How does anyone start a business? (UK edition)
May 11, 2016 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in starting my own business. I have a simple digital product I'd like to try selling online, with the expectation that it will sell very little but will give me a low cost, low risk way to learn a bit more about running a business. Looking in to it though, it seems almost impossible to figure out how to go about this without falling foul of any laws or regulations. How does anyone start a business in the UK?

I've a list of things to think about, such as distance selling, data protection, insurance, mortgage company, restrictive covenants on lease (running business from home), trading address for sole trader, registering with HMRC as self-employed etc. etc.

Looking around online, I can find a bunch of resources, but few that seem genuinely authoritative or comprehensive. For such a simple product that I don't expect to actually make any money from, I can't believe that there can be so much work, or that I need to pay money to a solicitor or accountant just to get started.

Am I over thinking this, or should I seek professional advice before asking anyone to hand over money?
posted by jonrob to Law & Government (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm no expert but have recently started a business myself, initially as a sole trader, then later registered as a limited company. From what you've said I'd have thought registering as a sole trader would fit the bill. The accounting side of that is very straightforward (keeping simple records and doing a tax return once a year), so you wouldn't need an accountant necessarily. You could probably get a free consultation with one though, which might help you bounce ideas and concerns around.

In terms of running a business from home, I wouldn't worry too much about it. I think that's mainly there so people don't have vans coming and going at all hours of the day and night, or cause noise or neighbour disturbance in other ways. With a simple online selling business you're not going to be bothering anyone, so wouldn't prompt anyone to make a complaint against you. Again, I'm no expert and if you're really worried, a free consultation with a solicitor on these points might be a good start.
posted by Sevenisamagicnumber at 12:56 PM on May 11, 2016

A lot of areas have publicly-funded free courses on starting your own business these days. Your profile doesn't say where you are, but I did the course in Barnsley a couple of years ago and found it really helpful. It was a really wide-ranging thing and covered a lot of the stuff that you mention - choosing how to form your company, working out a business plan, regulatory stuff, paying the right tax, doing your books (or whether to pay someone else to do them), marketing yourself and so on.

One of the best parts was doing the course alongside other people in the same boat, comparing notes and experiences and bouncing ideas around. Even though I'm not currently running a business, it's not something I've taken off the table forever and the things I learned on the course will be useful whenever the time comes.

If there's a similar scheme running in your area, you should take a look into it. You normally have to live in the relevant local authority area to qualify.
posted by winterhill at 1:00 PM on May 11, 2016

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