How to write a business plan for a visual effects (vfx) company?
Writing a business plan for a visual effects (vfx) company can be an intimidating task, especially for those just starting.
This in-depth guide is designed to help entrepreneurs like you understand how to create a comprehensive business plan so that you can approach the exercise with method and confidence.
We'll cover: why writing a visual effects (vfx) company business plan is so important - both when starting up, and when running and growing the business - what information you need to include in your plan, how it should be structured, and what tools you can use to get the job done efficiently.
Let's get started!
Why write a business plan for a visual effects (vfx) company?
Being clear on the scope and goals of the document will make it easier to understand its structure and content. So before diving into the actual content of the plan, let's have a quick look at the main reasons why you would want to write a visual effects (vfx) company business plan in the first place.
To have a clear roadmap to grow the business
Running a small business is tough! Economic cycles bring growth and recessions, while the business landscape is ever-changing with new technologies, regulations, competitors, and consumer behaviours emerging constantly.
In such a dynamic context, operating a business without a clear roadmap is akin to driving blindfolded: it's risky, to say the least. That's why crafting a business plan for your visual effects (vfx) company is vital to establish a successful and sustainable venture.
To create an effective business plan, you'll need to assess your current position (if you're already in business) and define where you want the business to be in the next three to five years.
Once you have a clear destination for your visual effects (vfx) company, you'll have to:
- Identify the necessary resources (human, equipment, and capital) needed to reach your goals,
- Determine the pace at which the business needs to progress to meet its objectives as scheduled,
- Recognize and address the potential risks you may encounter along the way.
Engaging in this process regularly proves advantageous for both startups and established companies. It empowers you to make informed decisions about resource allocation, ensuring the long-term success of your business.
To maintain visibility on future cash flows
Businesses can go for years without making a profit, but they go bust as soon as they run out of cash. That's why "cash is king", and maintaining visibility on your visual effects (vfx) company's future cash flows is critical.
How do I do that? That's simple: you need an up-to-date financial forecast.
The good news is that your visual effects (vfx) company business plan already contains a financial forecast (more on that later in this guide), so all you have to do is to keep it up-to-date.
To do this, you need to regularly compare the actual financial performance of your business to what was planned in your financial forecast, and adjust the forecast based on the current trajectory of your business.
Monitoring your visual effects (vfx) company's financial health will enable you to identify potential financial problems (such as an unexpected cash shortfall) early and to put in place corrective measures. It will also allow you to detect and capitalize on potential growth opportunities (higher demand from a given segment of customers for example).
To secure financing
Crafting a comprehensive business plan for your visual effects (vfx) company, whether you're starting up or already established, is paramount when you're seeking financing from banks or investors.
Given how fragile small businesses are, financiers will want to ensure that you have a clear roadmap in place as well as command and control of your future cash flows before entertaining the idea of funding you.
For banks, the information in your business plan will be used to assess your borrowing capacity - which is defined as the maximum amount of debt your business can afford alongside your ability to repay the loan. This evaluation helps them decide whether to extend credit to your business and under what terms (interest rate, duration, repayment options, collateral, etc.).
Similarly, investors will thoroughly review your plan to determine if their investment can yield an attractive return. They'll be looking for evidence that your visual effects (vfx) company has the potential for healthy growth, profitability, and consistent cash flow generation over time.
Now that you understand the importance of creating a business plan for your visual effects (vfx) company, let's delve into the necessary information needed to craft an effective plan.
What information is needed to create a business plan for a visual effects (vfx) company?
Writing a visual effects (vfx) company business plan requires research so that you can project sales, investments and cost accurately in your financial forecast.
In this section, we cover three key pieces of information you should gather before drafting your business plan!
Carrying out market research for a visual effects (vfx) company
Carrying out market research before writing a business plan for a visual effects (vfx) company is essential to ensure that the financial projections are accurate and realistic.
Market research helps you gain insight into your target customer base, competitors, pricing strategies and other key factors which can have an impact on the commercial success of your business.
In particular, it is useful in forecasting revenue as it provides valuable data regarding potential customers’ spending habits and preferences.
Your market research might reveal that vfx companies may be increasingly in demand as more businesses adopt digital platforms for their operations. Additionally, it could uncover that there might be a growing trend towards the use of 3D animation in visual effects projects.
This information can then be used to create more accurate financial projections which will help investors make informed decisions about investing in your visual effects (vfx) company.
Developing the sales and marketing plan for a visual effects (vfx) company
As you embark on creating your visual effects (vfx) company business plan, it is crucial to budget sales and marketing expenses beforehand.
A well-defined sales and marketing plan should include precise projections of the actions required to acquire and retain customers. It will also outline the necessary workforce to execute these initiatives and the budget required for promotions, advertising, and other marketing efforts.
This approach ensures that the appropriate amount of resources is allocated to these activities, aligning with the sales and growth objectives outlined in your business plan.
The staffing and capital expenditure requirements of a visual effects (vfx) company
Whether you are starting or expanding a visual effects (vfx) company, it is important to have a clear plan for recruitment and capital expenditures (investment in equipment and real estate) in order to ensure the success of the business.
Both the recruitment and investment plans need to be coherent with the timing and level of growth planned in your forecast, and require appropriate funding.
A visual effects company may incur staffing costs such as hiring experienced vfx artists, compositors, and other technicians. They may also need to purchase specialized equipment such as high-end computer systems, graphics cards, software licenses, and motion-capture technology. Additionally, they may need to pay for studio space or rent additional server space for rendering and storage.
In order to create a realistic financial forecast, you will also need to consider the other operating expenses associated with running the business on a day-to-day basis (insurance, bookkeeping, etc.).
Once you have all the necessary information to create a business plan for your visual effects (vfx) company, it is time to start creating your financial forecast.
What goes into your visual effects (vfx) company's financial forecast?
The objective of the financial forecast of your visual effects (vfx) company's business plan is to show the growth, profitability, funding requirements, and cash generation potential of your business over the next 3 to 5 years.
The four key outputs of a financial forecast for a visual effects (vfx) company are:
- The profit and loss (P&L) statement,
- The projected balance sheet,
- The cash flow forecast,
- And the sources and uses table.
Let's look at each of these in a bit more detail.
The projected P&L statement
The projected P&L statement for a visual effects (vfx) company shows how much revenue and profit your business is expected to make in the future.
A healthy visual effects (vfx) company's P&L statement should show:
- Sales growing at (minimum) or above (better) inflation
- Stable (minimum) or expanding (better) profit margins
- A healthy level of net profitability
This will of course depend on the stage of your business: numbers for a startup will look different than for an established visual effects (vfx) company.
The projected balance sheet of your visual effects (vfx) company
The balance sheet for a visual effects (vfx) company is a financial document that provides a snapshot of your business’s financial health at a given point in time.
It shows three main components: assets, liabilities and equity:
- Assets: are resources owned by the business, such as cash, equipment, and accounts receivable (money owed by clients).
- Liabilities: are debts owed to creditors and other entities, such as accounts payable (money owed to suppliers) and loans.
- Equity: includes the sums invested by the shareholders or business owners and the cumulative profits and losses of the business to date (called retained earnings). It is a proxy for the value of the owner's stake in the business.
Examining the balance sheet is important for lenders, investors, or other stakeholders who are interested in assessing your visual effects (vfx) company's liquidity and solvency:
- Liquidity: assesses whether or not your business has sufficient cash and short-term assets to honour its liabilities due over the next 12 months. It is a short-term focus.
- Solvency: assesses whether or not your business has the capacity to repay its debt over the medium-term.
Looking at the balance sheet can also provide insights into your visual effects (vfx) company's investment and financing policies.
In particular, stakeholders can compare the value of equity to the value of the outstanding financial debt to assess how the business is funded and what level of financial risk has been taken by the owners (financial debt is riskier because it has to be repaid, while equity doesn't need to be repaid).
The cash flow forecast
As we've seen earlier in this guide, monitoring future cash flows is the key to success and the only way of ensuring that your visual effects (vfx) company has enough cash to operate.
As you can expect showing future cash flows is the main role of the cash flow forecast in your visual effects (vfx) company business plan.
It is best practice to organise the cash flow statement by nature in order to show the cash impact of the following areas:
- Cash flow generated from operations: the operating cash flow shows how much cash is generated or consumed by the business's commercial activities
- Cash flow from investing activities: the investing cash flow shows how much cash is being invested in capital expenditure (equipment, real estate, etc.) either to maintain the business's equipment or to expand its capabilities
- Cash flow from financing activities: the financing cash flow shows how much cash is raised or distributed to financiers
Looking at the cash flow forecast helps you to make sure that your business has enough cash to keep running, and can help you anticipate potential cash shortfalls.
Your visual effects (vfx) company business plan will normally include both yearly and monthly cash flow forecasts so that the readers can view the impact of seasonality on your business cash position and generation.
The initial financing plan
The initial financing plan - also called a sources and uses table - is an important tool when starting a visual effects (vfx) company.
It shows where the money needed to set up the business will come from (sources) and how it will be allocated (uses).
Having this table helps understand what costs are involved in setting up the visual effects (vfx) company, how the risks are distributed between the shareholders and the lenders, and what will be the starting cash position (which needs to be sufficient to sustain operations until the business breaks even).
Now that the financial forecast of a visual effects (vfx) company business plan is understood, let's focus on what goes into the written part of the plan.
The written part of a visual effects (vfx) company business plan
The written part of the business plan is where you will explain what your business does and how it operates, what your target market is, whom you compete against, and what strategy you will put in place to seize the commercial opportunity you've identified.
Having this context is key for the reader to form a view on whether or not they believe that your plan is achievable and the numbers in your forecast realistic.
The written part of a visual effects (vfx) company business plan is composed of 7 main sections:
- The executive summary
- The presentation of the company
- The products and services
- The market analysis
- The strategy
- The operations
- The financial plan
Let's go through the content of each section in more detail!
1. The executive summary
The executive summary, the first section of your visual effects (vfx) company's business plan, serves as an inviting snapshot of your entire plan, leaving readers eager to know more about your business.
To compose an effective executive summary, start with a concise introduction of your business, covering its name, concept, location, history, and unique aspects. Share insights about the services or products you intend to offer and your target customer base.
Subsequently, provide an overview of your visual effects (vfx) company's addressable market, highlighting current trends and potential growth opportunities.
Then, present a summary of critical financial figures, such as projected revenues, profits, and cash flows.
You should then include a summary of your key financial figures such as projected revenues, profits, and cash flows.
Lastly, address any funding needs in the "ask" section of your executive summary.
2. The presentation of the company
In your visual effects (vfx) company business plan, the second section should focus on the structure and ownership, location, and management team of your company.
In the structure and ownership part, you'll provide an overview of the business's legal structure, details about the owners, and their respective investments and ownership shares. This clarity is crucial, especially if you're seeking financing, as it helps the reader understand which legal entity will receive the funds and who controls the business.
Moving on to the location part, you'll offer an overview of the company's premises and their surroundings. Explain why this particular location is of interest, highlighting factors like catchment area, accessibility, and nearby amenities.
When describing the location of your visual effects (vfx) company, you could emphasize the area's ability to attract and retain a talented workforce. The area may also be well-connected to the global economy and have access to a range of resources, such as infrastructure and technology. You could also point out that the area is likely to have a competitive cost of living and an attractive quality of life, which could make it attractive to potential employees. Lastly, you may also emphasize the area's potential for growth and development, which could attract investors.
Finally, you should introduce your management team. Describe each member's role, background, and experience.
Don't forget to emphasize any past successes achieved by the management team and how long they've been working together. Demonstrating their track record and teamwork will help potential lenders or investors gain confidence in their leadership and ability to execute the business plan.
3. The products and services section
The products and services section of your business plan should include a detailed description of the offerings that your company provides to its customers.
For example, your visual effects (vfx) company may offer services such as motion graphics design, 3D animation, and compositing. These services enable customers to create high-quality visuals for their projects, from television commercials to feature films. Additionally, your company may offer pre-visualization services, which can help customers visualize the look and feel of their project before beginning the production process. Finally, your company can offer post-production services such as color grading and sound design to ensure that the final product meets the customer's expectations.
When drafting this section, you should be precise about the categories of products or services you sell, the types of customers you are targeting and how customers can buy them.
4. The market analysis
When you present your market analysis in your visual effects (vfx) company business plan, it's crucial to include detailed information about customers' demographics and segmentation, target market, competition, barriers to entry, and any relevant regulations.
The main objective of this section is to help the reader understand the size and attractiveness of the market while demonstrating your solid understanding of the industry.
Begin with the demographics and segmentation subsection, providing an overview of the addressable market for your visual effects (vfx) company, the key trends in the marketplace, and introducing different customer segments along with their preferences in terms of purchasing habits and budgets.
Next, focus on your target market, zooming in on the specific customer segments your visual effects (vfx) company aims to serve and explaining how your products and services fulfil their distinct needs.
For example, your target market might include independent filmmakers. These filmmakers are often on a tight budget, and would benefit from your company's VFX services in order to create a greater impact with their productions. Additionally, these filmmakers are often very creative and would value the artistry and creativity that your company could bring to their projects. Finally, your target market could also include television networks and production companies who are looking for innovative ways to bring visual effects to their programming.
Then proceed to the competition subsection, where you introduce your main competitors and highlight what sets you apart from them.
Finally, conclude your market analysis with an overview of the key regulations applicable to your visual effects (vfx) company.
5. The strategy section
When crafting the strategy section of your business plan for your visual effects (vfx) company, it's important to cover several key aspects, including your competitive edge, pricing strategy, sales & marketing plan, milestones, and risks and mitigants.
In the competitive edge subsection, clearly explain what sets your company apart from competitors. This is particularly critical if you're a startup, as you'll be trying to establish your presence in the marketplace among entrenched players.
The pricing strategy subsection should demonstrate how you aim to maintain profitability while offering competitive prices to your customers.
For the sales & marketing plan, outline how you plan to reach and acquire new customers, as well as retain existing ones through loyalty programs or special offers.
In the milestones subsection, detail what your company has achieved thus far and outline your primary objectives for the coming years by including specific dates for expected progress. This ensures everyone involved has clear expectations.
Lastly, in the risks and mitigants subsection, list the main risks that could potentially impact the execution of your plan. Explain the measures you've taken to minimize these risks. This is vital for investors or lenders to feel confident in supporting your venture - try to proactively address any objection they might have.
Your visual effects (vFX) company may face the risk of not being able to deliver projects on time. This could be due to a variety of reasons, such as technical difficulty, lack of resources, or even a lack of skilled labour. Another possible risk that your vFX company might face is a financial one. This could be caused by a number of factors, such as delayed payments from clients, a decrease in demand for services, or a decrease in overall profitability.
6. The operations section
The operations of your visual effects (vfx) company must be presented in detail in your business plan.
The first thing you should cover in this section is your staffing team, the main roles, and the overall recruitment plan to support the growth expected in your business plan. You should also outline the qualifications and experience necessary to fulfil each role, and how you intend to recruit (using job boards, referrals, or headhunters).
You should then state the operating hours of your visual effects (vfx) company - so that the reader can check the adequacy of your staffing levels - and any plans for varying opening times during peak season. Additionally, the plan should include details on how you will handle customer queries outside of normal operating hours.
The next part of this section should focus on the key assets and IP required to operate your business. If you depend on any licenses or trademarks, physical structures (equipment or property) or lease agreements, these should all go in there.
You could have key assets such as high-end video and computer equipment used to create special effects. These could include software such as Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4D, as well as 3D modeling and rendering hardware. Additionally, you might have intellectual property such as proprietary plugins and custom scripts that could be used to create unique effects.
Finally, you should include a list of suppliers that you plan to work with and a breakdown of their services and main commercial terms (price, payment terms, contract duration, etc.). Investors are always keen to know if there is a particular reason why you have chosen to work with a specific supplier (higher-quality products or past relationships for example).
7. The presentation of the financial plan
The financial plan section is where we will present the financial forecast we talked about earlier in this guide.
Now that you have a clear idea of what goes in your visual effects (vfx) company business plan, let's look at the solutions you can use to draft yours.
What tool should I use to write my visual effects (vfx) company's business plan?
In this section, we will be reviewing the two main solutions for creating a visual effects (vfx) company business plan:
- Using specialized online business plan software,
- Outsourcing the plan to the business plan writer.
Using an online business plan software for your visual effects (vfx) company's business plan
The modern and most efficient way to write a visual effects (vfx) company business plan is to use business plan software.
There are several advantages to using specialized software:
- You can easily create your financial forecast by letting the software take care of the financial calculations for you without errors
- You are guided through the writing process by detailed instructions and examples for each part of the plan
- You can access a library of dozens of complete business plan samples and templates for inspiration
- You get a professional business plan, formatted and ready to be sent to your bank or investors
- You can easily track your actual financial performance against your financial forecast
- You can create scenarios to stress test your forecast's main assumptions
- You can easily update your forecast as time goes by to maintain visibility on future cash flows
- You have a friendly support team on standby to assist you when you are stuck
If you're interested in using this type of solution, you can try The Business Plan Shop for free by signing up here.
Hiring a business plan writer to write your visual effects (vfx) company's business plan
Outsourcing your visual effects (vfx) company business plan to a business plan writer can also be a viable option.
Business plan writers are experienced in writing business plans and adept at creating financial forecasts without errors. Furthermore, hiring a consultant can save you time and allow you to focus on the day-to-day operations of your business.
However, hiring business plan writers is expensive as you are paying for the software used by the consultant, plus their time, and their profit margin of course.
From experience, you need to budget at least £1.5k ($2.0k) excluding tax for a complete business plan, more if you need to make changes after the initial version (which happens frequently after the initial meetings with lenders or investors).
You also need to be careful when seeking investment. Investors want their money to be used to grow the business, not spent on consulting fees. Therefore, the amount you spend on business plan writing services (and other consulting services such as legal services) needs to be negligible relative to the amount raised.
The other drawback is that you usually don't own the business plan itself: you just get the output, while the actual document is saved in the consultant's business plan software - which makes it difficult to maintain the document up to date without hiring the consultant on a retainer.
For these reasons, outsourcing the visual effects (vfx) company business plan to a business plan writer should be considered carefully, weighing both the advantages and disadvantages of hiring outside help.
Ultimately, it may be the right decision for some businesses, while others may find it beneficial to write their business plan using online software.
Why not create your visual effects (vfx) company's business plan using Word or Excel?
I must advise against using Microsoft Excel and Word (or their Google, Apple, or open-source equivalents) to write your visual effects (vfx) company business plan. Let me explain why.
Firstly, creating an accurate and error-free financial forecast on Excel (or any spreadsheet) is highly technical and requires a strong grasp of accounting principles and financial modelling skills. It is, therefore, unlikely that anyone will fully trust your numbers unless you have both a degree in finance and accounting and significant financial modelling experience, like us at The Business Plan Shop.
Secondly, relying on spreadsheets is inefficient. While it may have been the only option in the past, technology has advanced significantly, and software can now perform these tasks much faster and with greater accuracy. With the rise of AI, software can even help us detect mistakes in forecasts and analyze the numbers for better decision-making.
And with the rise of AI, software is also becoming smarter at helping us detect mistakes in our forecasts and helping us analyse the numbers to make better decisions.
Moreover, software makes it easier to compare actuals versus forecasts and maintain up-to-date forecasts to keep visibility on future cash flows, as we discussed earlier in this guide. This task is cumbersome when using spreadsheets.
Now, let's talk about the written part of your visual effects (vfx) company business plan. While it may be less error-prone, using software can bring tremendous gains in productivity. Word processors, for example, lack instructions and examples for each part of your business plan. They also won't automatically update your numbers when changes occur in your forecast, and they don't handle formatting for you.
Overall, while Word or Excel may seem viable for some entrepreneurs to create a business plan, it's by far becoming an antiquated way of doing things.
- Using business plan software is a modern and cost-effective way of writing and maintaining business plans.
- A business plan is not a one-shot exercise as maintaining it current is the only way to keep visibility on your future cash flows.
- A business plan has 2 main parts: a financial forecast outlining the funding requirements of your visual effects (vfx) company and the expected growth, profits and cash flows for the next 3 to 5 years; and a written part which gives the reader the information needed to decide if they believe the forecast is achievable.
We hope that this in-depth guide met your expectations and that you now have a clear understanding of how to write your visual effects (vfx) company business plan. Do not hesitate to contact our friendly team if you have questions additional questions we haven't addressed here.
Also on The Business Plan Shop
- How to write a business plan to secure a bank loan?
- Key steps to write a business plan?
- Top mistakes to avoid in your business plan
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