Legal requirements vary across different industries and can quickly become a confusing part of starting a business. If you’re wondering how to get a business licence before you start trading, this article is for you.

We’ll walk you through a three-step process to get a licence for your business and cover common business types that need them, covering:

  1. Does your business need a licence to operate?
  2. What sort of business licence do you need?
  3. How to apply for the licence your business requires

Step 1: Does your business need a licence to operate?

In determining whether your business needs a licence, you’ll need to figure out what your business will do while trading. Even if you don’t need a licence for your business (as your industry isn’t highly regulated), you may still need a licence to do things on your premise that are independent of how you make your money.

For example, if you’d like to play music on your premises, you will need a music licence. Similarly, even if your business doesn’t need a licence, you may need a personal licence to operate. For example, if you’ve set up a limited company, you may need a professional licence to deliver your services in order to operate legally within your industry. 

We include some examples of certain business types or scenarios where you may need to apply for a licence below. For further help, use the gov.uk Licence Finder tool.

Step 2: Decide what sort of business licence you need

Licences come in many forms. We’ve broken various types of business licences into three categories to make navigating the requirements of your business easier.

Industry-specific licences

Some industries have sweeping restrictions placed on them by the UK government that place requirements on new entrepreneurs to apply for a licence before they’re even allowed to start trading. These sorts of licences are in place to protect the safety of customers and ensure standards across the industry. Some examples include:

Childminding

Across the UK, childminders must meet a minimum standard to qualify them to work with children and care for them in their homes professionally. Read more on the steps to take wherever you are in the UK in our guide How to register as a self-employed childminder.

Taxiing or driving HGVs

Driving as a taxi or HGV operator are both regulated professions within the UK. Specifically, these businesses are examples where you will need a basic driving licence plus an additional regulated licence before you can take on contracts or clients.

Find out more in each of our dedicated guides:

Licence to practice: protected professions and titles

If you work in the healthcare, legal or financial industries, there are various barriers to entry for entrepreneurs that are considering opening their own private practice or business. One such example is whether they can even identify and advertise their services using protected terms surrounding their professions or qualification titles.

For example, the Healthcare and Care Professions Council regulates the use of 15 professional titles within the health and care industry. Similarly, the Financial Conduct Authority protects and regulates financial lenders, investors and advisors.

A more comprehensive list of protected professions within the UK, including links to whom you can contact to get a licence for your new business, is available online here

Food businesses

Whether you’re looking to open a restaurant, start a takeaway or even provide small meals as a childminder, you’ll need approval with a food licence. Use the gov.uk online portal and enter your postcode to apply for a food licence with your local authority.

Business licence for your home

The licences and permissions for running a business from your home will vary depending on your circumstances. At a minimum, you’ll need to get approval from your mortgage provider or landlord. You may also need to contact your local council authority if you plan to receive deliveries or have customers visit your home. 

Similarly, you may also need to acquire building permits for any developments or renovation as you set up a dedicated storage or office space. If you’re setting up a business from your home, read our guide for more advice. 

Licences to do things on your premises

Business licences also apply to certain activities that happen on business premises. If you plan to do any of the following, you’ll need a special licence:

Step 3: Meet the necessary criteria and apply

The process and criteria for each of the licences mentioned above will be unique. Therefore you’ll need to do some research to find the relevant approval body in your area, along with their requirements.

You may wish to plan ahead for certain applications in order to protect your business in full – especially for licences that take a long time to receive or ones that can’t be applied for retroactively. 

How much does it cost to apply?

Similarly, certain licences will be more costly to apply for than others. While you will initially need the cash flow to cover them, you may be able to partially or fully expense them also.

How to save time on your business admin with Countingup

Don’t let your financial admin steal time from running your business. Getting established and applying for legal permits takes time and consideration so use Countingup to help get it back.

Countingup is the business current account with free, built-in accounting software. With all your financial information in one place, Countingup can automate your financial admin and save you time and stress. 

Countingup comes with real-time profit and loss data and a receipt capture tool, so you can quickly and easily update and understand your financial records on the go.

Gain complete confidence in your business’ finances. Find out more here and sign up for free today.

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