5 Free Business Plan Templates to Simplify Your Planning Process

Christina Ballinger
February 9, 2024
min read
February 8, 2024
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Simplify your planning process with 5 free business plan templates. Streamline your strategy and save time with these customizable business plan templates.
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Whether you're seeking funding or new business partners, a well-crafted business plan can help outline your business goals and strategies, and how you plan to achieve them to set you on the path to success.

Business plans are useful no matter your industry or stage. According to Harvard Business Review, entrepreneurs with formal business plans are 16 percent more likely to achieve viability than entrepreneurs without one.

Every business plan is different (and yours should be tailored to your venture), but they don't have to be difficult to create. Here are 5 free business plan templates to help you create a compelling and professional plan.

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TL;DR: Business plan templates

  • A well-crafted business plan can help attract funding and new business partners.
  • Use these 5 free business plan templates to create a compelling plan.
  • Traditional and lean business plan templates offer different approaches.
  • IT and eCommerce business plan templates cater to specific industries.
  • A business action plan template helps develop and implement strategic initiatives.

What is a business plan?

A business plan clearly defines your business goals, target market and competitive advantage, providing a roadmap for future growth and success.

According to research from Investopedia, 20 percent of startups fail within a year due to running out of funds, being in the wrong market, lack of research, poor partnerships, ineffective marketing, and not having expertise in the industry — all factors that you can take into account with a business plan.

A comprehensive business plan:

  • Attracts investors.
  • Reduces risk.
  • Identifies key strategies and addresses weaknesses.
  • Creates effective strategies for market analysis and competition.
  • Serves as your blueprint for the startup process.

The process of creating a business plan encourages you to think through every aspect of how to run a business, preparing you to tackle challenges proactively.

Free business plan templates

Business plan templates simplify the planning process, saving time and money.

These free, customizable templates offer a structured format with simple fill-in sections, ensuring you include all necessary information.

Check out our template gallery with 100+ templates, including SOP templates, process documentation templates, project planning templates and more!

Here are the most popular business plan templates to help you get started.

‎Traditional business plan template

Traditional business plan templates
Traditional business plan template

‎This traditional business plan template includes instructions on how to create a comprehensive plan detailing your product or services, target market, competition, marketing strategies, sales projections, financial projections and more.

  • Executive summary.
  • Company description.
  • Market analysis.
  • Marketing plan and strategies.
  • Management team.
  • Financial projections.
  • Appendix and funding request.

‍👉 Try this traditional business plan template for free.

Lean business plan template

‎Lean business plan templates
‎Lean business plan template

‎A lean business plan template is designed to help you validate assumptions, test business ideas, and adapt to feedback from customers.

This lean business plan template focuses on the key elements to guide your business strategy:

  • Define your company's vision, mission, and strategic goals.
  • Communicate your company's offerings and unique value proposition to customers, stakeholders, and investors.
  • Provide insights into your target market, customer needs, and industry trends.
  • Go-to-market strategy for reaching and acquiring target customers. 
  • Key activities and resource requirements for operations, development, and growth.
  • Financial projections and analysis.
  • Action plan and timeline with milestones and deadlines.

‍👉 Try this lean business plan template for free.

‎IT‎ business plan template

‎IT‎ business plan templates
IT business plan template

An IT business plan template is an agile, one-page business plan outlining the essential elements to guide your business.

This IT business plan follows a lean startup format while focusing on aspects of the IT industry.

Use this IT business plan template to:

  • Define your vision, mission, and strategic goals.
  • Outline resource requirements for operations, development, and growth.
  • Provide insights into your target market, customer needs, and industry trends.
  • Build a competitive analysis.
  • Demonstrate your unique value proposition to customers, potential stakeholders, and investors.
  • Provide financial projections and analysis.
  • Set specific goals and milestones for MVP development, customer validation, and market launch.
  • Outline your business model, market potential, and growth strategy.

‍👉 Try this IT business plan template for free.

eCommerce business plan template

eCommerce business plan templates
eCommerce business plan template

‎If you're starting an eCommerce, this lean startup format helps you identify potential challenges and opportunities and establish a clear plan of action for your eCommerce operations.

Use this eCommerce business plan template to identify your:

  • Business idea and goals.
  • Product development.
  • Market analysis.
  • Target market.
  • Competitive landscape.
  • Financial plan.
  • Choose an eCommerce platform.
  • Analytics and tracking.
  • Marketing plan and strategy.

‍👉 Try this eCommerce business plan template for free.

‎Business action plan template

Action plan: business plan templates
Business action plan template
This business action plan template is a valuable resource for developing and implementing strategic initiatives.

Use this business action plan template to create a structured and organized approach to developing and implementing strategic plans.

  • Executive summary: Company overview, goals and objectives of the business action plan, and key stakeholders.
  • SWOT analysis: A SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  • Action items: Specific action items with timelines and responsible parties to prioritize and implement actions.
  • Monitoring and evaluation plan: Methods for tracking progress and evaluating outcomes.

‍👉 Try this business action plan template for free.

Traditional vs. lean business plan templates

Business plans generally fall into two categories: traditional and lean. Traditional plans are detailed and comprehensive, while lean business plans offer a streamlined approach focusing on key elements.

Deciding between a traditional or lean business plan depends on your situation and goals. Here's a breakdown to help you choose:

Consider a traditional business plan if you're:

  • Seeking formal funding: Traditional business plans with detailed financials and comprehensive structure resonate better with banks, investors, and lenders.
  • Established business seeking expansion: If you're an existing business that needs to secure funding for growth, use a traditional plan that showcases your track record and future trajectory.
  • Complex business model: If your business has complex operations management or financial structures, a traditional plan allows for detailed analysis and projections.
  • Internal clarity and alignment: Even if you're not planning to secure funding, creating a traditional plan can be valuable for internal team alignment and strategic planning.

Consider a lean startup business plan if you're:

  • Validating a business idea or early-stage venture: The one-page business plan format is perfect for testing your concept with customers and iterating quickly based on feedback.
  • Bootstrapping or limited resources: Lean startup plans require less time and effort to create, making them ideal for budget-conscious business owners.
  • Need an agile and adaptable model: Businesses that change based on market feedback thrive with the lean approach's iterative nature.
  • Prioritizing customer insights: Lean startup plans focus on customer validation and learning, which is critical for early-stage product development.

📌 ‎Related resource: 10 Major Advantages of Using Text Analysis to Study Consumer Feedback

Additional factors to consider:

  • Industry norms: Certain industries might have traditional plan expectations for funding or partnerships.
  • Target audience: Who will be reading your plan? Tailor the style and format to their preferences.

Don't be afraid to adapt or even blend elements of both traditional and lean approaches to create your plan.

What to include in a traditional business plan

A traditional business plan is a comprehensive document outlining your business goals, strategies, and how you'll achieve them. Traditional business plan formats follow a standard structure and require more work upfront — a common benchmark is 30-40 pages.

Here are the key elements to include in your business plan outline:

1. Executive summary

Think of the executive summary as your elevator pitch — a concise company overview capturing the essence of your plan.

Craft a concise and compelling company overview, highlighting your:

  • Purpose. 
  • Target market. 
  • Unique value proposition.
  • Financial projections.

Aim for this section to be one to two pages, enticing readers to learn more.

2. Company description

Provide a detailed profile of your business, including your:

  • Mission, vision and values.
  • Products or services and their unique selling points and benefits.
  • Legal structure, ownership, and operational location.

3. Market analysis

Conduct a thorough analysis of your target market.

  • Assess the industry landscape, identifying your target market, its size, demographics, needs, and buying behaviors.
  • Analyze your competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, and how you will differentiate.
  • Highlight potential gaps in the market your business can fill.
  • Evaluate market trends, potential risks and opportunities.

4. Marketing plan and strategy

Traditional plans include a marketing plan with details on marketing channels and pricing strategies.

  • Outline strategies for reaching your target audience and promoting your offerings.
  • Specify your marketing channels (like social media, email, or advertising).
  • Outline marketing and sales tactics.
  • Define your pricing strategy and how it aligns with your value proposition.

📌 ‎Related resource: 💡 ‎AI Tools: The Future of Smart Marketing

5. Management team

Introduce your key team members, showcasing their expertise and experience relevant to your business goals.

  • Highlight their roles and responsibilities, showcasing their strengths and qualifications.
  • Emphasize their qualifications and ability to execute your plan.
  • Build trust and confidence in your leadership's ability to execute your plan.

6. Financial projections

Develop realistic financial plans and forecasts for the next several years, including revenue streams, expenses, and profitability.

  • Forecast your financial performance for the next 3-5 years, including revenue streams, expenses and profits.
  • Create financial statements like income statements, balance sheets and cash flow projections.
  • Demonstrate the financial viability of your business and potential for return on investment.

7. Appendix

Include supporting documents to provide additional context and strengthen the credibility of your business plan:

  • Market research reports.
  • Competitor analysis data.
  • Detailed financial models.
  • Funding request: If you're seeking lender or investor support, clearly state the amount requested and how it will be used.

What to include in a lean business plan

For many types of startups, lean business plan templates offer a step-by-step blueprint for defining your mission, selling your vision, and maintaining momentum.

Compared to a traditional business plan, a lean business plan is a one-page business plan focused on experimentation, iteration and learning.

Here are the key elements to include in your lean startup business plan:

1. Problem and solution

Clearly articulate the specific problem your business solves in a way that resonates with your target audience.

  • Define the problem your business addresses and your unique solution.
  • Explain how your solution stands out from existing alternatives and why it's the better choice.
  • Focus on your value proposition: Why should customers choose you over existing solutions?

2. Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Describe the most basic version of your product or service — your minimum viable product — that can be tested with real customers.

  • Don't get bogged down in a feature-packed MVP. Prioritize functionalities that validate your core value proposition.
  • Emphasize rapid development and testing rather than comprehensive product features upfront.
  • Focus on a quick product development process and testing cycles to constantly learn and improve based on user feedback.
  • Get feedback from early adopters to validate your assumptions and iterate quickly.

📌 ‎Related resource: What is Customer Feedback & How to Gather It (The Right Way)

3. Customer segments and validation

Define your ideal customer segments, including demographics, needs and pain points.

  • Explain how you'll reach and engage your target audience for MVP testing.
  • Outline your initial channels and tactics for reaching your target audience.
  • Choose specific metrics to track your customer validation process.
  • Define key learning objectives to assess your progress.
  • Outline your customer validation methods, including metrics and key learning objectives.

4. Go-to-market strategy

Describe your initial channels and tactics for customer acquisition and growth.

  • Avoid complex marketing and sales plans. Focus on efficient channels and tactics for target customer acquisition.
  • Be flexible and experiment with different approaches based on MVP feedback.
  • Focus on traction and gaining a foothold in the market rather than extensive marketing and sales plans.

🎓 ‎Learn more: 16 Must-Have Marketing Tools

5. Key activities and resources

List what you need to accomplish to build and deliver your MVP. Find creative ways to leverage your existing resources and keep startup costs under control.

  • List your essential activities, focusing on efficiency and minimal resource requirements.
  • Identify key team members with the necessary skills and expertise.
  • Note the tools needed to support operations.

6. Financial projections

Don't get bogged down in detailed financial plans or modeling at this stage. Use simplified forecasts for internal planning and potential investor communications.

  • Create simplified financial forecasts focusing on key metrics like revenue streams, burn rate, and funding needs.
  • Use these projections to track progress, make informed decisions, and attract investors.

7. Action plan & timeline

Create a clear roadmap for MVP development, customer validation and market launch.

  • Outline a roadmap that includes milestones and deadlines for each stage of development, validation and launch.
  • Break down the plan into manageable tasks to maintain momentum and track progress.
  • Be open to adapting your plan based on new information and market feedback.

How to write a solid business plan in 4 steps

Whether you're choosing traditional or lean, follow these steps for creating a successful business plan:

Step 1. Define your purpose & audience

The first (and most important) step is to understand the audience and determine your goals.

Determine whether you'll need a traditional or lean plan, so you can tailor your content and structure.

  • Traditional: Attract investors, secure loans, or guide internal operations.
  • Lean: Test assumptions, iterate on your MVP, and validate customer needs.

Knowing your goals is crucial to developing a good business plan that aligns with your objectives and sets a clear path for success.

Step 2. Gather information and resources

Maximize your business planning efforts by conducting thorough research.

Start by gathering all of the relevant data and information that will shape your business plan outline, including market research, competitor analysis, and financial projections.

  • Research your industry, target market, and competitors.
  • Analyze trends, risks, and opportunities to shape your strategies.
  • Collect relevant financial information and equip yourself with appropriate forecasting tools and templates.

📌 ‎Related resource: Top 10 Sales Tools To Make Your Life Easier

Step 3. Craft the core sections

Use Scribe

‎Using the research and information you've gathered, write the core sections of your business plan outline. Use a business plan template to create a standard structure and organize your plan.

  • Draft your plan in a clear, concise, and professional manner. 
  • Use data and visuals effectively to enhance understandability.
  • Use clear, concise language and compelling storytelling.
  • Focus on the information most relevant to your purpose and audience.

There are a few ways you can start writing your business plan. We recommend using an AI-powered tool so you can create, store and share your business information more easily.

For example, Scribe is an AI-powered software that generates documents for you. Just turn on the extension and go through your process. Scribe will capture your screen to create your guide — complete with text, links and screenshots. Here's an example.

Getting started with Slack: business plan templates
Getting started with Slack

‎‎Combine multiple step-by-step guides and ask the AI to write your business plan for you with a simple prompt. Scribe pairs AI-powered text with your company-specific processes — just select the Scribes you want it to include to make your business plan specific to your company.

Use Scribe

‎Ask AI to add titles, descriptions and additional context and tailor to your specific needs to create a comprehensive document.

‎With Scribe Pro and Teams, you can add branding elements like your logo and company colors to create a professional plan.

And when you're ready to grow, Scribe can help you scale. Brennan Biddle how his fast-growing company uses Scribe:

"I work at a rapidly growing tech company. We're hiring dozens of people every week, and Scribe has made our onboarding, ramping up, and training processes significantly faster and better.

I don't know how I ever lived without this thing! This is a must-have for anybody trying to scale a business!"

Step 4. Revise & improve your business plan

If you're writing a traditional business plan, share it with trusted advisors and potential investors and ask for feedback.

Regularly update your plan with new learnings and market changes. Your business plan is a dynamic document, so update it regularly as you gather new data, adapt to market changes, and refine your strategies.

Wrapping up: business plan templates

A solid business plan is essential, whether you're:

  • Seeking investors.
  • Refining marketing.
  • Building sales strategies.
  • Managing operations.

Start with business plan templates to transform your business idea into a reality — get a business plan template for free and unlock your business potential.

Ready to try Scribe?

Scribe automatically generates how-to guides and serves them to your team when they need them most. Save time, stay focused, help others.