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Why it’s fine for your business plan not to go to plan

Guest blog by Debbie Thomas of Grangewood Copywriting

It was time to launch my copywriting career. I’d invested energy thinking about and creating a detailed business and marketing plan. I’d resisted the temptation to try it out in numerous fonts, formats and colours and convince myself it was constructive activity (surely it’s not just me?). My to-do list was ready. In fact, the only thing I’d overlooked was the possibility of needing some time to do actual copywriting work for real clients.

I’d quickly sorted out the start-up issues like writing terms and conditions, finding a good accountant and registering myself with everyone I needed to. But I had expected a period of time when I would be building my business ‘infrastructure’. Writing copy for my website. Setting myself up on various social networks. Getting business cards ready for attending targeted networking events. And so on.

Much to my delight, the (paid) work turned up far quicker than anticipated. But when my first piece of work arrived everything else slowed down dramatically because, quite rightly, the client was my focus.  Once the work’s in, that’s your priority.

My list of guest blog ideas and my plan to start producing content for my own blog had to be relegated to second place. I started writing copy for my website whenever I had half an hour. I added a bit the next week. And then a paragraph or two the week after that. And then the week after – you get the idea. Finally I realised I needed to publish it even though it was (and I’ll be honest, still is) a million miles away from where I want it to be.

But I’ve learnt these delays are not reasons to give up on my plan. Quite the opposite. It’s vital to have a business and marketing plan in whatever format suits you. It keeps everything in focus even if timings change. You can always adapt it but it keeps you thinking about your longer term business whilst dealing with a shorter term copywriting project.

It is tempting to neglect everything else when you have work on but you must constantly keep an eye on both the project and your business – particularly marketing. You will need to be disciplined about what constitutes constructive use of time however. Gossiping on Twitter for two hours doesn’t really count as marketing. (Although twitter #hours, which I love, are technically during ‘out of office’ hours so it’s definitely allowed then.)

Keep a desire for perfection in balance with the realities of running your own business. I felt demoralised when my website didn’t look the way I wanted it to before I published it. But I published it anyway because it’s a start. And actually, for some aspects of running a business, there isn’t a finish anyway.

I’ve also realised you must make your marketing choices carefully. There are an unbelievable number of options and it’s tempting to try to ‘have a go’ at every marketing activity out there. An ideal world would let you build up a presence on all of them and carefully evaluate which ones are working best for you. But time is finite. It’s very easy to forget about the implementation time needed. Simply doing social media can take a few hours a day leaving little time to be actually writing copy.

Think carefully about what type of marketing activity is likely to meet your business objectives. Who are your target customers? Where can they be found? What is the key information you need to get on your website? Focus on doing one or two tactics well. The rest can build up over time.

Keep your business and marketing plan steps small. It will help make every activity feel achievable and give you a sense of progress.

Prepare your business and marketing plan to guide you along the way. But remember it’s a live document. It’ll be shaped by events. Be ready for it to constantly change. That’s the reality of business. Don’t get frustrated by it.

I also vowed I wouldn’t work late every night. That didn’t last long. It can get addictive – the incredible diversity of the work, the pleasure in a job completed and a piece of work well received. The professional satisfaction of seeing a client’s sales increase after your involvement. So I’ve also learnt I need to regularly remind myself this is a marathon and not a sprint. Burn out does not make business sense.

I know I will finally get on top of it all. It’ll come together at the same point in my life when I’m doing five sessions of exercise a week. And eating five portions of fruit and veg every day and getting eight hours sleep every night.

Any time now.

Following many years working as a human resources, training and business communications professional, Debbie Thomas now runs Grangewood Copywriting in North Wales. As well as providing a full range of copywriting services, Debbie also specialises in human resources writing. You can visit Grangewood Copywriting’s website here or connect with Debbie via Twitter or LinkedIn.

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