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How long does it take to write a business plan?

Even if you’re a seasoned pro at crafting business plans, the process can be daunting. There are many different types of business plans, such as external, internal, strategic, and growth, just to name a few. Every kind of business plan requires different levels of research and analysis and varies in length.

How long is a typical business plan?

Since every business within every industry is different, there’s no defined length to a business plan. The most critical thing is that the plan achieves the goal that it sets out to accomplish. Since we all work at different paces, there’s no real way to know precisely how long it will take. If you’re thinking about tackling a business plan for the first time and wonder what you’re in for, some considerations can help you get an idea.

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A resume for your business

When it comes to business plan length, a good way to put it in perspective is to look at it as a resume for your business. In the past, experts say your resume should never be longer than a page. However, now that it’s more acceptable to change jobs more frequently and a more competitive workforce requires more experience, longer resumes are more acceptable.

A resume’s main objective is to get attention, be skimmable, and spotlight essential information. The same is true for a business plan. To be able to do all of these things, you must consider who will be reading it.

Consider your audience

Although each type of business plan has certain content requirements, there isn’t a strict guideline you must follow. For instance, if you’re presenting your business plan to a bank to secure a loan, they will likely want to see a standardized plan with a lot of financial forecasting backed by research. On the other hand, if you’re presenting a strategic business plan to a board of directors at a design firm, they might be wowed by a more visually stunning presentation.

Whoever is reviewing your business plan will affect its contents, which will affect how much time and effort you need to put into it.

How long does it take to write a business plan?

Once you have a firm grasp of your business plan’s purpose, audience, and how you want to present the information, you’ll naturally start to get an idea of how long it might take to complete. Although we can’t tell you how long it will take, we can give you a timeframe in which it should take.

woman typing on laptop.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Information can become irrelevant

Most business plans utilize market data to develop financial projections. Since markets are constantly changing, so will the data in your business plan. This means a business plan that takes a year to create might have inaccuracies when it comes time to present it. Experts say that crafting and delivering a business plan within one quarter ( three months) is best to avoid this.

Cut down on text with infographics

No one, regardless of industry, gets excited to sit down and read a business plan that’s full of dense text. Infographics such as charts, graphs, maps, and other visual tools that can convey information are excellent for breaking up text and making a business plan more readable. They also cut down on the amount of text you need to write to convey information. However, a business plan with all infographics and no text is no good either. Striking a balance between text and images within your business plan is crucial for an effective business plan.

Get help with editorial design

Keeping with the theme of an attention-grabbing business plan, a business plan printed straight out of Google Docs won’t do a great job—even with infographics. Adding a little flare with some editorial design goes a long way. This could include placements of your company logo, color scheme, or other aspects that tie into the business. Unless you’re skilled at design, this can eat up a lot of your time. Purchasing business plan templates offline or hiring a graphic designer can help with this aspect of your business plan and make it stand out.

Final thoughts

You’ve probably noticed by now that we haven’t told you how long it takes to write a business plan. That’s because we can’t. Just as we can’t tell you exactly how long one should be. As we mentioned before, it should take as long (and be as long) as it needs to accomplish its objectives.

So that your projections in your business plan remain accurate and relevant to investors, it’s a good idea to wrap it up with three months. But if it takes you longer than that, don’t stress. You can always go back and adjust the data if need be, which will take a fraction of the time of the entire business plan.

As for the length of your business plan, you should plan to include enough information to cover at least 10-15 pages. That’s including a cover page and appendix. If you’re to err on the side of caution on the length of a business plan, it’s better it’s too long than too short. A very short business plan may give lenders and investors pause at first sight. However, if your business plan is going over 50 to 60 pages, you may want to consider scaling back. A good rule of thumb for page limitations is that if it takes longer than 15 to 20 minutes to skim, it’s probably too long.

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Steven Johnson
Steven Johnson is a chef-turned-content strategist. He now helps companies attract and retain more customers through content…
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