Starting a business checklist for the UK: First steps to entrepreneurship

Jun 26, 2024

Starting a business is exciting, but knowing where to begin can be daunting. At Hamilton Morris Waugh, we understand the challenges businesses face. Our comprehensive start-up checklist for UK entrepreneurs will guide you through the essential steps to take your business idea from concept to reality. This guide will equip you with the knowledge needed to launch your business on solid foundations.

Write a business plan

The first step in starting a business is creating a detailed business plan. This document will outline your business goals, strategies, market analysis, financial projections, and operational plans. A solid business plan helps you clarify your business idea and is crucial if you need to secure funding from banks or investors. According to the British Business Bank, having a clear business plan can significantly increase your chances of obtaining finance.

Choose the right business structure

Selecting the appropriate business structure is vital as it affects your tax obligations, liability, and business operations. In the UK, the main types of business structures are sole trader, limited company, and partnership.

  • Sole trader: This is the simplest structure. As a sole trader, you and your business are legally the same entity, meaning you are personally responsible for all debts and obligations.
  • Limited company: This structure offers limited liability, meaning your personal assets are protected if the business fails. It also provides tax efficiencies but comes with increased administrative responsibilities.
  • Partnership: This is similar to a sole trader but involves two or more people sharing the responsibilities and profits of the business.

Choosing the right structure will depend on your business goals, the level of risk you’re willing to take, and how you plan to grow your business.

Register your business

Once you’ve chosen your business structure, the next step is to register your business. For sole traders, this means registering with HMRC for self-assessment. If you decide to set up a limited company, you must register with Companies House and HMRC for corporation tax.

Set up a business bank account

A dedicated business bank account is essential for managing your business finances. It helps keep your personal and business expenses separate, simplifying accounting and tax filing. Most UK banks offer business accounts with various features tailored to small business needs. Consider the account fees, online banking options, and customer service when selecting a bank.

Understand your tax obligations

Understanding your tax obligations is crucial to avoid any legal issues and ensure your business remains compliant. Key taxes to be aware of include:

  • Income tax: If you’re a sole trader, you’ll pay income tax on your business profits.
  • Corporation tax: Limited companies must pay corporation tax on their profits.
  • VAT: If your business’s taxable turnover exceeds £90,000 for the last 12 months, you must register for VAT.
  • National Insurance: Both sole traders and, in some instances, limited companies must make National Insurance contributions.

Using accounting software can help you keep track of your tax obligations and ensure you meet all deadlines.

Get business insurance

Protecting your business with the right insurance is essential. Depending on your business activities, you might need several types of insurance:

  • Public liability insurance: Protects against claims of injury or property damage.
  • Professional indemnity insurance: Covers legal costs if a client claims your advice or services caused them financial loss.
  • Employers’ liability insurance: A legal requirement if you have employees, protecting against claims from employees who are injured or become ill because of their work.

Set up effective accounting systems

Accurate record-keeping is crucial for managing your business finances and meeting your tax obligations. Implementing effective accounting systems from the start can save you time and prevent costly errors. Consider using accounting software that automates invoicing, expense tracking, and financial reporting. This streamlines your operations and provides valuable insights into your business performance.

Develop a marketing plan

A well-thought-out marketing plan will help you attract and retain customers. Identify your unique selling point (USP) and understand your target market. Use this information to create a marketing strategy that includes:

  • Digital marketing: Utilise social media, email marketing, and search engine optimisation (SEO) to reach a wider audience.
  • Content marketing: Create valuable content that addresses the needs and interests of your potential customers.
  • Traditional marketing: Traditional methods such as print advertising and networking events might also be effective depending on your audience.

Secure funding

Starting a business often requires an initial investment. There are several funding options available to UK entrepreneurs, including:

  • Personal savings: Many entrepreneurs start by investing their own money.
  • Bank loans: Banks offer various loans tailored to small businesses, often requiring a solid business plan.
  • Government grants: Check for government grants and schemes designed to support new businesses.
  • Angel investors and venture capital: These investors can provide significant funding in exchange for equity in your business.

Plan for growth

Finally, think about your long-term goals and how you plan to achieve them. Consider strategies for scaling your business, such as expanding your product or service range, entering new markets, or increasing your customer base. Regularly review and update your business plan to reflect your growth strategy and changing market conditions.

Ultimately, starting a business is a significant undertaking, but with careful planning and the right support, it can be incredibly rewarding. At Hamilton Morris Waugh, we are committed to helping businesses succeed. Our team of experienced accountants can provide the guidance and support you need to set up your business and ensure it thrives.

If you have any questions or need assistance with any aspect of starting your business, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help you every step of the way.

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