Business Plan #1: Brainstorming

What’s on the iPod: Risk of Change by Holcombe Waller

EBOOK SALE: Need a kick in your marketing backside? For a limited time, get the Marketing 365 e-book for just $5.99. And it’s a bargain — you get 365 easy-to-implement daily strategies (one for each day of the year) that can help you gain clients and earn more. Hurry! Sale ends soon — use coupon code ZZ63V and download your copy here.

freelance, writing, business planning

How was your weekend? Ours went by too fast. Friday was a blur — I think we stayed home and waited for his daughter to arrive from Maine. She appeared well after midnight, so I saw her in the morning, but only briefly. We headed out on a botanical walk. And it was lovely. A cold day, but the people in the group were so helpful to me, the beginner. He was in his element, and it was nice to see. I learned a few things and had great fun doing so. The plants in winter are just as interesting (maybe more so) as when they’re in bloom.

Then we headed off to a holiday party at the home of one of his coworkers. It was great. There were ten people — just big enough to be vibrant, and small enough to be intimate.

Sunday was church, then brunch. Then I attempted to find some decorations for the house, but came up short. So I decided it was time to shop. Malls –let’s just say nothing crushes the meaning of Christmas like a mall. My personal low was as I was walking through the mall, watching people whizzing by and ignoring the decorations, and hearing “O Holy Night” playing in the background to the oblivious masses. I left. Shopping will be done at the local stores or online. I’d rather get things from people who smile and appreciate your business anyway.

Today starts our month of business planning strategies. Probably the most frequent question coming from new writers is “How do I start?”

With a plan, dear writer.

That plan starts with a good brainstorming session. Even those of us who have been working at it for years can benefit from revisiting regularly the brainstorming part of business planning.

If you’ve never actively brainstormed, here’s what it looks like:

The more ideas, the better. Just start thinking and writing it down. What you want to earn, how you want to earn it, who your clients will be, how you’ll market…. all of it goes down on paper. I suggest you tackle each of those areas separately so as not to get overwhelmed. Start with what you want to earn — and be bold about it.

Don’t edit. Brainstorming isn’t about shooting down your ideas before you even consider them. If it pops into your head, it gets listed. If you’re thinking of projects you’d like to work on and “screenplays” comes to mind, that should be on your list. No idea is too wild or too ambitious.

Get really creative. If you think you’d love to write biographies of race car drivers, list it! The same goes for movies about unusual phenomenon, ghostwritten love letters, conference speaker presentations, etc., etc…

Build on your ideas. Don’t limit yourself in any way. If you want to ghostwrite for business owners, brainstorm on who else might you write for, such as celebrities, sports figures, television personalities, local historians….

Brainstorm with a colleague. Here’s another fun way to get wildly innovative — call up a writer friend, turn on the tape recorder, and start brainstorming ways each of you can build a stronger business. Remember, judgments do not belong, and no idea is thrown out. If it comes to mind, speak it. Jot down notes at the same time, and let your two imaginations spur new ideas.

The goal of the brainstorming session is to generate enough ideas on how to build a business that fits you so that you’re excited and interested in working the plan once it’s in place.

So let’s do a little exercise. Let’s take one section of a business plan — how you’ll earn money — and brainstorm it right here. Don’t second guess anything that comes to mind. Just write it in the comments section and see what other ideas that generates.

So how do you want to go about making money?
How often do you brainstorm? What do you think belongs in a good brainstorming session?

About the author




  • Cathy Miller December 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I would love input on this.

    I want to figure out what "hook" to use to develop public speaking gigs. I miss that from my corporate days. I love PowerPoint, I love presenting, but what would bring that possibility to reality?

    I thought it might be using my healthcare/employee benefits background, but I think that's more safe than something that would sustain me long-term.

    I love making the complex simple. And on the personal side, I love promoting acceptance and recognition of our uniqueness.

    I want to make it a goal for 2013 to position myself to get back to public speaking. I know it's not something that happens overnight. I need brainstorming on how to find the right hook. Thanks.

  • Lori December 3, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Oh, good one, Cathy!

    Two presentations come to mind:

    "Everything you've ever wanted to know about deductibles, but were afraid to ask."

    "Ten Step Guide to Market Penetration"

    You could reach out to blogging conferences, writer's workshops, etc.

    Or health care forums, workshops, etc.

  • Paula December 3, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    Almost anything belongs in a brainstorming session, other than self doubt. There is no right and no wrong when it's about generating ideas.

    Cathy – I was as shocked as anyone to realize that shy little Paula actually LIKED public speaking (to groups of <50 anyway). Two of my presentations were to college students, another was a writing workshop for the public library. The schools didn't pay (unless you count a $10 Starbucks gift card as payment), but the library paid a decent stipend.

    My weekend was spent with outdoor work. Record high temps in the 60s all weekend – today it's supposed to push 70 – when our normal high is probably in the low 40s this time of year. Saturday I patched some gouges and chips in the square porch pillars (they'd been covered with aluminum siding), hung the Christmas lights and took Doggie Lily on a long walk. Several neighbors stopped to say how good the house is looking!

    Sunday I painted the brown porch rails and all six (!) pillars with primer tinted to match the new siding. (The color is really similar to the green here on Lori's blog page, perhaps a tad darker but a similar soothing gray-green. I didn't get all of the high parts, but covered enough of the brown so the house should look okay from the street for the winter. We have a few trim pieces to put back on the porch next spring, so the real painting will happen then. I was out painting until the sun started to set, and was cleaning up with illumination courtesy of my Christmas lights.

    A neighbor said it looks like a new house, and thanks to the soft gold lights in my window boxes, she added "It looks so Currier and Ives." Love it!

  • Cathy Miller December 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Thanks, Lori. Appreciate the ideas.

    Paula, sounds like you have a new Christmas photo opportunity. 🙂

  • Ashley December 3, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    What great timing on this post, Lori! I need to start brainstorming ways to handle client work along with a new baby. I still have until February before the wee one arrives, but I need a plan in place ahead of time. Maternity leave is three months and without pay (don't get me started on that, either!) so I need to step up the client writing.

    My two thoughts so far are to have someone come in for a few hours a day to watch the kiddo while I work, or let a friend do the babysitting while she's a stay-at-home-mom (if she's willing). And I need to make enough to pay for those services to make it worthwhile.

  • Lori December 3, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Paula, your house looks lovely! I'm jealous. 🙂

    Ashley, great to have a post-baby plan! Get it sorted now — you'll be too distracted and guilt-laden to do it later. Trust me!

  • Paula December 4, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Thanks, Lori. If only I had snow, Cathy! Maybe it will snow once the area around the round attic window is re-done (needs bendable j-channel) and after the gutters go up – that would be a great photo op indeed.

    I can't believe your baby is nearly here, Ashley! I'm sure you'll find a good balance.