Top advice for startups and solopreneurs to make sure you hit the ground running.

Are you thinking of branching out on your own? Maybe it’s a great time to ditch the usual working routine and set up a business to fit your own needs. Or maybe you feel like you have no choice. With high redundancy rates expected and more of us seeking to retain the better work-life balance we get from working from home, many will choose the solopreneur or start-up route.

This may feel like the ‘wrong’ time to be launching anything, but that would be wrong. Companies making substantial staff cuts could well seek to use more freelancers, creating new opportunities. And businesses that fulfil a demand in a unique way can do really well, as long as they’re properly thought-through.

If you are thinking of starting a business, here are our top tips to add to your checklist;

What am I good at? – Ask yourself; What am I passionate about, what is my skillset and how can I earn a living? If you’re unsure draw a Venn diagram with two intersecting circles and fill one circle with things you’re passionate about and the other with your skillset. What can you write in the intersection that combines the two? Once you’ve fleshed it out on paper, you’re more likely to hit on that sweet spot and get the right business idea, combining passion and skills to earn you an income.

Write a short business plan – Not the type you’d expect to send to the bank, but a short plan detailing the description of the business, what and how you intend to sell, who your target audience is and what makes you different. Make sure you have a clear outline of your objectives and work out your pricing. This will evolve with time so don’t expect it to be perfect, but the more clarity you have, the more likely it is you’ll get the right message across to your market and get your business off the ground. Don’t overthink this, just get it on paper.

Name your business and buy the domain name – Do you want to use your own name or come up with something unique? Think about your branding, your colours, your message and how you’d like the business to look and feel. Enlist a brand designer to help you if this is not your thing. Buy your domain name too, using a platform like LCN or GoDaddy to register your domain name in line with your business name and think about whether you want to take multiple addresses to include co.uk, .com, .uk etc, making it easier for your customers to find you. Don’t forget to create an email address too.

Decide if you need a website – not all freelancers will need to rely on a website if you have great contacts or work via an agent, but it’s usually an important part of the business. Just a simple website showcasing your business and skills may be all you need. You don’t need to agonise and drag this process out, just get something out there to point your audience to and this can grow and improve with you. There are so many web designers, you’ll find the perfect someone to suit your needs (if funds are tight go to fiverr.com) or build something yourself using Wix or Squarespace.

Sole-trader or company – Speak to an accountant or tax advisor to find out the best set-up to suit your personal circumstances and business needs. If you decide to set up a company, this needs to be done via Companies House and is a separate legal entity with various statutory requirements, so take advice. If you prefer to start as a sole trader for now, registering for self-employment is simple and you just need to file a CWF1 form with HMRC to register. You will then be required to submit annual tax returns to HMRC. Consider also whether you need to be VAT registered, which will depend on your turnover, but also on whether it makes commercial sense if you are selling business to business.

Set up a business bank account – This will depend on whether you are a company or a sole-trader. For a company, this is essential but a business account is also incredibly useful for any small business as you can keep all your business income and outgoings in once place, making your record-keeping easier, especially if you are using a bookkeeping software. Have a look at Starling, one of the newest online banking platforms to hit the market. Their accounts are easy to set up and costs are low.

Get insured – Business Insurance is essential to protect your business. Professional Indemnity (PI) will cover your work and skills, to protect you financially in the case of being sued or against negligence. Public Liability will protect your tools and you when at a client’s premises and when out and about. You will also need Employers’ Liability if you employ or engage any contractors to work with you, covering injury or illness.

Get your legals sorted – At the very least make sure you have your Ts&Cs (terms and conditions) in place and any GDPR (general data protection regulation) and Privacy Policies. Also make sure you have written contracts for any services you receive or provide. There are many off the shelf options available to buy and download – consulting a lawyer can be very costly. Do your homework first and see how other similar businesses handle this.

Protect your identity – If your business idea is unique, consider protecting the name or brand identity by investing in a Trademark. This is not essential but could be vital if you need to protect your brand.

Shout from the rooftops – Write a marketing plan to detail how you intend to find leads and win business. You may not get it right first time and this is an ever-evolving task. At every opportunity tell people about what you do and how you help others. Don’t be shy about the benefits of your business. Join a networking group (online for now) and get mixing with other like-minded small business owners and peer groups that you can learn from. One of these days someone you meet might want to buy your goods or services.

And as a bonus tip, make sure you start your business with the right mind-set. Set your boundaries from the outset. Find a specific place in your home that you going to work from and set your hours and/or day-to-day framework so you can focus on running your business without getting distracted. Let family members know when you are working so they can give you some peace and let you get on with running your new empire.

Remember, done is better than perfect – it doesn’t matter if you haven’t got everything spot-on yet, just get yourself out there and get that business off the ground before you spend another three years just thinking about it!

Words: Faye Watts, business coach and strategist.

Looking for expert advice? The Audrey Members’ Club is a whole world of support, coaching and expertise for women through self-employment, changing careers, running a business or launching one. Join us to kickstart your future, whatever that may be.