Around 800,000 people start a small business in the UK every year. So it’s a fantastic place to start your new business, with a strong start-up economy and plenty of entrepreneurs for you to build your network.
But where do you start?
The first thing you need to do when you start a small business is to register your company with Companies House. The sign-up process on their website is pretty straightforward, and there are options to register as a sole trader, a limited company, a CIC and more — so make sure you know what’s going to best serve your idea!
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to start trading. And it’s really easy to end up with a super long to-do list, with things like refining the perfect business plan, creating a whizzy dizzy website, and spending hours posting on social media. And if you’re reading this list, you’re probably thinking wow, how much does it cost to start a small business?
The answer is little to nothing. Because loads of new entrepreneurs spend tons of time and money on a website and social media marketing in the early stages – but there’s really no need. Here are three ways to start a business with little or no money.
1. START SMALL
When you set up a small business at home, you might think that you need to get the word out about your company to as many people as possible – and that’s where new entrepreneurs end up spending way too much money on marketing.
But all you really need when you first set up your business is two clients – one to kick off, and the other to keep the ball rolling. And you can find those two clients by making use of your existing connections.
Who do you know that might benefit from what you’re offering? It’s worth sending a message to your friends, family, former colleagues or clients to let them know that you’ve set up your business. You might be surprised at who takes you up on your offer!
Getting in touch with your existing connections is a free and easy way to start building your client base for your small business. These people already know you, so they’re not going to need to be convinced by a fancy website or a slick social media campaign. So ditch those upfront costs and work with the people you already know. The money you earn will allow you to invest in bringing in new clients further down the line.
2. ASK FOR ADVICE
There are tons of blog posts out there with brilliant tips and tricks on what to do when you set up a small business. But don’t forget to reach out to people in your circle as well. Who do you know that’s set up a small business in the UK? Or even, who do you know that’s brilliant at cashflow, great at marketing, a master of managing their time? You can learn so much from the people around you, whether they’re an entrepreneur or not. Find a mentor, and pay it forward when your business is thriving.
And remember that you might not have met your mentor yet. There are tons of events like Impact Brixton’s Last Friday and programmes like Impact Thrive that can help you to build your network and learn new skills that you can bring to your enterprise. These are cheap or free ways to make connections and find collaborators. Find some events in your local community, and start building your network. They’ll be your biggest cheerleaders and the best support system.
3.SKIP THE EXPENSIVE OVERHEADS
When you set up your business in the UK and your client base starts to grow, it’s a good idea to think about how your new business looks. When people search for your company, you want them to encounter a professional brand that they feel they can trust. And one of the best ways to do this, is to spend some time nurturing your Google My Business profile.
It’s totally free to create a Google My Business profile, and it’s one of the things that will come up first when people search for your business. You don’t need too much information, just the name of your company, your services, a few photos, and the address of where you registered your business with Companies House.
And that’s where it’s worth really thinking about where you register your business. You might feel like you need to rush out and rent an office space so that you have a professional image and a smart space to meet your clients, but the chances are you won’t need the space yet – and it can be really expensive to rent an office, especially if you’re working from a busy business hub like London.
But then, if you set up your business using your home address, you probably don’t want that plastered over Google – or listed on the Companies House website, which is free and public for anyone to view and search.
The easiest and cheapest way around this is to get a virtual office. A virtual office gives you a physical address to register your business without having to rent an office. For example, if you sign up to Impact Brixton’s virtual office, you can use our location in Brixton Village as your official company address, giving your business a professional London postcode in a vibrant business hub. It also means that you can keep your home address private, as you can use our address to register your business on Companies House. All your official mail will come to us – but you can sign up for mail forwarding to make sure you never miss a letter!
The advantage of setting up a virtual office at a co-working space like Impact Brixton is that it can support you as your business grows. At Impact Brixton, we’ve got meeting rooms you can rent to meet your clients, hot desking day passes for those days where you want to get out of your house, and even private offices so that you can graduate to a physical space without having to change your business address. It’s the perfect way to grow your business.