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An essential checklist: how to start a business in the UK

by The UENI Content Team
Last Updated 12 January, 2022
How to start a small business in the uk

Starting a small business is exhilarating. Not only do you get to be your own boss, but you also get to bring something to life that’s entirely yours – the success lies entirely on your shoulders.

Although many aspiring entrepreneurs have great ideas outlined on paper, only a few people actually know how to start a small business.

You need a solid business idea to build a successful small business. However, there are several other things you also need to have in place—a bank account, a website, business insurance, and so on.

This guide highlights some essential things no entrepreneur should overlook when building a new business.

First Steps

Starting a small business can feel overwhelming at first. To help make it manageable, it is best to divide the process into steps — one thing at a time. Let’s dive in!

Man looking at a wall plan for marketing his small business

1. Do market research to guide your finances

What do people typically pay for what you’ll be selling? Are there similar offerings already in your area — is there an area that is entirely without them? What kinds of businesses in your field seem to struggle? Which ones seem to thrive?

All right, maybe you’ve developed an innovation that’s so original there’s no precedent.

But, just in case you didn’t, look at how other businesses in your chosen arena operate and then apply that knowledge to build your expectations. But, of course, that doesn’t mean your dog grooming salon will run precisely the same as the others in town. But in general, in business and in life, the best indicator of the future is the past. So before you start a small business yourself, see what else has already been done.


2. Write a thorough business plan


To start a small business, you first need a plan articulating your vision, strategy, and expectations. Spelling out everything will clarify your picture of your business. Of course you can’t plan for everything, but plan for everything you can.

The UK government also offers a free learning centre to help you flesh out your business plan more thoroughly.

3. Pick out a name

You’ll need this before you can fill out any forms or introduce yourself to anyone. So you’ll need a name to start a small business. When selecting one, it’s a good idea to be a bit creative.

Before telecom manufacturer Blackberry decided on that namesake, they were going to call themselves ‘The MegaMailer.’ Then they hired a Californian consulting group that chose the name ‘Blackberry’, a name they came up with after concluding the buttons on the device looked vaguely like the seeds on a strawberry, but that blackberry was more fun to say.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule when naming your business. Just use your best judgment and make it memorable.


4. Join a niche community

You’ll need all the advice and guidance you can get to start a successful small business in the UK. And, this is where niche communities come in.

A niche community is an online group where like-minded people hang out and share their experiences, including wins and losses. 

By being a part of a niche community, you’ll get the opportunity to ask questions (and get responses), discuss with more experienced professionals, and even find potential partners—in case you decide to expand your business in the future. 

Like ones on Reddit, several niche communities feature regular Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions where successful business owners take out time to share their experiences in response to people’s questions. These can provide perfect opportunities for you to get qualified advice. 

There are several niche communities to join, depending on your target niche and business type. In addition, you’ll find tonnes of niche groups on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Reddit.

5. Gather sufficient funds

Money is critical for starting a business. So, in addition to brainstorming an excellent business idea, you’ll have to raise funds for your small business.

There are several ways to raise capital. Some options include:

As a rule, ensure you have enough capital before starting a new business.

Getting The Paperwork Sorted

Probably everyone’s least favourite part, but extremely necessary. Having all your paperwork sorted out from the beginning will save you time and headaches in the future. 

Small business paperwork, calendar, and tax plan on a table

6. Decide what kind of business you are from a legal standpoint

Are you a limited liability corporation (LLC) or a sole trader (who is responsible for all their debts)?

Find out what kind of business yours is and how to register it here.

7. Register for taxes

Filing your taxes as a small business is a bit different than filing your taxes as an individual. There’s a different tax rate, you’re eligible for a host of other cuts and rebates, and you’ll also have to be on top of how and when you’ll have to pay taxes on your business.

There’s a lot to cover, and you’ll want to get in touch with a professional. To help our UK clients get started, though, here’s a great primer from Crunch about filing self-assessment taxes.


8. Get A Business Bank Account

Depending on your country and business structure, you may or may not be legally required to create a separate business account, but many banks require it when you want to avail yourself of loans or other assistance.

Not to mention it’s just good business sense. The small amount of savings that you might garner from using your personal account won’t compare to the benefits you can gain from it. If you’re in the UK, we recommend reading this guide about the different sorts of bank accounts on offer.

UK UENI customers can sign up here a business bank account with Tide through the UENI Hub and get £50 cashback! If you are not a UENI customer yet, you can sign up here

9. Obtain all business licenses and permits

To do this properly, you need to make sure that you dot your I’s and cross your T’s. Legally speaking, this means you’ll have to have whatever licenses and permits your business will require, as well as be a properly registered company.

We recommend first reading Tide’s blog post on registering as a limited company or a sole trader. If you’re interested in setting up a limited company, Crunch has an easy guide for that.

10. Obtain the required business insurances

“Does my business need insurance?”

If you’re asking this question, the answer is almost certainly “yes”. There’s a lot to cover here – from making sure you have coverage for your employees and making sure any tools or equipment are covered to liability to deciding whether or not you’d be better off with a bundled package – and it can get a little overwhelming.

For our UK-based clients, we recommend GoSuperScript. They have an excellent primer on the sorts of insurance you can expect to be required to have. You’ll find that article here.

11. Issue invoices

Successfully issuing invoices is another cornerstone of successfully starting a small business because that’s ultimately how you’re going to ensure that you’re being paid a fair amount for your work.

For our UK clients looking for more information about when to issue an invoice, check out this article from SumUp. 

If you’re looking for a software alternative for generating an invoice, rather than doing it from scratch, Freshbooks can help you.

Getting Your Business Online

While all the regulatory, necessary stuff is getting done, you should already be planning the beginning of your marketing strategy.

As any digital marketer would advise you – it all starts with a small business website. Even if you don’t sell your products online, you can have a simple presentational website that showcases your brand, products, or services so that your visitors can get a good idea of what you do.

Laptop on desk with the phrase

12. Every small business needs visibility

Want to build a thriving small business? Implement strategies that will help put your business in front of your customers. 

Creating a small business website is one way to stay visible. UENI helps small business owners create highly customizable and mobile-responsive websites for their brands. With UENI, you can get a functional website in the shortest time imaginable regardless of your business type.


13. Set Up & maintain your social media

Contrary to what some people might think, creating social media for your business does not mean you’re destined to shout into the void with offers, promotions, and more.

You can certainly engage with your audience, but another vital part of making sure your social media exists and is up to date is to help build legitimacy.

In other words, when people are looking up your business, they often expect to find a couple of social media accounts linked to your company. It’s not just enough to set them up, though: an abandoned social media page could even look worse than not having one at all.

That’s why maintaining your social media presence is so important. We would say that having a well-kept Facebook account is a more significant win than having five or six different social media accounts that you never use.

On UENI’s Reputation Plan, we provide an excellent tool for managing your business page over crucial platforms like Facebook, Google My Business, and more. You can check all of our plans on ueni.com

14. Link your website with key business platforms

Similar to social media, key business platforms allow you to reach a wider audience by making sure your business appears where your customers are searching for it.

When you’ve linked your page correctly, customers can buy things from your business without having to land on your page at all. In addition, this positive user experience often leads to an increase in sales because making it easy for the user is the name of the game when it comes to conversions.

At UENI, we allow businesses to link their products with the Facebook Marketplace, Instagram Shopping, and Google Shopping – if someone finds your shop through a Search or on a social media feed, they can purchase one of your products directly where they’ve seen it, without having to head to a different website and navigate a separate checkout process.

Remember: immediate satisfaction is the name of the game. If someone can buy something now, it’s almost always better than forcing them to buy something later.

15. Run email marketing campaigns

Email marketing is sometimes seen as passé, and while it’s true that it’s not a shiny new platform, it still has many advantages when it comes to helping your business succeed.

We discovered some interesting findings when we looked at our own email marketing engagement, and the truth is, nearly every small business should be doing more on the email front.

It’s a great place to put promotional offers and start stoking the Fear of Missing Out.

16. Run paid ad campaigns

Right off the bat, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Paid Advertising is really only worthwhile if you honestly have the budget for it.

If you want to get into Paid advertising but don’t want to spend more than $10 or £10, you’re going to have a bad time, especially for competitive keywords and search terms.

Because we want small businesses to have the chance to compete, our Plus and Reputation Plans come with the opportunity to get a significant discount on credits for Google AdWords.

We’ve written a complete guide on the best ways to use AdWords, but if you feel comfortable with your keywords and with your spend, it can be a powerful tool to help boost your business.

Still not convinced? Take a look at this article from Main Street ROI for some more reasons why Google Ads can be a wise investment.

17. SMS your customers

The last thing we’ll recommend to you as far as marketing your page is to communicate with your customers via SMS. We’re big fans of using texting as a way to do live chat via WhatsApp, but you can also use text messages to send clients and customers promotions, deals, and other updates.

Now, of course, you have to be very careful when you market by SMS. No one likes getting a bunch of spam directly to their phone.

If you want to get it right, we recommend this guide on SMS marketing from EZTexting.

Evolve As You Go

Small business owner outside of her coffee shop smiling

Still wondering how to start a small business? Well, the final tip on the list is to get started—and tweak things along the way. 

Many aspiring business owners never start small businesses because they believe that everything needs to be put in place perfectly before starting. So they get overwhelmed and lose their motivation to execute their business ideas. Make sure you avoid this mistake.

Got funds and a product or service idea that people are already paying for? Put your business in motion. Launch your website, proactively market your business, and make other necessary tweaks as the company expands.

Everything doesn’t have to be perfect when you start. So move your business from that sheet of paper, set it in motion, and commit to evolving as you go. Let UENI help with your online presence, get an affordable yet professional website today!

The UENI Content Team
The UENI Content Team are proud to help thousands of local and family-run businesses succeed by giving them a platform online. Our goal is simple: building bridges over the barriers that local businesses are facing every day.
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