Author: Mark Edwards, General Manager at www.rocketlawyer.co.uk, an online legal service providing businesses with easy-to-use, professional legal documents and affordable help from specialist lawyers.
In 2013, over half a million new businesses were created (a record-breaking 526,446 as reported by Companies House) with almost a quarter of a million this year alone. What this demonstrates is that there has never been a better time when it comes to starting a business and it’s no surprise considering the multitude of services available at your fingertips to help get you started, many of which are new businesses themselves!
From the rise of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Crowdcube and Seedrs to help you secure the investment, and easy-to-build websites such as Wix, Squarespace and Weebly to help promote your business, to online legal services you can understand and afford, like ours at Rocket Lawyer; starting a business needn't be time-consuming or complicated. You can even make use of your lunch hour to sort out the basics and here, we’ll show you how.
- Brand it and claim it:
If you’ve been sitting on a brilliant business idea for some time, it’s likely that you’ve got a name in mind too but don’t be hasty. It’s worth thinking about future expansion plans and whether you might diversify for example, if so, will the name still be relevant? And this may seem obvious but do bear in mind that it mustn’t cause any offence and shouldn’t be misleading, or give rise to any obvious confusion.
If you want to check whether your name is available, just run a search through Companies House. It takes just a few seconds to find out whether it has already been registered and could protect you from future potential name infringement issues.
Once settled, it’s time to secure a domain for your website. For some, the availability of domain endings such as a .com, .co.uk and now even .london will be the deciding factor for the final name, so if this is important for your business, do check it first.
The nature of your business will determine which social media networks will be most relevant for you – you don’t need to be present on them all! Facebook and Twitter are the most popular and free networking tools that will help you market your business and reach out to customers. Do bear in mind that there are character limitations so you may have to be creative with longer brand names. It’s also wise to act quickly to secure your social media account names as this will prevent social media cyber-squatting.
- Decide on your business structure and register with HMRC:
Whether you operate as a sole trader, are within a partnership, a private limited company or a limited liability partnership, your choice of business structure is a commitment that will affect the amount of tax you and/or your business will pay and determine whether you are eligible for certain tax reliefs and grants. Thinking about all the options from the get-go to decide which is best for you will most certainly save you time and money in the long run as your company grows.
- Start on solid legal ground:
Every business will need legal documents at some point, whether it be employment contracts or partnership and shareholder agreements as your business grows, or health and safety policies and confidentiality agreements to protect your staff and business ideas. Making sure you have solid legal footing from the start means that you’ll be far less likely to fall into common legal issues in the future.
For example, when hiring staff you must issue written terms and conditions of employment within two months or you could face a fine. If you don’t know where to start, or if time and money poses an issue, try an online legal site like Rocket Lawyer which addresses both issues. Documents usually take less than 20 minutes to create and membership costs £25 per month compared to the potential hundreds or thousands you might be expected to pay to outsource the task.
You can even use legal documents to save a bit of money. If you work from home, creating a home office space contract for yourself means that you can claim back some of the overheads in running the business for tax purposes.
- Protect your ideas:
Seeking guidance from friends, family and work colleagues when starting a business is one of the best ways to road-test your business idea for free advice and honest feedback. But bear in mind that if you disclose specifics or sensitive information too freely, you won’t be able to control how that information is then used and who it reaches, so you may be putting yourself at risk of intellectual property theft. The easiest way to protect your business is to draw up a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement, which can take just 10 minutes.
- Make it a professional outfit:
Open up a business bank account – this will help to keep your personal and business finances separate for tax purposes and will make those yearly calculations and filings easier to manage. Now just add the finishing touch with a set of business cards to make a lasting first impression on those you meet. If you want to make it really special, MOO is great for those with a creative streak. And don’t forget to detail social media contacts on your cards – these could actually prove to be the most valuable and immediate when making that re-connection.
There you are! Don’t be afraid when starting a business to take a risk and action those ideas you’ve been sitting on. Some of the best are born out of your everyday needs or surroundings, whether it be a gap in the market you’ve spotted at work or a problem that seemingly couldn’t be solved when peaking to a friend. Look for inspiration in those spare moments on your way to and from work, or even better, during that precious lunch hour which often goes by in an unmemorable flash.
18-25? Got a business idea? Get the support you need: www.incubusldn.com