Starting your own business


Taking the leap to start your own business can be daunting, but there’s nothing that says you can’t start it while you’re still doing something else to support you and your loved ones. But as intimidating as starting a business might be, taking lots of little steps can make the leap so much easier.

Do some research

Do you want to set yourself up as a sole trader or as a limited company? What are the differences? And which one is better? Do I have to charge VAT?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer so get as much information as you can before you make your decision. GOV.UK is a good place to start as you’ll need to register your business there no matter which method you choose.

Watch out for accounting firms who might look to take advantage of people setting up limited companies. Often, they’ll have an all-in-one package where they’ll do all the paperwork and number crunching for you, as well as your end of year books, but these costs can quickly add up – especially if you aren’t bringing in any money yet.

You don’t necessarily need to have a head for numbers to do your own accounting work, but you do need to commit a few hours per month to make sure you are keeping track of everything. There are plenty of free or low-cost online programs you can use to make everything easier for you.

Don’t over-extend yourself

Supply and demand is the most basic economic principle there is, and it’s important to keep it in mind when you get started. While you certainly want a stock of items to sell (if your business is selling something) you don’t want to commit too much money to things you’re not sure people will want. It’s always better to sell out of a product than scrap something you haven’t sold.

Of course, not every business is going to be selling something, but similar principles apply if you’re providing a service. While it’s tempting to accept as much business as you can, make sure you give yourself time to do the job to a level you’re happy with – especially if you’re balancing your small business with another job.

If it’s free, do it today

This can be as simple as setting up Facebook or Instagram accounts for your business, taking advantage of a free website building tool, setting up spreadsheets or even watching videos on YouTube from other people who’ve been in a similar position.

Emma, one of our Digital Marketing Extraordinaires, runs her own garden design business on the side, so we spoke to her to find out if she has any advice for people wanting to start their own business or take their side hustle to the next level.

I’ve always wanted to do something for myself

I’ve been running my own business, or ‘side hustle’ as it’s often referred to, for a few years now. I’ve always worked in marketing, I still work in marketing, and I love it! But I’ve always wanted to do something for myself, something you know… absolutely terrifying.

I love nature and being outdoors so naturally I was drawn to creating a life which would take me away from a computer screen for part of my week. I met a garden designer a few years back and that was it. After chatting to her, I knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps.

I quickly started studying for a diploma in garden design, I asked my new garden designer friend if I could shadow her and a few years later here I am. I still work in marketing, (I still love it) but I also run my garden design business on the side.

Ask for help!

You’ll need it. One thing that has surprised me is how much everyone wants to help you. You’ll find friends in the strangest places. (I told my neighbour I was struggling to get rid of a tonne of clay and rubble from a job and he rang his contact and it was gone in half an hour).

Ask questions!

Whatever field you’re trying to get into, make sure you ask everyone everything. Even if you feel silly the only way to learn is to ask.

Make a note of the lessons you’ve learned!

Now I’m out of my comfort zone I find myself making mistakes all the time… It’s important not to dwell on them. I keep a lesson learned log, so I don’t do the same things again. 

Believe in yourself!

One of the hardest things about going it alone is, well, being out on your own. Yes, friends and family are great, but it’s you who needs to look after you. So, make sure you’re being kind to yourself.

Talk about yourself!

Yes, no one likes a boaster, but get the word out by any means necessary. If you want people to reach out to you, you need to reach out to them. You never know who will see a poster or an Instagram post or even just be impressed with your work ethic and decide that you’re the person for them.

Just do it!

Stop reading this article and do it now. If you have an idea you should try it. Even if you take small steps. Even if you do just one thing towards your new business or career today. To quote Jan for The Office – “there are always a million reasons not to do something”. Just do it! You won’t regret it.

Good luck, I hope you find your passion. whether you’re looking for a new job, thinking of starting your own business or building a portfolio career, you can do it, just give it a try.

Enterprise programme