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Business Plan Template: A Practical Framework for Creating Your Business Plan

Sample business plan template for entrepreneurs

A simple business plan is the secret to starting a business successfully. 

The easiest way to simplify the work of writing a business plan is to start with a new business plan template.

You’re already investing time and energy in planning your small business—there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to formatting your plan. Instead, to help build a complete and effective plan, lean on time-tested structures created by entrepreneurs and startups who have come before you.

Business plans often are used to secure funding, but plenty of businesses find writing a plan valuable, even if they never work with an investor. That’s why we put together a free business plan template to help you get started.

Free: Business Plan Template

Business planning is often used to secure funding, but plenty of business owners find writing a plan valuable, even if they never work with an investor. That’s why we put together a free business plan template to help you get started.

Why write a business plan at all?

It’s tempting to dive right into execution when you’re excited about a new business or side project, but taking the time to use a small business plan template to get your thoughts on paper allows you to do a number of beneficial things:

  • Evaluate your business ideas. Whether you’ve got one business idea or many, a business plan can make an idea more tangible, helping you see if it’s truly viable. 
  • Plan for your next phase. Whether your goal is to start a new business or scale an existing business to the next level, a business plan can help you understand what needs to happen and identify gaps to address. 
  • Clarify marketing strategy, goals, and tactics. Writing a business plan can show you the actionable next steps to take on a big, abstract idea. It can also help you narrow your strategy and identify clear-cut tactics that will support it.
  • Scope the necessary work. Without a concrete plan, cost overruns and delays are all but certain. A business plan can help you see the full scope of work to be done and adjust your investment of time and money accordingly.
  • Hire and build partnerships. When you need buy-in from potential employees and partners, especially in the early stages of your business, a clearly written business plan is one of the best tools at your disposal. A business plan provides a refined look at your goals for the business, letting partners judge for themselves whether or not they agree with your vision.
  • Secure funds. Securing funding for your business, whether from venture capital or a bank, is one of the most common reasons to create a business plan. 

Why use a business plan template?

A business plan can be as informal or formal as your situation calls for, but even if you’re a fan of the back-of-the-napkin approach to planning, there are some key benefits to starting your plan from an existing business idea template.

  • No blank-page paralysis. A blank page can be intimidating to even the most seasoned writers. Using an established framework and guidelines can help you get past the inertia of starting your business plan, and it allows you to skip the work of building an outline from scratch. You can always adjust a template to suit your needs. 
  • Guidance on what to include in each section. If you’ve never sat through a business class, you might never have created a SWOT analysis or a balance sheet before. New business plan templates that offer guidance—in plain language—about how to fill in each section can help you navigate sometimes-daunting business jargon and create a complete and effective plan.
  • Knowing you’ve considered every section. In some cases, you may not need to complete every section of a business plan idea template, but its initial structure shows you you’re choosing to omit a section as opposed to forgetting to include it in the first place. 

Who should use this business plan template for new business

This free business plan proposal is designed to ensure you’re thinking through all of the important facets of starting a new business. It’s intended to help new entrepreneurs and small business owners consider the full scope of running a business and identify functional areas they may not have considered or where they may need to level up their skills as they grow.

That said, it may not include the specific details or structure preferred by a potential investor or lender. If your goal with a detailed business plan template is to secure funding, check with your target organizations—typically banks or investors—to see if they have an outline you can follow to maximize your chances of success.

Free: Business Plan Template

Business planning is often used to secure funding, but plenty of business owners find writing a plan valuable, even if they never work with an investor. That’s why we put together a free business plan template to help you get started.

Sections of your business plan template

This free business plan template includes the following sections:

  • Executive summary. A one-page summary of your whole plan, typically written after the rest of the plan is completed.
  • Company description. An overview can include many potential sub-sections, from the basics (your type of business model) to the meaningful (your business’ vision and mission statement).
  • Market analysis. Everything from estimated market size to your target markets. It’ll also include a competitive analysis of your industry to address competitors strengths and weaknesses.
  • Products and services. What you sell and the most important features of your products or services. It’ll also include any plans for intellectual property, like patent filings or copyright. If you do market research for your products, it’ll show up in this section of your business plan. 
  • Marketing plan. How you intend to get the word out about your business, and what strategic decisions you’ve made about things like your pricing strategy.
  • Logistics and operations plan. Everything that needs to happen to turn your raw materials into products and get them into the hands of your customers.
  • Financial plan. It’s important to include a look at your financial projections. This section includes templates for three key financial statements: an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash-flow statement.

In our small business plan template, each section includes an overview of the most important information to cover and guidelines on how to approach writing and researching each one.

How to write a creative business plan using this free template

There are some high-level strategic guidelines beyond the advice included in this free business plan proposal that can help you write an effective, complete plan while minimizing busywork. Keep the following in mind when using a business idea template:

  • Know your audience. If you’re using a new business plan template for yourself in order to get clarity on your ideas and your industry as a whole, you may not need to include the same level of detail or polish you would with a business plan you want to send to potential investors. Knowing who will read your plan will help you decide how much time to spend on it. 
  • Know your goals. Understanding the goals of your plan can help you set the right scope. If your goal is to use the plan as a roadmap for growth, you may invest more time in it than if your goal is to understand the competitive landscape of a new industry.
  • Take it step by step. Writing a 10- to 15-page document from a business plan idea template can feel daunting, so try to tackle one section at a time. Select a couple of sections you feel most confident writing and start there—you can work on the next few sections once those are complete. Jot down bullet-point notes in each section before you start writing to organize your thoughts and streamline the writing process.

Once you’ve done the strategic work, it’s time to put it into action and write your plan. Download the business plan template for new business, and review our guide on writing a business plan for additional information.

A professional business plan example to inspire you

We’ve filled out a sample business plan as a companion to our template, featuring a fictional ecommerce business. We’ve noted where—and how—an entrepreneur could add more details to expand on their plans, depending on their goals.

Our fictional business creates custom greeting cards with your pet’s paw prints on them, and the founder of the business is writing a plan to help understand the market, as well as the logistics and costs involved, to give themselves the best chance of success before they launch.

Professional business plan sample

The sample is set up to help you get a sense of each section of the small business plan template and understand how they apply to the planning and evaluation stages of a business plan. If you’re looking for funding, this example won’t be a complete or formal look at a business idea template, but it will give you a great place to start and notes about where to expand.

Before you write your own, read through the following business plan example. You can download a copy in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and use it to inspire your own planning.

Download the business plan example (.doc)

Maximizing your business planning efforts

Although even the best-crafted plan may not survive its first contact with reality, the act of planning is still invaluable for any business owner.

To make sure your efforts are focused on the highest-value parts of your own business planning, like clarifying your goals, setting a strategy, and understanding the market and competitive landscape, lean on a business plan template to handle the structure and format for you. Even if you eventually omit sections of your new business plan template, you’ll save yourself time and energy by starting with a framework already in place.

Illustrations by Rachel Tunstall

Business plan template FAQ

When should you write a business plan?

According to research published by Harvard Business Review, the most successful entrepreneurs wrote a business plan between six and 12 months after deciding to start a business. Writing a business plan increased the probability of success by 8%.

How do you write a business plan?

  1. Choose a business plan format, such as traditional or a one-page business plan. 
  2. Find a business plan template.
  3. Read through a business plan sample.
  4. Fill in the sections of your business plan.

What are the 7 sections of a business plan?

  • Executive summary
  • Company description 
  • Market analysis 
  • Products and services
  • Marketing strategy
  • Logistics and operations plan
  • Financial statements and projections

What is the best business plan template?

If you need help writing a business plan, Shopify’s template is one of the most beginner-friendly options you’ll find. It’s comprehensive, well-written, and helps you fill out every section.