Today we’re talking to our clients or individuals who are thinking about going through the visa ‘entrepreneur’ application. You should come away from this blog feeling confident in writing a business plan as part of your visa journey. Of course, we’re hoping this will be a helpful resource in writing a business plan even if you’re not applying for this specific visa, but know the information is skewed to those who know what they have to offer but don’t know what the French authorities want to know.
It’s important to note that this business plan will be presented to the French authorities (AEF). They will review your business plan and if they give their approval, your chances of receiving a visa 'entrepreneur' are pretty much confirmed. Not to mention if you’re successful, you can use this business plan to present to potential partners, investment opportunities and even banks for loan applications too. Most importantly however it’s for your own use and reference.
1. Writing a mission statement
Whether you’re operating a market stall selling fresh produce, making jewellery or running an online blog - you’ll know that every successful business should start with a mission of intent. Technically described as a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organisation, or individual, a mission statement is an opportunity for you to be specific. It’s your chance to shout about what makes you special. As an example, at Aster Management our missions statement is:
“To be the support pillar for both businesses and individuals with their French administration, property and translation challenges.”
When you read a company's mission statement, you should understand their business in a nutshell. You should understand their aims and objectives and who their target customers are. Even though it comes first in our list, we recommend writing the rest of the business plan first and coming back to this part. It’s often easier to write a summary, once you’ve written the bulk.
2. Look at how you compare to the market
This will help you to understand how your business will fit into the current market and maybe open your eyes to potential additional services that your competitors may have missed.
From here you can present your own skills and experience in a way that feels novel, and useful - proving your ability to implement your proposed plan. By approaching this step logically, you can set practical steps to attract customers and market your business. You may have heard of a SWOT analysis. It’s a helpful tool that can be used to help identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and potential business threats and works well alongside your competitor research. A quick google search will inform you of how to use it to your advantage, and get analysing!
3. How are you going to make money?
When writing your business plan it’s important to remember that the main goal of the French authorities is essentially to make sure you won't be a financial burden once you obtain the visa. They want to ensure that you’re earning at least minimum wage.
Practically this means that with the addition of France’s social charges your income must be 1,600€ per month over 12 months at a minimum. If you're only earning over the winter season, 3,200€ per month should be your target. If you’re starting to panic here - remember that savings also contribute and play in your favour. If you’ve got some money saved for your time away, make sure you declare that too.
To showcase that your business is financially viable, you’ll need to submit your financial projections, status and if appropriate, a contingency plan. This is the part we find lots of small business owners fall over - because, well, it’s boring. We’ll keep it simple. In a good, solid financial plan at the minimum you should cover:
The cost of your initial set up including visa costs, travel, website development costs, mobilisation costs, initial stock and any other one time only costs associated with starting your business.
A cash-flow forecast of your consistent costs going forward including overheads and expenses like utility bills, wages, travel expenses, website hosting, content management and marketing support.
A yearly forecast over the next 1-3 years that anticipates profit and losses.
Your projected income during this time.
A consideration to paying social charges in your plan (this is 22% of the amount you invoice).
4. What’s your plan of action?
Your action plan should have a beginning, middle and end. The beginning should detail your short-term goals over the next 6 months. The middle should explain where you want to be in the medium term, between 6 and 12 months, and the end should be a look into your future, acting as a projection of where you want to be in 3 years. Structured steps to get from A to B will help make your plan of action, actionable!
If this all sounds a bit daunting, we can help. We offer administration and translation support to help you obtain your French visa. This includes assistance with populating a detailed financial plan template that will help you get the requirements spot on. As we’re a team of bi-lingual natives in French and English, be assured that we can also translate your business plan efficiently and accurately to ensure this visa process only has to happen once!
If you’re based in France already, you can also ask for help from the local Mairie or Centre of Commerce on your business and proposed business structure. This will help give you an insight into what kind of taxes and social charges you’ll be paying too. It might also be a good idea to meet with an accountant, who can advise you on all of the above and also offer a realistic assessment of your financial plan.
Overall, try not to overthink the length of your plan. Your business plan may be 2 pages or 20 (the more unconventional the higher the word count generally). Avoid writing words for the sake of it, and keep your plan as succinct as possible. It’s okay if it’s compact, as long as it’s powerful. There are plenty of online resources available to help you. Do the research, do the planning and you’re destined for success.