If you’re starting up a small business, there’s a good chance you’re doing it alongside a full-time job – and balancing the job that pays your rent with turning your passion into a business can be tricky. Mark Edwards, General Manager at www.rocketlawyer.co.uk, talks about how you can create a business in your lunch hour.
Never has it been easier to get a brilliant business idea up and running. With a multitude of services at your fingertips to help you get started – from crowdfunding websites to help you secure the cash and easy-to-build websites to promote your business, to online legal services you can understand and afford – making the first steps needn’t be time-consuming or complicated. Here’s all you need to know for what could be your – most productive lunch hour ever.
Branding / naming your business
What you choose to call your business depends upon what it does, what is allowed by law, the legal basis of your business and your long term plans. Remember that the name must not be misleading, obscene or give rise to any obvious confusion.
Enter prospective names through Companies House – it takes just a few seconds to find out whether the name has already been registered and could protect you from potential name infringement issues down the line.
For brand visibility, start by securing a domain name for your website. For some, the unavailability of the domain name with a .com or .co.uk ending means the preferred business name has to change, so if this is important to you, it’s worth checking first.
When setting up social media accounts, bear in mind any character restrictions, as you might have to work around this for longer brand names. It’s a good idea to register your accounts as soon as you have settled on a name to prevent potential social media cyber-squatting.
Business structure and registering with HMRC
Depending on whether you operate as a sole trader, within a partnership, a private limited company or a limited liability partnership, your choice of business structure is a commitment that will affect the amount of tax you and/or your business will pay and determine whether you are eligible for certain tax reliefs and grants. Thinking about all the options from the get-go will most certainly save you time and money in the long run as your company grows.
Essential legal documents
Every small business will need legal documents at some point, from shareholder and partnership agreements to employment contracts and health and safety policies. Making sure you have solid legal footing from the start will prevent you from falling into common legal issues later down the line.
For example, did you know that you have to issue written terms and conditions of employment within two months or you could face a fine? If time or money poses an issue, an online legal service for small businesses could be a viable solution for both issues.
You can even use legal documents to your financial advantage. If you plan to work from home, create a home office space contract for yourself so you can claim back some of the overheads in running the business for tax purposes.
When you’re starting up, it’s likely that you’ll share ideas with and seek advice from trusted sources such as friends, colleagues and mentors. Bear in mind that if you need to disclose specifics or sensitive information about your business, you could be putting yourself at risk of intellectual property theft, however trustworthy the source. The best way to protect yourself and your business? Draw up a non-disclosure agreement. Creating one online can take as little as 10 minutes.
Set up a business bank account. This helps you to maintain a high level of professionalism and keeps your personal and business finances separate for tax purposes, which will make it easier to calculate in the long run. Now all you need is a set of business cards to make those first impressions last. Don’t forget social media contacts – these could prove to be the most valuable and immediate when making business connections.
And a final point – you never know when inspiration is going to hit. Look for it in those spare moments on your way to and from work or, even better, during that golden lunch hour which often goes by in an unmemorable flash. Every minute is important when you’re balancing business and a full-time job, so make them count!