There are around 4.9 million small business enterprises (SMEs) currently operating in the UK which account for two-thirds of the private sector workforce. As well as being vital in building and developing strong communities, SMEs are also playing a vital role in the UK’s economic recovery. There has never been a better time to start a business and there’s a 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 sort out the basics sitting at your kitchen table, 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 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 have a presence 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.
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 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 you need to reconnect.
Don’t be afraid when starting a business to take a risk and act on 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 speaking to a friend. Look for inspiration in those spare moments in your day. So what are you waiting for? Start building a business from your kitchen table today!
Prior to joining Rocket Lawyer in 2012, Mark led the legal business development team for LexisNexis UK. There, he managed a cross-functional team, and was responsible for the full lifecycle of product innovation—from proposition development and business case, through the launch and early sales traction. During his time at LexisNexis UK he built two new successful product lines. Previously, Mark was a user experience consultant, working in various industries including telecommunications and health.
Mark has a Computing degree, a masters in User Experience, and a PhD in Artificial Intelligence.
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