Starting a new business can put many people off just due to the sheer overwhelming amount of things you need to do. But with the right advice and resources, it needn’t be difficult. Here is our checklist to help you get started on your new business.
1. Is this thing really going to work?
Before you do anything, you need to be as sure as you can be, that your new business idea is viable and will actually make money. You need to have enough passion and interest in it to continue working on it; you need to be able to make a profit after all your expenses are taken care of; there must be a market for your product with customers who will actually buy it.
2. Make a business plan
Many people don’t bother with this unless they have to to present it to a bank manager or when registering a limited company, but it’s a great thing to do regardless, because it forces you to clarify your goals, and how you’re going to meet them. It’s also good to keep coming back to this document; because it’s likely to evolve over time, and because it’s good to have something to measure your progress against and keep you focussed. Make sure you include your numbers in here too, so you’re clear about what your operating expenses are and how you project to bring in revenue.
If you’re going to run a business, you’ll need to know what your processes are. It’s a good idea to think about this stuff and plan it out. You’ll need systems for everything to stay organised and prepare yourself for growth. That includes managing inventory, staff, marketing, accounting, IT, transportation, machinery or other business assets and more. Find a good planning tool to help you get everything organised. We recommend Trello which is free.
3. How much is this going to cost?
The costs involved in starting a business can vary depending on the type of business. If you have all the expertise, you may want to try to run everything yourself until you’re growing for example. Some businesses will require machinery, vehicles, IT, retail or office space, inventory, marketing, etc etc. Figure out what you need to invest to get started and have a plan for how that will be recouped. Don’t forget to look into registering your business as a limited company which will keep your personal funds separate from the investment you make – which will limit your liability to just the invested funds should things go belly up. There are government grants available for small businesses, so look into that too. Or you may need a startup loan. It’s great if you can finance your living costs whilst you’re pre-profit, either with a part time job, or support from your spouse or family, or from savings if you have to.
4. Make sure your business is going to be compatible with your life
It’s quite likely that running a new business is going to have a significant effect on your time, and the people around you. Make sure that your partner or family are on board with your goals, so you’re not sacrificing your relationships for the sake of making money. You’ll most definitely want support from the people around you rather than create rifts. No business is worth messing up your most important relationships for.
5. Choosing a name for your business
This can be really tricky! You’ll need to find a name that hasn’t already been registered, or at least something that is unique enough to stand out. It should be relevant to what you do. It shouldn’t be too long. It should be memorable. It should also be encompassing enough to accommodate changes that you might make to your product or service along the way. Check with companies house for already-registered names, or use a tool like Shopify’s Business Name Generator to help with ideas. As a consideration alongside this, you’ll also need to search for domain names that are free. Don’t be one of those people with a subdomain from a cheap DIY website builder, get a proper domain and make sure you register it in your name. It’s also a good idea to ensure the extension isn’t too obscure – by this we mean the .com or .co.uk part. There are a lot of new extensions that will work fine, but people are more used to the established ones and it avoids confusion.
6. Get a business bank account
It’s entirely possible to use a personal account, but it’s really adding to your headaches if you do. A business bank account won’t cost much and the amount of time it saves you when it comes to doing your accounting will definitely be worth the expense! It’s also good to find a suitable accounting package if you plan on doing your own accounts. We recommend the free and excellent Wave Accounts web application software.
7. Decide on a legal structure
In the UK, you can choose from setting up as a sole trader, limited company or partnership. Sole trader and partnerships are the easiest to set up, but it can be worth setting up as a private limited company to ensure that if things go wrong, you won’t be personally liable for any debts the business incurs. There are plenty of services that can help set up your business for you, just do a quick Google search.
8. Get a website
Well we would say this, that’s true! But getting a website is now an essential part of business success. The world lives online and people often use websites to research a product before making a purchase. And of course, many products are primarily purchased online. Don’t be content with a Facebook account – Facebook is one web-based ecosystem, but there are many others, and you will be limiting your reach and exposure if you only set up a Facebook account. Google doesn’t tend to list Facebook accounts in it’s search results. Plus, a website is something that you own, which means you control exactly what it says and what it can do. It’s a good idea to get your website set up early because you can use it to start generating awareness before your product or service is even ready.
9. Create and link social media and online directory profiles
We’d say that your website is the hub of your online business, but social media is still very important for connecting people to your brand, and it’s the primary channel with which you will communicate with your potential customers. Create social profiles on networks that are relevant to your market, but of course Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are good places to start . Make sure you create comprehensive profiles and link them with your website. Getting listed in relevant directories on the web can also help people to find you.
10. Get marketing
The likely scenario is that it will be just you to start with, and you’ll be wearing a LOT of proverbial hats. But since you probably don’t have any clients or customers yet, you probably do have a bit of time to work on the marketing and then sales. Bear in mind though, that as soon as you start selling and doing the ‘work’ of your business, you’ll probably find that there is ever diminishing time for marketing and sales, so finding help in this field can be advantageous. You might want to look to websites like Fiverr or UpWork to find freelancers to help you, hire a virtual assistant, or if funds allow employ someone locally to help you. Check out our post 10 Great Sites to Help You Learn How to Market Your Business Online to help with the online marketing side of things. There are plenty of offline marketing things you can do too, including getting business cards, flyers or brochures printed, magnetic car signage, banners, local ads, sponsorship, competitions and networking in your local area to name a few.
Of course there are many other things you need to take account of when starting a business, and we couldn’t possibly list all of them here, as every business is different, but if you’ve got any other points that you feel should be on the list, let us know below.