How to start a business: What you need to know

Startups answers the key questions you should ask before starting your own business

What business should I start?
What should I do before I start a business?
How do I raise finance for my business?
How do I set up my business?
What regulations and practical issues should I be aware of before starting?
How do I source suppliers and wholesalers?
How do I recruit a team?
How do I being to sell my products?

Ok, you’ve decided to take the plunge and start your own business – but you have no idea where to begin. From what business to start to how to raise the money for it, the sheer array of options can be daunting.

Luckily, Startups has a range of resources available to take that nascent entrepreneurial desire through the stages it needs to become a viable business.

We’ve addressed all the essential questions you should pose when you’re thinking about how to start your own business. Click the links below to read further on a topic.

What business should I start?

If you’re keen to be your own boss but are asking ‘what business should I start?’ there’s a multitude of options available, including those that support the lifestyle you want to lead or make extra cash to supplement your household income.

Part-time businesses: If you want to run a business while keeping up with other commitments, why not start a part-time business?

Franchising: Consider starting a franchise to run your own business with the training and support of a big-name brand behind you.

Buying a business: Buying an existing business is another popular option that can carry less risk than starting afresh.

Start-ups you can run from home: Modern technology means an office environment is no longer necessary – many businesses can be run entirely from home.

Budget businesses: Budget-conscious entrepreneurs needn’t limit their options; you can start many businesses for under £10,000.

Tech start-ups: The UK’s tech industry is enjoying an unprecedented vogue; there has never been a better time to start a tech start-up.

Popular industries: Other popular sectors to start a business include green businesses, service and retail ventures, and online businesses – check our business ideas section for many more.

What should I do before I start a business?

Choose a business structure: Are you going to be a sole trader, in a partnership, or even start as a PLC? You will need to decide what business structure you adopt early on.

Market research: Thoroughly research your market to assess the viability of your business idea.

Write a killer business plan: Writing a business plan is essential. Read up on the 12 common elements strong business plans share – make sure you have a clear roadmap before starting out.  This is especially important as you may show this business plan to potential investors.

Think about your branding: Believe it or not, a business’ name, logo and business cards can be the difference between failure and success.

Set up a website: Learn how to register a domain name and build a well-designed website for your business.

Get your head around your start-up’s finances: Learn how to deal with bookkeeping and cashflow issues for the first time – you may well need to take on an accountant.

How do I raise finance for my business?

Investigate potential grants: Small business grants are extremely useful, but can be difficult to come by.

Apply for a bank loan: Although bank lending to small business is falling, most businesses end up approaching the bank at some point. Read our step-by-step guide to maximise your chances of approval.

Get funding from the government: The government operates various initiatives to help start-ups get off the ground. As a starting point, see whether the government’s new business bank can help you, as well as initiatives such as the Start-Up Loans scheme.

Ask for help from your friends and family: It’s not hard to see why many entrepreneurs start with personal finance or the assistance of friends and family, but try not to put your house, or anyone else’s, on the line.

Consider invoice financing: If you’re finding bank loans difficult to come by, look into invoice finance as an alternative funding option.

Seek investment: Angel investors can not only provide funding but valuable mentoring, support and advice to early-stage businesses; be wary of giving away too much equity early on, however.

Raise finance from the crowd: If you have an idea that you think will be popular with the masses, peer-to-peer crowdfunding is enjoying an explosion in popularity.

How do I set up my business?

Understand the basics for setting up: Learn how to set up a company.

Alert HMRC: Contact the HMRC to tell them you’ll be setting up as self-employed.

Set up business banking: Get set up with a business bank account.

Get equipped: Think about what equipment you will need to start your business. Vans are a necessary purchase for many start-ups, especially in the trade sectors, whilst equipment such as PCs, printers and smartphones are more or less essential, so read our guides to ensure you make the right choice.

Consider a virtual office: If you plan to set up a home office, look into whether a virtual office is right for you.

Find premises: If you need external premises, buying property is a huge step; unless you’re absolutely committed, leased premises or serviced offices are normally more suitable.

Location, location, location: If you’re starting a retail business, location is crucial. Make sure you’re in the know and have explored all avenues before committing to a property.

What regulations and practical issues should I be aware of before starting?

Protect your intellectual property: If you have a technology or ideas-based business, or even a simple company logo, make sure you protect your ideas by familiarising yourself with intellectual property law.

Understand tax law: Whether you’re in business on your own account or already have employees, a knowledge of tax law is essential.

Get insurance: Prepare for the unknown by taking out business insurance, and be aware of the different insurance types available.

Comply with regulations: Don’t forget about your obligations under UK health and safety regulations. This is especially important if you plan to take on employees.

How do I source suppliers and wholesalers?

Source the best suppliers: You can source suppliers at trade fairs and exhibitions – but before entering into any agreement, ensure you negotiate protection for your business through a supply contract.

Pick a manufacturer: If you have a product that needs to be made on a large scale, make sure you follow our tips on choosing a manufacturer for your business’ product.

Look into wholesaling: Learn what wholesaling is and whether it can benefit your business.

Consider sourcing from overseas: Don’t forget that overseas suppliers can often be more cost-effective; read our tips on what to consider when sourcing products from abroad.

How do I recruit a team?

Ensure the timing is right: Ask yourself some key questions before deciding whether the time is right to hire an employee – don’t rush into it.

Write a compelling job description: Learn how to write the perfect job description to make sure you attract the best and brightest talent.

Pose the right questions:  Discover the best questions to ask during an interview – and the questions you should never ask.

Investigate employment options: Read up on the different employment options for staff – is your business more suitable for permanent employees, part-timers or freelancers?

Take heed of employment law: Ignore employment law at your peril, or your business could find itself confronted with expensive and potentially ruinous legal proceedings.

Offer training: Set up your new employees with the tools for success through training schemes.

How do I begin to sell my products?

Tell the world what you’ve got: You need to know how you will promote your product and who you will target – learn about the three key selling techniques as a starting point.

Get your product into stores: If you’re targeting retailers, follow our tips on securing deals with retailers and getting your product stocked in stores.

Keep up-to-date on e-commerce: E-commerce and selling online are crucial and you should be aware of the ins and outs of internet sales.

Brush up on selling techniques: Read our guides on how to sell to get in-depth advice on the techniques available.

Tell the world: Learn how to raise awareness of your brand by marketing your business.

Where do I get further advice and support?

Get in-depth information: Startups has a range of in-depth start-up guides for setting up in a whole variety of sectors, which cover costs, customers, potential pitfalls and more.

Be inspired: Read up on our success stories covering some of the UK’s brightest entrepreneurs to see how they overcame some of the early challenges they faced and grew into household names.

Chat with other entrepreneurs: Connect with other business owners and seek support and advice through the Startups Forum.

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  1. If you wish to start a business, then a home based business could be ideal. The biggest advantages are working hours that you can set to suit yourself, the opportunity to leverage time through the efforts of others, and significant tax advantages.

    There are hundreds of possible businesses, but as you realise a business requires some capital to start up, so I would recommend looking for one that requires less than £500 to start, but remember it is your business and it will only be successful if you are prepared to put some amount of continuous effort into it. It will take some time to build and get an income flowing, so I would study all opportunities very closely and see if your choice has any bonus schemes which can act as cash flow as the main income stream grows. The good thing for you is that you would have your other funds to keep you going while the new business gets going.