With the rise in ‘side hustles‘ and small businesses seemingly blossoming overnight on TikTok, they have made setting up a small business look easy. But we very rarely see the ‘real’ side, and the struggles that business owners face. For anyone that has started, and is growing a small business, whilst there isn’t anything easy about it, it’s definitely an exciting and challenging journey. After launching my organic baby clothing business a year ago, I have learnt, grown and learnt many lessons along the way that have helped to strengthen myself, my expertise and the business.
If you are looking to start a small business, a passion project or a side hustle, my best advice is to go for it. You will never know if you don’t try and the thing that scares you the most is the one that is going to help you grow. If you’re looking to take that next step, here are 9 basic things you need when starting a small business.
A business without a marketing or business plan, is literally just an idea. A business plan will help to solidify your business idea, breaking it down to the basics in manageable sections to work out whether this is just an idea, or if it’s feasible. It’s okay for your business plan to change along the way, but having something to refer back to will keep you grounded during the process. From a business point of view, a business plan can be asked for by banks if you want loans, and also if you are pitching to investors. A business plan might not seem essential, but it really is.
2. Bank Account
Whether you’re trading as self employed or you have registered as a limited company, you’re going to want a separate bank account from your personal affairs. If you are self employed, you might be tempted to use your private bank account for ease but things will start to get super messy as reconciling your bank on accounting software will be a mix of business expenses, then things like food shopping and drinks from the weekend!
A clean bank account makes your life, and the accounting process much easier, whilst you can clearly get a grasp of how your finances are doing. During COVID, and indeed somewhat now, it was impossible to set up a business bank account due to banks literally stomping down on it due to the amount of people who were taking advantage of the bounce back loans. There are many online only banks that are great for start-ups though, I used Starling and they’ve been great. They don’t come with the full bells and whistles like some of the larger banks, but you really don’t need that for a start up.
3. An Accountant
I cannot stress enough that having good financial foundations from inception is so important with a small business. Any small business will try and do everything, but accountancy is one thing you can’t leave to your imagination. Accountants for small business can help with everything from bookkeeping, VAT advice, payroll and submitting your end of year accounts. What’s great is that you can often cherry pick what services you need, rather than having to pay for every accounting service, saving your small business precious money, whilst accountants will be able to provide invaluable information to help you save money when it matters most.
4. Email Address & Phone Number
Whether it’s a service or product based business, you won’t get far without having a business email address and phone number for your business to start taking those all important orders! It’s really easy to get yourself setup with a free business email on Gmail. However, a business email address that uses your domain does look more professional. Most domain providers will provide email hosting too, it’s a smart idea if you can do this during the website build process.
Getting your business off the ground is likely to incur some initial input of funds, whether it is a service or product based business. After conducting your business plan, you should have an approximate figure of money for what is needed to get your business off the ground. Without any funds, your business isn’t a business, and you should work out how you are going to get those funds together whether that’s through your personal savings, friends and family, or a bank loan. If it’s something like a digital marketing agency, you only really need a laptop and a website to get started so you can really keep those start up funds low.
A website is the shop front to your business. Whether it’s service or product based, a website is an absolutely non negotiable option when it comes to operating in 2022. You website needs to be able to tell your story, your values and what you offer as as business. Just like accounting, you’ll want good website foundations from the outset, with good SEO practices to help your website get found organically over time.
7. The Right Support
Starting a small business can be isolating without the right support. Friends, family and loved ones are just as an important part of the journey to help motivate and keep you grounded along the way. A business mentor or someone you can reach out to in business will add an incredible amount of value to you, and your startup. Real advice from people that have done it themselves and been successful is the best way to learn. Although, every small business owner will still make mistakes, a mentor can help guide you through those times.
8. Branding Guidelines
Working in digital marketing as my trade, branding guidelines are another non negotiable thing for me. Branding guidelines or a branding bible lays out what colours, fonts, sizing and tone of voice your brand operates with. Anything outside of that remit should never be used for your brand. Why? This isn’t a school colouring in project. Using what is only in the branding guidelines will breathe consistency over time, instilling brand trust in the customer, whilst making your brand memorable.
9. Create Your Business
When launching your business and getting it off the ground you need to decide whether you will run it as a sole trader or you will setup a limited business. There are pros and cons to the both of them that should be carefully considered before taking the plunge. Gov UK makes it incredibly simple to set up a limited company, and it only costs £12 to do so, although a limited company can occur more costs due to submitting end of year company accounts etc.
Starting that small business takes a giant leap, but it will be one you won’t regret! It takes hard work, determination and challenges, but getting started is the hardest part. Hopefully these things will help get you on your way to small business success, and remember to enjoy the process!