How to Start Your Own Business in Just 15 Steps

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A crash course of sorts.

Young woman sitting at her desk at home.

Want to get that idea of yours off the ground? Fantastic! We’ve compiled a list of everything you’ll need to cover off in your startup journey.

1. Workshop your bright idea

You know that idea that’s been niggling at your mind for a while and just flat out refuses to die? That’s your business. Now work out if it’s viable with a bit of ‘back-of-the-envelope’ planning. Do some market research, figure out your unique selling point (USP) and pin down who your customer is.

2. Nut out your business structure

You’ll need to decide if you’re going to be a sole trader, partnership, trust or company. Each structure has its own upsides and downsides, as well as tax reporting responsibilities, so it makes sense to call in the advice of a good financial adviser or civil lawyer here. If you’re buddying up, set up a partnership structure and agreement.

3. Get an ABN

An Australian Business Number, or ABN, is a unique 11-digit number that identifies your business to the government and community, and is used for tax and various other business purposes. You can apply, for free, through the Australian Business Register website. While you’re there, you can also register for GST (if you expect to earn $75,000 or more in the first year) and find info on industry-specific licences and permits.

4. Choose a name and register it

Aussies can start this process at asic.gov.au. It’s important to conduct a trademark search to make sure your business name isn’t too similar to another, or you could run into legal problems. Secure both the dot-au and dot-com domain names and social media handles for your business while you’re at it.

5. Trademark or not?

Good question. We asked lawyer Dominique Lamb, CEO of Australia’s National Retail Association, who says, “If you have an idea that needs to be trademarked or copyrighted – that you need to protect in any way – it’s really important that you seek counsel from an intellectual property lawyer.” She warns against attempting to trademark on your own.

6. Create a website and social channels

An online and social media presence is crucial for any business. This might be a task to outsource, but for the tech-savvy (or cash-poor) among us, there are endless DIY website builders to choose from – Squarespace and WordPress are popular choices. Certain apps, such as Universe, help you quickly create a website on your phone. Get a domain name for as little as 99c with GoDaddy or Hover.

7. Find funding

This might be from investors, banks, personal savings, family and friends, government grants, crowdfunding (Kickstarter or Indiegogo are a good place to start) – or any combination of these avenues. Another way is to be revenue-funded through presales, or selling from day dot, adapting and perfecting the product or service as you go.

8. Get insured

According to Dominique, public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance and workers’ compensation are “incredibly essential” – and companies should throw in director and officer insurance, too. “Get really sound advice from a financial adviser or a trusted accountant around what is the best structure for your assets.”

9. Set up accounting

Every business has legal and tax obligations when it comes to record-keeping – and it pays to do this right, from the start. You can go the traditional route and outsource to a trusty accountant, or take advantage of the many commercial offerings out there tailored to small business, such as Intuit QuickBooks online, MYOB and Xero.

10. Open a business bank account – or not?

If you’re operating as a sole trader, you don’t need a business bank account, but it’s a good idea to get one anyway. If your business operates as a partnership, a company or a trust, then it needs to have a separate bank account for tax purposes.

11. Start researching

Know your legal obligations and requirements under fair trading law. Aussies can head to business.gov.au to find out about labelling and packaging requirements, inventory management and systems, warehousing and distribution, warranties and refunds, complying with consumer law and payments and invoicing. (And, importantly, debt collection.)

12. Work out staffing

If you’ve got employees (or plan to have them down the track) you’ll need to get familiar with what awards you’re paying under, and making sure you have contracts in place that set out your (and their) rights and responsibilities. This is definitely an area to chat with your accountant about.

13. Find suppliers

Selling a product? Sourcing your suppliers can be as simple as typing ‘manufacturer’, ‘wholesale’, or ‘supplier’ into Google – but do your due diligence here. Shop around for integrity and quality and ensure that you have the right to hold outside parties liable for any glitches in production. Also take a good hard look at their working conditions.

14. Create a marketing strategy

Whether you’ve got a big budget or are bootstrapping, be sure to share your ‘why’ with the world and engage with people through social media. Creating content through a blog on your site will bring your customers to you, especially if you use keywords specific to your target audience, and SEO techniques to improve your Google ranking. Once you’re ready to promote to the media, search for DIY PR kits or hit up services like Handle Your Own PR.

15. Buy or lease business premises

If you’re going bricks-and-mortar, you’ll need to decide whether to buy a commercial property and equipment, or enter into a commercial lease. But, before you sign anything, seek out professional help from accountants and solicitors. They’ll know what’s best for your business and the tax implications that come with each option. Now that you’re open for business, don’t forget to throw one hell of a launch party!

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