Start Your Own Business in Ten Easy Steps
With the UK being the number one country in Europe for new business start-ups, we thought we would put together this step-by-step guide to help you if you have decided to go it alone and set up your own small business.
Each of the steps below will help to guide you and make you think carefully about your journey from your simple ideas on paper stage, right through to choosing your company name and preparing to launch.
Firstly, lets take a look at the things you need to do first. You may have a great idea in mind for your own business, but it will pay to do some homework first to see if your idea is a viable one.
1. Do your market research
We can all be passionate about a business idea, but you need to make sure it is actually viable. By doing a bit of market research to find out if you have willing customers waiting for your product or services, you can decide to go for it or tweak your idea a bit to make it more marketable.
You can actually carry out much of your market research with little to no cost. You can conduct some primary research by yourself by setting up focus groups, producing surveys or looking at your competition to see how large their customer base is.
Your secondary market research is based around analysing data provided by others, so looking at quantitative figures and statistics produced by industry-related surveys, polls and reports.
2. Decide on your business structure
Whether you plan to fly solo or are looking at setting up a partnership with a friend or relative, make sure you thoroughly read up on all the different legal business structures you can choose from. Where most solo entrepreneurs start off registering with HMRC as sole traders, you may decide to start off registering as a limited company. There are advantages to doing this, especially if you are planning to work in a B2B sector where it is important to look professional and legitimate to your peers and potential business partners.
3. Write a business plan
Think of your business plan as the blueprints to your business. Every business starts with a plan and you will certainly need one if you plan to seek funding or credit financing to kick-start your business. Your plan not only provides you with a clear path to follow, it also helps you to secure vital investments should you need it.
4. Choose your company name wisely
You would never name your company on a whim or after drinking a few pints down the pub, so take care to give yourself a thoughtful and apt business name that perfectly reflects what you plan to do.
Make a short list of potential company names and run them by as many different people as possible. Perception goes a long with with your success, so you need a name that is relatable to your business and is something that the general public will understand. Make sure you don’t choose a name that can be confused with another business, especially one of your direct competitors. This can lead to confusion for your customers and may result in lost sales to your competitors and possibly even legal action by your competition.
Use the Government Company Name Checker to make sure your preferred name isn’t already in use by someone else.
5. Create your company logo
Your company logo is more important than you may think. Your logo will be the first thing that your customers see, so you want it to become familiar and recognisable to them. You need your logo to create the right first impression and relate to what you do or the industry you will be working in.
6. Build your businesses website
People are curious by nature, so the first thing prospective customers will do once they hear about you is to go online to check out your company website. Make sure you set up a very user-friendly site that is easy to navigate and is clear to read.
Your website need not be flashy with lots of bells and whistles. Having a site that is too busy and crammed full of stuff can actually put people off going any further than your home page. Register your domain name early and make sure it makes sense. Try to make it as memorable as possible so your customers can easily type it into a search engine to look up your information.
7. Sort out your finances
Invest in some bookkeeping and accounting software so you don’t end up buried in paperwork and invoices. There is a lot of good quality software you could use, such as Quickbooks, Zoho Books, Xero etc. You can manage just about any small business finances with these packages.
For those aiming to go beyond the £85,000 VAT threshold quite quickly, then it’s worth planning for it from day one. Register your business for VAT with HMRC. Put your company finances into the hands of trained professionals for better results. You can look at hiring an accountant onto your staff permanently, or hire a local firm to handle your business accounts and VAT requirements.
8. Business premises
Do you need office space for your business? Are you planning to start off small by running your business from home? If you plan to start small and stay small by running your business as a solo entrepreneur, then you may be fine operating out of your home office.
It may be that as you grow you will need some help with your administrative tasks. You have two options here: Hire some office space and employ some staff, or outsource your administrative tasks to a company such as Your Virtual Office. Depending on your budget, you may choose to save yourself a lot of money on rent and salary payments by outsourcing your time-consuming admin duties such as telephone call answering and mail sorting.
9. Applying for financing
If you are looking for a start-up loan at the beginning of your enterprise, or you are looking for some investment to help expand your business once it is established, then you will need to apply for either a start-up grant, business loan or extended credit terms.
Whichever form of financing you choose to go with, you will have to check your eligibility first. The application process once accepted may involve you supplying all or some of the following information for your application to be considered:
- Business plan
- Cashflow statement
- Copy of the last consecutive three months of current account personal bank statements
- Personal survival budget
- Photo ID
- Proof of address
10. Understanding laws and regulations
While you may have your head full of plans about how you are going to develop and grow your company, you must always make sure that you operate within government mandated laws and regulations.
It will help you greatly if you make the time to read up and understand all the legal red-tape that goes with running a business, including meeting your compliance requirements and dates set by HMRC and Companies house (if you are a registered company). You should read up on:
1. Tax laws
2. Intellectual property law
3. Employment regulations (if you are going to be taking on staff)
4. Digital regulations
5. Business insurance
It may seem like a daunting task when starting your own business, but by taking it one step at a time, you will start to build your company as you tick off the steps above.