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Starting to get started

It’s now the end of August and I’ve been in the process of getting my new design business off the ground for nearly twelve weeks. It’s taken me a good eight weeks longer than I initially planned. Lots of other important things have got in the way, like the lovely sunshine, DIY projects and a new wriggly puppy.

But why has it taken so long to get everything set up? I’m only a one man band. It should be a simple process, surely?

There are certain things you must do before you launch your business. They can take time to get set up and you must do them in a certain order if you want to get things running quickly and painlessly. This post explores the very basics of getting a new business off the ground in no time at all.

Naming

Once you have a name (and that’s a whole other blog post right there) you need to register your business name. If you’re a Sole Trader then simply call the Inland Revenue, register your name and you’re up and running.

If you want to be a Limited Company you need to do a fair bit more to ensure your name is not already used. Before you do anything else I would suggest you consult an accountant.

Accountant

Ask around for a recommendation. You’ll be better off with an accountant who specialises in small businesses. Go and have a chat with at least a couple. You must feel comfortable with your accountant. Ask them how they will save you money. If they don’t say they’ll save at at least their fees then move on. If you still can’t find one then there’s always your bank. They normally have a list of local professionals.

Your accountant will also be able to set up a Limited Company for you. Failing that, there are lots of businesses out there who, for a small fee, will set up for you.

Banking

If you’re a Sole Trader then you can run any bank account you like. I would never recommend running your business through your current account. Get a separate account, with a savings account on the side. Pay at least 20% of your earnings into the savings account. This is your tax and accounting fees fund.

If you are a Limited Company then you will need a Business Bank Account. Once you have your Company Number from Companies House, you can apply for a Business Bank Account.

All Business Bank Accounts will charge you for transactions. It sucks, but there is no way round it. You pay for issuing cheques, things like that. It changes from account to account. Try and get a deal where you get free online transactions. Who write cheques these days. You can get the first 12 or 18 month fees waived with a new account. Shop around for the best deals.

Some banks offer more services. For example, Barclays offer accounting packages, backup software and business plan templates for a monthly fee. It’s about £18 a month. FreeAgent alone is £29 per month. I wanted to use FreeAgent as my accounting package so it made sense for me.

Accounting software

The main thing is that you keep up with your accounts. You’re in business to make money, right?

There are plenty of software options out there for running your accounts. I am now trying out FreeAgent as part of my Barclays Bank package. If you want to get 10% off, then

But you can get by on a budget. Word and an Excel spreadsheet will suffice. I ran my previous ventures off them. Your accountant may provide you with a template in which to enter all your figures. I also used Blinksale, a simple little invoicing system, which is great.

Insurance

Get insurance for your business. It will be less than £100 per year for peace of mind. Your clients may also demand that you have at least Public Liability insurance anyway. There are two types you should have arranged off the bat.

One is Public Liability. This will cover you for any damage you might cause during your working day. For instance you might spill a coffee into a laptop or someone might trip up and injure themselves on your premises.

The other is Personal Indemnity. This covers you for any claims brought against you by a client. For instance, some code you wrote might break a website, or a server you installed breaks down.

These are just the basics. When you factor in further tasks like branding, website, stationery design and promotion, you can see that twelve weeks is only a sliver of time in which to get a new design business up and running.

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