Writing your business plan. Ughhhh.

It's definitely not the most exciting part of starting a business. In fact, if you're like a lot of entrepreneurs, you're probably going to find yourself pulling a few all-nighters to get one done before heading into your first pitch for funding. Because that's the thing--your business plan is a pretty important thing.

Any funder worth their salt wants to see it right off the bat. Moreover though, a solid business plan is a living document that will continue to guide your efforts as your business grows. Recently, I shared 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups, an infographic created by Mark Vital over at Funders and Founders.

A lot of those mistakes (most of them, in fact) are the result of poor planning. Bad location, a marginal niche, having no specific user in mind raising too much or too little money--all of these issues can be prevented or at least mitigated with good planning.

Creating your business plan is more than just getting your own ideas down on paper for potential funders to see. It's an exploratory process in which you can evaluate your options, test your assumptions about your idea, and even discover new opportunities. It might even lead you to kill off aspects of your business before investing too much time or money in them.

That doesn't mean you have to bust out Word and start it from scratch. Templates are great--you probably aren't doing anything that hasn't done before, so it provides a proven structure for your plan. Pretty much everything on it can be customized. Check out these comprehensive business plan templates you can download for free to get you started:

SCORE's Business Plan Template for Startups
SCORE is an American non-profit dedicated to helping entrepreneurs get their companies off the ground. Available as a PDF or Word download, this template asks a whopping 150 questions and is generic enough to customize for most types of businesses. The 'Refining the Plan' resource that comes with it is helpful, especially if this is your first crack at writing a business plan.

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