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The Back-of-the-Napkin Business Model

April 13th, 2009 by Lauren · No Comments

Gina Trapani, one of my favourite writers on topics like work, productivity, and all-around geekery, has written a great post over on Freelance Switch (it’s aimed at freelancers, but I think most entrepreneurs, especially small-scale ones, can glean something valuable from it) about what she calls her Personal Business Model. The PBM is basically a quickly-sketched pie chart that outlines her ideal work mix (breaking down her work time into projects she does for love (30%), for the education (30%), and money (30%) – leaving 10% for admin work).

I love this because I’m a big fan of thinking outside the business plan. Why? Because very few people have the interest or self-discipline to refer back to their business plan on a regular basis (let alone to keep their business plan up to date) — and most of us find ourselves lost from time to time in the details of our work, at which point it’s difficult to make a clear, strategic decision about what projects to take on. A business model you can sketch on the back of a napkin? That’s something you can stick up next to your desk, on your fridge, or anywhere you know you’ll see it every day and be reminded of your big-picture definition of success.

Here’s how Gina started work on her Personal Business Model:

I listed all the projects in my life and career I loved working on the most. The list ranged from the first short story I was ever proud to show my creative writing teacher (fifth grade) through my professional career. Underneath each I listed what I loved most about working on it and what I was most proud of about the results. Here there were lots of clues pointing me towards the most satisfying kinds of work I should pursue now.

Then, I tackled the big question: What do I want to accomplish as a freelancer? For me, the answer turned out to be three-pronged: I want to make stuff that’s meaningful, learn new skills, and make some money.

Go read her post for more details. Oh, but before you leave, can I share one more thing? I loved this bit earlier on in her post:

While I do plan to make money as a freelancer, my ultimate goal is to generate satisfaction. (While money is a part of that, so is learning, service, and creativity, so we’ll just use the umbrella term “satisfaction.”)

Hear, hear. I’d say that’s true for most people, not just freelancers — and all of us can benefit from spending a bit of time considering what constitutes satisfaction and/or success for us.

Tags: Business Tools & Calculators · Entrepreneurial Inspiration