How to Evaluate Your Business Plan

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Even as an online business with generally lower overhead costs, it’s important to evaluate your business every year. A business evaluation consists of things like assessing your goals, determining if you’re reaching the right audience, calculating the returns on your investments, or frankly… whether or not you’re happy in your business.

Evaluating your business plan so that you can refine your business model is key to growing your business. In this post, you’ll get the right questions to ask yourself about your business each year, and the strategy needed for weighing where your business is at.

It’s so easy to get stuck doing things the same way just because it’s the way you’ve always done it. You know the saying that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”? – Well, it’s insane to keep trying the same things in your business (often out of stubbornness – totally guilty!) if they aren’t getting you the result you’re looking for.

Evaluating your business plan is sort of like the first step in admitting to yourself that there’s room for improvement in your business… and it’s an important first step, really.

How to evaluate your business plan – Questions to ask yourself

I’m not a mathematician, so you’re not about to get a bunch of pie charts and numbers. If those things work for you, fantastic! But there’s more than one way to evaluate your business, and you’ll learn here a way to evaluate what’s happening in your business and measure its success in ways that don’t necessarily involve number crunching – largely through a series of questions you should ask yourself.

Am I happy?

Life is too short to be miserable. The wonderful thing about being an online business owner is how easy it can be to pivot away from whatever you’re doing for the sake of doing something else that might bring you joy. It’s really as simple as deciding a new goal and making decided moves in your business to prioritize the new goal.

For example – I had a wildly successful client-based graphic design business with literally dozens of regular clients. I was almost never not booked solid for nearly 2 years. But I was also miserable and constantly working. I felt like my creativity was being sucked out of me, and I didn’t have time anymore to enjoy using any of my designing talents for myself.

I made the decision in August 2018 (when my business was 3 years old) to focus my time on other business models. I chose to focus on enjoying blogging again and largely make money from affiliate marketing earnings, or selling premium courses where I teach blogging and business.

Don’t underestimate the importance of your happiness in business. There’s so many options out there for you if what you’re doing right now isn’t getting you totally pumped every morning!

Am I able to pay my bills?

I’m not saying that your business needs to be making 5 figures a month to be successful. Most people would be thrilled with enough to pay their rent, utilities, and to put food on the table – without the stress of working a “traditional” job.

If you aren’t regularly bringing in enough money after being in business for, let’s say a year, then it’s time to take a hard look at your business. Be really honest with yourself – because that’s a big key in all of this. Sometimes we’re too caught up in things like not wanting to invest in education to help us improve, or in hiring someone who specializes in something we need.

Sometimes you really do need to spend a little money in order to make money – a fact which I personally ignored for a long time out of determination not to spend more money than I was already spending on various tools for my business. I can honestly tell you that the right investments will get you far.

Am I making money off of my investments?

An investment doesn’t have to be something you spend money on – time is an equally important investment. Did you spend a lot of time on a course, other digital good, physical product, etc that isn’t selling well?

Most of the time, the problem isn’t with the product itself, but rather because we’re too close to our creations. We believe that they are amazing, but fail to express what about them is so fantastic to our audiences. I know this as fact, because of the many times I have done it myself with my courses.

If you feel like you’re not making enough money from projects you have spent time on, assistants you’ve hired, or tools you have spent money for in your business, then it’s time for you to figure out…

  • Why people aren’t clicking and/or buying from you
  • If the work is something that needs to be outsourced, or if there’s maybe someone better suited for the job
  • If there are less expensive tools available with similar features, or if you can eliminate them entirely if you aren’t using them enough
  • Where you may be wasting valuable time online such as not seeing a return on your time spent on certain social media platforms

Do my competitors seem to grow faster?

I normally discourage looking at what your competitors are doing. I prefer a sort of “eyes on your own paper” approach, because I believe that constant comparison stifles your natural creativity and promotes icky feelings. Having said that, I don’t think there’s any harm in evaluating where you are and where you could be based on the growth of a competitor.

On a personal note, I did this myself at the beginning of 2019. I saw that someone had grown a Facebook group to over 10,000 people in the span of 6 months while my own sat stagnant. Making that comparison helped me realize that something I was doing wasn’t working, and that it was time for me to figure out what I needed to improve on so that I could see that kind of growth.

Keep in mind that there’s only so much you can see. Numbers, particularly on social media, do not define the success of a business. It’s easy to see someone boasting their 1 million views on Pinterest and think that they must be making a lot of money – when in fact the views don’t matter. What you can’t see is that they are getting maybe 5,000 clicks to their website every month and only making $100 in affiliate income.

When checking out the competition, have clear goals in mind. If growing your Facebook group is something you want to do, and you see that theirs is growing at a substantial rate by comparison… it doesn’t mean that they are more successful. Just use that information to make decisions based on your goal.

What has worked really well for me this year?

Sometimes it’s all about repeating something that worked well for you, but doing it on a larger scale. When evaluating your business, make sure you pat yourself on the back for the things you got right. Use that information to replicate the results. Maybe this year you can do it again but spend more money on ads, hire someone to take on part of the work, or perhaps even try a new marketing technique.

One technique I used to scale my business and find a new audience was to collaborate with other entrepreneurs who specialize in things I do not. My favorite way to do this is by participating in product bundles. It has allowed me to find a new audience, make sales, and grow my email list.

Evaluate your audience

One thing I personally looked at this year was my audience. You need a very clear understanding of who your audience is – and if the people who are currently following you aren’t those people, then there’s clearly been some miscommunication somewhere.

Ask your audience for feedback

Hopefully you’re using a great email marketing service and you’ve got a list of your audience to talk to, or maybe you have a Facebook group.

You need to get down to the root of the problem for your audience. Is it price point? They don’t understand how the product will help them, or why they need it? Maybe they aren’t ready to purchase because they don’t need what you’re offering yet?

Feedback is hard to listen to. You’re opening yourself up to criticism and it can be really difficult to accept… but a big key in being successful is in listening to the people who make up your ideal audience.

Audience feedback business evaluation

Assess their spending habits

If you’ve noticed that your audience isn’t spending money – whether it’s on a service you provide, course you offer, or affiliate links… something is wrong. It could be any number of things really – from having the wrong audience to needing to work on explaining the value of your offerings.

The problem can also be with your audience. On a personal note, I noticed that my audience was made up largely of “freebie seekers” – people who hadn’t yet come to understand the value of investing in their business or furthering their education, or ones who just simply weren’t willing to buy anything. They came to rely on the massive amounts of free content I have offered over the years, and I’d actually created a monster so to speak.

Assessing my audience and their spending habits was a big key in changes I made to my business. It meant dialing back on the free content that I’d already spent so many years building for them, and focusing instead on finding an audience that was ready to invest.

Monitor engagement with your content

If you’re constantly throwing content out and getting nothing back from your audience, it’s time to figure out why. Maybe the information you’re putting out doesn’t resonate with them. Maybe it’s not the value they are expecting. It could be that you aren’t giving them a reason to engage, or worse… maybe they aren’t even seeing your posts!

Granted, this could be just as much a problem with your audience as it is with yourself. It’s your responsibility to analyze the emails, blog posts, group content, etc that you’ve been posting and see what has worked well, and what hasn’t.

Connect with them in a fun way

You’ve probably taken lots of silly quizzes on Facebook, and your audience probably has too. Maybe it sounds a little silly, but quizzes are a fun, low-pressure way to get information out of your audience without directly asking them for it.

Check out this post I wrote over on The Blog Dept.® – you’ll get the details for creating your own quiz that’s fun, on brand, and helps you to better understand your audience. The kind of information you can get from your audience through a simple Interact Quiz is going to be invaluable to your business.

Evaluate Yourself

This, in my opinion, is the most important step in evaluating your business. Your business cannot thrive without you. Your business doesn’t even exist without you. And so, it’s important that you check in with and evaluate yourself.

Do I like where my business is headed?

A big factor in the success of a business is whether or not you’re even happy with where things are headed. Do you absolutely dread upcoming projects? Are you frustrated or depressed at the thought of doing more of what you’re doing right now on a more grand scale?

These indicate that you don’t even like where you’re going in your business… and that’s just going to lead to things like being unhappy, burn out, and not showing up as your best self.

I fell into this trap at the beginning of 2019. My audience was literally begging me to teach them graphic design. I put in all the work to make that happen, only to discover how much I really didn’t enjoy the constant filming while I worked on graphics. I felt like it stifled my creativity and it was a real buzzkill. I still teach graphic design, but not on the same scale.

It’s really okay if you don’t like where your business is headed. You can always change directions and work to get to a place where you find your calling.

Am I feeling burnt out?

If you’ve gotten to the end of the year and you’re just feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, it’s probably time to figure out why. Maybe you aren’t prioritizing self-care, or maybe it’s that you aren’t charging enough money for the amount of work you’re doing.

Your business isn’t going to grow if you aren’t taking care of yourself. If you’re feeling burnt out, it’s because you are working too hard. Crazy as it sounds, some of the most successful people in business don’t work very hard – they work smart. That may mean it’s time for you to outsource some work, increase your prices, designate work vs family time, or practice better self-care (probably all of the above).

Health and wellness evaluation vitamins

Does this bring me joy?

Sorry to get all Marie Kondo on you, but that woman knows what she’s talking about. If your business isn’t making you happy, it’s time to do something about it. When I look around Instagram and I see all of the wonderful things people are doing to make money, I can’t imagine ever doing something that makes me miserable.

Seriously, take a look around and you’ll see that there’s no longer such a thing as a “starving artist” – you could be making resin art, painting, woodworking… whatever you want. So if you’re feeling unhappy in your business, it’s time to explore the things that do bring you joy.

Honesty is Key

Above all else, be honest with yourself about where your business is. Don’t allow yourself to be stubborn (trust me, I’ve been guilty of this myself). Be open to making needed changes for the sake of your business’ growth and success.

Your unwillingness to adapt and be honest with yourself will have a negative affect on your business, and cause it to fail.

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Kimi, here!

Recovering Perfectionist Virgo with a strong overthinking gene. Totally obsessed with fonts, hexagons, and finding ways to monetize everything I can get my hands on.

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