Why Use an Online Business Plan Service?
The top business plan services in our review are Go Business Plans, the Gold Award winner; Wise Business Plans, the Silver Award winner; and The Plan Writers, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on finding the best online business plan service for your company, along with detail on how we arrived at our rankings.
A business plan is a necessity for any business, whether you're looking for investors, trying to get a business loan, or looking to get visas for foreign employees. The best plans include financial projections, market analysis and a plan for marketing your business.
This sounds like a lot of work, and it often is. Business plan software can simplify the process, but creating a plan is still time consuming, requiring number crunching and research. This is where online business plan services can prove helpful.
An online business plan service is a company that employs business writers and other experts you pay to create a plan for you. They research the market and work with you to create a plan to fulfill your needs. Many services also critique business plans that you've written. We also included some helpful articles about online business planning.
Pros & Cons of Online Business Plan Services
When deciding whether to pay a service to create a business plan for you or write it yourself, it's important to weigh the benefits and disadvantages.
The biggest advantage to hiring a service is that it can save you time since you're not responsible for creating the entire plan, including all of the market research you need to conduct to determine the need and viability of your product and business. You'll still need to collaborate with the writers you hire. You'll need to provide them with financial information and a clear idea of your goals, both for your business and the plan.
Another benefit is that the writers have experience writing business plans. For a first-timer, the process can be daunting, but experts are well versed in creating these documents. Many business plan services create business plans that contain eye-catching graphics and other design elements that can set your plan apart.
One downside to using a business plan service is that they don't know your business as well as you do. You can provide the writers with all your financial information and other raw information, but they still don't know your business as intimately as you do. The consultants who write your plan aren't responsible for pitching it to potential investors, so you will still need to be involved throughout the process so you know what's going into the plan you're paying for.
Getting a business plan written for you is only the first step. The writers from the business plan service won't hold your hand through your presentations, so you still need to be familiar with everything in your plan.
Using a service to write your business plan isn't a shortcut to success, it's simply a way to leverage the expertise and experience of others to help your business.
What Can a Business Plan Be Used For?
There are several types of business plans and which kind you have written for you depends on your business's goals and what stage of development your business is in. Having one helps you contextualize your business and plan for the future.
Are you a startup seeking investors? Then you need a business plan that demonstrates the feasibility of your business. These plans include financial projections, sales forecasting and market analysis.
If your business is established but looking to expand, you'll want a growth plan. This plan focuses on potential areas for expansion, new products to develop or other avenues where your business can expand.
Some business plans may need to be more specialized. If you are applying for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan or certain types of employee immigration visas, you need a business plan. All of the services in our review offer business plans specifically tailored for these government agencies.
Online Business Plans: What We Evaluated, What We Found
Our reviewers contacted each service on our lineup, interviewing consultants about the services, costs, timeframes and other options each business plan service offers its clients.
Depth of Service
We read through sample plans provided by each service and compared them against checklists of business plan recommendations. We compared plans to ensure that all the basic components were included, especially looking to see whether essential sections, such as market research, industry research, marketing plan and competitive landscape, were included.
As touched on earlier, market research consumes a lot of time when you're preparing your business plan. Some business plan services perform market research and industry analysis for you. These services have subscriptions to research databases like IBISWorld, Hoover's, ESRI and many others. A subscription to one these services alone can cost thousands of dollars and getting a single report through just one of these databases can cost several hundred dollars.
Costs & Timeframes
How much your business plan costs depends on the scope and scale of your plan as well as the size of your business. The cost of a business plan for a restaurant looking for an SBA loan is different than one for a software startup seeking VC funding.
Some services, such as Joorney and Bargain Business Plans, offer a flat rate, depending on the type of plan you need. Usually you'll receive a cost estimate from your first consultation. The costs listed in our matrix represent estimates provided to us during our calls with each business plan service we evaluated.
We based our proposed business on a smaller-scale, "main-street"-type business like a restaurant or retail store, as these are the most common types of plans people are seeking. On average, you can expect to spend over $1,000 on a business plan from one of these services.
The typical timeframe to complete your business plan ranges from one week to a month. Again, it varies depending on the complexity of your plan. After receiving a draft of your plan, there's a revision period during which you review your plan and send revisions back to the service. Typically, the revision period ranges from two weeks to a few months. PlanIt Business, Capital West Advisors and Joorney all have an unlimited revision period.
Besides writing plans, many companies on our lineup offer additional services, making them a valuable asset for your business. One of the most important services is introducing you to potential investors. Some services we reviewed, such as Wise Business Plans and The Plan Writers, can introduce you to potential investors.
Nearly all of the services we evaluated review existing business plans. If you've written a plan and want a professional to look it over, you can pay extra for these services. Many, though, offer it as a courtesy for potential clients and don't charge a fee.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
The top business plan service in our review is Go Business Plans. It has the most resources available for research, and it earned high scores for the quality of its business plan. Wise Business Plans is also a good choice. Its business plan rated as one of the best in our quality test, and it offers quick turnaround, reasonable pricing as well as management-consulting and strategic-planning services.
PlanIt Business offers clients placement in a business plan gallery, which potential investors can browse. This can give your business a chance to be seen by angel investors and venture capital firms.
The Plan Writers has experience with businesses looking to go public and is a good choice for businesses writing plans seeking investor funding.
If you need a business plan and aren't looking for any other consulting services, MasterPlans provides quality plans at a relatively low price.
Cayenne Consulting offers multiple consulting options in addition to writing your business plan. Its plans are more expensive, on average, but Cayenne has more research resources at their disposal, so if you are looking for in-depth market analysis, this service may be a good option.
If you are looking for a business plan based on cost only, Bargain Business Plan has the lowest prices we saw.
All business plan services can create business plans for you, but the best offer thorough plans for businesses in all stages of development. You'll want to find a service with quick turnaround, reasonable costs and the research resources to write a complete plan for your business.
Contributing Reviewer: Eli McCormick