You’ve just opened the post, and in your hands hold the confirmation letter that your very own limited company has just been formed. Filled with happy, nervous energy, you stare down at words that hardly seem real: you’re a business owner now, and the sky’s the limit for what’s going to happen next. This, my friend, is it.
But before you can start, there are a few things you’ll need to sort out and set up before you can actually start trading, and running your company. These things are just as exciting a part of the start-up process as any, and are key steps in laying the foundations for your empire. Whilst some administrative hurdles might seem intimidating from the outset, if you take things step by step, you’ll be up and trading in no time. Here’s our list of six essential things you need to do after starting up, to best get your business into gear.
1. Write a business plan
Where would a business be without a well thought-out plan behind it? No doubt you already had some ideas about what you’d like to put on there before you officially formed, but without a clear plan about what you’d like to achieve, you’re more or less heading blindly forward into the great unknown. Don’t leave it to chance: you’ve put too much effort into forming your business for that!
A good way to start is by dividing your plan into sections, to help you work against clearly defined goals and objectives. We suggest including 10 sections, to pin down things like the nature of the market you’re entering (including competitor analysis), the type of organisational structure you want your company to have, and, of course, your finances: including information about expenses and overheads, and a balance sheet.
It takes a fair bit of time to do it properly, but think of it as creating a reference sheet to help you sharpen and formalise what your business is actually about, and how you plan to drive it forward.
2. Get a logo
Getting your very own logo is probably one of the most exciting parts of the entrepreneurial process. With a logo, you’re able to finally visualise your brand’s persona: exactly the way you want it to appear before your audience and competitors, and stick in their minds as a permanent reminder of what you’re about. That means that it’s absolutely imperative you get it done right, and exactly in line with how you envisioned your brand being represented.
Whilst people might not admit it, first impressions do actually count. Your logo needs to be memorable, striking, and simplistic enough to be pleasing to the eye. This sort of thing is the gambit of a professional graphic designer: they know which shapes, colours, and visual elements to use and combine to give your company an air of professionalism, whilst injecting it with the creative touches required to make it seem unique. And, to boot, we can help you find one.
3. Make sure you have the right registered address
It’s true that you need to supply an address in order to form your company, but unless you’ve already bought commercial premises, people often put down their home address as a ‘temporary fix’ until they find an office. Unless you want to be hounded with sales calls whilst you’re fixing your dinner, it’s a smart idea to have a separate registered address for your business, that isn’t a PO box. So, before you start trading, it’s important you sort this out.
Your registered address is the official address of your company, and doesn’t need to be the same as the address where you conduct most of your daily business. It’s where all your important letters will be sent, and will need to be displayed on all company literature and public documents. If you don’t yet have an office to call your own, you can choose a third-party registered address from which all your mail will be forwarded from, to where you’re working day-to-day.
4. Get a website
Imagine if you came across a brand you liked, and wanted to learn more about. Your next step would be, of course, to type it into Google, and check out their website. Now imagine if you knew you needed a certain product or service. What would you do? Type it into Google, of course. Now, imagine if your business didn’t have a website explaining how your product or service could meet those needs. Think of all that potential business: lost, and left out by the digital wayside.
When it comes to your website, looks matter. People are going to be plonked onto your site with a goal in mind— to find certain information— and it’s your job to make sure that process is as easy as possible. As with a logo, aesthetic impressions carry meaning, and will impact how easy it is to digest and navigate your site. Unless you have a secret penchant for coding and web design, you’re going to need to call in the help of an expert to get this right.
Your website is also at the core of your digital marketing strategy, which will determine how you get traffic to your site, and so boost your brand’s visibility. Again, unless you’re an online marketing whiz, you’ll need a professional to throw in their hat to help make your company visible in the digital jungle.
5. Register for VAT
Sorting out your accounts may seem a little on the drier side, but it’s essential you do it right if you want to keep trading and growing. When it comes to VAT, you’ll need to first figure out whether you’re obliged to register for it or not, and, if not, identify whether it’s a good idea to register voluntarily.
Value-added tax (VAT), is a tax on the value added to a product or service and is a form of consumption tax. In some cases, you’ll have no choice but to register for VAT if you want to keep trading, which usually means that your turnover is above, or expected to be above, a certain threshold. If this is the case and you don’t register, HMRC will backdate your payments to the date on which you should have registered, which could leave you footing a pretty sizeable bill. You can learn more about registering for VAT, and how you can go about it in our Help Centre.
6. Open a business bank account
If you’re setting up a limited company, it’s a requirement that you have a business bank account. So, the quicker you set it up, the quicker you can get to trading. And as with keeping your registered and home addresses private, it’s also wise to set up a bank account that’s separate from your personal one.
Keeping business funds separate can not only help mitigate the headache of filling out your returns, it also gives your business a much more serious air: not only to customers and clients but in the eyes of HMRC. Many banks offer specialist advice and help throughout the process of setting up a business account (charges and services will vary between banks), and will also talk you through the tricky bits of the financial transactions you’ll go through as a business, particularly if you’re new. You won’t be able to open a business bank account until you’re registered with Companies House, so it’s important you’re clued up on your options so that you can get into trading as soon as possible.
Whilst this list is a good first port of call on the road to starting trading, there are a few other bits you’ll need to sort out and consider as a new company, like registering for PAYE, for example.