Every business is different, so how long it takes to start depends on the industry, timing, type of business, and so on. That said, most startups have a series of tasks they need to complete when setting up their business, which all have their own time frames.

So how long does it take to start a small business? This guide will help you estimate how long you’ll need to get the following tasks completed:

  • Registering a business name
  • Finding a location
  • Setting up
  • Purchasing equipment and supplies
  • Determining financing needs and finding sources
  • Turning a profit

How long does it take to start a small business?

There are a number of aspects that play into how long it will take you to start your business. While your chosen sector, business type, skill level, and much more definitely impact the time frame, it also depends on how prepared you are before setting off on your business venture.

For example, if you’re starting a home-based business without any employees or partners, no need for a license, bank loan, and so on, you could probably be up and running in a month or two.

On the other hand, if you’ll be manufacturing products and need a special license to sell them, financial backing to get it off the ground, and premises for a shop, it will take you much longer to get started. If you want to start a retail or food business and find premises that don’t need much renovation, you could get started in less than six months. 

To get a better idea of how long it will take to start your business, it’s best to break it up into the different steps and tasks you need to complete to start your business. 

What are the important startup tasks to cover?

We’ve listed the main tasks that most new businesses need to accomplish when setting up and added an estimated time to complete each one. 

Registering a business name

One of the first and most important tasks is to choose and register your business name, which should be sent to Companies House either online or by post. Your business name will be on every document, advertisement, social media post, email, etc. 

Using Companies House’s postal service can take eight to ten days, but using the online portal means you can set up your business within 24 hours.

Finding a location

Location also plays a major role in how long you’ll need to start your business. If you’re just going to work from home, you can get started right away. On the other side of the spectrum, if you need premises for a shop, salon, bakery, or other, you need to find and lease a space before you can start trading. 

Depending on your area and what the market looks like at the time, it could take you anywhere from one month to six months to find a space. If you need to do renovations, you might need to wait an additional three to six months to occupy the premises.

Setting up

As a business, you’ll want to set up a professional website where you can show and tell potential clients or customers about what you can do. If you use a template-based website builder like WordPress or Squarespace, you can get set up in a few days. 

But if you decide to work with a software developer or graphic designer to build your website, it could take a few weeks to a couple of months. It depends on how long it takes you to find a professional and how long they need to complete the website.

Depending on the type of business you want to start, you might need a special permit or licence to trade. Local councils are the ones who handle licensing and registering certain types of business activities, so you could ask them what licence you need. They could also help you apply for one and inform you on how long the process will take. 

Or, you can also use the government’s license finder tool to see if you need one.

Purchasing equipment and supplies

Depending on how complex your business is, it could take several months to find and buy all the equipment and supplies you’ll need. 

But for many businesses, putting together the equipment and supplies you need could take under a month. If all you need is a laptop and some software subscriptions (and you have the funds ready), you could even get set up in a day or two.

Turning a profit

Finally, we have the step that new businesses hope to achieve as quickly as possible, which is becoming profitable. Unfortunately, it takes most businesses around three years to become profitable, and many don’t become truly successful until the seven or ten-year mark.

But it’s important to remember that being non-profitable doesn’t mean your company isn’t growing or performing well. On the contrary, a company can grow and perform well financially without long before it starts turning a profit. So while profitability is an important measure for success, it isn’t the only metric you should focus on.

As you can see, there are many factors that determine how long it takes to start a business. A good rule of thumb is to expect it to take twice as long as intended and plan your time, budget, and patience around that. 

Get on the right track from day one with a simple app

When you’re starting your own business, it’s important to keep your personal and business finances separate from day one – to save yourself from time-consuming admin headaches further down the line. 

Countingup is the business current account and accounting software in one app. It helps business owners keep on top of their finances and automates time-consuming bookkeeping admin for thousands of self-employed people across the UK.

With automatic expense categorisation, receipt capture tools and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances and save yourself hours of accounting admin, so you can focus on doing what you do best. Find out more here.

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