How To Plan Your Business, Uncaged Style

Pssst did you know you can highlight any sentence to automatically tweet it? Give it a try!

 

This is a post about planning. Kind of. But not really. Read on.

It seems to be that time of year that everyone is frantically planning for the new year in their business. I’m seeing yearly planners popping up all over Facebook, business coaches are creating courses to help other businesses plan their year, and when I asked in my Facebook community what people want to read about in my next blog post, an alarming number wanted a post about how to plan their 2015.

So here it is. My blog post about planning. But be warned that this won’t be your typical planning post with timelines and worksheets and neat little tools to help you stay on track and get your business all ready to go so that you know exactly what you are doing and when in 2015.

Why won’t it be that?

Because I don’t really believe in planning.

 

And I don’t believe in planning ESPECIALLY for brand new business owners like you who are still finding your way, still taking the necessary time to carve out your niche, to define your packages, and to figure this whole “running your own business” thing out.

I mean think about it – if you’re just starting your business, you probably aren’t even sure yet if your current services will sell (in fact, you might still be terrified that you will be broke and client-less forever, and you might not even be sure whether you will still have a business in 2015 if things don’t pick up). You probably have no idea how many clients you want to take on at once (“As many as possible” is not a good answer). You’re in the dark about how much money it will actually cost to run your business, so planning finances is tricky. And you definitely don’t know where you will be even 3 months from now, let alone 6, let alone an entire year.

Sure, you can set goals and aim for certain benchmarks, but at the end of the day, until you have been running your business at a steady pace with consistent programs and income for at least 6 months, it is pretty damn hard to plan anything.

 

Planning doesn’t account for the fact that your business will change immensely in the course of a year.

 

You could sit down and make an entire editorial calendar for your blog and email marketing (if you’re into that kind of thing). You could decide on which months you will run each of your current programs (not a bad idea, actually, once you’re clear on what you are actually running). And what time each day you will check your emails (once a day only? Puh-lease! That has never worked for me! I check it about 100 times a day). And you can map out how much money you will be bringing in based on what you are selling (or want to sell) (definitely a good idea, but ONLY after you nail down your packages and services)

But all of that assumes that things in your business will stay the same. That your focus won’t shift. That your clients won’t want anything new, and that what you are selling now is perfect.

And how can you know any of that for sure if you are just getting started?

Your business will change more in the first year than probably any other time, and all your plans will go out the window.

You know what else planning doesn’t account for? Changing your mind. Getting creative ideas on a whim and banging them out in a week. Deciding that you absolutely MUST go on that last minute rendezvous to Nicaragua with that hot guy you started dating in early 2015 but didn’t know you would be dating when you did all your planning in late 2014.

I mean – I can’t even plan my life 5 months ahead, let alone 5 years.

I think it’s part of the Uncaged syndrome. We like movement. Change. Spontaneity.

It’s part of why we want to run our own businesses in the first place – to have the freedom to change our minds, whenever we need to, based on what LIFE is offering us.

 

When you’re just starting your business, having to sit down and hammer out numbers and details can be… overwhelming, to say the least.

 

So then – should you just NOT plan anything?

Well… I’m not necessarily advocating that. But if you’re just starting out and you’re still tinkering with your services, and still trying to work with enough people to get clear on EXACTLY what your expertise is – then maybe NO planning is actually the best option.

Give your business room to breathe. And grow. And change. Without all the added pressure.

 

Remember that everyone runs their business differently, and what works for one person won’t work for another.

 

Wanna see what my “plan” was for 2014? Keep in mind this was a time when my business was pretty solid and I was very clear on what I do, who I help, and what my signature packages are. Here it is:

bp

Literally. That was it.

Wanna know what changed in it? Everything.

1. I planned and ran a whole other retreat in July, so had to slot that in.

2. I decided to take the summer off, so I skipped UYB in August and September and ran it in October instead.

3. I created Nailed It! (which wasn’t even made yet when I wrote this plan) and changed the name to Hey, Nice Package! and had such great feedback that I raised the price to double what I was expecting to charge (I also invested 5x more in creating it than I thought I would).

4. Ellen and I decided to hand over the reigns of Coaching Business Jumpstart to her so she would expand the program and combine it with her current services, so we never did a live version, and I stopped actively marketing it (though I still fully support and believe in the program – it is rad!)

5. I decided I LOVED doing my Message Sessions and that 2 a month weren’t enough slots as they were selling out quickly, so I upped it to 4 per month.

As you can see – even with a plan, things changed.

The gist is – not everyone works on a timeline and a plan. Not everyone operates best with a strict editorial calendar and launch schedule. Not everyone runs their business the same way.

And by trying to follow someone else’s formula all the time, you’re guaranteed to get squished into a box, feel overwhelmed, and constantly be searching for the “right” way to do things. Which is the opposite of creating your business the Uncaged way, right?

If you’re just at the beginning stages of your business, my vote is for you to throw planning out the window and just make sure that you are taking consistent action everyday.

Write blog posts. Work with as many clients as possible. Do your market research and really LISTEN to what people need you to create. Build relationships. Be as helpful as you can to as many people as you can.

Keep doing it.

And then don’t stop. And then in a year, after you have played, and experimented, and failed, and scrapped ideas and programs, and started again (and maybe even again) – when you’ve gotten clear as cocaine about what you do and why and for whom, THEN you can think about putting a plan in place.

And even then – find YOUR way of doing it.

Screen shot 2013-02-15 at 8.24.14 AM

What’s your planning strategy? Do you feel like you need to plan down to the last detail, or do you fly by the seat of your pants? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

Read 19 Comments & Leave Yours

  1. SonjaSonya

    Hey Rebecca! This blog post is just awesome and it resonates with me completely! :) I’m still in very early stages of playing with the idea of creating my own business. To tell you the truth not having planned dates yet and not trying to force myself follow some crazy to-do list took off great amount of pressure. I’m aware that at some point I’ll have to take action and have certain guidelines of where I’m going and how I’ll get there but while I was reading you share how half of things you planned didn’t happen I saw the true beauty in one having their own business. You grow, you change, you evolve along the way and that should be the point of having the business-the freedom to do it your own way and your own pace. I believe that’s how you’re creating space for your authentic voice to be heard.

    Thanks for the inspiration! XO

    Sonja

  2. anungv

    I plan a little; blog post ideas for a month in advance, pictures for instagram, and other social media. Nothing that can’t be moved around or changed, but I need something down or it all gets away from me and weeks go by between posts.

  3. XianNewman

    Love this! So many people feel far more comfortable – safe, even – going into something (like a business, or a new year) when they (feel like they) know what to expect.

    Thing is, they actually don’t know what to expect because they’re guessing. 

    There are two problems with this approach:

    1. It takes wayyyy too much time. We can probably guess, fairly quickly and accurately, roughly where our business will be next year – what we’ll be doing, who we’re doing it for, and why. Any more than that is wasted time and energy that could have been spent actually DOING IT.

    2. Because its so time consuming, we feel obligated to stick to those plans – even when the need to pivot is staring us right in the face. No good can come of this… all you have to show for it is inertia and lack of confidence.

    Customers won’t pay for you to plan – they’ll pay for the value you create.

    By the way, I used to suck at this. Plan-plan-plan-ignore the signs-stick to my plan anyways-get stuck-start over was my annual routine for years.

    I’m done with that. Anyone else with me?

  4. TeriHorn

    Yup…as always…exactly what I needed to read.  I think what I am looking for right now, as a VERY new biz person, is your no BS approach to hammering down some action that fits my life.  I have SO much in my head and feel so green that I can’t figure out what I want nor what I need to do next.  I would LOVE a coaching call at the end of the month to help me get clear on my plan of action for the next month.  THAT is what I am looking for… 

    Thank you for sharing how you “plan” it reminds me that I can do it my way too :)
    Teri xo

  5. MartitaRobinson

    Love this!

  6. great advice Becca – for 2015, my business partner and I are moving away from long-term planning and instead doing quarterly plans and product launches. We look forward to seeing if it is more reasonable for our business and being open to change

  7. MetNightOwl

    I think the number of times I tweeted a sentence from this post tells you how much I agreed with this. I’m huge on systems and planning, but holy crap has my business evolved over the past year+!

  8. justjessmay

    Thank eff someone wrote this! I’ve been sweating that I’m not committed enough to fill my 2015 calendar with launch dates and editorial posts. I just go with the flow. What if I schedule something for March but its ready to go in January? Or I promise myself that I’ll open this course in April but I’m actually not ready until September? I am so glad I’m not the only one.

  9. JanHenry1

    I love this. And I agree wholeheartedly. My biz partner wants to put a 5 year plan together and I just want us to get through the next couple of months and focus on building income and reputation. Our biz has changed so much in a year. I can’t imagine what it will look like in another year. I don’t even know where I will BE in five years time.

    And my personal business is on its third re-brand in the past year. Not because I’m procrastinating, but because I have learned to much about myself, developed my skills, and have become more true to myself as the year has gone on. In alignment with that I have changed my feelings about my branding, and what services I want to offer. I don’t have a long term plan in mind. I just have short term, actionable steps in mind that make it manageable to create my biz without getting overwhelmed.

  10. ReeseBY

    I think the belief that we must plan ahead is so deeply ingrained within us that we feel if we’re not planning we’re going to fail. You’re post makes the case that taking a step back, breathing in and allowing things to move where they need to is not only wise but sometimes it’s the exact thing we MUST do for success. As a mom with 4 kids I can’t plan tomorrow let alone plan a month from now so I let ALL THAT SHIT wash over me and I’m FINE with the fact that my life (and business) is in flux. As long as I am improving and making forward motion, I’m doing it right. Great post, Becca.  You, Nailed It! ;)

  11. ReeseBY 4 kids!! AND You have a business. You definitely win the superhero award Reese!

  12. JanHenry1 yeah 5 year plans are really challenging. I mean, you can dream and visualize what you want for your life and business in 5 years, but planning the details seems pointless, as life is sure to throw you at LEAST one curveball in that time :)

    Short terms action is what it’s all about Jan!

  13. justjessmay You’re definitely in the right place with the Uncaged community Jess! I think we all like to run our businesses with the excitement that spontaneity can bring!

  14. MetNightOwl haha THANK YOU for sharing the tweets! Yeah, a year can do a LOT for business, eh? (<- see me getting all Canadian there!)

  15. ModMarkGroup I LOVE quarterly planning! It feels SO much more tangible doesn’t it?

  16. SonjaSonya Thanks for sharing your story Sonja! And, just to be clear – you DO need to be taking action… You just don’t need to plan that action a year in advance :) Definitely keep checking things off your to-do list and your business will turn into exactly what it needs to be

  17. JanHenry1

    Rebecca Tracey my biz partner brought up the fact that he wants us to plan out our topics for the next six months of seminars and I literally felt the colour drain out of my face lol.

  18. JessicaFrancene

    I’m a planner, but not in the traditional sense that has been laid out here. I love 90-day plans, with main objectives to keep in mind, and smaller steps to take. Every 90 days, I lay out a new plan. I adapt as needed as i go. There’s no falling behind. There’s no pressure. And it’s all flexible.

  19. MIMI CHALK

    Does anyone know where I can find a blank “Plan My Life Form” to fill out?