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Career Coach: Business Plans Are A Valuable Career Tool

Oliver Wade reviews the book Animating Real-Time Game Characters by Paul Steed and gives the potential buyer some good advice on whether or not to make the purchase.

Whether you are an employee or an independent contractor/freelancer, you are a one-person business that provides a service. To be sure that your business will prosper you need a business plan.

Business plans are not only for companies like ILM or Disney. A business plan can help you to reach your goals. It can provide a strategy to guide your career.

A business plan is a map to help you get where you want to go. It helps you plan your future. It gives you focus, motivation and objectivity and will keep you on track. It's a personal and objective plan of attack detailing the steps you will take to launch or re-launch and then maintain your career. Your business plan will help you stay focused on your long-term goals.

To create a business plan, first think about who you are and where you want to be. Establish primary, achievable goals for yourself that you are capable of reaching on your own. Set five to ten realistic goals. What do you want to accomplish? Write goals down, then plan the tasks and activities you will do each week to achieve them.

A business plan is a week by week breakdown of what you intend to accomplish. Schedule your classes, lunches, etc. Be specific. Write down your assignments, tasks and commitments to yourself.

A sample business plan might look like this:


New demo reel.

Review and revise resume.

Research info for target companies.

Draft cover letter for marketing materials.

Become consistent at reading trades, related sources and Websites.


Week One

Look at friends' demo reels.

Call editors who edited demo reels I like and find out their fees and what they include. Schedule a session.

Write a first draft of resume. Look at friends' resumes and resumes in books and on Websites to get formatting ideas. Reformat resume to make it easy to read.

Make sure answering machine is working and outgoing message is professional and clear.

Week Two

Assemble a mailing list of appropriate companies to send new marketing materials to. Include phone numbers on target list.

Compose cover letter to be sent with new marketing materials.

Review portfolio. Remove any old pieces and assess whether new pieces need to be added.

Edit demo reel.

Create demo reel breakdown.

Attend local SIGGRAPH meeting.

Week Three

Call every targeted company to see if they are accepting reels, portfolios and resumes. Check spelling of names and addresses of people you are targeting.

Make sure all marketing materials have current contact information on them, including reel breakdown list.

Attend a software user group meeting.

Follow up with any leads from SIGGRAPH meeting. (Send notes to speakers and other people you've met.)

Week Four

Implement mailing and keep track of where every submission goes.

Plan a schedule of telephone follow ups for next week. (Make sure company received your submission.)

Follow up with any leads from user group meeting.

Attend Women in Animation meeting.

Every week:

Read the trades (Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter) and related Websites (,,, etc) regularly to keep up on the business and on who is doing what. You can do this in the library.

Read other resources and publications every week (Animation Magazine, Cinefx, etc.).

Maintain a database of the contacts made during meetings that week. Include new contacts to pursue and leads to follow up on. Follow up on at least two leads per week, whether obtained through networking or reading.

Submit self for everything appropriate.

The business plan will give you a record of the tasks you have accomplished and help highlight the new tasks you need to undertake to reach your goals.

Your business plan should reflect your greatest career aspirations and how you intend to get there. It must be realistic and affordable to implement and full of ideas that will translate into your personal road map to success.

Follow your business plan with diligence and it will lead you to the work you want and build the career you desire. Success can be yours but it is up to you. You are the one person who can help you most in your career. Your business plan will help you make the commitment and keep the promises to yourself.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a career coach, recruiter and hiring strategist who helps clients to achieve their dreams in their personal and professional lives. Recruiting clients include Disney, Fox, Framestore, Digital Domain, Big Idea Productions and Simex Digital Studios.