Setting out on your own to start a business is a big step, and if you’ve decided to finally take the leap and start a company, here are some of the key steps you’ll need to take. This article sets out a new business launch checklist so you can hit the ground running:

  • Write your business plan
  • Choose a business name
  • Choose the business structure
  • Register your business
  • Register for tax
  • Get insured and qualified
  • Open a business account
  • Create a logo
  • Find some customers

Write your business plan

When starting any business, you first have to do some groundwork. It’s a good idea to write your research into a business plan so that you have all the information written in a structured way — and a business plan will be a necessity if you are looking for funding or investment. 

You should cover the following areas:

  • Your business idea
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Who are your target customers?
  • What makes your business different from your competition?
  • Your budget and start up costs
  • Potential suppliers and costs

Creating a business plan allows you to understand if your business is sustainable in the current market, and gives you a chance to set milestones to grow the business from the ground up. You can find more detail about how to write a business plan here.

Choose a business name

You can trade under your own name but if you have plans to grow then you may want to select something that sounds less like a one-person business. Test out names with friends and potential customers, and check the Companies House register to ensure the name isn’t already taken.

Choose the business structure

The next step in setting up the business is to choose your structure. Will you be a sole trader, a limited company or set up a partnership? 

Being a sole trader is simpler to set up and just start. A limited company may give off a more professional image, as well as giving you limited liability for any debt associated with running the business, but it does have more accounting and tax responsibilities than being a sole trader.

Register your business

Once you’ve chosen your structure, if you are a limited company you can register your business with Companies House for £12 — this registration is called incorporation. You can also get support with this from an accountant or a registration service but it will cost you more.

Register for tax

Now you need to register with HMRC for your taxes. As a self-employed person you need to notify HMRC that you will be managing your own tax and National Insurance contributions, and you’ll submit a self-assessment tax return yearly (if you’re making over £1,000 from your business income).

If you are a limited company you’ll also need to register with HMRC for your corporation tax. And if your business is predicted to turn over £85,000 or more yearly, then you must register for VAT.

Get insured and licensed

It’s important to protect yourself and your business’s future with appropriate insurances. Depending on your business activities you may need a few different policies, here are a few to consider:

  • Public liability insurance, if you deal with the public often this covers you if someone is injured or their property is damaged in their dealing with your business. This can also cover injury from products you’ve supplied too.
  • Professional indemnity insurance is a policy that will pay for any claims if you make a mistake, breach confidentiality or are accused of professional negligence.
  • Building insurance will cover your office premises, or check your own home insurance policy if you are operating from home, to make sure business items such as laptops etc, are covered.
  • Personal accident and sickness cover will cover your income if you are unable to work for a period of time due to illness or injury. You’ll also be covered if you are unable to go back to work at all.

Next, check if you need a license or permits in order to start trading. You can find a licence checker tool on the Gov.uk website to see if you need to apply for anything before starting the business.

Open a business account

If you are registered as a limited company, then you legally have to open a separate business current account so that your business finances are a separate entity to your own. 

Sole trader and partnerships are not legally required to open a separate business account, but we’d still recommend it, for the following benefits:

  • Easier to monitor cash flow
  • Make tax returns easier to prepare, as your business transactions are separate from personal ones.
  • Looks more professional

You can use a business account like Countingup, that has built in accounting software, so that you can save time and stress on bookkeeping tasks.

Create a logo

Time to design a logo that you can use on your website, as well as business cards or marketing materials. You can use free tools such as Canva to create something yourself, buy a logo from an online stock-library, or pay a professional designer to help you (but this can be costly).

Find some clients

Now you’re ready to launch. But to start doing business you need to find clients. 

Use your audience research from your business plan — figure out where your audience finds out about businesses, and position yourself there and use what makes you different from your competitors in your messaging. Here are some marketing methods to get you started:

  • Offers: give vouchers for a discount, or a free hour of your time for referrals or new clients.
  • List your business in directories, like Yell or CheckaTrade.
  • Use digital marketing techniques such as social media, content marketing or email
  • Local SEO may be particularly effective for finding clients in your local area who are searching for services or products like yours.
  • Use offline marketing such as flyers, business cards or newspaper and radio ads.

Save time on business admin with a simple app

When you’re starting your own business, it’s important to keep organised when it comes to your finances from the start. You’ll save yourself hours of painful admin in the long run. 

Countingup is the business current account built for self-employed people. With free, built-in accounting software, the app automates financial admin, and is saving thousands of business owners time and stress. 

The simple app comes with instant invoicing features, 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. It also provides tax estimates and an automated expense categorisation feature so you can always be on top of your bookkeeping. 

Find out more here and sign up for free today.