If you need (or decide you want) to write a formal business plan there are many Free Resources available to help you through the process.
The Best Free Business Planning Resources on the Planet are:
I wish I had discovered My Own Business, Inc. before I opened my acupuncture practice. The information is presented in an easy-to-understand way with audio and video interviews with real-life professionals and successful business owners. I cannot say enough good things about this program!
I urge you to make the time to go through the free version of the online course available through My Own Business, Inc. It is well worth it.
Then go to the Small Business Administration (SBA) website and review their very informative "Small Business Planner". They have some nice sample business plans so you can see the exact format to follow.
The SBA also provides a nice general checklist that consists of (mostly) a series of yes or no questions. Although some of the questions are for people looking for a niche or type of business, the majority of the list is helpful for making sure you don't miss any essential steps. It is worth printing out and looking over.
The IRS (yes, our very own Internal Revenue Service) offers some Free Small Business Resources as well, including a nifty Online Small Business Classroom which starts Lesson 1 with "How to pay your Federal Taxes". (No surprise there!) There isn't a whole lot of information specifically on business plans, but the financial information is helpful, albeit dry.
A new item the IRS is offering is workshop for Small businesses called, Small Business Taxes: The Virtual Workshop It's free so go ahead and pop up some popcorn, get cozy and enjoy learning about business taxes.
If you want in person Free resources, go to your local SBA office. They are really wonderful people who are very knowledgeable and can be extremely helpful.
The SBA can also provide you with other Free resources, including SCORE, Small Business Development Centers, and Women's Business Centers.
If you are interested in software to help you write your business plan, check out what you already have on your computer.
Many operating systems come with a "Business Tools" program. Microsoft Office has an elaborate Business Plan template that comes complete with a tutorial and everything you need to get a business plan written.
If you want specialized software, you might want to investigate Palo Alto Software's Business Plan Pro. This is definitely NOT Free. Ask yourself if you really need a tool this powerful. If you do, then read on.
Besides providing you with hundreds of sample templates, the software leads you through a step-by-step detailed process producing a very prettyfinal report ready for printing and binding. But it will not save you any time. You still have to do all the work.
If you are going to a lending institution and want a nice, professional report produced by an excellent computer program, Palo Alto Software's Business Plan Pro is worth investigating.