Monday, December 6, 2010

Oh yeah! Now I remember . . . I HATE Business Mgmt

I'm planning ahead (gasp!) and trying to make sure I've got everything in order for the year ahead. I'm getting my paperwork ready for keeping tax records and working on the business plan for my writing career.

Although I've done taxes before -- I was an accounting/business mgmt/computer programmer in my former life --- I've never actually done a business plan. Not even when I ran a little educational products company for a while. So I was diving into uncharted waters. I've seen them, I've studied them. But I've never written one.

The first step was to download the S.C.O.R.E template. Good idea. Too bad so much on the template doesn't really apply:

Describe in depth your products or services (technical specifications, drawings, photos, sales brochures, and other bulky items belong in Appendices).
What factors will give you competitive advantages or disadvantages? Examples include level of quality or unique or proprietary features.
What are the pricing, fee, or leasing structures of your products or services?

Um . . . what?

I could cut the items out, of course, leaving whatever information does pertain to my writing. But I don't want my business plan to end up as a mere paragraph:

"I'm going to write stuff. And pimp it on Facebook."

I know you're probably thinking, why even write a business plan? The first time I started writing "professionally," I didn't bother. Maybe that's why there has to be a "second time" I'm starting to write professionally!

But seriously . . . there are four reasons I want to write a business plan:

1) Direction. When I have one of those "What the hell am I doing?" or "What made me think I could do this?" moments, I have a document that puts me back on track and acts as my guiding light. What am I doing? I'm doing this this year. What was I thinking? Here's what I was thinking, and why this is going to work.

2) Professionalism. One of the biggest problems/complaints that writers have is how their "business" is treated, by others and themselves. A business plan helps remind me that, yes, I'm running a business, and if I want to make some money, I'm going to have to TREAT it like a business. Act like a professional, be a professional. It also lets other know this isn't some little whim where I'm dabbling in "someday." I have a plan and I'm not afraid to use it!

3) Dread fear of the IRS. Let's face it, no one is a fan. And the IRS rules for business versus hobby are dicey. If your activity is classified as a business, you count income and deduct expenses. If your business is deemed a hobby, you still have to count income, but you can't deduct expenses! One of the "yardsticks" the IRS uses to determine if your business is a hobby or a real business is if you "conduct business like a business." Well, ain't that clear as mud! So to err on the side of caution, I'm keeping highly-detailed business records and making sure that I operate my business LIKE a business in every way possible. This isn't a hobby and I want my deductions.

4)The New World Order of Publishing. Although I haven't looked for an agent or a publisher for my novel yet, I've been hearing that a lot of them are starting to ask writers if they have a marketing plan and web presence BEFORE they'll consider publishing/representing a novel. They want to know if you have a website, if you have a Facebook page, do you have followers . . . Basically, they're asking for the "Marketing" section of your business plan. When the day comes that I'm ready to hand over my novel to an agent, I'm going to be ready for all those questions (instead of scrambling at the last minute).

So I'm going to keep working away on it, creating a system for my business records and building a business plan so I'm ready for the new year. I hate it, but I admit it's a necessary evil.

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