Purveyors of conventional wisdom would have you believe that very first thing you ought to do when setting up a new business is to create a business plan.
It doesn't matter whether you are selling odds and ends on eBay from your living room or something larger and more complex,
Business plans are excellent and necessary. Far too few of us self-employed and freelance people use them.
They force us to spell out our objectives. We have to assign numbers to our expectations and assign a time-line to our goals. They become our roadmap keeping us on track.
But I suggest that you can't make a business plan that is worth anything until you've done your homework.
And that means knowing what you want to do and how you want to do it. And determining that there is sufficient demand for your product to generate enough income to cover your costs and allow a profit.
In other words, before business plan comes research.
If a body of knowledge already exists, it makes sense to tap into it and save yourself some work. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics and other such sources, for example, publish a great deal of demographic information. Some of it is very useful.
But it is also likely that as a creative sole-proprietor, meaningful statistics don't exist about your specialty.
Many micro-businesses target a very specialized niche. And many owned by creative types exist to sell a product or service that don't follow well-worn prototypes.
It is particularly difficult for such people to find meaningful published data.
If you fall into these categories, you'll have to generate your own information.
There is more to your research than just purely business information. You are building a life as well as a business.
Are demands and conditions of your proposed business compatible with life you want to create?
For example, illustrators often work on short deadlines - meaning that sometimes they have to work far into night to complete a project on deadline. Plus, some clients are demanding and not all pay on a timely basis. After all of that, can you still “love it” enough?