As a digital entrepreneur — from selling products to customers online to providing services to global organizations — goal-setting is critical for your success. But digital entrepreneurs operate in a specialized arena that presents unique challenges and opportunities. Those considerations color the process of setting business goals — beyond revenue projections or client numbers — that truly will propel your digital venture forward.
Read on for ideas to help you choose business goals for digital entrepreneurs that will drive lasting success. But first …
What exactly is a digital entrepreneur?
Digital entrepreneurs are people who start online businesses and operate nearly exclusively online. An Etsy shop owner who sells crafts online is a digital entrepreneur. A software developer who creates apps or a consultant who helps clients optimize their online performance are all digital entrepreneurs — if you sell and run your business solely online, you’re a digital entrepreneur.
There are countless reasons why people enter digital entrepreneurship. Some want to travel the world while running their businesses; others want a flexible schedule to help raise kids and keep the home going.
Many digital entrepreneurs share an overarching goal: career control and fulfillment. They also have unique challenges in common that other business owners might not face — from online security to search engine optimization (SEO) to mental health concerns like burnout.
5 business goals for digital entrepreneurs
If you’re a digital entrepreneur trying to decide which business goals to set, focus on these five areas that pose unique challenges for you:
Secure your online presence.
Develop your SEO strategy.
Declutter your tools.
Address and mitigate burnout.
Grow your team.
By setting goals that address these obstacles, you’ll take a huge step toward turning them into opportunities for meaningful growth.
1. Secure your online presence
When your entire business is online, you can’t risk a digital threat. A seemingly innocuous phishing email or low-level DDoS attack could wipe out your system or result in stolen personal information — yours or that of your customers. Depending on how large the issue was, the attack could keep your business from running for an extended period of time. If the revenue from your business is your only income, this can be detrimental for your life as a whole.
That’s why this is an important goal to focus on in 2022, starting with yourself as the business owner.
When Aura surveyed 2,000 Americans, they discovered that most people know about the dangers online — but not how to protect themselves. Aura shared these 45 fraud prevention tips you can use to protect yourself, first and foremost. These tips range from storing sensitive information properly to clipping or shredding old credit cards.
The next step is to build healthy habits around your business’s data security. For example, set goals to:
Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) for all the services you use, keeping your business protected from unauthorized logins.
Set up quarterly audits of your systems to make sure you’re following cybersecurity best practices as our digital landscape changes and becomes more dangerous.
As a digital entrepreneur, the security measures you need to take will depend upon the type of business you run and products and services you use. Figure out what it is you need and then make a plan to implement the necessary action(s).
Remember: when it comes to digital threats, it is better to prevent an attack than to try and recover from one. Use this all-important business goal for digital entrepreneurs to keep your company safe and secure now — before anything happens.
2. Develop your SEO strategy
Search engine optimization is the process of making your brand more visible in search engines, from Bing to Google. A well-optimized website, where good SEO is implemented, can drive leads and traffic to your website long after you’ve done the work to optimize it. However, SEO is not a single, linear or one-dimensional process.
There are three SEO strategies to focus on when optimizing your site:
Technical/back-end: Including page speed, mobile optimization and metadata.
Content: Including keyword use, headers and content creation.
Off-site: Including links that point back to your website and business listings websites.
The best way to set a strong SEO foundation is to work with someone who understands how to do proper SEO. When done right, it can be invaluable to your brand. When done wrong, it can hurt your site more than help it.
Your first objective is to find someone who can do an SEO audit for your current website. When you know what’s working, what needs to be changed, and how you can improve, you can then set goals to implement those updates and find the right person for the job.
When the COVID-19 pandemic drove many companies to remote work, the average number of tools used increased dramatically.
According to Statista, in 2017, the average company used 16 SaaS applications, but in 2020, this number shot up to 80 and then climbed to 110 in 2021.
As a digital entrepreneur, you aren’t immune from the “app hoarding” mentality. While these tools can be helpful, as your business grows, you might be tempted to add more tools and software solutions to improve your productivity — yet this clutter can actually hinder your productivity.
Set a goal to evaluate your existing tools to determine which ones you actually need. A few questions to ask include:
Have I used this tool in the past year? The past quarter?
Do I have duplicate tools that offer the same service?
Can I replace multiple individual apps with a single software service? Would I want to?
These questions will help you analyze the products that actually add value to your business versus the ones that create digital clutter. When you know what’s helping, your next goal is to get rid of the ones that aren’t.
Use this process to audit your tools annually, if not quarterly, to get rid of the services and products you no longer need.
4. Address and mitigate burnout
Starting your own business is exciting, empowering — and exhausting. Not to mention, COVID has affected mental health for nearly anyone, including entrepreneurs who are stressed about money and being forced to spend more time alone.
While stress and burnout are common among digital entrepreneurs, you don’t have to let these things take over. In fact, there are many ways you can mitigate them. Protect your mental health by setting goals around these key strategies:
Set clear work hours. For example, always clock out by 6pm. Limit your work time during the weekends as well and don’t answer an email or take a call during off hours unless absolutely necessary.
Take your lunch break. Use this time to reset by having a call with a friend, taking a walk, or simply breathing and getting away from your computer.
Create a vacation policy. It’s easy to work all year round when you don’t have set vacation days. Create a vacation policy for yourself and put vacations on the calendar in January so you actually take them.
Pick up hobbies that make you happy. Time away from work doing things you love personally can give you a much-needed mental health boost.
As an entrepreneur, you are the only person who can make sure you maintain a healthy work-life balance. Preventing burnout is as important for you as it is for your company — mental health affects every area of your business, so don’t let this one slide. Even setting a goal around one of these strategies can have an impact.
As your digital venture continues to expand, there might come a time when you need to grow your team. You don’t need a packed office full of employees, but you may want to take on a partner, assistant or contractors so you can focus on what you do best.
This is a key step in growing your business; however, Jeff Hunter, founder of VA Staffer, explains that entrepreneurs struggle to build out a team because of their fear of losing control. If this sounds familiar, how do you let go of that control? Hunter suggests:
“The trick to beat the fear of losing control is understanding that you need to focus on the most valuable use of your time. The only way to achieve that is to have a reliable, consistent and intelligent person or team of people to take over the activities that are not the best use of your time.”
When looking at team growth, you might want to set a few goals, the first being to simply to determine where you could use help. In marketing? In sales? In website management? Next, a goal might be to take the time to find people who can do that work for you, whether it’s a full-time employee, virtual assistant or contractor.
If you want to build a successful business, you have to be willing to build the right team along the way. Set goals so you begin that process this year, even if you only hire one person to start.
Best practices for setting strong yet attainable goals
Saying you want to achieve something will only take you so far. Taking steps to turn those ideas into a reality is another — that’s why you need to set business goals with intention and clarity. As a digital entrepreneur, use these strategies to set clear and actionable business goals that you can attain.
Give your goals a timeline
Set a clear date for when you’ll complete your goal. For example, if you want to implement a new security system, your goal might be: “Implement a new security system by the end of Q2.” This gives you something clear to work toward and helps you prioritize your time accordingly.
Create bite-sized goals
Don’t just set one big goal — that can be overwhelming and keep you from getting started. Instead, break your goals down into bite-sized goals that prompt you to take action. For example, if you want to implement a new security system by the end of Q2, a few smaller goals that will help you get there include:
Schedule a security audit.
Research security software.
Create a security budget.
It can be hard to hold yourself accountable when you have a dozen other things on your to-do list each day. Find an accountability partner or group to keep you moving forward with your goals this year. This might be a good friend, a co-worker, or even a mastermind group. Tell that person, or group of people, what your goals are and when you plan to achieve them so they can hold you accountable to getting it done.
Be intentional with your goals
If you don’t really care about achieving something, you won’t make time for it. Don’t set goals just to set them. Have a clear intention and “why” for each one. In the security system example, your “why” might be to not only keep your company safe, but to keep your customers’ data secure. With this in mind, you have greater motivation to make it happen.
Thrive with clear business goals for digital entrepreneurs
To grow your business, you need to set goals. But what goals should you set? Where should you place your focus? As a digital entrepreneur, there are a few unique areas for you to consider — including online security, mental health, SEO, team growth and your digital workspace. Use these five ideas to set goals that will help you grow your business into the thriving and sustainable company that you dreamed it could be.
Your business plan is the document to help you go from idea to execution. You’ll likely depend on your business plan to organize your thoughts, strategize for success and stay focused. You might also write a business plan to secure funding.
If you want to write a winning business plan, read this comprehensive guide. We’re sharing step-by-step tips on how to write a business plan.
What is a business plan?
A business plan is a document that you use to strategize for your business’ future. The business plan includes an overview of your business, its goals and your marketing strategy. The document will also include financial forecasting.
Need help deciding on a business to start? Check out this list of small business ideas that are easy to launch on a low budget. You might also consider other online business ideas that require minimal upfront investments.
In this article:business plan
Why do you need a business plan
You need a business plan to outline your business goals and the strategy to achieve them. Your business plan is also your first opportunity to create something tangible from your ideas. By putting ideas on paper, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to properly think through your plan and vet its likely effectiveness for business success.
Outside of your personal reasons for writing a business plan, you will need this document if you need to convince funders or investors that your business is legitimate and likely to return a profit. You would be expected to provide investors with a well-thought-out business plan demonstrating market awareness and financial planning.
How to write a business plan
If you’re ready to get stuck in and write your business plan, the next steps will greatly help. You want to be thorough at every step, especially if you’re sharing the plan with potential stakeholders. But remember, this is your business; your plan will be unique to you.
1. Create an executive summary
Your executive summary is essentially your first impression to investors. In a few sentences, it needs to grab attention and explain what you/your business does. It wants to grab the reader’s attention, so they’re compelled to read on.
2. Describe your company
Your business plan will include a description of your company. Think about your elevator pitch and write your company description into your plan. Be very clear here, think about what you do, who you do it for, and exactly what problem you are solving.
You’re likely not the first person to create a company solving a particular problem for your audience, so try and detail what it is that makes your company stand out.
3. Introduce team members
If you have any particularly credible or expert team members, be sure to introduce them within your business plan. Write a short bio with key credentials and how they contribute to your new business.
4. State your company goals
Every business needs goals, and deciding exactly what yours are might not be so obvious. Yes, your company needs to make a profit, but the goals need to be broken down into more measurable and actionable steps.
Start with desired business goals. Then decide what you need to achieve to make each goal a success. For example, for your company to meet your projected revenue goal, then what do you need to achieve? What marketing goals does the business need to meet to satisfy business goals?
5. Detail values and a mission statement
Of course, your business is here to make money and provide the lifestyle that you want. When writing a business plan, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the data and the money, but your why is the lifeblood of your business.
Take some time to create a page that digs into the meaningful element of your business. What larger problem are you trying to solve? What values will you hold the business to? How will you create a truly meaningful layer within your business?
This section should be very useful for you as a business owner since this is what will keep you going. But, it can also be used to help onboard a team later and better understand your connection with your audience.
6. List products or services
When you write your business plan, you must include your products or services.
Within this section, write:
What the product or service is
How it helps your audience
How it stands out in the marketplace
For product-based businesses, include:
A brief introduction to costs (you’ll expand on this later)
Where products are sourced
Quantity of products owned
7. Do market research
Every business must conduct market research. You need to think about the local market and if you’re starting an online business, you must consider the digital market. You may have different competitors in each marketplace.
It’s crucial that you can develop comprehensive market research that shows a deep understanding of competitors and your place amongst them.
Your market research will help you determine if your business venture is justified and also act as support to your proposition which is especially useful when pitching to investors.
The market research section will help you see where the gaps are between your business and competitors, and it will form the beginning of your sales and marketing plan as you strategize to close the gap on leading competitors.
8. Create a marketing and sales plan
Your marketing and sales plan will generally be built from your competitor research. You can use competitive data to get a feel for what’s working. However, it’s important to remember that your brand and its audience are unique.
Also, when it comes to marketing, you are better off doing less better than trying to do more poorly, so you must factor in your budgets.
Your marketing plan should be in support of the business goals outlined previously. Your marketing plan should have a clear goal and a strategy to help achieve it. As a business owner, you are not necessarily expected to know the ins and outs of marketing, so if you need support here, you can get it. You may need to reach out to your marketing team or other professionals who can help you decipher what the business needs to succeed.
9. Create a financial projection
When it comes down to it, finances determine a successful business from an unsuccessful one.
If you’re seeking investment, your financial forecast is everything. If there’s one thing that investors need to know very clearly is the financial estimations and performance of your business over time.
In your projection, plan for:
Expenses including wages
Pricing of products and/or services
Contingency for unexpected finances
10. Add an appendix
It’s not enough to simply write a business plan; every claim you make needs to be well-documented and supported. So, include an appendix.
Your appendix is a compilation of supporting documentation and/or evidence. Items that might be included in the appendix include:
Resumes of key team members
Documentation supporting your market research and analysis. If your plan summarizes findings, include the marketing research and data here.
Legal documents, such as incorporation papers, patents, or trademarks
Marketing materials, such as brochures or flyers
Customer testimonials or case studies. New businesses might not have this, but if you have conducted research or focus groups, you can include findings here.
Product prototypes or lab tests if you have them
Any other relevant supporting documentation that was referenced in the main body of the plan.
Business plan format
There are three types of business plans, traditional, lean, and nonprofit. Whilst this article focuses primarily on the most common business plan format, the traditional plan, it helps to know what might be involved in other formats.
The traditional format provides a detailed business overview and is useful for presenting to investors or lenders. In a traditional plan, you will likely write more than you would in a lean plan. Some businesses might opt for a traditional plan and then create a lean version for specific functions.
The lean business plan format is, as you would expect, a leaner (simplified) version of a traditional business plan. The lean business plan format includes the most critical aspects of the business. If you’re writing a lean business plan and you want to pitch to investors, then you must include key sections like market analysis, revenue forecasts, etc.
The nonprofit business plan is similar to the traditional business plan, but naturally, it differs as it includes items that are required to run a nonprofit organization. For example, if you were writing a nonprofit business plan, you would likely include all elements of the traditional plan, plus fundraising and development, governance, and financials.
You may also have research from the local area you’re serving to help with that market analysis section. Your aim will be to prove that there’s a public need for your nonprofit.
Tips for writing a small business plan
Before you start writing your small business plan, read through these tips that might not be so obvious.
Use a business plan template.
Business plans are not new, so why not start with a tried and tested template? There’s plenty of space to turn the template into something unique that feels like yours. Using a template avoids overwhelm and provides structure. Check out this free business plan template you can download and customize in a cinch.
Write for yourself, not just investors.
Your business plan is yours. Writing your business plan is your chance to organize your thoughts and get your ideas on paper. Upon completion, you should feel satisfied with your robust roadmap to success. Of course, consider your audience and investors and give them everything they need, but don’t forget to satisfy your own intent. Remember the business plan formats; you can always start with a traditional plan for you, then provide the investors with the lean version.
Demonstrate what makes you unique.
You’re likely joining a busy marketplace, and you want to go in ready to disrupt and stand out. Clearly articulate what sets your business apart from the competition, and explain why customers should choose your products or services.
Use concrete data and examples.
Your business plan is no longer your place to dream. Writing your plan takes dreams and helps you turn them into something tangible and achievable. Within the business plan, you should be able to support your ideas with concrete data and real-world examples. You need to prove to yourself – and investors – that this business is viable.
Be realistic in your projections.
As above, writing your business plan is about creating something achievable, You must be realistic with your projections. Whilst being optimistic is exciting — and you can still be optimistic — you must be realistic in your plan.
Realistic projects are better for you mentally, too. If you’re more likely to achieve your goals, you’re less likely to get overwhelmed. Plus, goals that are not realistic will heap pressure on you and your team, and that’s the last thing a new business needs.
Business plan FAQ
Here are your most asked questions, answered.
How do I write a simple business plan?
You will write a simple business plan if you keep focused and aim to be thorough but concise. Aim to cover all important aspects and don’t over-plan. Focus on shorter time frames and be realistic about what can be done. Rely on research and data to help shape the plan.
Can I write a business plan myself?
Yes, you can write a business plan yourself. That said, if your plan covers areas of business where you’re not so strong, you might need support.
How long should a business plan be?
Your business plan will be as long as it needs to be, but the aim here is to create something thorough but concise. As a guide, aim for around 15 to 20 pages.
How long should it take to write a business plan?
Writing your business plan will probably take a few days, but you’ll need to do a lot of research behind the scenes. You also need to step away from the plan, return and edit it to ensure it is accurate and void of errors. A business plan should take three months from beginning to end.
Chelsea Guffy recently began a side hustle as a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations.
“I thought to myself, ‘Okay, this could be something really cool,’ Guffy said when a friend she helped advise on a Disney vacation suggested she do it as a job.
This is Chelsea Guffy’s story, as told to writer Jamie Killin.
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This is an as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Chelsea Guffy, who recently began a side hustle as a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Last year, I noticed on social media that one of my sorority sisters had started working as a travel agent on a lot of Disney vacations and working for a travel agency called ET Family Travel.
I had a Disney vacation coming up that November, and I had already booked the whole thing but I had asked her if she could get me dining reservations, because those are the hardest thing to get at Disney World, and she agreed. She helped me get all the dining reservations that I wanted.
Then she said to me, “Chelsea, you know Disney in and out. You should come on as an agent.” So, I thought about it, and come the new year I thought to myself, “Okay, this could be something really cool.” I joined the team and I fell in love with it.
Travel is just in my blood, and I love booking vacations for my family, so it was a no-brainer.
I grew up in Florida about two hours away from Disney World and grew up going.
The first time I went, I was probably three weeks old. I’ve always had a love for travel – I studied abroad in college, and when I was growing up my family would take trips at least once a year to different places all over the country.
Travel is just in my blood, and I love booking vacations for my family, so it was a no-brainer that I’d like doing it for other people.
The agency I work for focuses on Disney and family-friendly trips, so most agents focus on theme park vacations. However, we do all kinds of travel. I mainly focused on Disney at first, but then I got requests from my friends, so I decided to branch out.
I did a United Kingdom trip for a friend of mine in June, and now I’m doing another UK trip as well as a New York trip. I’ve also helped with California trips and even staycations.
My clientele is primarily my friends and people in my network, but now I’ve had two clients who I did not know previously – one reached out to me through my social media, and another was a referral through the agency.
I’m able to help my clients save a lot of time. I have a lot of knowledge; while they might need months to plan a trip, I can do it for them in three weeks. Sometimes I also find lower prices for them.
I also make sure to tell my clients that this is my second job and that I have a full-time job. I try to give as much time to my clients as I can – but I make sure to set expectations.
I do also get benefits like free Disney tickets and discounts at hotels.
As a side hustle, it’s nice to have the extra cash. I am an independent contractor who makes money based on commissions from the theme parks and hotels. There can also be perks from vendors we work with, which is a benefit for a travel enthusiast like myself.
The amount of time I spend on the job varies, but I average 12 to 15 hours a week in addition to my full-time job. I start as soon as my son goes to bed, so 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. are my prime. It works because I’m a person that likes to be busy – we’re always go, go, go.
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Startup business grants can help small businesses grow without debt. But if you want free money to start a company, your time may be better spent elsewhere. Competition for small-business grants is fierce, and many awards require time in business — often at least six months.
Some grants are open to newer businesses or true startups. And even if you don’t qualify now, it can pay to know where to look for future funding. Here are the best grants for small-business startups, plus alternative sources of startup funding to consider.
How Much Do You Need?
with Fundera by NerdWallet
Government startup business grants and resources
Some government programs offer direct funding to startups looking for business grants, but those that don’t may point you in the right direction or help with applications:
Grants.gov. Government agencies routinely post new grant opportunities on this centralized database. If you see an opportunity relevant to your business idea, you can check if startups are eligible. Many of these grants deal with scientific or pharmaceutical research, though, so they may not be relevant to Main Street businesses.
Local governments. Lots of federal grants award funding to other governments, like states or cities, or to nonprofit economic development organizations. Those entities then offer grants to local businesses. Plugging into your local startup ecosystem can help you stay on top of these opportunities.
Small Business Development Centers. These resource centers funded by the Small Business Administration offer business coaching, education, technical support and networking opportunities. They may also be able to help you apply for small-business grants, develop a business plan and level up your business in other ways.
Minority Business Development Agency Centers. The MBDA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, operates small-business support centers similar to SBDCs. The MBDA doesn’t give grants to businesses directly, but these centers can connect you with grant organizations, help you prepare applications and secure other types of business financing.
Local startup business grants
Some local business incubators or accelerators offer business grants or pitch competitions with cash prizes. To find these institutions near you, do an online search for “Your City business incubator.”
Even if you don’t see a grant program, sign up for their email newsletter or follow them on social media. Like SBDCs and MBDAs, business incubators often provide business coaching, courses and lectures that can help you develop your business idea.
Startup business grants from companies and nonprofits
Lots of corporations and large nonprofits, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, organize grant competitions. Some national opportunities include:
iFundWomen. iFundWomen partners with other corporations to administer business grants. You can fill out a universal application to receive automatic notifications when you’re eligible to apply for a grant.
Amber Grant for Women. WomensNet gives two $10,000 Amber Grants each month and two $25,000 grants annually. Filling out one application makes you eligible for all Amber Grants. To qualify, businesses must be at lesat 50% women-owned and based in the U.S. or Canada.
National Association for the Self-Employed. Join NASE, and you can apply for quarterly Growth Grant opportunities. There are no time-in-business requirements for these grants of up to $4,000, but you’ll need to provide details about how you plan to use the grant and how it will help your business grow.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. This annual competition awards grants to small-business owners in a variety of industries. You can sign up to receive an email when each application period opens. To be eligible, you’ll need to have been selling your product or service for at least six months. Be mindful, though, that each grant cycle receives thousands of applications.
Fast Break for Small Business. This grant program is funded by LegalZoom, the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League and administered by Accion Opportunity Fund. You can win a $10,000 business grant plus free LegalZoom services. Applications open during the NBA season, which runs from fall to early summer each year.
Alternative funding sources for startups
New businesses likely won’t be able to rely on startup business grants for working capital. The following financing sources may help accelerate your growth or get your startup off the ground:
SBA microloans offer up to $50,000 to help your business launch or expand. The average microloan is around $13,000, according to the SBA.
The SBA issues microloans through intermediary lenders, usually nonprofit financial institutions and economic development organizations, all of which have different requirements. You can use the SBA’s website to find a lender in your state.
Friends and family
Asking friends and family to invest in your business may seem daunting, but it’s very common. Make sure you define whether each person’s money is a loan and, if so, when and how you’ll pay it back. Put an agreement in writing if possible.
Business credit cards
Business credit cards can help you manage startup expenses while your cash flow is still unsteady. You can qualify for a business credit card with your personal credit score and some general information about your business, like your business name and industry.
You’ll probably need to sign a personal guarantee, though, which is a promise that you’ll pay back the debt if your business can’t.
If your business has a dedicated customer base, they can help fund you via crowdfunding. Usually businesses offer something in exchange, like debt notes, equity shares or access to an exclusive event.
There are lots of different crowdfunding platforms that offer different terms, so look around to find the model that works best for you.