How To Write an Outstanding Service Business Plan

How To Write an Outstanding Service Business Plan

Whether you’re launching a new service business, in the process of scaling operations, or looking to secure funding, a detailed service business plan can provide a foundation to achieve strategic goals. A service business plan includes an overview of where your company stands today, a glimpse into your short- and long-term business objectives, and steps needed to drive success.

Research in Harvard Business Reviews shows that entrepreneurs who develop formal business plans are 16% more likely to succeed than otherwise identical entrepreneurs without a plan in place. A comprehensive service business plan offers a step-by-step roadmap for service business growth and ensures all areas of the company are working together toward common goals—rather than different departments working in silos.

Learn about how a service business differs from a product business, along with key elements to consider as you develop your service business plan.

Table of contents:

What is a service business?

A service business is a company that focuses on selling services, time, and expertise to customers, whereas a product business sells tangible products.

Examples of service businesses include, but are not limited to:

  • Marketing consultants
  • Staffing agencies
  • Event planners
  • Financial analysts
  • Law firms
  • Medical providers
  • Banks

While a service business plan includes many of the same elements as a product business plan, understanding key differences is important. A product business plan incorporates information related to product development, manufacturing, inventory, distribution, and other details to ensure customers receive physical products. While a service business plan doesn’t necessarily include the same logistical details, it might feature a comprehensive list of services, overview of the team’s qualifications to provide services, and steps required to deliver services.  

Some companies sell both products and services, such as a salon that sells services including haircuts and coloring, as well as shampoo and other hair care products. If this is the case with your company, address both sides in the business plan.  

Executive summary

An executive summary offers investors and other stakeholders a preview of your service business plan and should entice them to read through the rest of the document. A succinct executive summary is also an effective onboarding resource to introduce new team members, vendors, and contractors to your business at a high level before they dive into other sections of the plan.

As you develop an executive summary for your service business plan, make the information as concise and digestible as possible by using bullet points, charts, and visuals. This will enable readers to pick out the most important information. You can then share more detail about specific points later in the document.

Your executive summary should include:

  • An engaging introduction that illustrates the business opportunity for your services
  • Timely industry research and trends
  • An overview of the company mission, vision, and values and how they tie to your service offerings
  • Strategic one-, three- and five-year business objectives and projected revenue
  • A request for investment or additional support to drive business growth
  • A preview of what to expect in the rest of the plan

Related: How To Write an Executive Summary Successfully

Company description

The company description continues to build on some of the high-level business details shared in the executive summary.

Information to highlight in your company description includes:

  • A brief history of the business
  • The legal business structure such as sole proprietorship, partnership limited liability company (LLC), or corporation
  • The physical address (if applicable)
  • Contact information
  • Links to the company website and social media pages
  • Background information about company leaders
  • A list of skills, experience, and certifications the team possesses to deliver your service offerings
  • Business model details including whether you sell services to a business-to-business (B2B) or consumer audience
  • Any sales targets or other milestones the business has achieved to date

Services overview

Outline which services your business currently sells, along with any plans to expand your offerings down the road. This will help investors and other stakeholders get a glimpse into your short- and long-term vision.

Consider featuring the following details in your services overview:  

  • Menu of services. Depending on your service business, you may offer a single service or a diverse range of services. No matter the case, share the details about each service that will help customers make informed purchase decisions. Consider including visuals, such as a chart highlighting which features or benefits customers will receive depending on the service they select. This option is particularly useful if you offer similar services with different pricing tiers.
  • Challenges or pain points the services solve. Emphasizing the challenges your business solves—and how your offerings differ from competitors’—is central to the services overview. For example, a marketing consultant helps customers increase new business leads and an event planner reduces the time spent and costs associated with organizing corporate events. If possible, highlight specific success metrics from previous or existing customers to make this section stronger and paint a picture about the value of your services.
  • Pricing. A wide range of pricing options are available for service businesses. One is a fixed price for a service or project, such as a house cleaning, oil change, or consultation. Another is a monthly retainer or subscription-based pricing, which is often available in different tiers, depending on the level of services offered. And many professional service businesses set their pricing on an hourly basis.
  • How services are delivered. Describing how your services are delivered to customers will help make the case for specific resources you may request from investors and will help them understand how your business will scale. If customers visit an office for financial consulting services, this means you need the funding and resources for a physical office space. As another example, if you run a remote graphic design agency and have several new projects in the pipeline, you may need to invest in bringing on additional skilled designers.

Competitive analysis

No matter the size of your service business or the industry in which it operates, understanding the competitive landscape is essential to growth. A competitive analysis can gauge how your business measures up to the competition and help you develop a strategy to differentiate your services from other similar businesses.

Some steps to an effective competitive analysis include:

  • Evaluating the total market for your services and whether demand is increasing or decreasing
  • Creating a list of both direct (businesses that provide similar services) and indirect (businesses that offer related alternative solutions) competitors
  • Reviewing competitors’ business structures and financial performance, including general company information, size, services, target market, pricing, revenue, and market share
  • Assessing competitive marketing strategies, including positioning, messaging, branding, channels, and campaigns
  • Reading online reviews and surveying competitors’ customers to understand overall satisfaction levels and feedback
  • Implementing a process to regularly review the competitive landscape as strategies and business priorities evolve  

Once your team compiles this information, consolidate key details about your competitors using a SWOT analysis, which looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. With an understanding of where each of your competitors stands, also build out a SWOT analysis for your service business to identify areas for improvement and ways to capitalize on market share.

Marketing plan

A strategic marketing plan can help your service business increase brand awareness, build trust, reach and engage customers and prospects, and drive sales.

Impactful marketing plans include the following elements:

  • Marketing goals that align with strategic business objectives
  • A centralized process to track progress toward marketing goals
  • The projected marketing budget and ROI
  • Target audience, marketing, and buyer personas
  • Top challenges and pain points your target audience faces
  • Key differentiators, talking points, and messaging to stand out from competing solutions
  • Anticipated marketing channels to reach prospects and customers, including the company website, social media, email, online advertisements, and traditional advertisements
  • A calendar of upcoming marketing campaigns and tactics
  • A strategy to engage and retain existing customers and encourage reviews and referrals
  • Recommended technologies to drive marketing efficiencies, such as analytics tools, referral software, email marketing platforms, and project management solutions

Once you have a marketing plan in place, review and update it on a regular basis—along with the other sections of your service business plan. If a particular marketing channel isn’t driving engagement or sales, for example, you may want to reallocate funds to a higher performing channel. And as new marketing channels, tactics, and trends emerge, consider how to effectively incorporate them into your overall marketing plan.

Organizational chart

An organizational chart provides the opportunity to highlight existing team members, skills, and departments at your service organization, as well as key roles your team will need to fill as the business evolves and scales.

Research from the Association for Talent Development found that 83% of companies report skills gaps in their workforce and 78% expect skills gaps in the future. Instead of a traditional approach to building an organizational chart, which often emphasizes job titles, take a step back and think about the skills that will help your service business scale and grow.

Consider the following steps as you develop your organizational chart:

  • Creating an inventory of current hard and soft skills at your organization
  • Identifying any existing skills gaps
  • Developing a list of the skills your business will need in the near- and long-term
  • Outlining specific certifications or experience required to support your business services
  • Determining which skills gaps will be filled with full-time, in-house workers and which might be a better fit for project-based work using independent professionals
  • Mapping out a desired organizational chart based on the information above  

If you’re a solopreneur or independent consultant, you likely won’t need a formal organizational chart and may only include additional background information about your professional experience. Or, if you already shared a bio in the company description, you may leave this section out of your service business plan.

Financial plan

The financial plan is often the most important component of a service business plan to investors, lenders, prospective partners, and other stakeholders. A concrete financial plan shows that your service business has a strategy in place to reach long-term financial objectives, along with actionable steps and qualitative milestones to keep your team on track along the way.

Consider including charts, graphics, and related elements to provide a clear visual of the projected growth you expect your service business to achieve. Also explain how your financial plan may evolve if customer demand or economic conditions shift.

The financial plan should include:

  • Sales and revenue projections
  • A subscription, renewal, and cancellation forecast (if your pricing strategy is subscription-based)
  • Budgets
  • A cash flow forecast
  • The expected profit and loss based on total sales and expenses
  • A balance sheet detailing anticipated assets, liabilities, and capital over time
  • Requests for funding and how it will be used, if applicable

Get expert help developing your service business plan

Developing a strong service business plan takes time and thoughtful consideration. The plan is a living, evolving document that should be evaluated and updated on a regular basis to keep up with shifting business priorities.

Whether you’re in the early stages of developing a service business plan, close to finalizing a draft, or looking to refresh an existing plan, consider partnering with an outside business plan writing expert. Independent professionals with business plan writing expertise can bring in a fresh perspective and effective ideas they’ve learned from prior experience to help make your plan as impactful as possible.

Independent business plan writers are available on Upwork through Project Catalog™ to help you design a stellar service business plan. Search and select from a library of one-on-one consultations or fixed-priced projects that align with your needs and budget. Get started—browse available business planning experts today.

If you’re a business plan writer, you can create an Upwork account to begin selling projects to service businesses and other companies today.


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Author Spotlight

How To Write an Outstanding Service Business Plan
Beth Kempton
Content Writer

Beth Kempton is a B2B writer with a passion for storytelling and more than a decade of content marketing experience. She specializes in writing engaging long-form content, including blog posts, thought leadership pieces, SEO articles, case studies, ebooks and guides, for HR technology and B2B SaaS companies. In her free time, you can find Beth reading or running.

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