Step 1: Research
Visit the banks and ask for a starter pack about setting up a small business, they are often very helpful.
You could make contact with your local business Link for help. Business Link is a government funded body specifically set up to offer free advice to small businesses. Visit their website and see what advice they have to offer on business plans. They will certainly give advice on what should be in your business plan.
Step 2: Write it down
Writing things down helps to clarify your thoughts, these are the points you should be considering in your business plan:
The purpose of your business:
What are you selling and what is your market?
Consider where you fit in, and where you differ from your competitors?
Your Marketing Strategy:
Consider your marketing strategy, which will let people know you have arrived. See VideoJug's 'How to plan your marketing strategy' for more advice on this subject.
Start Up Requirements:
What will you need to get your business off the ground? For example, if you want to open a shop you will need: premises, shop fitting, stock, office furniture and equipment. All this costs money so you will need to think about how you are going to finance it.
Write a thumbnail sketch of people that will need to be involved in the business, including yourself. Write down their background, experience, qualifications and any other factors you think are important.
Step 3: Business Plan Variables
You can't always predict what will happen so it's a good idea to highlight the areas where you cannot be precise. For example, if you are opening a clothes boutique, you may not be able to forecast the customer footfall accurately. You will however know the peak seasons of trading, but even this is dependent on weather.
Step 4: The way forward
Once you have considered all these points in your business plan, it will be time to think about how long it will take to get your business up and running. This will probably be a lot longer than you think, so be realistic.
HM Revenue and Customs won't be surprised if you don't make a profit for about two years, but you will need to keep a steady cash flow. This is where a good bookkeeping system and cash flow forecast will help you keep on track.
Good luck with your business plan!