“Jingle Bells, the office smells, of Christmas party punch…”
You may be winding up operations now that the festive season is upon us, but the end of one year is also a good time to reflect on what projects you have lined up for the next.
Let me guess – during the course of the year you’ve either been full-time at work, or have been doing some freelancing, picking up work here and there whilst also working to develop your business ideas. You’ve been mulling it over in your head, and you think you’re ready to go full time on your start-up.
The path you are about to choose is not an easy one. It can be lonely, it can be stressful, it can be tough – it possibly won’t go as you expect it to – but that’s probably at least part of the reason you chose it, right?
But there is a lot you can do, (and trust us, others won’t and will suffer the consequences) to make sure that none of your effort is wasted, and the decisions you make count. You may have dreamt up 3 or 4 different business plans over just the past six months, – the chances are the final business plan will be an amalgam of the elements of all those different plans.
Write things down when you think of them!
So it would be daft not to log everything and keep a record of how your different ideas are developing.
Don’t be embarrassed to jot down everything you think of – don’t think you can hold everything in your head – what if you need to communicate your ideas to somebody quickly and visually – there’s only so many times you can have a conversation with a potential co-founder or marketing agency for hire before they will want to see some projections.
How can this best be achieved? Here are a few tips below around tools that you can use, some paid for, others free, to help get things started in the best possible way.
First question – “can this work? Like, can this really work? There are so many false reasons for starting a company – I hate my job, I feel trapped in my life, I need to make a lot of money quickly, if I don’t do it now, I never will.”
But you know what, it doesn’t matter what prompted you to take the plunge, what matters is how you perform after you have taken it. There can be no room for doubt, or second thoughts after you get past a certain stage – let’s say 3 months.
Ask yourself – is this really me!
Worst case scenario, you quit your job with 3 months rent fully paid, put some feelers out, did a bit of marketing research, went to a few Meet-ups, sat down with a development team, scouted some premises – maybe even made a hire.
And then you felt that this just wasn’t for you. A job came up you liked the look of, and you decided you preferred the certainty of being paid every month.
It happens all the time, nothing to be ashamed of, good for you for taking time out to consider a new possibility, and best of luck in your endeavours.
But now let’s turn to who’s left; if you made it through that 3-month period, then 3 months later you may well have hired an office, appointed a co-founder or a 2 i/c, purchased the domain name and signed off on a business plan, welcome to the gang, friend – here is where it starts to get interesting.
So how did you get there?
Get The Basic Infrastructure Set Up Fast!
So, first question, are you going to be a sole trader, a limited company or a business partnership?
Being a sole trader means that you own the business and you can work on your own or employ others, and you must register for tax self-assessment. You’ll need your National Insurance number for that.
But the more likely choice you will make as a start-up founder is to be a private limited company. This means appointing a director and register, and incorporating the business at Companies House. Don’t worry, you can be the director of your business, but you’ll also be an employee, meaning you will need to pay your own tax via self-assessment as well as the tax of the company. Don’t forget to set your company up for Corporation tax.
Then there is the business partnership – which means you run the business but all partners take equal responsibility for the business and share the profits.
Open A Business Bank Account!
At this stage, it’s also a good idea, if you haven’t done so already, to set up a business bank account. Don’t be afraid to shop around (consider a challenger bank, perhaps?) and see what kinds of flexibility banks will give you. Do you need an overdraft, or company credit card? Remember to change your PayPal settings if you’ve been billing people that way as a freelancer.
And if you are planning to hire and pay employees as a business owner, then you may as well register for PAYE with HMRC, which will you give a total of three accounts – personal self-assessment, PAYE, and Corporation tax.
Go Online & Tell The World Who You Are & What Your Mission Is!
Phew, well that’s the easy admin part. Well, almost. You’ll also (unless you have a very niche business, know all of your clients already and don’t plan to do any online marketing) need to set up an online presence too, which means both buying a website domain and hosting it.
You’re most likely to build your website using Wix, or Squarespace, or WordPress. WordPress.com offers a great deal where you can set up a site and host your site as part of one package, and since this is only a small expense and most hosting sites are much of a muchness, you can shop around but it’s not worth spending too much time on.
Just make sure you get a site up there with a mission statement, contact details, some details about who you are, and maybe a few blog posts to enlighten visitors about your industry and your product. Typically, you buy the rights to the domain name for 1-5 years and must renew every other year or so.
Where Will My Business Live (Besides In My Heart)!
Premises are obviously important too – yes, there are literally hundreds of co-working spaces in London, and all around the rest of the UK, Europe, and rest of the world too. They are a thing, but that does not necessarily mean they are right for you.
Just remember, London was full of sole traders and small business men and women when nobody had ever heard of a business accelerator or incubator. Even crowdfunding isn’t new, it just has a swanky new name.
So, again, shop around – don’t feel you need to be amongst “people like you” to succeed. Often it can just be a distraction. Find somewhere where you feel at home, and where you can stretch your legs and feel like a boss!
Remember, in many walks of life, you can succeed by following the crowd. Entrepreneurship is not like this!
What do you need in your premises? Well, besides potted plants, beanbags, a basketball hoop and whatever other trendy start-up accoutrements you feel like you must have, you’ll need computers. And storage space. Digital storage space, that is.
Get A Virtual Office And Put The (Business) Plan Together!
But before you get too carried away with that stuff, again, get the basics right. Set yourself up with a Microsoft office account – you can rent one for around $15 per month – and this gives a whole heap of features that are useful. Storage in the cloud, sharing of documents, security, a home website if you need one, an Access app for storing large amounts of data, and all your standard excel, word and PowerPoint programs.
There are a lot of other options besides. You could use HR-tech software like bob, or geniac which also does your accounts and CRM, sales systems like Salesforce, Apttus, or Zuora, and business management tools like Liveplan. But this is when you enter the realm of paying for services, and you only really need to adopt services like these in the early stages if you are ready to start trading and you have a sizeable budget – perhaps some investment that means you can run at a loss while you wait for the first sales contracts to come rolling in.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s get that business plan formalised first. You can most likely kick this off in excel, and use an MS Word template to find a great business plan template. Then fill in the blanks and start doing the sums.
Don’t expect to get it right first time – by combining doing your sales projections with online market research you can save yourself the pain of only discovering false assumptions or wrong conclusions drawn about your chosen business sector when it is too late, and paying a heavy financial price.
At this stage in your business, if you follow the instructions above, congratulations, you are beginning to build out the infrastructure of your business! You are determining how it is going to function in the years to come. Get things right at this stage, and you will make things infinitely easier on yourself, and be able to focus on the parts you care about the most – building a great project, and changing this here world.
Coming soon – the business plan you need to write to win EIS / SEIS funding