There's never been a better time to start a small business and be self employed.

Small firms—those with fewer than 500 employees—accounted for 8.7 million net new private sector jobs since 2005, the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy said in its October 2019 Economic Bulletin.

That's 62% of all the jobs created over that period.

But if your small business is going to succeed, you must start with a business plan.

"Just as you would follow a GPS to navigate an unknown journey, you'll want to have a plan to help guide you along the road of small business ownership," says Allen Gutierrez, associate administrator of the SBA's Office of Entrepreneurial Development.

It begins with putting your ideas to paper and developing the business plan.

"This is the first—and most important—step on your entrepreneurial journey," Gutierrez said.

He provides these tips for developing a business plan:

Roadmap: Think of your business plan as a roadmap to success. It's a document that should guide you through the startup stage and prepare your business for successful growth. It can also help you obtain funding by highlighting the value of your business, and show potential partners that you’ve thought through your business concept and are confident with your plan.

Choosing the right plan: There's no standard way to create a business plan. Some owners use a traditional business plan format, which is usually several pages and includes multiple sections. This comprehensive format takes more time to write but is the type commonly requested by lenders and investors. Traditional business plans are ideal for the detail-oriented entrepreneur. Include sections that make the most sense for your business and needs, which could include an executive summary, company description, market analysis, and financial projections.

But if you're hoping to start your business quickly or planning to update and refine your plan, consider a more streamlined startup format. This includes easy-to-read charts that describe your company's value, proposition, target customers, and more.

Focus more on visualizing facts about your company than using words to make your point. No matter the format, make sure your business plan includes key elements you personally need to keep the company on track for success.

Dive right in: Don't wait to start your plan. There are resources to get you going on your journey to start, grow, or expand your business. Gutierrez' suggestions include:

  • Reviewing SBA's business planning guide. This will help you with your plan. Just follow the easy-to-use online guide to ensure your business plan is on the right track.
  • Getting hands-on guidance from a counselor or mentor from your local Small Business Development Center, Women's Business Center, or SCORE.
  • Writing or updating your business plan—December is National Write a Business Plan Month—and starting 2020 on solid ground.