There are many ways to work on your new blog. You could shoot from a hip. Publish 20 different posts on all different topics and see what sticks. Write only when you’re feeling inspired. Or you can create a business plan for your new blog. Give yourself a little direction and keep you focused on what is important.
Before we go any further, a disclaimer. I am not about to teach you how to blog. I’m in the trenches myself here, learning what works as I build my own blog.
But, I can teach you about planning and goal setting. And when I started my blog, I created this planner to help me.
Now if you’re put off by the idea of incredibly long-winded dreadfully boring corporate type of business plans peered over by a board of stiff directors, hold on. This business plan is for your eyes only.
You write it for yourself, using your words and your style.
The one and only purpose that this business plan has, is to give you a clear vision, direction, strategy and plan of action to help your blog grow as a business. (That’s more than one thing I know, but you get the picture!)
This is not document to just end up in your digital files somewhere, taking up space on your hard drive, or floating in the cloud somewhere.
A plan sets the foundation for your blog
Starting any type of business needs planning. When you are just getting started in the online world, it can be IMMENSELY overwhelming.
There is so much information (much of it good, some not so) out there. It is so easy to spend all your time consuming content without actually having to show anything for it at the end of the day.
There is so much noise. Everyone is telling you what to do, what to focus on and where to be.
You must have a very specific niche. Don’t worry about a niche. You must create long content, at least 5000 words. You must promote your content at least 80% of the time and only create new content 20% of the time. You MUST have an email list. Create lots of free downloads, or lead magnets as it’s called in marketing speak. Pinterest is the best way to get traffic. No wait, SEO is the way to go for google juice. You MUST focus on driving traffic to your website. You must increase all your pageviews. Hang out in facebook groups to see what problems your audience is having. Social media is a time-suck, rather focus on creating content. Create products! Sell your services! Create online courses! Sell through Amazon!
Trying to do everything from the start will burn you out quicker than a wildfire in a teacup.
This is where an actionable business plan will help you focus on what is important for you and your blog.
Step-by-step actionable business plan
I’m always looking for a
You can see where you can improve because you can measure your progress and review your actions.
Let’s go through setting up an action plan for your blog, step-by-step.
1. Create your vision
Find the emotional component to why you started your blog.
It can’t be just about making money. If it was you’d give up as soon as you have a tough month.
Reach deep into yourself and figure out why your hopes and dreams for your blogging business are your hopes and dreams. Keep on asking why until you get to your truth.
2. Decide on your blogging business model
Before I started this blog, I had my own business as a corporate trainer and coach. All of my interactions took place in *real life*. I did have a website but only used it to list my services and to publish the occasional blog post. At the time I never considered taking my business online.
When we moved from South Africa to Austria, I basically left my business behind, because I had no online audience to take with me. I finished my last contracts and then I left.
Starting over, this time I made sure that I created a business that can move with me.
A business model is just a convenient way of saying “a plan for your business of how you will create something of value which your audience will pay you good money for”. There are many business models to choose from in the online world and here are some of the most obvious ones
- Offer a service and use your blog to build your brand (virtual assistant, coaching, social media management)
- Create a digital product to sell online (ebook, blog planner)
- Create online courses to sell on your own website or a teaching platform like Udemy or Teachable
- Make money through advertising (Google Adwords or Mediavine)
- Make money through affiliate marketing
It is possible to combine a few of these models too. Your blogging business model might also change as your business continues to grow.
If you are just starting out you might not exactly know what you business will look like, but you need to decide on a blogging business model to begin with.
3. Know your target audience
There is so much noise in the online world. If you want to stand out and be heard, you must be very specific in your message.
You can only be specific in your message if you know your audience. If you end up trying to serve everyone, you end up serving no-one.
To help with this, create a avatar. This is a fictional person who is your most ideal reader. Be specific in how you describe them. It will help you be more targeted in the content you create.
But I don’t have any readers yet, I hear you say. So create the ideal reader you WISH you had.
What problem will you solve for them? Ask yourself , what will you be writing about which they want to know more about. How can you make their lives easier?
What frustrations and challenges might they have? What would they like to do differently? What are their values?
If you know your target audience, you will be better able to choose a marketing channel to connect with them.
4. Choose your marketing channel
There are 100’s of different marketing strategies out there.
Where your audience hangs out, will to a large extend determine what type of marketing strategy you choose, as well as your specific marketing goals.
Do you want to build your brand? Get more clients? Be seen as an expert in your niche? Get more traffic to your blog? Grow your email list? Sell products?
Choose 1 or 2 marketing channels to start off with. As your blog grows, you will have to expand to other channels to ensure business sustainability. You don’t want those eggs all in one basket.
Here is a high level view of some marketing channels to give you some ideas.
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Social media
Set your blogging business goals
Now that you have decided what your blogging business will look like, who your target audience is, and how you will connect best with them, it’s time to set some goals.
You know the expression, being without goals is like driving a car without a destination, or something like that. That’s true for any small biz too. If you don’t have specific goals you run the risk of ending up nowhere.
How setting goals can help you
I’m sure most of us have done it. You set a goal. You think about it for a few days. Life happens. You think goal setting is a waste of time.
Here are a few reasons why I think setting goals is helpful
- You have something specific and measurable to work towards
- You can literally create you dream life goal by goal
- You can track your personal and biz growth
- When you set goals you dream up possibilities for your life and create a vision for yourself
- By spending time with your goals you get clarity of where you want to go
- Setting goals helps get you unstuck
- When you hit your goals, it builds success neural pathways in your brain, building your self-confidence and self-belief
During my days as a coach and trainer, one of the things I focused on when teaching goal setting, was that we should be careful of setting too lofty goals.
Your goals should stretch you about 20% out of your comfort zone. Enough of a stretch to get you to grow, but not too much so that you struggle to achieve them.
And less is more. When we start setting goals (or building new good habits, for that matter) it is tempting to try and list those goals like little soldiers. That is overwhelming to think about and take action on. End result: after a few days or weeks your goals end up in the junk drawer.
Whether you are starting on the road to entrepreneurship, or whether you want to take your blog to the next level, setting goals the right way, will help you survive the overwhelm and keep you accountable.
How to set goals that work for your small biz or blog
There is a risk in setting only long term or yearly goals. A year is a long way away and as there is no immediate pressure, you don’t work towards this goal with any sense of urgency. You find other things to focus on instead.
I’m a goal setter at heart and have tried many different methods over the years. The format I found that works best is by setting yearly, quarterly and weekly goals. My weekly goals become my to-do-list.
You want create some sense of urgency to propel your towards action. Now connect to that the emotions that you discovered when you uncovered your WHY. See how this works?
Want to know a secret? Here is the reason why many people don’t achieve their goals:
They don’t create objectives which they can take action on, which lead them towards achieving their goals.
It’s true that most most people will perform better if they have a specific task or a measurable activity set for them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a personal or a business goal.
I like to start my day with a clear plan of what I need to do on that day, otherwise I feel ungrounded and aimless.
Achieving those goals
1 Write down your goals
When we write down our goals we make them more concrete.
Firstly you create the goal in your mind when you think about it. When it is just something you think about, chances are very good that you will soon forget about it.
However, when you write it down, you are encoding it. Your brain uses this biological process to decide what is important or not. When you encode something, chances are better that you will remember it (and take it seriously).
2 Start with your Big Goals
The first thing to do is to create big goals for the year.
You start by choosing one major overarching objective that you want to achieve for your business this year.
Break that objective down into 3-5 goals to hit.
Make sure your goals are both specific and measurable. This will help you to break them down into actionable steps, which you’ll want to do if you want to achieve them!
Some ideas to get you going:
- Increase revenue by X%
- Increase sales by X%
- Launch a new product by X
- Grow email list to X
- Increase page views to X
- Establish relationships with X influencers in my niche
- Rank X post on Google
- Sign up X new clients
3 Work backwards from goal to action
Take your 3-5 goals and allocate them to yearly quarters. Start with the current quarter you are in.
There are a few ways in which you can plan how you will reach your goal. Personally I like working backwards.
Planning the first step in reaching a goal can be overwhelming and frustrating. What will the “right’ first step be? Where do you actually start? How do you know that this will lead to the goal?
When you work backwards, you start with the end in mind. You plan the last step that needs to be in place for the goal to happen. And then the step before that one. And the step before that one and so one. You continue until you reach the first step.
Working backwards from your goal does a few things
- It traces a line backwards from goal to starting point
- It breaks down your goal into chunks or baby steps
- You have clear milestones to work towards
- As you hit each baby step, you stretch a little more out your comfort zone, which helps your grow.
- Your objectives leads directly to your goal
When you follow this method, it helps you decide which of your 3-5 big goals (from your major overarching objective for the year) should go into which quarter.
Your actionable business plan is not set in stone. It is meant to be a living evolving document.
So, about 4 weeks before the next quarter starts, you review your progress and make adjustments where necessary for the new quarter.
4 Make it actionable
One of the main reasons we fail to hit our goals is because we don’t have a plan of action. In this section you get down to the nitty gritty of What, When and How.
Let’s say one of your Big Goals is to use Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog.
That means you need to have a Pinterest strategy. This includes setting up a business account, creating boards, pinning useful content for you followers and joining group boards.
See how you can now create tasks for each quarterly goal?
You are still working backwards, by the way.
When you plan your week, you review the tasks for that quarter and decide what you will focus on for that week. Out of that plan you create your daily to-do’s.
5 BONUS: Get an accountability partner
Getting a business bestie to help you stay accountable is another way to ensure that you hit your goals. You can meet on a monthly basis to update each other on your progress and celebrate your wins along the way.
If you have the funds available, you can consider signing up with a business coach or mentor.
No business bestie or funds for a coach? (What about making that a goal for next year?) Try your mom, dad, sister, brother, best friend. Talk about your progress and challenges to someone.
You will find that talking about it can give you another perspective and insight. Annnnd, when you know that you will have to tell another person about your progress, it gives you that little bit of fire in your belly to take action.
Remember, you’re running a business.
You need to keep track of what works so that you can replicate it.
By setting goals like this annually, you are able to measure your growth, see what has worked and make adjustments where necessary.
If you haven’t created your actionable business plan for new bloggers yet, what are you waiting for? Grab my free template right now!