, and show why the market needs your business.
  • Be sure to highlight your value proposition, market opportunity, and growth potential.
  • Keep it concise and support ideas with data.
  • Customize your summary to your audience. For example, emphasize finances and return on investment for venture capitalists.

Check out our tips for writing an effective executive summary for more guidance.

2. Market Opportunity

This is where you'll detail the opportunity in the market.

The main question I’d ask myself here is this: Where is the gap in the current industry, and how will my product fill that gap?

More specifically, here’s what I’d include in this section:

  • The size of the market
  • Current or potential market share
  • Trends in the industry and consumer behavior
  • Where the gap is
  • What caused the gap
  • How you intend to fill it

To get a thorough understanding of the market opportunity, you'll want to conduct a TAM, SAM, and SOM analysis and perform market research on your industry.

You may also benefit from creating a SWOT analysis to get some of the insights for this section.

Market Opportunity Business Plan Example

I like this example because it uses critical data to underline the size of the potential market and what part of that market this service hopes to capture.

Business plans examples: Market Opportunity

Tips for Writing Your Market Opportunity Section

  • Focus on demand and potential for growth.
  • Use market research, surveys, and industry trend data to support your market forecast and projections.
  • Add a review of regulation shifts, tech advances, and consumer behavior changes.
  • Refer to reliable sources.
  • Showcase how your business can make the most of this opportunity.

3. Competitive Landscape

Since we’re already speaking of market share, you'll also need to create a section that shares details on who the top competitors are.

After all, your customers likely have more than one brand to choose from, and you'll want to understand exactly why they might choose one over another.

My favorite part of performing a competitive analysis is that it can help you uncover:

  • Industry trends that other brands may not be utilizing
  • Strengths in your competition that may be obstacles to handle
  • Weaknesses in your competition that may help you develop selling points
  • The unique proposition you bring to the market that may resonate with customers

Competitive Landscape Business Plan Example

I like how the competitive landscape section of this business plan below shows a clear outline of who the top competitors are.

Business plans examples: Competitive Landscape

It also highlights specific industry knowledge and the importance of location, which shows useful experience in this specific industry. 

This can help build trust in your ability to execute your business plan.

Tips for Writing Your Competitive Landscape

  • Complete in-depth research, then emphasize your most important findings.
  • Compare your unique selling proposition (USP) to your direct and indirect competitors.
  • Show a clear and realistic plan for product and brand differentiation.
  • Look for specific advantages and barriers in the competitive landscape. Then, highlight how that information could impact your business.
  • Outline growth opportunities from a competitive perspective.
  • Add customer feedback and insights to support your competitive analysis.

4. Target Audience

Use this section to describe who your customer segments are in detail. What is the demographic and psychographic information of your audience?

If your immediate answer is "everyone," you'll need to dig deeper. Here are some questions I’d ask myself here:

  • What demographics will most likely need/buy your product or service?
  • What are the psychographics of this audience? (Desires, triggering events, etc.)
  • Why are your offerings valuable to them?

I’d also recommend building a buyer persona to get in the mindset of your ideal customers and be clear on why you're targeting them.

Target Audience Business Plan Example

I like the example below because it uses in-depth research to draw conclusions about audience priorities. It also analyzes how to create the right content for this audience.

Business plans examples: Target Audience

Tips for Writing Your Target Audience Section

  • Include details on the size and growth potential of your target audience.
  • Figure out and refine the pain points for your target audience , then show why your product is a useful solution.
  • Describe your targeted customer acquisition strategy in detail.
  • Share anticipated challenges your business may face in acquiring customers and how you plan to address them.
  • Add case studies, testimonials, and other data to support your target audience ideas.
  • Remember to consider niche audiences and segments of your target audience in your business plan.

5. Marketing Strategy

Here, you'll discuss how you'll acquire new customers with your marketing strategy. I’d suggest including information:

  • Your brand positioning vision and how you'll cultivate it
  • The goal targets you aim to achieve
  • The metrics you'll use to measure success
  • The channels and distribution tactics you'll use

I think it’s helpful to have a marketing plan built out in advance to make this part of your business plan easier.

Marketing Strategy Business Plan Example

This business plan example includes the marketing strategy for the town of Gawler.

In my opinion, it really works because it offers a comprehensive picture of how they plan to use digital marketing to promote the community.

Business plans examples: Marketing Strategy

Tips for Writing Your Marketing Strategy

  • Include a section about how you believe your brand vision will appeal to customers.
  • Add the budget and resources you'll need to put your plan in place.
  • Outline strategies for specific marketing segments.
  • Connect strategies to earlier sections like target audience and competitive analysis.
  • Review how your marketing strategy will scale with the growth of your business.
  • Cover a range of channels and tactics to highlight your ability to adapt your plan in the face of change.

6. Key Features and Benefits

At some point in your business plan, you'll need to review the key features and benefits of your products and/or services.

Laying these out can give readers an idea of how you're positioning yourself in the market and the messaging you're likely to use. It can even help them gain better insight into your business model.

Key Features and Benefits Business Plan Example

In my opinion, the example below does a great job outlining products and services for this business, along with why these qualities will attract the audience.

Business plans examples: Key Features and Benefits

Tips for Writing Your Key Features and Benefits

  • Emphasize why and how your product or service offers value to customers.
  • Use metrics and testimonials to support the ideas in this section.
  • Talk about how your products and services have the potential to scale.
  • Think about including a product roadmap.
  • Focus on customer needs, and how the features and benefits you are sharing meet those needs.
  • Offer proof of concept for your ideas, like case studies or pilot program feedback.
  • Proofread this section carefully, and remove any jargon or complex language.

7. Pricing and Revenue

This is where you'll discuss your cost structure and various revenue streams. Your pricing strategy must be solid enough to turn a profit while staying competitive in the industry. 

For this reason, here’s what I’d might outline in this section:

  • The specific pricing breakdowns per product or service
  • Why your pricing is higher or lower than your competition's
  • (If higher) Why customers would be willing to pay more
  • (If lower) How you're able to offer your products or services at a lower cost
  • When you expect to break even, what margins do you expect, etc?

Pricing and Revenue Business Plan Example

I like how this business plan example begins with an overview of the business revenue model, then shows proposed pricing for key products.

Business plans examples: Pricing and Revenue

Tips for Writing Your Pricing and Revenue Section

  • Get specific about your pricing strategy. Specifically, how you connect that strategy to customer needs and product value.
  • If you are asking a premium price, share unique features or innovations that justify that price point.
  • Show how you plan to communicate pricing to customers.
  • Create an overview of every revenue stream for your business and how each stream adds to your business model as a whole.
  • Share plans to develop new revenue streams in the future.
  • Show how and whether pricing will vary by customer segment and how pricing aligns with marketing strategies.
  • Restate your value proposition and explain how it aligns with your revenue model.

8. Financials

To me, this section is particularly informative for investors and leadership teams to figure out funding strategies, investment opportunities, and more.

 According to Forbes , you'll want to include three main things:

  • Profit/Loss Statement - This answers the question of whether your business is currently profitable.
  • Cash Flow Statement - This details exactly how much cash is incoming and outgoing to give insight into how much cash a business has on hand.
  • Balance Sheet - This outlines assets, liabilities, and equity, which gives insight into how much a business is worth.

While some business plans might include more or less information, these are the key details I’d include in this section.

Financials Business Plan Example

This balance sheet is a great example of level of detail you’ll need to include in the financials section of your business plan.

Business plans examples: Financials

Tips for Writing Your Financials Section

  • Growth potential is important in this section too. Using your data, create a forecast of financial performance in the next three to five years.
  • Include any data that supports your projections to assure investors of the credibility of your proposal.
  • Add a break-even analysis to show that your business plan is financially practical. This information can also help you pivot quickly as your business grows.
  • Consider adding a section that reviews potential risks and how sensitive your plan is to changes in the market.
  • Triple-check all financial information in your plan for accuracy.
  • Show how any proposed funding needs align with your plans for growth.

As you create your business plan, keep in mind that each of these sections will be formatted differently. Some may be in paragraph format, while others could be charts or graphs.

The formats above apply to most types of business plans. That said, the format and structure of your plan will vary by your goals for that plan. 

So, I’ve added a quick review of different business plan types. For a more detailed overview, check out this post .

1. Startups

Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas.

If you’re planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business.

You can check out this guide for more detailed business plan inspiration .

2. Feasibility Studies

Feasibility business plans focus on that business's product or service. Feasibility plans are sometimes added to startup business plans. They can also be a new business plan for an already thriving organization.

3. Internal Use

You can use internal business plans to share goals, strategies, or performance updates with stakeholders. In my opinion, internal business plans are useful for alignment and building support for ambitious goals.

4. Strategic Initiatives

Another business plan that's often for sharing internally is a strategic business plan. This plan covers long-term business objectives that might not have been included in the startup business plan.

5. Business Acquisition or Repositioning

When a business is moving forward with an acquisition or repositioning, it may need extra structure and support. These types of business plans expand on a company's acquisition or repositioning strategy.

Growth sometimes just happens as a business continues operations. But more often, a business needs to create a structure with specific targets to meet set goals for expansion. This business plan type can help a business focus on short-term growth goals and align resources with those goals.

Now that you know what's included and how to format a business plan, let's review some of my favorite templates.

1. HubSpot's One-Page Business Plan

Download a free, editable one-page business plan template..

The business plan linked above was created here at HubSpot and is perfect for businesses of any size — no matter how many strategies we still have to develop.

Fields such as Company Description, Required Funding, and Implementation Timeline give this one-page business plan a framework for how to build your brand and what tasks to keep track of as you grow.

Then, as the business matures, you can expand on your original business plan with a new iteration of the above document.

Why I Like It

This one-page business plan is a fantastic choice for the new business owner who doesn’t have the time or resources to draft a full-blown business plan. It includes all the essential sections in an accessible, bullet-point-friendly format. That way, you can get the broad strokes down before honing in on the details.

2. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

Sample business plan: hubspot free editable pdf

We also created a business plan template for entrepreneurs.

The template is designed as a guide and checklist for starting your own business. You’ll learn what to include in each section of your business plan and how to do it.

There’s also a list for you to check off when you finish each section of your business plan.

Strong game plans help coaches win games and help businesses rocket to the top of their industries. So if you dedicate the time and effort required to write a workable and convincing business plan, you’ll boost your chances of success and even dominance in your market.

This business plan kit is essential for the budding entrepreneur who needs a more extensive document to share with investors and other stakeholders.

It not only includes sections for your executive summary, product line, market analysis, marketing plan, and sales plan, but it also offers hands-on guidance for filling out those sections.

3. LiveFlow’s Financial Planning Template with built-in automation

Sample Business Plan: LiveFLow

This free template from LiveFlow aims to make it easy for businesses to create a financial plan and track their progress on a monthly basis.

The P&L Budget versus Actual format allows users to track their revenue, cost of sales, operating expenses, operating profit margin, net profit, and more.

The summary dashboard aggregates all of the data put into the financial plan sheet and will automatically update when changes are made.

Instead of wasting hours manually importing your data to your spreadsheet, LiveFlow can also help you to automatically connect your accounting and banking data directly to your spreadsheet, so your numbers are always up-to-date.

With the dashboard, you can view your runway, cash balance, burn rate, gross margins, and other metrics. Having a simple way to track everything in one place will make it easier to complete the financials section of your business plan.

This is a fantastic template to track performance and alignment internally and to create a dependable process for documenting financial information across the business. It’s highly versatile and beginner-friendly.

It’s especially useful if you don’t have an accountant on the team. (I always recommend you do, but for new businesses, having one might not be possible.)

4. ThoughtCo’s Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: ThoughtCo.

One of the more financially oriented sample business plans in this list, BPlan’s free business plan template dedicates many of its pages to your business’s financial plan and financial statements.

After filling this business plan out, your company will truly understand its financial health and the steps you need to take to maintain or improve it.

I absolutely love this business plan template because of its ease-of-use and hands-on instructions (in addition to its finance-centric components). If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of writing an entire business plan, consider using this template to help you with the process.

6. Harvard Business Review’s "How to Write a Winning Business Plan"

Most sample business plans teach you what to include in your business plan, but this Harvard Business Review article will take your business plan to the next level — it teaches you the why and how behind writing a business plan.

With the guidance of Stanley Rich and Richard Gumpert, co-authors of " Business Plans That Win: Lessons From the MIT Enterprise Forum ", you'll learn how to write a convincing business plan that emphasizes the market demand for your product or service.

You’ll also learn the financial benefits investors can reap from putting money into your venture rather than trying to sell them on how great your product or service is.

This business plan guide focuses less on the individual parts of a business plan, and more on the overarching goal of writing one. For that reason, it’s one of my favorites to supplement any template you choose to use. Harvard Business Review’s guide is instrumental for both new and seasoned business owners.

7. HubSpot’s Complete Guide to Starting a Business

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know writing a business plan is one of the most challenging first steps to starting a business.

Fortunately, with HubSpot's comprehensive guide to starting a business, you'll learn how to map out all the details by understanding what to include in your business plan and why it’s important to include them. The guide also fleshes out an entire sample business plan for you.

If you need further guidance on starting a business, HubSpot's guide can teach you how to make your business legal, choose and register your business name, and fund your business. It will also give small business tax information and includes marketing, sales, and service tips.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of starting a business, in addition to writing your business plan, with a high level of exactitude and detail. So if you’re in the midst of starting your business, this is an excellent guide for you.

It also offers other resources you might need, such as market analysis templates.

8. Panda Doc’s Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Panda Doc

PandaDoc’s free business plan template is one of the more detailed and fleshed-out sample business plans on this list. It describes what you should include in each section, so you don't have to come up with everything from scratch.

Once you fill it out, you’ll fully understand your business’ nitty-gritty details and how all of its moving parts should work together to contribute to its success.

This template has two things I love: comprehensiveness and in-depth instructions. Plus, it’s synced with PandaDoc’s e-signature software so that you and other stakeholders can sign it with ease. For that reason, I especially love it for those starting a business with a partner or with a board of directors.

9. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

sample business plan: Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several free business plan templates that can be used to inspire your own plan.

Before you get started, you can decide what type of business plan you need — a traditional or lean start-up plan.

Then, you can review the format for both of those plans and view examples of what they might look like.

We love both of the SBA’s templates because of their versatility. You can choose between two options and use the existing content in the templates to flesh out your own plan. Plus, if needed, you can get a free business counselor to help you along the way.

I’ve compiled some completed business plan samples to help you get an idea of how to customize a plan for your business.

I chose different types of business plan ideas to expand your imagination. Some are extensive, while others are fairly simple.

Let’s take a look.

1. LiveFlow

business plan example: liveflow

One of the major business expenses is marketing. How you handle your marketing reflects your company’s revenue.

I included this business plan to show you how you can ensure your marketing team is aligned with your overall business plan to get results. The plan also shows you how to track even the smallest metrics of your campaigns, like ROI and payback periods instead of just focusing on big metrics like gross and revenue.

Fintech startup, LiveFlow, allows users to sync real-time data from its accounting services, payment platforms, and banks into custom reports. This eliminates the task of pulling reports together manually, saving teams time and helping automate workflows.

"Using this framework over a traditional marketing plan will help you set a profitable marketing strategy taking things like CAC, LTV, Payback period, and P&L into consideration," explains LiveFlow co-founder, Lasse Kalkar .

When it came to including marketing strategy in its business plan, LiveFlow created a separate marketing profit and loss statement (P&L) to track how well the company was doing with its marketing initiatives.

This is a great approach, allowing businesses to focus on where their marketing dollars are making the most impact. Having this information handy will enable you to build out your business plan’s marketing section with confidence. LiveFlow has shared the template here . You can test it for yourself.

2. Lula Body

Business plan example: Lula body

Sometimes all you need is a solid mission statement and core values to guide you on how to go about everything. You do this by creating a business plan revolving around how to fulfill your statement best.

For example, Patagonia is an eco-friendly company, so their plan discusses how to make the best environmentally friendly products without causing harm.

A good mission statement  should not only resonate with consumers but should also serve as a core value compass for employees as well.

Patagonia has one of the most compelling mission statements I’ve seen:

"Together, let’s prioritise purpose over profit and protect this wondrous planet, our only home."

It reels you in from the start, and the environmentally friendly theme continues throughout the rest of the statement.

This mission goes on to explain that they are out to "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to protect nature."

Their mission statement is compelling and detailed, with each section outlining how they will accomplish their goal.

4. Vesta Home Automation

business plan example: Vesta executive summary

This executive summary for a smart home device startup is part of a business plan created by students at Mount Royal University .

While it lacks some of the sleek visuals of the templates above, its executive summary does a great job of demonstrating how invested they are in the business.

Right away, they mention they’ve invested $200,000 into the company already, which shows investors they have skin in the game and aren’t just looking for someone else to foot the bill.

This is the kind of business plan you need when applying for business funds. It clearly illustrates the expected future of the company and how the business has been coming along over the years.

5. NALB Creative Center

business plan examples: nalb creative center

This fictional business plan for an art supply store includes everything one might need in a business plan: an executive summary, a company summary, a list of services, a market analysis summary, and more.

One of its most notable sections is its market analysis summary, which includes an overview of the population growth in the business’ target geographical area, as well as a breakdown of the types of potential customers they expect to welcome at the store. 

This sort of granular insight is essential for understanding and communicating your business’s growth potential. Plus, it lays a strong foundation for creating relevant and useful buyer personas .

It’s essential to keep this information up-to-date as your market and target buyer changes. For that reason, you should carry out market research as often as possible to ensure that you’re targeting the correct audience and sharing accurate information with your investors.

Due to its comprehensiveness, it’s an excellent example to follow if you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store and need to get external funding to start your business .

6. Curriculum Companion Suites (CSS)

business plan examples: curriculum companion suites

If you’re looking for a SaaS business plan example, look no further than this business plan for a fictional educational software company called Curriculum Companion Suites. 

Like the business plan for the NALB Creative Center, it includes plenty of information for prospective investors and other key stakeholders in the business.

One of the most notable features of this business plan is the executive summary, which includes an overview of the product, market, and mission.

The first two are essential for software companies because the product offering is so often at the forefront of the company’s strategy. Without that information being immediately available to investors and executives, then you risk writing an unfocused business plan.

It’s essential to front-load your company’s mission if it explains your "Why?" and this example does just that. In other words, why do you do what you do, and why should stakeholders care? This is an important section to include if you feel that your mission will drive interest in the business and its offerings.

7. Culina Sample Business Plan

sample business plan: Culina

Culina's sample business plan is an excellent example of how to lay out your business plan so that it flows naturally, engages readers, and provides the critical information investors and stakeholders need. 

You can use this template as a guide while you're gathering important information for your own business plan. You'll have a better understanding of the data and research you need to do since Culina’s plan outlines these details so flawlessly for inspiration.

8. Plum Sample Business Plan

Sample business plan: Plum

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10 Qualities of a Good Business Plan Explained

Two female entrepreneurs standing in the backroom of their shop looking at their business plan on a computer.

Eleanor Hecks

9 min. read

Updated October 27, 2023

According to the United States Small Business Administration, there are approximately 32.5 million small businesses at the moment. The number fluctuates from year to year with businesses coming and going. If you want to remain profitable and thrive, you must have a plan to move forward. 

A business plan does far more than help secure venture capital when you’re starting out. You’ll use a strong business plan throughout the life of a company. Use it to refocus your goals, refresh your memory on growth plans, and fulfill marketing goals. Share your plan with employees, shareholders, and investors, and refer back to it to see if you need to make adjustments along the way.

Having a solid business plan can help you successfully start, manage, and grow your business. But what are the qualities that make a business plan more than a document? What does it take to write a strong business plan?

  • What are the characteristics of a great business plan?

An excellent plan works for your company and keeps everyone on the same page. There isn’t a lot of ambiguity in it, and all things are listed in an orderly fashion that’s easy to absorb.

The format of the business plan may be almost as important as the words within it, so use bullet points, headers, bold print, and other tricks to keep the reader engaged.

Whether you already have a business plan written and want to edit it to perfection or you need to start from scratch , there are six characteristics every strong plan has.

1. Clear language

It might be tempting to throw in a bunch of industry jargon to show your knowledge of your niche. Unfortunately, most lenders won’t know what you mean. It’s much better to stick to language anyone can understand. You never know who you’ll need to share your business plan with.

Read over the plan several times for typos and clarity. Read out loud so you can “hear” the words. You’ll catch awkward phrasing by speaking the words. You can never have too many eyes on the plan. One person might catch a particular spelling error while another sees the grammatical errors.

Get feedback from your employees, family, mentor, and friends. You don’t have to follow every suggestion, but you should consider what everyone says and choose the things that make the most sense for your business model.

Look at the business plan through the eyes of someone outside the industry. Does everything make sense? Are there any phrases someone might have to stop and look up? You don’t want the reader to be thrown out of the flow of the text.

2. Employee recognition

Your business plan should include a layout for employee recognition. Developing a strong workplace culture benefits your brand in numerous ways, such as creating staff loyalty and retaining your best people. It’s difficult for a company to thrive and grow without focusing on its workers.

When employees receive recognition for their accomplishments, they are 82% happier in their jobs . They’ll outperform workers in a company without the plan for an excellent culture. If you aren’t quite sure what your company culture should be yet, just make some notes on the things you’ve loved about your favorite places to work.

What’s your biggest business challenge right now?

3. realistic goals.

While you might love to run a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, most small businesses stay relatively small. That isn’t to say you can’t find great success as a small business owner, but make sure your goals are achievable .

As you work through the potential revenue numbers, pay attention to what others in your industry make in a year. You might be able to exceed that by 10%, but thinking you’ll make four times what your nearest competitor does may not be very realistic.

Making your goals too lofty may hurt your chances of securing financing, too. Those considering investing in your business may feel you don’t fully understand the typical earnings of your industry.

4. Great mission statement

The best business plans outline the purpose of your company. Why did you start the business in the first place, and how will you leave your mark with the brand?

For example, a small landscaping company called Massey Services shares its mission statement on its website. Their overall goal is total customer satisfaction . Everything else in their statement on their webpage ties into that philosophy. They also want to build long-term relationships, they want people to trust them, and they value truth and integrity.

When you have a strong mission statement , it drives everything else you do. If your focus is on building relationships, you’ll develop a company culture based on interactions with employees. Your mission statement might arguably be the thing about your company that never changes.

5. Methodology for results

Make sure your business plan has a way to track results over time. Lay out the methodology of any facts and figures used to estimate revenue or what your costs will be. Then, check against those assumptions from time to time to make sure you’re hitting the right beats.

For example, if you plan to hit a certain level of revenue by the end of the first year, how can you break that down into quarters, months, and weeks? What is the best way to make sure you achieve your goals?

You can’t fix mistakes or make adjustments if you don’t know where you are in the journey. Pay attention to how quickly the brand moves toward objectives and make adjustments as needed.

6. Foundation for marketing strategies

How do you plan to get the word out about your brand? You must have a marketing strategy that makes sense for your budget and your philosophies as a brand. Perhaps you plan to work exclusively with online influencers. How much will you allocate to the budget for influencer marketing?

Take time to study who your target audience is and create buyer personas representing the average person who’ll buy from you. While you might need to tweak your personas from time to time, a solid plan, in the beginning, gets things off on the right foot and helps you bring in new customers.

Figure out how much you’ll spend online and offline on marketing efforts. Where can you reach your average customer? Do they mainly hang out on Facebook? If so, much of your budget can go to Facebook ads. On the other hand, if they use TikTok and rarely visit Facebook, you might want to put more time, energy, and finances into building an audience on the newer platform.

7. It fits the need of your business

The best business plan for your company takes into account why you need a business plan in the first place. Are you going for funding, using the information to improve internal operations, pitching your concept to investors, or perhaps communicating your goals to employees?

There are many different reasons you’ll utilize a business plan. They aren’t one-size-fits-all . You may even find you need addendums or additional plans to match the needs of your business at any given time.

If you intend to use your plan in-house to motivate employees or stick to your goals, a one-page plan may be all you need. You can also use a shorter version to test ideas you have and see how they might match the goals of your company.

On the other hand, a traditional full-length plan works best if you need funding from a bank or want to pitch a concept to an outside investor. You can also use a longer plan to get feedback from a mentor or business coach.

8. Your strategy is realistic

In a recent Gartner Execution Gap Survey, approximately 40% of leaders said their enterprise accountability and leadership were not aligned on an execution strategy. If your business plan doesn’t lay out how the business operates, there may be too much room for interpretation that causes dissent within the company and makes people work against one another instead of as a cohesive unit.

Start by ensuring different operational milestones within your plan are attainable. For example, if you share a financial forecast, is it realistic? Based on current revenue, can you realistically achieve your goals? If you’ve brought in $200,000 per year in revenue for the last few years, don’t expect to jump to $400,000 in the next quarter. Make a plan for increasing revenue – but in increments that make sense and are achievable.

You don’t need an unrealistic plan. Company leaders and employees will only grow frustrated and discouraged if they’re unable to hit any target goals laid out in the plan.

9. Clearly identifies assumptions

When you’re writing out a business plan, you may not have all the answers. At best, some of the information is an assumption based on outside data, past performance, and any testing you’ve completed. There will be times when you make a mistake in your estimates.

Be upfront about what your assumptions are when writing out your plan. Did you assume the company will increase 10% in productivity this year because it did in the last few years? Share your thoughts on why you think this is achievable based on past factors, but also make it clear it’s a guess. In reality, the company may over-or-underperform on those expectations.

Show what is an assumption also point to what might need to be updated or refined after a few months. Consider these areas to revisit frequently for updates or to set new goals.

10. Easy to communicate with the right people

Who is your audience? Knowing who will look at your business plans allows you to create it in a format you can share with the right people. Consider factors such as how easily scannable the text is and what it looks like in different formats, such as a document or PDF file.

Who are you sharing it with, and how will they use it? For example, if you include any links, will the person be able to click on them and go directly to the page you want them to go to? Is the viewer likely to read the plan on a mobile device? How well does the format adapt?

Consider who you’re sharing it with and how they’ll need to use it to make sure you offer it in the best format for viewing by that individual. You may even want to save your business plan in a variety of different formats.

  • Keep your plan updated

Your business plan isn’t something you write once and then forget. To truly make yours work for your business model, you must refer back to it and see where you are with your predictions and goals. As you hit high notes, add new objectives and plan them out with measurable goals.

Over time, your business plan won’t look much like the one you used the day you opened your company’s doors. However, the mission statement will likely stay the same, and elements such as company culture won’t change much.

What will change is your knowledge of the industry and how well you can adapt to the challenges faced by all small business owners. With a plan for handling different situations, you’re certain to be one of the small businesses finding success past the 10-year mark.

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See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Eleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine . She was the creative director at a prominent digital marketing agency prior to becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.

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Access our collection of user-friendly templates for business planning, finance, sales, marketing, and management, designed to assist you in developing strategies for either launching a new business venture or expanding an existing one.

You can use the templates below as a starting point to create your startup business plan or map out how you will expand your existing business. Then meet with a  SCORE mentor to get expert business planning advice and feedback on your business plan.

If writing a full business plan seems overwhelming, start with a one-page Business Model Canvas. Developed by Founder and CEO of Strategyzer, Alexander Osterwalder, it can be used to easily document your business concept.

Download this template to fill out the nine squares focusing on the different building blocks of any business:

  • Value Proposition
  • Customer Segments
  • Customer Relationships
  • Key Activities
  • Key Resources
  • Key Partners
  • Cost Structure
  • Revenue Streams

For help completing the Business Model Canvas Template, contact a SCORE business mentor for guidance

From creating a startup budget to managing cash flow for a growing business, keeping tabs on your business’s finances is essential to success. The templates below will help you monitor and manage your business’s financial situation, create financial projections and seek financing to start or grow your business.

This interactive calculator allows you to provide inputs and see a full estimated repayment schedule to plan your capital needs and cash flow.

A 12-month profit and loss projection, also known as an income statement or statement of earnings, provides a detailed overview of your financial performance over a one-year period. This projection helps you anticipate future financial outcomes by estimating monthly income and expenses, which facilitates informed decision-making and strategic planning. 

If you’re trying to get a loan from a bank, they may ask you for a personal financial statement. You can use this free, downloadable template to document your assets, liabilities and net worth. 

A Personal Financial Statement is a

Marketing helps your business build brand awareness, attract customers and create customer loyalty. Use these templates to forecast sales, develop your marketing strategy and map out your marketing budget and plan.

How healthy is your business? Are you missing out on potential growth opportunities or ignoring areas of weakness? Do you need to hire employees to reach your goals? The following templates will help you assess the state of your business and accomplish important management tasks.

Whether you are starting your business or established and looking to grow, our Business Healthcheck Tool will provide practical information and guidance.

Learn how having a SCORE mentor can be a valuable asset for your business. A SCORE mentor can provide guidance and support in various areas of business, including finance, marketing, and strategy. They can help you navigate challenges and make important decisions based on their expertise and experience. By seeking out a SCORE mentor, you can gain the guidance and support you need to help grow your business and achieve success.

SCORE offers free business mentoring to anyone that wants to start, currently owns, or is planning to close or sell a small business. To initiate the process, input your zip code in the designated area below. Then, complete the mentoring request form on the following page, including as much information as possible about your business. This information is used to match you with a mentor in your area. After submitting the request, you will receive an email from your mentor to arrange your first mentoring session.

Copyright © 2024 SCORE Association, SCORE.org

Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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Why Elon Musk Is Taking OpenAI and Sam Altman to Court

The tech mogul wants to force the A.I. start-up to reveal its research to the public and prevent it from pursuing profits.

By Andrew Ross Sorkin ,  Ravi Mattu ,  Bernhard Warner ,  Sarah Kessler ,  Michael J. de la Merced ,  Lauren Hirsch and Ephrat Livni

Elon Musk, the tech billionaire, puts an object in his suit-jacket pocket as another man walks behind him.

Musk takes aim at OpenAI

The gloves have really come off in one of the most personal fights in the tech world: Elon Musk has sued OpenAI and its C.E.O., Sam Altman, accusing them of reneging on the start-up’s original purpose of being a nonprofit laboratory for the technology.

Yes, Musk has disagreed with Altman for years about the purpose of the organization they co-founded and he is creating a rival artificial intelligence company. But the lawsuit also appears rooted in philosophical differences that go to the heart of who controls a hugely transformative technology — and is backed by one of the wealthiest men on the planet.

The backstory: Musk, Altman and others agreed to create OpenAI in 2015 to provide an open-sourced alternative to the likes of Google, which had bought the leading A.I. start-up DeepMind the year before. Musk notes in his suit that OpenAI’s certificate of incorporation states that its work “will benefit the public,” and that it isn’t “organized for the private gain of any person.”

Musk poured more than $44 million into OpenAI between 2016 and 2020, and helped hire top talent like the researcher Ilya Sutskever.

Altman has moved OpenAI toward commerce, starting with the creation in 2019 of a for-profit subsidiary that would raise money from investors, notably Microsoft. The final straw for Musk came last year, when OpenAI released its GPT-4 A.I. model — but kept its workings hidden from all except itself and Microsoft.

“OpenAI, Inc. has been transformed into a closed-source de facto subsidiary of the largest technology company in the world: Microsoft,” Musk’s lawyers write in the complaint .

(Musk has raised these concerns for some time. “Is this legal?” Musk asked at the DealBook Summit last year.)

Musk also argues that GPT-4 has achieved a level of complexity known as artificial general intelligence, which makes it exempt from a 2020 exclusivity agreement between OpenAI and Microsoft. (Other A.I. experts say GPT-4 falls far short of that designation.)

Musk’s main aim is for the court to open up OpenAI, forcing the company to reveal its research to the public and preventing its executives and Microsoft from profiting from its work.

He is also seeking damages, though it’s unclear he would win a significant amount; the lawsuit says he would contribute any to charity.

The counternarrative: The Times has reported that Musk sought to take control of OpenAI in 2017 to make it a commercial venture that worked with Tesla. After Altman and others pushed back, Musk quit and focused on expanding Tesla’s in-house A.I. capabilities. Musk pointed out in the lawsuit, however, that he continued to invest in OpenAI’s nonprofit entity until September 2020.

More recently, Musk has founded xAI, a start-up that is working on chatbots like Grok and other OpenAI competitors.

Musk is a more formidable foe than many of OpenAI’s other legal challengers . (These include The Times, which has sued OpenAI and Microsoft, accusing them of copyright infringement.) The tech billionaire has the means to keep his lawsuit going for some time. That could include the expensive work of obtaining legal discovery, which might unearth communications and documents that could pose headaches for Altman and OpenAI.

Then again, OpenAI itself has considerable means, thanks in part to the financial backing from Microsoft. And some legal experts cast doubt on the strength of Musk’s case. Game on.

HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING

President Biden reportedly wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and businesses. Biden will back plans for higher taxes and lower prescription drug prices in his State of the Union address next week, according to Bloomberg. The president has been campaigning lately on his economic record and his administration’s tough stance on big business.

Alabama lawmakers move to protect I.V.F. procedures. Legislators overwhelmingly voted to advance bills that would give legal protections to doctors, hospitals and others who provide the fertility treatment, after the state’s Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos should be considered children. The high court decision prompted I.V.F. clinics to suspend service in Alabama and has created a political headache for even staunchly anti-abortion Republicans.

G.M. reportedly slashes the internal valuation of its Cruise division. Executives told employees of the carmaker’s autonomous vehicle unit that its estimated share price was $11.80, down more than half from a quarter ago, according to Reuters. The steep markdown is the latest consequence of the privately held company pulling its vehicles off the road after an October accident in which a Cruise car dragged a pedestrian, drawing regulatory investigations.

The BeyHive and Swifties give AMC a lift. The theater chain on Thursday reported a tripling of operating profit and a 12 percent rise in revenue in its fourth quarter — and attributed “literally all” of that growth to concert films by Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. It was a reminder of the economic power of the two pop superstars, whose tours and associated projects have bolstered the fortunes of business partners and host cities alike.

“Summertime” rate cuts?

Stocks have surged to records across three continents, as encouraging inflation data bolsters investors’ hopes for interest-rate cuts as soon as June.

The Nasdaq composite, S&P 500, Japan’s Nikkei, and Germany’s DAX are sitting on all-time highs, thanks to booming interest in A.I.-related stocks and optimism about lower borrowing costs. Thursday’s Personal Consumption Expenditures report, the Fed’s favored inflation gauge, reinforced that message as the data came in line with economists’ forecasts .

In Europe, new data on Friday morning showed inflation easing further .

The markets and policymakers may be on the same page regarding rates. Raphael Bostic, president of the Atlanta Fed and an inflation hawk, gave a lift to the markets on Thursday when he suggested that rate cuts would probably happen in “ the summertime .”

Wall Street seems aligned with Bostic’s view. The futures market as of Friday is penciling in June. That suggests investors have shifted from their widely held position at the start of the year, when the bet was that the Fed would begin lowering borrowing costs this month.

Some analysts are coming to a similar view. “We expect the Fed to start a gradual cutting cycle in June owing to progress in reducing inflation,” Michael Gapen, the chief U.S. economist at Bank of America, wrote in an investor note on Thursday. He and his colleagues see three cuts coming this year, and four next year.

The inflation picture is not entirely rosy. Inflation on goods like cars and appliances continues to fall, the P.C.E. data showed. But services inflation is running hot. Auto-insurance premiums are soaring , for example, and consumers have cut back on spending for the first time in five months .

Such economic trends could present a potential problem for President Biden. Voters have been feeling better about the economy in recent months (though that’s not translating into better polling numbers). And they remain concerned about high inflation.

In other market news: The share price of New York Community Bank plunged more than 25 percent in premarket trading after the embattled lender reported a worse-than-expected fourth-quarter loss , and it announced a leadership shake-up. And Bitcoin was trading around $62,000 on Friday morning as its blockbuster rally takes a breather.

“We don’t need anybody to change their views. We just need them not to express them while they’re here.”

— An executive at LVMH , ahead of a Louis Vuitton fashion show in Hong Kong, according to The Wall Street Journal. China is a crucial market for the Bernard Arnault’s luxury giant, which is trying to avoid being caught in geopolitical tensions between the West and Beijing.

The Disney clan backs Iger in activist challenge

Over the past two decades, the Disney family was perhaps best known for feuding with the company that bears its name, forcing out Michael Eisner as C.E.O. and chiding his successor, Bob Iger, for pay inequality.

So it’s striking that the heirs of Walt and Roy Disney have now come out strongly in support of Iger and against efforts by Nelson Peltz to shake up the media giant. (The Disneys said the company hadn’t sought their endorsement.)

“These activists must be defeated,” Roy P. Disney, a grandson of the co-founder Roy Disney, told The Times. “They are not interested in preserving the Disney magic, but stripping it to the bone to make a quick profit for themselves.”

Abigail Disney, one of Roy P. Disney’s sisters, was similarly blunt: “I have my differences with Bob Iger, but I know for a fact that the worst thing that could happen to the company is Nelson Peltz,” she said.

The Disneys’ support is a symbolic victory for Iger. The family probably has just a small stake in the media giant, but their words carry significant weight. And it’s especially notable that Abigail Disney has backed Iger, after criticizing him for “obscene” pay inequality at the company. (She and several siblings were behind a 2022 documentary that excoriated Disney on the issue.)

Roy E. Disney, the father of Abigail and Roy P. Disney, twice led revolts against the company’s management.

It’s another blow to Peltz. He has argued that Disney’s stock has lagged because the company needs to rethink its strategy on streaming and other business issues. But Disney has since reported strong quarterly earnings and announced an investment in Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, that was well-received by investors.

What are the odds of success for Peltz? Iger has cut costs and moved to revamp Disney’s streaming business, helping to push the company’s share price up 12 percent since the earnings report. Disney’s stock is up 23 percent since the start of the year.

But the share price is nearly half of what it was at a 2021 peak. And Iger still has to deal with Peltz’s other concerns, including coming up with a succession plan that will stick. The real test will come on April 3 at the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

THE SPEED READ

Alexa von Toby and Penny Pritzker’s Inspired Capital raises $330 million , its third fund-raising round in five years. (Fast Company)

The Australian hedge fund investor Greg Coffey is in talks to acquire the emerging markets investor Emso in a deal that would create a $13 billion firm. (Bloomberg)

Chinese factory activity slowed again, the latest batch of bad economic data adding to pressure on Beijing to boost growth. (WSJ)

The Biden administration will narrow the scope of new rules to cut greenhouse gas emitted by the electricity sector. (Bloomberg)

Best of the rest

Howard Schultz wrote to Starbucks’ board before his successor agreed to talks with unions, warning that the company was at an “inflection point” and needed to adhere to its core values to survive. (LinkedIn)

“Larry Fink, Bill Gates, Rihanna to Join Ambani Son’s Pre-Wedding Bash ” (Bloomberg)

We’d like your feedback! Please email thoughts and suggestions to [email protected] .

Andrew Ross Sorkin is a columnist and the founder and editor at large of DealBook. He is a co-anchor of CNBC’s "Squawk Box" and the author of “Too Big to Fail.” He is also a co-creator of the Showtime drama series "Billions." More about Andrew Ross Sorkin

Ravi Mattu is the managing editor of DealBook, based in London. He joined The New York Times in 2022 from the Financial Times, where he held a number of senior roles in Hong Kong and London. More about Ravi Mattu

Bernhard Warner is a senior editor for DealBook, a newsletter from The Times, covering business trends, the economy and the markets. More about Bernhard Warner

Sarah Kessler is an editor for the DealBook newsletter and writes features on business and how workplaces are changing. More about Sarah Kessler

Michael de la Merced joined The Times as a reporter in 2006, covering Wall Street and finance. Among his main coverage areas are mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcies and the private equity industry. More about Michael J. de la Merced

Lauren Hirsch joined The Times from CNBC in 2020, covering deals and the biggest stories on Wall Street. More about Lauren Hirsch

Ephrat Livni reports from Washington on the intersection of business and policy for DealBook. Previously, she was a senior reporter at Quartz, covering law and politics, and has practiced law in the public and private sectors.   More about Ephrat Livni

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  • Generative AI

The 10 Best AI Writers & Content Generators Compared

Analyze the output of AI content writers post-ChatGPT so you can use what's best for your business and keep up with the ever-changing digital marketing landscape.

AI content creation tools have become much more accessible and mainstream since the release of ChatGPT and Gemini (previously known as Bard) by Google.

Since then, we have seen an accelerated uptake in the use of AI tools – and especially in AI content generation.

Revisiting an article we wrote pre-ChatGPT, we have reassessed our original list of tools to road-test AI content generators and see how their output compares.

How ChatGPT Is Changing The Content Industry

OpenAI has led the development of large language models and generative AI. In May 2020, GPT-3 was launched, which was a huge leap forward in quality from the predecessor GPT-2.

AI content writers began to improve greatly, and as we reported in the last version of this article, there were several content generator tools that all provided reasonable results.

Then, in November 2022, OpenAI launched ChatGPT and opened up access to GPT-3.5 through an easy-to-access interface.

This resulted in an explosion of interest and uptake in the use of generative AI. By the end of January 2023, ChatGPT had 100 million users and was officially the fastest-growing app in history.

Many of the tools listed below (apart from Gemini) are all based on GPT-3.5 or GPT-4.

Bard (now called Gemini) , developed by Google Deepmind, was launched quickly in response to ChatGPT in February 2023 .

The other main contender is Claude from Anthropic, launched in March 2023 . But, at this time, Claude doesn’t have the mainstream dominance that ChatGPT holds.

Following the introduction of these generative AI tools and their mainstream adoption, there have been plenty of discussions about ethics, the impact on creativity, and the impact on jobs.

In a meta self-referential message, Gemini (Bard) even offers this message in response to the prompt “AI Content Creation.”

Chatgpt screenshot

The Drawbacks Of Using AI Writers

With easy access to AI content writing tools, the content production industry is changing.

Many websites have adopted AI as a tool for mass production and others are doubling down on the quality of human-written content where AI content generators cannot compare.

Generative AI is causing a lot of disruption in SEO and content creation. In reaction to this, there has been pushback from businesses that this could impact – such as the NYT suing Open AI for training its LLM on their content without approval.

What this means is that, right now, there are unresolved issues of fair use, copyright, privacy, security, and bias. It could result in a dispute over the ownership and copyright of AI-generated content.

There are many legal and ethical issues arising, including the impact on creativity and the jobs it might displace.

At SEJ, we consider generative AI a useful tool to support content writers and SEO professionals but not a replacement for human content writers (see use cases at the end of the article).

Apart from these problems, generative AI also has the following disadvantages:

  • Hallucinations and misinformation. Unless you understand your topic in-depth, you won’t know what you don’t know and cannot take the output from a chatbot for written facts.
  • Writing style can be unnatural, with an unusual choice of words that is jarring to read.
  • Getting the best results takes considerable skill and understanding of writing and using prompts.

Another major flaw is that if everyone is using an AI tool to target the same keywords, then where is the differentiating factor to what you are creating?

What will make your brand stand out and resonate with your audience?

For these reasons, SEJ recommends that you do not use generative AI to create content that you intend to publish. 

How You Can Use AI In Content Marketing

A tool is only as good as the person operating it.

Generative AI can be excellent for productivity and speeding up content production. But, you need someone who knows their subject and is a good writer behind the wheel to get results worthy of using.

A content marketer can truly benefit from generative AI as an efficient tool to make repetitive tasks easier and output faster. In those terms, the use of all kinds of AI will become more and more seamlessly integrated into marketing.

Here are some quick use-case examples specific to content creation and whether generative AI works or doesn’t.

Where AI Content Does Work (with human review):

  • For product descriptions at scale.
  • For meta descriptions at scale.
  • Creating summaries or key points of content.
  • Assisting with brainstorming and idea generation.
  • Creating outlines for content.
  • Improving headlines

Where AI Content Doesn’t Work:

  • Producing well-researched content.
  • Creating data-driven content.
  • Having innovative and fresh ideas.
  • Thought leadership.
  • Writing full articles.
  • Providing sources or facts.

In this article, we will review a selection of the current best content creation tools to see how they compare for illustrative purposes. Even though there are many use cases we don’t suggest, it wouldn’t be prudent to bury our heads in the sand about their capabilities. Let’s look at the results of the tools we tested:

10 AI Content Creation Tools Compared

All the content generator tools we tested were fed the same simple phrase: ‘AI content creation.’

We compared the use of the tool and the quality of the content output. You can see that output in each of the screenshots below.

As part of the comparison, we also ran all the content through Copyscape to check for plagiarism.

What has become apparent in the last few years since the previous version of this article is that ChatGPT and Gemini are set to dominate. Because of this, other AI writing tools will have to offer much more to differentiate and compete against them.

For the purposes of this article, we only tested tools that had a free option available. This list of AI writers is simply a selection of the most popular tools on the market and not our personal recommendation, nor a fully inclusive list of all tools available in the market.

ChatGPT example

ChatGPT is built on GPT-3.5 for free users and GPT-4 for paying subscribers.

ChatGPT is the tool that many of the other AI writers in this list are built on (apart from Gemini) and offers an easy-to-access interface to the powerful GPT LLMs.

The applications of ChatGPT go far beyond just content creation, with its use case experiments being documented almost daily. Learning how to write prompts has become one of the most in-demand skills in the last year.

ChatGPT also has GPTs which are plugin tools that can complete set tasks. A bit like templates or extensions for Sheets or add-ons for Chrome – expect this to become a fast-developing area.

Out of the box, ChatGPT appears easy to use, but the challenge is writing specific and tailored prompts to get the best results.

However, simply typing in “AI content creation” did generate 338 words of a comprehensive description that could be the basis of a human-written article.

The free version is an excellent starting point, and the premium Plus version allows access to the additional tools.

OpenAI provides ChatGPT in varied pricing tiers: ChatGPT Plus at $20/month for individuals, ChatGPT Team at $25 per person/month for teams, and a customizable ChatGPT Enterprise plan for larger organizational needs.

  • Ability to engage in detailed and context-aware conversations.
  • Accessible and easy to use.

2. Gemini (previously Bard)

Bard example

Gemini (Bard) , by Google Deepmind, is a Large Language Model tool built on the Gemini platform . Much the same as ChatGPT, Gemini is an infinitely powerful tool that has exponential applications.

The potential applications for content producers as a tool to help with content creation are endless. We expect that, between ChatGPT and Gemini, most SEO professionals and content creators will use one of these tools daily.

Gemini is very easy to use with the minimalist interface you would expect from Google.

In output terms, Gemini has different nuances to ChatGPT, as you would expect, built on different models. Using each of the tools on a regular basis highlights where each differs and excels to get the best results.

The output from Gemini is sometimes better than ChatGPT – or just different. However, information can be disjointed, and all information must be fact-checked, as both tools have a tendency to make things up with hallucinations.

One important point to note was that Gemini did flag two results in our Copyscape plagiarism check. ChatGPT did not flag any.

Gemini is available as a free version and Gemini Advance is priced at $19.99 per month just undercutting ChatGPT.

  • Provides real-time online access
  • Available in 46 languages.

3. Writesonic

Writesonic example

Writesonic is built on GPT-4 and is based on facilitating marketing copy, blog articles, and product descriptions. The generator can also provide content ideas and outlines, and has a full suite of templates for different types of content.

Writesonic has a variety of different tools for different purposes, but on the free trial, we didn’t have access to most of them.

We tested the article writing tool, and it was very easy to use. The article read well, but please remember all of the caveats above. This is an interesting test of the tool’s capabilities, but we don’t suggest directly publishing the outputs of generative AI, and it’s our internal policy not to do so.

Writesonic’s unique selling points include integrating with Google Search for more up-to-date content and providing sources.

The platform offers a free version with basic features, while paid plans range from $13 to $500 monthly. Enterprise solutions are available with customized pricing to fit the needs of larger organizations.

  • Features designed for SEO optimization.
  • Support for creating content in 30 different languages.
  • API access, bulk processing, and integrations for scalability and efficiency.

Copy.ai example

Copy.ai is an AI-driven platform that claims to automate various sales and marketing tasks, from cold outreach to content repurposing.

Copy.ai provides templates across a variety of content types, such as blogs, ads, sales, websites, and social media. The generator also provides translation into 25 languages.

Copy.ai differentiates by offering a zero-retention data policy, claiming that user inputs are never retained or used for training purposes, which could be crucial for privacy-conscious organizations. It says it only works with language models that adhere to this strict data policy.

From the three-word phrase input, the tool produced a long article about the subject without any additional prompting.

The quality was good, and we found that it would be difficult to discern that this was machine-generated. The output appears to have improved since we tested it last. Again, this doesn’t change the fact that writing final content outputs is not a use case that we suggest for these tools.

Copy.ai has a free plan, and paid plans range from $36/month for Pro to $3,000/month for Scale.

  • Enhanced data privacy.
  • 25 languages supported.

5. HyperWrite

 HyperWrite example

HyperWrite is an AI-powered writing tool that claims to assist with creating marketing copy, conducting research, and improving overall writing and communication skills. It offers a Chrome extension for ease of use across various web platforms.

Hyperwriter looks a lot like ChatGPT, and the output returned was very similar to what we achieved directly in ChatGPT. Too similar for coincidence.

It would appear that HyperWrite uses the ChatGPT interface with a simple prompt layered onto the phrase we input. From this test, we don’t see any justification to use this tool over ChatGPT.

Free trial available: Premium plan at $19.99 monthly and Ultra plan at $44.99 monthly.

  • Chrome Extension available.

 Rytr example

Rytr is an AI writing assistant that claims to help users create high-quality content quickly and cost-effectively.

Rytr offers over 40 use cases, support for 30+ languages, and more than 20 tones of voice.

We found the tool very easy to use and quickly generated an output. However, the content was not as well-written as other writers tested, and the language output did not feel natural and was obviously AI-generated.

There were a few other tools that were nice to use, and we liked the cute poem creator. But, for the task of producing natural-feeling content, it didn’t quite meet the standard.

Rytr offers a monthly free plan with 10K characters, a “Saver” plan at $9/month, and an “Unlimited” plan at $29/month.

  • A plagiarism checker.
  • Integration with apps like WordPress and Shopify.
  • 30 languages supported.

7. LongShot

LongShot example

LongShot pitches itself as an AI-powered long-form content assistant and is built on a combination of GPT-3 and custom AI models. It tries to clearly separate from being a replacement content writer.

The platform has over 30 tools, including keyword research, rephrasing, and blog ideas, and you can write in 8 languages. Be aware that you should scrutinize any research or fact-checking claims that AI tools make carefully, we have yet to meet an AI tool we would be comfortable using for those purposes without checking the veracity of the outputs in depth.

To use LongShot as a writer, you have to go through a process of selecting suggested headlines before the tool generates an article outline and then a final output.

On a similar level to Copy.ai, LongShot produced an in-depth and relatively well-written article.

LongsShot also includes a feature called FactGPT that is targeted to trending and current topics

The pricing starts with a free trial, a “Pro” plan at $19/month, a ‘Team” plan at $49/month, and customizable pricing for larger needs.

  • Integration with multiple platforms.
  • Supports eight languages.

8. Jasper AI

Jasper AI example

Jasper AI  claims it will help you write faster, beat writer’s block, and rank better with SEO-optimized content.

They also claim to have consulted with SEO professionals and direct marketing experts to develop how the AI generator writes content.

Jasper AI is geared up for teams and project management as a content marketing platform, not simply an AI writing tool. It focuses on brand voice and has a prompt library and Chrome browser extension.

It differentiates itself through a stated commitment to security and data privacy, with the US-based data centers and a policy that states user data isn’t used for training third-party AI/ML models.

The platform’s messaging also focuses on responsible AI use and keeping data safe with evolving security protocols.

The AI writer was easy to use: enter your keyword and select a few variables such as audience and length. Jasper produced an article that was well-written and formatted.

On a surface level it’s difficult to discern whether this is a machine-written article and not by a human writer.

Jasper AI doesn’t offer any free plans, but it does have a free trial for five days. Be aware you have to input your credit card and you will get charged if you forget to cancel.

“Creator” plan at $39, a “Pro” plan at $59, and a customizable “Business” plan with pricing discussed upon request.

  • Emphasis on security and data privacy with U.S.-based data centers.
  • Integrations with various platforms.

9. Scalenut

The 10 Best AI Writers & Content Generators Compared

Scalenut focuses on integrating the entire SEO content process into one application.

The unique offering of Scalenut includes its Cruise Mode for SEO blog creation, AI that it says keeps updated with current information, and its capability to plan and execute entire content marketing strategies powered by AI.

Tools included in the platform are the content writer, content optimizer, keyword planner, traffic analyzer, and marketing copywriter.

To generate an article, Scalenut goes through the process of offering titles and outlines before you get to the final output in the editor. The tool and interface feel very similar to LongShot.

The actual content output was very good, and much like LongShot, it is difficult to discern from human-written content.

The pricing tiers include an “Essential” plan at $19/month, a “Growth” plan at $39/month, a “Pro” plan at $75/month, and an ‘Enterprise’ option with custom pricing.

  • Advanced keyword planning.
  • Research tools, including NLP Key Terms, competition analysis, and statistics.

10. Anyword

anyword example

Anyword claims to produce human-like content. It positions itself as a sophisticated solution for marketers and companies aiming to boost their content’s impact.

The tool’s messaging is that it differentiates itself with its ability to analyze historical content performance and generate outputs that align with the brand’s voice, audience targeting, and messaging effectiveness.

Anyword has the usual range of tools from ad copy, social media, meta descriptions, and blog writing. It also offers the capability to train custom AI models on a brand’s best-performing campaigns.

Similar to LongShot and Scalenut, the article generator goes through the process of offering titles to choose from and then a blog structure before generating the final output.

The output is reasonable, but the language used does feel a little unnatural, similar to how ChatGPT can at times. It’s not the best output in this list, but not the worst.

Anyword offers a free 7-day trial, a basic package starting at $39 a month, a $349 business package, and custom pricing for enterprise solutions.

  • Custom AI models trained on specific brand and performance data.
  • Chrome Extension.

Will AI Take Over Content Creation?

As we said above, a tool cannot make up for a lack of knowledge or ability; it can only enhance it.

You can be assured that content creation will go into overdrive with AI.

On the flip side, good quality journalist standard content with unique data, thought, opinions, and insights will become more in demand as the only way to stand out.

AI is changing fast, and we are all running to keep up with adapting to the new technology, so use your judgment based on developments.

It’s up to people like you to ensure human quality and creativity remain hallmarks of published content.

More resources:

  • Content Creation In An AI World
  • AI Generated Content Detection Software: Can They Detect ChatGPT?
  • State of SEO 2024: Disruptions, AI & Content Strategies

Featured Image: /Shutterstock

Shelley Walsh is the SEO Content Strategist at SEJ & produces the Pioneers, a series about the history of SEO ...

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