Evaluate your aims, strengths and weaknesses.

Planning your business

Here are 4 steps to work through when you’re thinking about starting your business:

  1. What are you hoping for?
    Before you commit time, money and effort into a new enterprise, think about the personal cost. Evaluate your aims, your strengths and weaknesses, and why you’d rather work for yourself than someone else. Ask yourself: Is Self-employment right for me? Be realistic about what you’re hoping for. For more help with this, visit our section on being self-employed.
  2. Research your market
    For a business to succeed, it needs a thorough understanding of the market. Assess what the market needs in your chosen area, then consider how you can meet that demand.
    To build up a good view of your market, use surveys, look at what your competitors offer, and check out the latest research in trade magazines or directories. The Internet is an invaluable tool allowing you to explore specialist websites and publications.
  3. Find your niche in the market
    What is your USP –Unique Selling Point – that sets you apart from your competitors? What can you do better than them?
  4. Write your business plan
    Producing a business plan is a great way to prove your business idea has real potential – to yourself and others. It will pin down where you are now, where you want to be and what you need to do to get there. For more help, take a look at our guide to Writing a Business Plan.

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Think ahead about the logistics of running a business.

Operating your business

Think ahead about the logistics of running a business.

Organise your finances
Be as detailed as you can with your financial planning. Start by asking yourself:

  • What will your start-up costs and on-going costs be?
  • Do you have this money already or will you need to borrow it?
  • How much money must the business make each week and month to cover your personal and business costs?
  • How much will you charge for your products or services?

You’ll need to book-keep so as to monitor your income and expenditure from day to day. You can use this to compare your progress against your original plan and produce more accurate forecasts.

Where will you work?
Where you’ll work from could have a big impact on your initial costs.
Can you set up an office at home or will you need to find separate premises?

Working from home – you can usually work from home without seeking planning permission as long as:

  • the look of your home doesn’t change significantly
  • the business doesn’t become the first purpose of the property
  • you don’t inconvenience your neighbours.

Taking on business premises – think hard before renting a large property or taking on a long-term rental, especially when you’re just starting out. Serviced offices are a useful option – they can be more expensive but give you more flexibility.

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Make your brand strong and consistent.

Who should you tell about your business?

If you’re setting up a full-time or part-time business you’ll need to tell:

Your bank – open a separate business account as soon as you can. Your bank’s business adviser can also give you help and guidance on starting up and building your business.

Your insurers – ask them if working from home will affect your home insurance or life insurance. You may need to take out extra business insurance.

HM Revenue and Customs – tell HMRC about your new business. You may need to pay tariffs or to get permission for some types of trading if you’re planning to import/export.

VAT – depending on your taxable turnover you may need to register for VAT.

Companies House – to register your business as a limited company or limited liability partnership (LLP).

Specialist registrations – if your business is in a specialist area you may need to register with other public authorities.

The Information Commissioner – if your business involves storing personal data.

Make your brand strong and consistent.

How to get your business noticed

A business that’s active and noticeable is more likely to succeed. Try to promote your business as much as possible:

  • Create a professional image, talk about your business with potential customers and network whenever you can.
  • Make your business launch a real event – invite potential suppliers, customers or retailers.
  • Your website should work hard for you – make sure it looks good, works well and can be found via search engines. It should do your product justice.
  • Make it easy for people to reach you by phone or email.
  • Try to create a simple, strong brand identity that’s clearly visible to your customers – make sure it’s consistent from stationery and invoicing paperwork to your website or vehicles.

Take a look at our ten steps to a more successful start-up.

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