It’s easy to procrastinate when you’re creating something new, but taking the first step and starting a business from scratch isn’t as hard as you may think. So the next time you feel yourself sinking into the Sunday night blues, drag yourself away from the Rioja and spend 90 minutes setting up your own business.
Before you start, decide on your business type eg Sole Trader, Private Limited Company or Limited Liability Partnership. You’ll also need your passport or driving licence to hand.
Step 1 – Choose a name [10 minutes]
Don’t fall into the trap of searching for perfection, just make sure it’s memorable and relevant. When Hollie Rowland, a freelance naming consultant, works with clients, she first considers whether to opt for a ‘what it says on the tin descriptive word or an invented one’. She’s also mindful of the ‘feelings or suggestions that the name offers’.
A decent place to start is the trusty thesaurus. Just begin by searching for associated words and phrases around a theme. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more abstract, try Wordoid which conjures up interesting brand names containing a keyword of your choice.
But before you get the bumper stickers printed, the are three searches you should make to find out whether the name is already in use.
- Companies House
- Intellectual Property Office
- Namechk (for domain availability and social media accounts)
Step 2 – Buy a domain name [5 minutes]
You can spend hours searching for a brand name with an available .com domain, but seriously don’t worry about it. Google may favour a .co.uk domain for local searches, so do try to find one of those, but the main thing is to keep it simple.
brand-new-high-quality-premium-flooring-chingford.info is not a good idea.
You can usually buy a .co.uk for £1 at GoDaddy (for year one), but Namecheap, 1and1 and names.co.uk are also worth a look.
Step 3 – Register a business at Companies House [15 minutes]
Save yourself a headache and use a formation agent. These usually cost around £20-£30 and that’s money well spent unless you really enjoy creating memorandums. Gov.uk holds a list of formation agents, but for the 90-minute challenge I opted for Rapid Formations. It’s fairly straightforward and takes around 10-15 minutes.
Step 4 – Create social media accounts [10 minutes]
LinkedIn is the most effective social media platform for 62 per cent of B2B brands, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
As a minimum, all businesses should create an account on LinkedIn and Twitter. If you offer B2C services, you should also consider Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Becky Barnes, a social media professional, explains the value in writing a good bio.
‘If you have a physical location, add an address, customers cannot be bothered to click through or search for premises, they want all the info there in the bio. You’d be surprised how many businesses miss this.’
Amin Siala, founder of Exhibition Stand Quotes adds, ‘Imagine that a potential customer will only ever come across your business bio once… what would you write?’
Step 5 – Launch a website [30 minutes]
You can lose weeks creating a website from scratch if you’re aiming for perfection. But to avoid this stumbling block, remind yourself that nothing is ever finished. Websites need to evolve over time as you learn from customers, competitors and the market in general. Keep your first site simple and maybe even opt for a single page.
Website builders such a Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and Moonfruit make it easy to design something appealing. I’ve used all four in the past and opted for Moonfruit this time around due to its built-in image library. When you’re in a rush, it’s tempting to search for stock photography, but that can feel old-fashioned and contrived.
Moonfruit lets you find what you need from its own collection of free images and also via Lobster’s social media search. So rather than a cheesy picture of a man on a laptop, you can use a natural photo that’s been taken that morning in a real office.
Step 6 – Open a bank account [10 minutes]
The first consideration is whether you actually need a high street branch. If so, Santander is popular choice for new businesses due to its low fees. But for the purposes of this challenge, I based my decision on speed and used Tide.co.
It’s entirely app-based and getting started took around 10 minutes. You provide it with a photo of your passport or driving licence, along with details of all shareholders and it runs background checks while you wait.
Step 7 – Find an accountant [10 minutes]
Would you prefer to speak to someone locally or is an online option sufficient? Services, such as crunch.co.uk, offer straightforward accountancy services for a monthly fee. You sign up online and everything is taken care of. It can work out well, but personally I prefer the assurance you get from someone local that you can call upon when needed. James Bevis FCCA, managing partner of Precision Accountancy explains that the right accountant can become ‘a trusted ally in your business and integral to the future growth’. He adds, ‘Does the accountant offer business advice or just state a fee for the preparation of your accounts and tax returns?
‘Do they suggest ways to improve profitability and/or reduce your tax liabilities legally? It’s much easier to work closely with each other if there is a bond and trust between the parties.’
You can search for your nearest accredited accountant at the ICAEW.
So there we are, your new shiny business created in an hour and a half. The only delay was caused by having to wait for the formation of the company at Companies House before opening a bank account. This can take up to six hours, so you’ll need to complete the 90 minutes in two sittings.
It’s easy to overthink a new venture, but I hope that you feel inspired to get that idea off the ground. Time waits for noone.
Andy Shield, is a technology writer at andy-shield.co.uk.
Further reading on starting a business
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