Despite the best efforts of programmes like The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den, starting a business remains a dream for many. So, what do you need to know to start a business? Although not totally without its drawbacks, starting your own business can bring great satisfaction and a new-found sense of freedom.
If you’re looking to join 4.77 million people in the UK by taking the leap into self-employment, you’re probably wondering how to get started. With that in mind, here are all the i’s you’ll have to dot, and all the t’s you’ll have to cross to get that business going.
We'll assume that you've already weighed up the pros and cons of working for yourself and made the decision that it's right for you, but if you haven't or your still not sure then our article "13 things to consider before going freelance" is a good place to start.
Alternatively, you might prefer to watch this jargon-free video on the things you need to think about before you take the leap.
Get a plan in place
Ever heard the saying “by failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail”?
Putting a solid business plan together can help you work out whether your idea is a sensible one.Once you’re confident you’ve answered all the questions that need answering, you can use your business plan to convince investors, partners, and employees that you’re likely to become profitable.
Our jargon-free guide to writing a business plan will give you a better idea of how to get the ball rolling.
Do what you do best
You want to go self-employed so you can make a living doing what you love, right? Well, now it’s time to do it. Show people what you can do, get creative, and enjoy the new-found freedom that comes with running your own business.
It can be a tough life, and it won’t always be easy, but if you love what you’re doing, you’ll never be without a spring in your step. Our article on how to turn your hobby into a career could help you find a more enjoyable way to make a living.
Choose a name for your business
This is a big step and one that can be fun, you don’t have to be boring and simply use your name - your business name can be anything, within reason!
There are a few rules you need to be aware of and your chosen business name may already be taken, so our article ‘How to come up with a great company name’ is a good place to start.
Choose your legal structure
We’re constantly asked to explain the differences between sole traders and limited companies, and as an aspiring startup business or freelancer - these are among the choices available to you as a legal structure.
There can be a number of advantages in forming a limited company, but it does come with more responsibilities.Generally, sole trader or limited company business structures are the most popular amongst freelancers and contractors, but there’s also the possibility of operating as a Partnership or Limited Liability Partnership, should these structures suit you better.
Each of these structures come with their respective pros and cons, so explore our article ‘sole trader vs limited company - what’s best?’ thoroughly before making your choice.
Register your business
Your choice of how to structure your business will have an impact here since each legal structure requires a slightly different registration process.
Registering as a sole trader is the simplest route, which only requires you to choose a business name and register with HMRC as self-employed for your annual Self Assessment (which is how you’ll pay your tax). Once this is done, you’re all set. Registering and setting up as a limited company is a little more complex, as there are a few more hoops to jump through.
That said, it can still be done quickly and easily – you can form a company online at Companies House, or save yourself some money by using our Crunch Formations service to see if your company name is available and then getting your new company set up in just a matter of hours (for less than the price of doing it through Companies House).
Think about insurance
While not necessarily a legal requirement (although it is in some industries – something else you’ll need to check out!), it’s probably worthwhile exploring the different business insurance options available as - despite involving an initial outlay - some investment here can save you considerable cash.
Professional Indemnity, Public Liability and Employers’ Liability insurance are the options you’ll most likely need, so consider your options and see which insurance policies will fit you best.You might also want to consider lIfe cover to protect yourself or your loved ones should the worst happen.
Create a website
Now that you’re officially a business, you need to think about creating a website. Even if it’s just one or two free WordPress pages, it’s vital to have an online presence, somewhere you can send potential customers and a way for them to find out about your business and do a bit of research on you. You need to ensure your website sells your products or services perfectly and converts site visitors into customers.
We have an article with some handy tips for setting up a small business website.
Connect with peers
The next step is to connect with businesses that complement your products or services but aren’t in direct competition. You can build up connections on social media websites or through local networking events. The more people you meet the more chance you’ll have of gaining those all-important leads in the first few weeks.
Our Crunch Chorus self-employed community has a popular Facebook group with over 2,000 members and is a friendly helpful place to find people to connect with.
Build a presence
Building a presence online is a little different to offline since you have so many more channels to focus your energies on. You also need to be mindful of keeping your private and professional life separate online - friends might be interested in knowing you’re starting your own business, but your clients won’t be interested in the parties you’ve attended or how much you enjoyed that movie over the weekend.
That’s why it’s a good idea to start from scratch; use the ‘pages’ facility to get a business page on Facebook and create business Twitter and LinkedIn account - just remember to keep the personal stuff personal, and the public stuff public.It costs you nothing to tell your friends, family, and ex-colleagues to spread the word that you’re in business, either. Just make some calls, share your Facebook page and send a few emails – whatever you have to do to get the word out. If your business appeals to them, they may, in turn, use their personal and professional circles to refer it to a much bigger audience.
Boost your rankings
You probably know that appearing at the top of search engines for certain terms can be extremely lucrative in terms of traffic and sales since you’re what people see when they’ve already made the decision to hire or buy.
To get there you need to ensure your content is rich, engaging and informative while connecting with peers to ensure you have links on other websites too. You can regularly update your blog, add your business to Google Places, or invest a little more money and enlist a freelance SEO expert to help.
Enhance your reputation
When people search for a product or service online, they utilise the wealth of information at their fingertips and delve a little deeper than if they were shopping on the high street. They’ll research you and your brand, see if you deliver what you promise and have knowledge on the area you’re trading in.
This is why it’s not only important to blog on your website (or guest blog on other websites) with informative articles and advice, but also to encourage feedback and reviews online to confirm your position as a leader in your industry.
Get the ball rolling
Once you have a website, a social media presence and a presence online you can start making waves to bring visitors and customers to your business. There are many ways to encourage a flurry of interest such as competitions, press releases, guest blogs, and targeted email campaigns.
If you need help managing your business finances, Crunch can help - we’re experts in supporting freelancers, contractors, and small business owners..
Stop reading this and get on with it!
In terms of the initial paperwork that’s about it – at this point, the only thing left to do is to get out there, generate some leads to drum up some clients and start building your business.Belief and hard work will go a long way in this endeavour. Just remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day - starting a business from scratch is a tricky old task, but completely worthwhile when you start to build up some steam.
If you need some support from like-minded people who took the self-employed plunge, you can find them in our free-to-join self-employed community, Crunch Chorus. You can also read some testimonies from those who took the leap in our Crunch Chorus Stories articles.
Webinar: Becoming Self Employed - how to start a business
If you’re looking to begin your self-employed journey, this webinar is a great place to start.Jake Smith and Michael Awuye from Crunch are joined by business coach, mentor and author of the popular from “From Crew to Captain” books, David Mellor!
ou can download the slides here.