Starting your own business

From knowing what to do first to opening your new business account, our guidance will help you learn more about getting your business idea off the ground. When you take the time to plan and prepare your business before starting up, you boost your chances of success.

1. Planning your business

Here are 5 key steps to consider:

  • Before jumping into writing your business plan, be clear about what you are trying to achieve with your new business and what you’ll be required to do as a business owner.
  • Ask yourself - do you have the skills for your sector or are there any knowledge gaps you need to fill? You might not be able to afford employing staff for some time, are you prepared to do the ground work as well as manage the business?
  • Research what you’ll need to do, make a pros and cons list, and create action plans for the areas you need to know more about.
  • Think about whether there’s a market need for your business and what your Unique Selling Point (USP) will be. Spend time researching your primary market, getting to know their requirements and understand what your competitors are doing.
  • Start writing your business plan.

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2. Who you need to tell about your new business

All planned and ready to go? Make sure you start by telling the right people:

  • Your bank – open your business account as soon as you can.
  • Companies House – you’ll need to register your business as a limited company or limited liability partnership (LLP). If you have an accountant already they can help you with this.
  • Your accountant – it’s a good idea to employ a reputable accountant to help manage your cash flow records. They can also advise on what you need to tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), whether you need to be VAT registered and remind you of important payment dates, such as Corporation Tax.
  • HMRC – you may need to pay tariffs or get permission for some types of trading if you’re planning to import/export.
  • Specialist registrations - certain types of business need these. For example, if you are opening a food business you’ll need to register with the Food Standards Agency.
  • The Information Commissioner - under the Data Protection Act businesses that process or store personal information need to register with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), unless they are exempt. Complete the ICO self-assessment to find out if you need to do this.

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3. Finances

Be as detailed as you can with your financial planning. Start by asking yourself:

  • What will your start-up costs and on-going costs be?
  • Do you have this money already or will you need to borrow it?
  • How much money must the business make each week and month to cover your personal and business costs?
  • How much will you charge for your products or services?

You'll need to book keep, monitoring your income and expenditure from day to day. You can use this to compare your progress against your original plan and produce more accurate forecasts.

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4. Choose where you’ll work

Where you'll work from could have a big impact on your initial costs. Can you set up an office at home or will you need to find separate premises? You can usually work from home without seeking planning permission as long as:

  • the look of your home doesn't change significantly
  • the business doesn't become the first purpose of the property
  • you don't cause inconvenience to your neighbours.

Always check with your home insurance company about running a small business from home to make sure you’re still covered.

If your business has grown and you need more space, think hard before renting a large or long-term property, especially when you're just starting out. Serviced offices are a useful option – they can be more expensive but give you more flexibility.

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5. Where to go to for advice

HMRC Business Guidance

If you want to get help with tax-related issues then HMRC offers a variety of tools and guides online. These include:

  • An e-learning package covering all aspects of starting and growing a business.
  • Webinars on subjects like VAT, business expenses and record keeping.
  • Useful YouTube videos with quick overviews on topics like PAYE.
  • A free business education email service.
  • Tools and apps that can help with putting together your first tax bill.
  • HMRC’s SME Tax Widget, which offers video tax guides.

Visit the HMRC for a full list of their tools and guides.

The Business Support Helpline

The UK government operates a Business Support Helpline that offers advice and guidance to new and existing businesses. It has information on national and local schemes as well as grants and loans to help companies start and grow. It is open between Monday and Friday between 9am and 6pm and can be reached on: 0300 456 3565. Alternatively, you can use the government's Business Finance and Support Finder Tool online. It allows businesses to search for government-backed support and finance as well other mentoring services and support.

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6. Useful links

Volunteer Business Mentors

Access to 15,000 trained volunteer business mentors from the SME community to boost local mentor networks.

Manufacturing Advisory Service

Supports manufacturing businesses in England by reviewing their business and providing subsidised consultancy support in areas such as business planning, manufacturing , innovation and efficiency, raising finance and growing the supply chain.

Department for International Trade

Supports companies across the UK to export through International Trade Advisers. DIT provides advice on export capability and opportunities, contacts in overseas markets, arranging overseas visits, e-commerce, export training and market research.

UK Research & Innovation

Provides grant funding to support research and development for companies across the UK, mainly through web based competitions.

Design Council

A small national programme that helps businesses use design to improve performance through bespoke packages of design support and coaching delivering through Design Associates.

Intellectual Property Office (IPO)

Provides services such as workshops, intellectual property awareness raising and online assessment tools. It also trains independent business advisers as intellectual property auditors.

Business is GREAT Campaign

A campaign by the government designed to inspire small businesses to take their business plans further, and to highlight the support available to help them grow.

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Important legal information

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