And are thinking of starting your own business, the process can seem overwhelming. However, there are a growing number of successful small businesses, thanks to individuals deciding to take the plunge. If you have a great idea but are worried what the next steps are, our in-depth guide will take you through everything you need to turn your idea into a fully functioning startup.
If you are thinking of starting a business one of the key factors which will determine its success is your business idea. If you have an idea, you need to find out whether it has the potential to succeed. The best ideas are those which are able to quickly solve the target customers problems, by either providing a service or a product.
It is rare for any business ideas to be completely unique, however you do not need to have a new idea to build an excellent business. Essentially, your business needs to fulfil a need or offer something which your target market is looking for.
It is also important to consider the businesses potential in the future. How do you think your business may be impacted by the development of new technology, emerging markets and competition? If your research suggests that your initial idea may not have the longevity required, try to tweak the idea or explore new options.
As part of your research you need to consider the competitive landscape and the demand for your product or service. If there are already other businesses providing the solution you have in mind, consider how your business could improve on this. For example, can you lower the costs, improve efficiency, provide a better customer service or a more innovative product?
If you are thinking of entering an industry with a high level of competition, you will need to find ways to gain a competitive advantage. If your business is able to provide customers with significant savings without compromising on quality, your business will have great potential. However, if the margins are tight, it might be possible for your business to provide a more innovative product or better customer service.
You also need to understand your target market and the potential demand for your product or service. Who are your potential customers and is there a direct demand already for your goods? It is important to understand the demographic data, as this will have a significant impact on your sales and marketing plans. Ultimately, you need to be confident that your business model has the potential to succeed in the current market.
One of the best ways to explore your potential market is to carry out market research using focus groups, surveys, public data records, competitor analysis and SEO research. Try to find out if there is a demand for your service and products, if so, who is demanding it? In addition, analyse the competition and see what services or products they offer, are they successful? If competitors are trading successfully, how will your business fit into the current market?
The goal is to understand the weaknesses and strengths of your competition, as well as the threats and opportunities relating to your potential market. Once you understand the competition and the market, you will have a clear idea of exactly where your own business may fit. You need to know whether the market has space for your business to be able to operate profitably.
Once you have settled on a business idea, it is time to write a detailed business plan. The aim is to have a document which details the objectives of your business and exactly how you are planning on achieving them. Ideally, the plan should form a roadmap which you can follow to help your business move from where it is today to a certain point in the future.
The business plan doesn’t need to be set in stone, instead it can be used as a way to gather your thoughts in an easy to follow structured way. It is impractical to continually update your business plan, but if there are significant changes in the business’s circumstances or if any of the overall objectives change, it is important to review your business plan.
There are key elements which should be included in your plan and it needs to be clear, simple and well-organised, so that both you and external people can read your plan and understand the exact goals of your business. It can be tempting to include lots of additional information; however, this can make it more difficult for external parties to understand.
The executive summary serves as an introduction to your business plan, by providing a clear and concise overview of your business and its objectives. When an individual reads your executive summary, it should give a clear insight into the business, so that the reader understands the exact goals of your company and why it exists. Try to tell the story of your business, who is involved and why? The goal is to compel the reader to continue reading the rest of the business plan, so that they are excited about your business. The following are the key points which should be included within your executive summary:
This section should explain your business model and the exact goods or services your business provides. This section should include your simple business mission statement, which needs to be as concise as possible. The reader should be left with a clear understanding of your objectives and how your business offers a solution to its customers.
This section of your business plan should provide a detailed description of your target customers and the overall market for your service or product. You need to explain the competitive landscape and describe exactly how your business compares to the competition.
Thorough market research within your market area and potential customer demographics is an essential aspect of a business plan, as it will help you understand your customers, the industry and the competition you will face.
This part should provide you with a clear plan to guide your sales and marketing campaigns. The aim is to devise a plan which you can follow to reach your overall business objectives. The first point to consider is the price of your products or services, which should be a fair reflection of the value your business offers.
To calculate an ideal price, start by working out your costs per unit, then work out the gross and net profit you will be making per item or hour of service provided. It is important to compare your prices to competitors and also establish what your target market are willing to pay. Your profit margin is the number which will drive every part of your business, so it is vital that you understand exactly how much you need to make to reach your profit goals.
The profit margin on a service or product which you sell is calculated as the difference between your wholesale cost and the selling price. This cost figure can be subtracted from the sale price to calculate the gross profit margin. For example, if a product sells for £100.00 with a wholesale price of £60.00, the gross profit margin is £40 per product sold.
The next step is to calculate the gross profit margin, which involves dividing the gross profit by the revenue. Based on the example above, this would be: £40.00 ÷ £100.00 = 0.40. Then 0.4 x 100 would result in a gross profit margin of 40%.
However, in reality your business will have many costs to consider in the route to bringing your products to market, so you will need to also calculate the net profit per product. The net profit is the profit after paying all expenses and operating costs, relating to the product sold. For example, imagine your business has total operating costs and expenses per product cost of £6.00.
The first calculation would be, £100.00 – (£60.00 + £6.00) = £34.00 net profit. The next step is dividing the net profit figure by the total sale price, so based on our example this is: £34.00 ÷ £100.00 = 0.34. Finally, we need to multiply this figure by 100 to calculate the net profit margin percentage: 0.34*100 = 34% net profit margin.
Once you know the price you need to sell your product or services for, you can decide upon the best route to market. For example, will you be operating solely online, through physical premises or even through another business or retail store front.
For many businesses a great way to keep costs low is to operate entirely online, through an online store or website. However, in some situations this isn’t possible, so you may need to open physical premises. For example, if you are planning on opening a café, restaurant or shop, you will need a physical shop front. In some cases, it is possible to reduce costs by offering your services or products through a third-party. For example, you may be able to offer products for sale within a small section of a store, or you may be able to rent a co-working office space.
You also need to consider which marketing channels will be the best options for your business.
The goal is to generate interest in your business through a mix of cost-effective channels which result in a high return for your business. Some of the most popular marketing channels include:
It is important to include a detailed financial analysis of the business’s projections for the future. The figures should be realistic, as this section may be examined closely by potential lenders and investors, if you plan on seeking finance in the future.
Although it may seem difficult accurately predict your financial forecast, there is a simple formula which can help. You will need to know your marketing spend, the cost of customer acquisition and the value of lifetime customers.
Step 1: The cost of acquiring new customers can be calculated by dividing your total marketing spend by the number of new customers. For example, if you decide to spend £200 on a PPC advertising campaign at a cost of £1 per click. This may generate 200 clicks to your website, with 6 of these visitors becoming new customers. Based on the above figures the calculation to find the total cost of acquiring a new customer would be: £200 (total marketing spend) / 6 (number of new customers = £33.30.
Step 2: Next, you need to calculate the value of lifetime customers, which is how much revenue each customer will generate in total whilst they continue to purchase your products or services. For example, imagine a customer pays for a subscription service which costs £10 per month and on average they remain customers for 2 years. The calculation would be: £10 x 24 months = a customer lifetime value of £240.
Step 3: Finally, you need to input your marketing budget into the formula to build your financial projections. Imagine you are planning on spending £1500 on marketing in your first year, based on the figures we have calculated above, we can use the following formula:
First 2 years of income = marketing spend / the cost of customer acquisition * the value of lifetime customers.
When we input our figures from the above example this would be:
£10,810.81 = 1500 / 33.3 * 240
One of the most important calculations is a break-even analysis, which will can be used as the backbone of your financial planning. The break-even point will show the minimum performance your business needs to achieve before it begins to make a profit, whilst also recouping the initial investment. In addition, it will also help you to set the price for your product or service, so that you can make a profit while remaining competitive.
When your business reaches its break even point, it is neither making money nor losing money, however all the initial costs are covered. For example, a break-even analysis could be used to calculate how many items your business needs to sell to cover its warehouse costs.
To calculate your break-even point, you will need to know your fixed costs, the average selling price and the variable costs. The fixed costs are expenses which stay the same, no matter how many of your products you sell. In contrast, the variable costs will fluctuate in line with sales. For example, fixed costs for your business may be insurance, bank account charges and software subscriptions. Whereas, variable costs are likely to be things like materials, labour and energy.
The simple formula is: Fixed Costs / (Average Price – Variable Costs) = Break-Even Point.
Based on this formula, imagine your business has total fixed costs of £1850.00, variable costs of £55 and an average price of £75.00.
The calculation would be: 1850 / (75 – 55) = A break-even point of 92.5 units.
This means, your business would need to sell 92.5 units to break even, with any units sold beyond this resulting in a profit.
This section should explain yours and any employees’ skills, experience and relevant qualifications which are of benefit to the business. You will need to define the organisational structure, so that you and any individual which reads your plan know exactly how each role interlinks. Although your business may be very small initially, with only a single or small number of employees, hopefully you expand quickly, and staffing numbers begin to rise.
By carefully planning your organisation structure from the start, it can help your business to overcome potential headaches especially if you grow quickly. Think about your plans for the future, in terms of when you may hire additional employees and the roles they will fill. A small team has the ability to quickly grow and scale, especially when clear roles are defined.
An organisational chart can be used to quickly illustrate the structure and relationships of those within the business. For example, the relationships between the chief executive office, the department managers and sub-workers. In general, the principal director should be listed at the top of the list, with department heads below, followed by sub-workers. It is then possible to draw lines between each section to quickly illustrate how each department or person links to others within the business.
The summary should provide a quick run through of the key aspects of your business plan. Try to be clear about the overall objectives of the business and how you will be achieving these. It can help to list short bullet points which aim to clarify the opportunity, highlight the strengths of your business, summarise your objectives and remind the reader why your business will be able to succeed. The goal is to transmit your optimism for the business and to leave the reader feeling positive.
For example, the following bullet point layout could be used:
One of the most important factors when starting a business is having enough capital to get the business off the ground. The majority of businesses will require some form of funding; however, you need to know exactly how much capital you need to get started. Start by putting together a list of the essential start up costs, which will provide the basis of your starting budget.
Think about how much the following will cost:
If you do not have the funds you need to get started, initially you should look for ways to reduce your expenses by eliminating any unnecessary costs and searching for the most competitive deals. For example, premises are likely to be expensive, so is it possible to work from home as your business establishes itself?
In an ideal situation, an individual starting a business will have access to savings or may be fortunate enough to secure financial support from family or friends. However, this is not always the case and many budding entrepreneurs seek funding and investment for alternative sources. If you have an excellent business idea and have spotted a great opportunity, there is financial support available to those who are looking to start a business.
Your business may qualify for free funding in the form of a business grant, designed to support the growth of new businesses. The best place to search for a grant is via your local council, which will be able to advise you about local and national grants. There is a useful government website which can help you find the website of your local council. Simply enter your postcode and you will be provided with your local council’s website address and a list of the services which the council is responsible for. It can be time-consuming to complete grant applications and demand can be very high, however if you are successful your business will receive a free cash injection.
Angel investors or venture capitalists are often willing to invest in new businesses in exchange for a share in your business. The majority of investors will want to see that your business is beginning to grow successfully before investing, however some are willing to offer seed investment to start-ups.
Unlike venture capitalists, angel investors are willing to invest their own money in businesses, which means funding is often relatively quick. These types of investors tend to be wealthy individuals or serial entrepreneurs, which look for great start-ups with an excellent chance of a high potential return. Typically, angel investors will invest in industries which they understand, which means your business could also benefit from the investors own experience.
If you are successful in securing funding from an angel investor, it is likely the cash will be given in a lump sum. This is great if you are looking for a significant investment to get your new business off the ground. In exchange, you will need to keep your investor up to date on the developments of the business and in exchange for their capital you will need to provide equity. The size of the investment can vary hugely, although typical figures will be between £20,000 and £100,000.
There are various websites which list angel investors such as Angel List and Angel Resource Institute. Try to find an investor which understands your business, although factors such as whether they have a successful portfolio of businesses, their planned level of involvement and whether you can work together are also important.
Venture capital funding is typically a cash injection from an investment fund which manages the money of a group of investors, or an individual venture capitalist. These investors could be individuals or other businesses which are looking for shares in businesses with an excellent growth potential. Generally, venture capital funding is usually used by established businesses, however start-ups with high potential may be eligible.
If your business is looking to raise significant investment, venture capitalists could provide an ideal option, as investment typically starts at £500,000 and above. This does not usually need to be repaid, instead you will need to provide a stake in your business. Businesses which are operating in a quickly growing sector with a very innovative product or service, may qualify for funding. Your business idea should grab the attention of the investors, whilst also being realistic.
There are a variety of networks which you can register with to find potential venture capitalists, such as The Angel Investment Network.
Crowdfunding is designed to help businesses raise money through a large network of investors, which each contribute a small amount of money towards a funding goal. There are several crowdfunding platforms which have helped many large companies establish themselves, such as the brewery Brewdog, smartwatch manufacturer Pebble and online bank Revolut.
There are five potential types of crowdfunding, so it may be possible to choose an option which suits your start-up, these include:
The ideal crowdfunding option for your business will depend on the type of product or service you offer and your industry. For example, if you offer a particularly innovative product, a reward based crowdfunding campaign is a great way of testing your product within your target market. Alternatively, if you have a large potential market an equity based crowdfunding campaign may provide the funds you need to scale quickly.
If your business needs cash to get off the ground, a business loan is likely to be one of the first options you consider. There are a variety of lenders which are willing to lend to start-ups and newly established businesses, with traditional banks and building societies often the first port of call. Not all businesses are eligible for a traditional business loan, although there are alternative lenders available which may consider your application.
The majority of businesses need a cash injection at some point, whether it is to help them get off the ground or to improve cash flow. There are many different loan types available, with options available to suit almost every specific business requirement. Your individual circumstances will determine which is the ideal option for your business, with the following being common business loan types:
Secured business loans – If your business owns assets, a secured business loan could provide an ideal lending solution. The amount your business can borrow will depend on the value of the assets, which can be beneficial if you are looking for flexible terms and competitive interest rates.
If your business is looking for a short-term form of finance, a business credit card can be a useful option. In many ways start-ups are no different to established businesses, as almost every business of every size needs access to flexible forms of credit. As a start-up, a business credit card can help improve your cash flow in the early days, so that you have the freedom to concentrate on establishing the business.
If you already hold a business bank account, the process of applying for a credit card is likely to be more straightforward. To be eligible your business will need to be registered in the UK, a rule which also applies to sole traders. As a start-up your business may not have an established credit history, so the credit card company is more likely to take a closer look at the directors’ credit history.
The exact eligibility criteria will vary between lenders, with some credit cards only available to businesses with a certain structure. As a start-up you may be offered a lower credit limit and charged a higher interest rate than a more established business, however it is possible to compare options to find the most competitive option.
If you think your business may need the flexibility of an overdraft, you should consider looking for an initial business bank account which offers this feature. In a similar way to credit cards, a business overdraft can provide a flexible credit facility via your business bank account. If your business is seasonal or struggles with cashflow issues due to longer payment terms, an overdraft can be a useful way to temporarily improve cashflow.
An arranged overdraft simply enables your business to access funds once the actual account balance drops below zero. An overdraft can provide a useful safety net to both new and established businesses, especially if an unforeseen expense arises, an invoice is overdue, or you have supply chain issues.
In exchange for borrowing a set maximum amount of money, your business will need to pay interest charges each month based on the amount you borrow. An overdraft works in a similar way to a business loan as the amount borrowed needs to be repaid, however once your account balance rises back above zero, you will not be charged interest. Although, it is likely that your bank will charge a fee for providing the overdraft facility.
Overdrafts can vary significantly depending on your business’s requirements, with overdrafts for start-ups often starting at a few hundred pounds. However, for very large established businesses an overdraft limit could be millions of pounds. The actual overdraft available to your business will depend on factors such as your credit history and your businesses turnover.
As a start-up, your business may not have an established turnover yet, so you may be able to apply for a secured overdraft instead. If your business owns an asset, such as commercial property, this could be used as collateral for a secured overdraft. If this is not possible, the bank may offer a business overdraft based on your own personal credit history. If you are willing to provide a personal guarantee or know someone who is willing to act as a guarantor, this will also increase your chances of being approved for an overdraft as a start-up.
If your business bank account falls into a negative balance without pre-arranging an overdraft, the bank is likely to charge a penalty fee and a higher rate of interest. To avoid these charges, you should keep a close eye on your bank account and if you think you may need access to a pre-arranged overdraft, contact the bank as soon as possible.
There are a variety of possible business types, although most business owners choose to register as a sole trader, partnership, limited company or limited liability partnership. There is no single option which is the best business type overall, instead your choice will depend on your business model and overall objectives.
Operating as a sole trader is the simplest way to start a business, as it will enable you to run your business as an individual. As a sole trader you will run your own business as a self-employed individual, and you will be able to keep all profits which the business makes after tax.
As a sole trader you will be the exclusive owner of your business and there is no need to register the business, you simply need to register for self-assessment with HMRC and pay tax on your profits. It is possible to run a business as a sole trader and still employ people, although you will need to pay income tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) on their behalf to HMRC.
It is important to remember that you will be personally liable for any debts the business accrues. As a sole trader, essentially you are the business, so legally you are not considered a separate legal entity. This means that if the business accrues debts, you will be personally liable for paying these. To ensure you stay on top of finances it is important that you keep detailed financial records, with proof of expenses, stock, income, and outgoings.
Starting out as a sole trader is the most popular option and it is always possible to register as a limited company in the future. The size of your business can change quickly, so it is not uncommon for many sole traders to later become limited companies.
If there are two or more people that will be running a business, forming a partnership is a simpler option than forming a limited liability partnership. In many ways it is similar to operating as a sole trader, as the partners are still personally liable for the business debt, which is shared equally. Many individuals choose to operate as a partnership as it is quick to get started, it is simply a way of linking two or more people, without a legal status.
This means the partners share responsibility for any losses the business makes and the businesses overheads, such as stock and equipment. In exchange, the partners share any profits and each partner will . The partners will need to create an agreement which states each partners responsibility and how any profits are shared. In most situations each partner is a self-employed individual, so in a similar way to sole traders, they will each need to register for self-assessment tax with HMRC.
One of the partners must act as the nominated partner, which means they are responsible for registering the partnership with HMRC. The process of registering the partnership will automatically register the nominated partner for self-assessment tax. There is no need to notify Companies House, or to manage the various accounting and administrative requirements associated with limited companies.
It is worth bearing in mind that if one of the partners decides to withdraw from the partnership, the partnership must be dissolved instantly. To reduce the chance of disagreements, it is advisable to draw up a partnership agreement to explain exactly how the business will run, each partners responsibilities and what happens if the partnership changes.
If you choose to form a limited company (Ltd), the businesses finances will remain separate from your own personal finances. In the UK there are two types of limited companies, private limited companies and public limited companies. A private limited company (Ltd) is one of the most common structures, with shares owned by those operating the business.
In contrast, a public limited company (PLC) must have a value of at least £50,000 and the shares are sold to the public. As a startup, it is unlikely that the value of the business will exceed £50,000. However, if your business is starting with assets valued at more than £50,000 and you are looking to raise significant funds on the stock exchange, it may be worth considering starting off as a public limited company.
The term ‘limited liability’ is simply used to describe how liabilities of the business are not the legal liability of the company directors. The business exists as a separate legal entity, so just like an individual, the company can own property and accrue debts. The vast majority of limited liability companies are either ‘limited by guarantee’ or ‘limited by shares’.
Companies which are limited by shares will have shareholders which hold stakes in the company. These shareholders purchase stakes in the company, in exchange for a percentage ownership in the form of shares, starting at just £1. The shareholders liability to the company is limited to the amount they originally paid for their shares in the company.
In contrast, if a business is limited by guarantee, it is likely to be a not for profit company where any profits are invested back into the business, such as membership organisations, clubs, social enterprises and charities. There are no shares, which means there are no individual shareholders. Instead the members of the company are limited by a guarantee, which requires them to pay a maximum sum towards any debts the business may accrue, this is usually set at £1.
A limited company must have at least one appointed director who is over the age of 16. The director does not need to live in the UK, however they must have use of a UK registered office address. This is the official address of the registered company and will be used on all public records. The registered office address does not have to be used by the business for trading, however all statutory correspondence is delivered to the UK address which is listed on the Companies House register. If your business is sent official correspondence, tax communications and formal notices, these will all be sent to your UK registered office.
In addition, some private limited companies choose to appoint a company secretary to aid the director, although it is not a legal requirement. If you prefer, the director can also act as a company secretary, although many companies choose to employ a company secretary to reduce the administrative burden. A company secretary usually assumes responsibility for various important administration duties, such as ensuring compliance with financial and legal regulations, managing shareholder communications and providing strategic advice to the board of directors.
A company which is limited by shares must have at least one shareholder, who can be the registered director. If you are the only shareholder this means you own 100% of the company, although there is no maximum number of potential shareholders. As a director you are bound by a statutory code of practice and you have certain legal responsibilities relating to filing forms and returns to both HMRC and Companies House.
Companies House will provide an accounting reference date, which you will be given when your company is first incorporated. Whereas, HMRC will require your corporation tax payment and company tax return for specific account periods, which usually end on your accounting reference date. The filing dates and types of filing duties can vary between companies, so many companies hire an accountant to ensure all deadlines are met.
If a director does not meet their responsibilities, it is possible that they could be prosecuted, fined or even disqualified from acting as a director for another company.
A limited liability partnership must have at least two members, although there is no limit on the number of members. This type of business structure is popular with professionals who operate as a group, such as doctors, solicitors and architects.
Limited liability partnerships (LLPs) are similar in structure to standard partnerships, however like limited companies, LLPs are separate legal entities from the individual partners. This means any business debts are limited to the original amount invested by the various partners, so the individual partners are not personally liable for any large business debts.
LLPS are taxed as partnerships, which means they are not liable for the corporation tax which limited companies have to pay. Instead, each member must register as self-employed and is personally responsible for paying Income Tax and National Insurance contributions on their own individual profit. The exact amount of profit which each member is entitled to may vary, with the share of profits, the rights and the responsibilities of each partner laid out within a partnership agreement.
LLPs need to appoint a designated member who is responsible for ensuring all members meet the statutory requirements and obligations of the company. For example, the designated member must ensure that the annual accounts and the confirmation statement is filed on time, whilst also notifying Companies House of any changes to the structure of the LLP.
This is one of the most exciting parts of setting up your business! You may already have a name in mind. If you don’t, it can be one of the hardest decisions to make! Your business name is generally very important as it is one of the first things potential customers will notice. Ultimately you are looking for a name which isn’t already is use, has not been trademarked and is available to use as a potential website domain.
If you choose to operate as a sole trader or a partnership, you can trade under your own individual name or names, or you can opt to choose a business name. There is no legal requirement to register the business name, instead the names of all business owners must be included alongside the trading name on all official business paperwork, such as invoices, business letters, written orders, business emails, receipts, written demands and order confirmations.
Although the business name does not need to be registered, there are some rules which you will need to follow. For example:
If you do not want another business to use your business name, the only way to prevent this is to register the name as a trademark. To check whether a potential business name is already trademarked, you will need to visit the Intellectual Property Offices website.
If you are starting a limited company, you will need to choose and register a business name. The name cannot be the same or similar to another registered company’s name or registered trademark. A quick way to check whether another business is already using a company name. or even a similar name is to check the Companies House register.
There are very strict rules when it comes to ‘same as’ names, which includes those where there is only a slight difference to an existing company name, such as:
For example, a company known as Shoes UK Ltd would be considered the same as Shoe’s Ltd and Shoes Ltd. If an existing company has no objection to your company’s ‘same as’ name, you can register the name with written permission from the existing company. When you apply to register your business name you will need to include this letter, which should confirm that the directors of the existing company consent to the registration of the proposed name.
If a company objects to your registered name, on the basis that your company name is too similar to theirs, Companies House may ask you to change the business name. For example, an existing company with a registered name of Easy TIling For You Ltd, could be considered too similar to a newly registered company named EZ Tiling 4U Ltd.
The actual registered company name does not have to be the same as the business name you trade with. For example, if your companies registered name is Business Name Group Ltd, you could choose various names for the different brands within your business. In some situations, it can be useful to have a generic company name, especially if you plan to launch various products or services which do not fall under the same area. Once you have found the ideal business name, you are ready to register your company with Companies House.
Registering as a sole trader is one of the simplest ways to register a new business, as there are only a handful of forms to complete. You will need your National Insurance number, business name and home address. Instead of registering the business itself, you simply need to register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), so they know you will be paying tax through self-assessment each tax year.
Self-assessment is the method used by self-employed people to pay tax on their personal income each year. Those who earn more than £1,000 in a tax year need to set up themselves up for self-assessment. Whether you are a sole trader, freelancer or contractor, the process to register for self-assessment is relatively straightforward. You should register with HMRC as soon as possible and at the very latest before 5 October after the end of the tax year in which you became self-employed.
You will also need to pay income tax on any profits, which will be calculated based on your income and expenses each year. These figures are filed annually during your self-assessment tax return. In addition to income tax, you will need to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions which are charged at a flat rate per week throughout the tax year. The charge for the tax year running between April 2020 and April 2021 is £3.05 per week.
If your annual profits exceed £9,500 in the tax year, you will also need to pay Class 4 National Insurance Contributions. This is calculated annually a rate of 9% on any profits up to £50,000 and 2% on any profits above £50,000. This needs to be paid at the same time as your income tax, with the figures calculated based on your self-assessment tax return. There is a useful guide which will help you budget and plan for this.
Alternatively, if you earn less than £1,000 in a tax year you may still choose to register as a sole trader, despite it not being a legal requirement. For example, if you want to make voluntary Class 3 National Insurance payments or need proof of your self-employment, to access and qualify for certain benefits. Voluntary National Insurance contributions can be paid to fill gaps within your National Insurance record, which could contribute towards your entitlement to state benefits such as a pension. However, these contributions are based on a rate of £15 per week, which is more expensive than Class 2 contributions.
You will need to register your partnership with HM Revenue and Customs, which will include choosing a business name and a nominated partner. The nominated partner becomes responsible for various accounting requirements, including keeping business records and managing the businesses tax returns. However, each partner will need to and they must complete their own individual tax returns.
The deadline for submitting your individual tax return online is 31 January, although if you choose to submit your return by post the deadline is an earlier date of 31 October. The quickest and easiest way to file your tax return is online through the gov.uk website. So, for the 2019-20 tax tear which ended in April 2020, the deadline for submitting an online tax return is 31 January 2021.
The partnership must be registered with HMRC by 5th October in the businesses second tax year, otherwise HMRC could charge a penalty. For example, a partnership which started during the 2020 to 2021 tax year, must be registered before 5 October 2021. These rules do not apply to limited partnerships or limited liability partnerships.
The service to register your limited company with Companies House is available through gov.uk. You will need at least 3 pieces of personal information relating to yourself and any individuals which will own shares in the company, from the following list:
To register your company, you will also need your SIC code, which is used to provide Companies House with an overview of your business’ activities. Every industry in the UK is allocated a Standard Industrial Classification code, more commonly known as a SIC code. The code list is divided into several categories and sub-categories, which help to group businesses together for simple classification by Companies House and HMRC.
A condensed version of the is produced by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). It is important to ensure the correct SIC code is used when registering with Companies House, otherwise your filing may be rejected and your business will not be registered. If your initial business registration is rejected, you will need to register again with the correct SIC code.
During the registration process you will need to complete a statement of capital, which details the number of shares, their value and the names and addresses of all shareholders. All limited companies which are limited by shares are required to complete a statement of capital using the form IN01, which is submitted online during the company registration process.
In most situations, each director will have one vote on company decisions for each share they own. This is because most companies which are limited by shares are set up with ordinary share values, so for every £1 share owned, the director is entitled to 1 vote. The statement of capital clarifies the number of shares owned by each director and their associated voting rights.
In addition to the statement of capital, you will need to file a memorandum of association. The memorandum of association is a form which records the intention of each shareholder to form a new limited company. It is simply a legal statement which is signed by all guarantors or shareholders, stating that everyone is agreeing to form a company and how many shares they are purchasing upon incorporation.
The simplest way to create a memorandum of association is to complete your company registration online, as it is created automatically during the registration process. This is a legal document with a set format, so shareholders names cannot be removed or changed after incorporation. If a shareholder leaves or another shareholder joins the company, the original memorandum of association will still remain the same.
The final document you will need to submit is the articles of association, which detail the rules relating to how the various shareholders, directors, guarantors, and the company secretary must operate. There are standard model articles available via the HMRC website, although it is also possible to write your own and upload them to the HMRC website during the registration process.
The cost to register a limited company is £12.00, as of 1 August 2020. Once the company is registered and legally exists, you will be issued a certificate of incorporation, which shows the date of formation and your company number. The company number is an 8-digit unique number, which is assigned to each company upon incorporation by Companies House.
Before you can begin trading, you may decideto open a separate business bank account, which can make it simpler to send and receive secure business payments. If you plan on operating your business as a sole trader or partnership, there is no legal requirement to use a separate business account, however it is usually recommended.
If you are trading as a limited company or limited liability partnership, legally you will need a separate business account. This is because the business is considered a separate legal entity from the individual directors, so all finances must be kept separate. Any funds held within the bank account of a limited company are not personal funds, so there is a legal requirement to ensure they are separated.
There are several banks which specialise in providing accounts for new businesses, although the best bank account for you will depend on your specific circumstances. In a similar way to personal bank accounts, each bank is different and there are various benefits and features available. For example, if you are looking for a traditional bank account, consider which banks have branches in your local area.
Alternatively, you may not need access to a branch and an online alternative bank account could be more suitable. In addition, you may want to consider whether the bank charges a flat monthly fee or fees for certain transaction types. Many banks will offer free business banking for a certain period, although there may still be charges for certain transactions.
Look at the products and support they provide to new businesses and whether they have a strong track-record of working with start-ups. For example, does the bank provide access to useful software, business advice or insurance products? Reviews from other businesses can provide a lot of useful insight when it comes to choosing which bank may provide the best service.
Although it can be tempting to open a business account with the same bank you use for personal banking, it is worth comparing your options. Choosing the right business bank account could save you time, money and make it much easier to access finance in the future.
Business insurance is an essential lifeline for many businesses, providing much needed legal and financial support in unexpected situations. Whether you have employees which need protecting, products which need cover or insurance to protect your business in the event of a disasters. There are many policy types available, so it’s easy to get confused and not understand what you need.
Public liability insurance is available to protect your business against any losses suffered by those who injure themselves or sustain damage to their property, as a result of your businesses activities. If your business operates from physical premises or is in regular contact with the public, it is advisable to hold public liability insurance.
This type of insurance is designed to protect your business from claims made by employees which suffer a job-related injury or illness. These claims can be very costly; however, employer’s liability insurance can provide the cover required to protect against any financial losses.
If you are a professional which offers advice or services to customers, you may need professional indemnity insurance. This type of insurance is designed to protect your business against claims for damages or losses caused as a result of your professional service.
If your business sells physical products which could cause damage to property or even personal injury, you may need product liability insurance. For example, if you sold a beauty product to a customer which resulted in an unexpected reaction due to poor labelling or ingredients, your business could be held responsible.
When you purchase insurance, it is important to compare providers, to ensure your business benefits from the most comprehensive cover at the best possible price. You need to read and ensure you fully understand the small print, as there can be certain conditions or clauses which may have an impact on potential claims.
As a director of a limited company, you are responsible for maintaining company records and you will need to report any changes that the company makes to HMRC. In addition, you must file the company accounts, tax return and pay the Corporation Tax. Most companies choose to register for Corporation Tax and PAYE when the company is registered with Companies House, as you must register within 3 months of starting to trade.
To register for Corporation Tax you will need your company’s Unique Taxpayer Reference, which is a 10-digit code posted to your company address within 14 days of the company being registered. You will also need your company’s Government Gateway user ID to log in to the service, this is different to your personal Government Gateway ID. To create a Government Gateway user ID for your company, simply visit the HMRC website and complete the online form. Once registered, HMRC will issue you with your deadline date to pay Corporation Tax.
The majority of businesses are legally required to keep up to date records of their expenditure, income and other financial transactions. All limited companies and limited liability partnerships are required to submit their financial records annually, with the Corporation Tax calculation based on these submissions.
If you are looking to draw a wage, expenses or other benefits, the company must be registered as an employer. This means the company will need to pay National Insurance contributions and Income Tax on your behalf to HMRC, alongside the employers National Insurance contributions. It is also possible to pay any shareholders within the business a dividend or the company can provide loans to directors, however records will need to be kept for tax purposes.
Once the accounts are finalised, all limited companies and limited liability partnerships are required to submit an annual confirmation statement to Companies House. The statement is simply used by Companies House to confirm whether the information held is accurate, if not the details need to be updated. The quickest way to do this is online which costs £13, although an offline service is available at a cost of £40.
If you are operating as a sole trader or partnership, you will need to register for self-assessment. In addition, if you are the director of a limited company or limited liability partnership and are in receipt of income outside of PAYE and dividends, you will need to register for self-assessment. HMRC require all self-employed individuals to submit a simple set of accounts relating to their income within each tax year.
To register for self-assessment you will need to complete the online form via the gov.uk website. Once you are registered, HMRC will send you a letter with your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). This is a 10-digit code which can be used set up your self-assessment online account, you will then receive an activation code within 10 working days. When you login to your account for the first time you will need this activation code. It is then possible to submit your tax return each year through your self-assessment online account.
If your business turnover is more than £85,000 over the last 12 months, you will need to register to pay Value Added Tax (VAT). This is a flat rate tax, which is currently charged at 20% on top of the price for any services or goods you sell. However, you can choose to become VAT registered if your turnover is less than this amount.
For example, businesses with a turnover lower than £85,000 may choose to register if they are selling to other businesses which are VAT registered, as they will be able to reclaim the VAT. Most businesses will only voluntarily register for VAT if they expect they will recover more VAT from HMRC, than they are paying to other VAT registered businesses. For example, if a new start-up café spends a large amount initially on furnishings and kitchen equipment, registering before the turnover exceeds £85,000 would enable the business to reclaim the VAT element of these initial costs.
The UK government charges business rates, which is a tax levied on all business premises. The tax is collected annually by local authorities and applies to all types of business premises, including factories, shops, bars, warehouses, restaurants and more.
The business rates are collected locally, and your local council will retain a percentage of the business rates to cover services such as street lighting, street cleaning and provision of public spaces. The remaining rates are sent to the central government to cover the cost of services such as the police and fire service.
Regardless of whether your premises are owned or rented, you will need to register to pay business rates. However, if you are operating from home in the early days of starting your business, it is very unlikely that you will need to pay business rates.
Your local authority will send a business rates bill annually, either in March or April to cover your business rates charge for the following tax year. The rates charged are calculated based on the value of a property, which is estimated by government surveyors. This means that if you run a business in an expensive thriving area, your business rates are likely to be higher than a business operating from a cheaper area.
The exact rate you pay is calculated by multiplying the rateable value of your property by the business rates multiplier, which is a figure set by the government. If you are looking for a guide figure on what potential rates may be, there is a useful online calculator available.
As a small start-up you may be eligible for small business rate relief, if your rateable value is below £15,000. If the value of the property is below £12,000 you will not have to pay business rates, provided your business does not have a second property. This relief is not automatic, so you will need to apply to your local council to have this applied to your bill. There is a useful form available via the gov.uk website which will help you locate the correct council to contact about your business rates bill.
An important part of starting your business is creating a brand, which is how you will present and market your business to the public. The branding of your business is one of the key aspects which will determine how well your business stands out against the competition, so many businesses invest in a professional marketing and branding service.
It is important that your business is correctly positioned in the market, by differentiating your product or service from the competition. Think about your businesses Unique Selling Points (USPs), how can your business offer value or an improved experience over competitors? You can use these to your advantage to help make your business stand out from the crowd.
If you choose to use professional services, a branding expert will be able to help create an identity which correctly positions your business to your target market. For example, colour schemes, fonts, symbols and even slogans are all important aspects of your business’s identity. These branding options will carry through into everything from your logo and promotional material to your website and email footers, so it is important to spend time creating the right brand.
First impressions are generally lasting ones, so it’s important to make them count.
Whether your business is providing professional services or physical products, a modern, well-designed website will be of benefit to almost every business. At the very least a website should provide visitors with your contact details and a description of your products or services. In many situations, your website is the first thing which potential customers will see, and it will essentially act as your shop window.
Creating a website does not need to be an expensive or complicated task and there are many free website building platforms which can help, such as Wordpress, Shopify, Wix and Weebly. You will need to purchase a business domain and hosting, which is a straightforward process. An example of a service is 123reg, which will allow you to check and purchase available domains and set up a business domain address.
However, if you are looking for professional advice there are many agencies and freelancers which provide a great website design and build service. A great way to find an experienced website designer is to ask friends and family if they are able to recommend an agency or freelancer. Alternatively, a quick Google search will provide a list of local agencies with reviews for their services. In general, an agency is likely to charge more than an individual freelancer, although the exact cost will depend on the size of your website and individual requirements. A very basic portfolio website may cost in the region of £1,000, however a more complex online store could cost upwards of £10,000.
For many individuals looking to start a business, working from home may not be an option. However, if you need more space to run your business, there are several options available. Before you start your hunt for a suitable premises, there are several factors you need to consider:
The majority of start-ups will lease or rent their premises, as there is less investment required initially. However, you will still need to pay a deposit and there will be costs associated with getting the space ready for opening.
A great option for start-ups is shared business spaces, which generally tend to be flexible office spaces. It is often possible to rent a single desk or even a small private office with room for several desks. These spaces are usually much cheaper than private individual offices and you will benefit from working alongside other new business start-ups. Depending on your requirements it may be possible to rent a desk on a weekly basis or sign a longer contract.
However, if this is not possible for your business try to look for affordable premises in the ideal location for your business. For example, if you are starting a retail business it may be important for you to be situated in a town centre location with a very high footfall. However, if your business is not reliant on passing trade, a cheaper alternative may be premises on the outskirts of town. Alternatively, if your business needs a large warehouse and will receive regular deliveries, an out of town industrial location with excellent transport links will be a practical option.
There are a variety of ways to search for business premises, although online searches tend to be the quickest method. A commercial property agent can you help find the ideal property and will also take care of arranging the lease, which can ensure the process is smooth and straightforward. However, many commercial premises are advertised in the local media, so it is always worth checking local newspapers.
If you already have an ideal location in mind talk to other businesses in the area, as they may know of a property which is coming available. Alternatively, register your details with the local commercial property agents and ask them to contact you as soon as they have a suitable property.
When you begin comparing premises look closely at what the price includes, for example, are business rates or any utility bills included? These costs will all impact your bottom line, so it is important you are aware of all potential outgoings before you commit to your first premises.
Almost every business needs a fast and reliable business broadband connection. In general, your connection will need to provide a minimum download speed of 20mbs and a minimum upload speed of 6mbs, although many businesses will require a much faster connection. In addition to your connection speeds, you should consider factors such as price, contract length, customer reviews and the customer service offered.
As a small startup or home-based business, you may only require a standard home broadband service. However, if your business relies heavily on a fast and stable connection, there are many benefits to business broadband services. For example:
As business broadband provides a range of additional services, it is slightly more expensive than standard home broadband. However, if your business is unable to operate for several days due to a fault on the line, which would have been fixed very quickly with a business line, it may be a false economy. There are several providers of business broadband which provide a variety of line options, so it is possible to compare packages to find the best deal.
In addition to broadband, a separate landline phone number for your business is an essential if you are looking to create a professional business image. If you are working from home or within a shared office space, it is possible in many areas of the UK to purchase a landline number and divert the calls to your mobile phone.
As the owner of a small startup you may be solely responsible for your business operations in the early days. However, as the business grows you may find that you need to begin hiring a team, seeking freelance staff, or professional services on a part time basis.
For example, hiring the services of a professional accountant could actually save your business much more money than they cost to hire. An accountant will be able to ensure you are paying the right amount of tax, file your various financial accounts to HMRC before major deadlines and provide expect financial advice.
In the process of starting your business you may find that you need to hire another person or even a team of people, so a strong recruitment process is needed to attract a great pool of applicants. Ideally, your business should offer a competitive remuneration package, career progression and a diverse and interesting workplace.
In the early stages your business may not be able to compete for the best applicants based on salary alone, so you need to show that your business offers great progression and high levels of responsibility. Start by writing a detailed job description explaining the role, the responsibilities and the benefits of working for your startup.
If you are looking to keep recruitment costs low by managing the whole process in-house, there are several recruitment websites which could connect you with a suitable pool of applicants, such as Indeed and Monster. Another great way to advertise your positions is through social media, especially if your business has already built a following. LinkedIn is the obvious professional platform, however social media sites such as Facebook also allow businesses to list jobs.
It is also possible to outsource recruitment to a professional agency, which can be a great solution if you are short of time. Recruitment agencies can provide a full hire service, which involves them finding, interviewing, and placing candidates in the role. However, this can be a costly service with many agencies charging roughly 25% of the annual salary of the position. Alternatively, you can share the recruitment process which will reduce costs. For example, the agency can source applicants, however you can complete the interviewing and hiring process.
Once you have a strong pool of potential candidates you need to assess each applicant based on how well they fit the criteria for the role. Ideally, you should interview at least 3 potential candidates and check their previous references.
Here at BusinessComparison, we specialise in helping businesses find the best deals for their individual circumstances. We understand that during the startup phase of a business finances can be tight, so we help businesses find the most competitive solutions for a range of financial products and services.
For example, if you are looking to raise capital, we can help you find and compare everything from loans and credit cards to overdrafts and invoice finance. Alternatively, if you are trying to reduce your costs, we can help you compare utilities, business insurance, bank accounts and more. As a broker, our services are completely free of charge to you and there is no-obligation to proceed with any of the deals or products we help you to compare.
Our aim is simple, to provide a great comparison service, so you are free to focus on your business. To find out more, please contact our team today.