There are many benefits to being self-employed but there are many budding entrepreneurs who don’t know how to set up as a sole trader. From tax considerations to business licences, the process can seem very complicated which puts many people off from taking the plunge. Fortunately, with the right knowledge and some careful planning, setting yourself up as a sole trader can actually be very simple.
In this article, we will explain exactly how the process works and what you need to do to get started on your new self-employed journey.
Choose a Business Name
One of the first things you will need to do when starting your own business is to choose a name. This is a big decision because you need to make sure that the name you choose is both appropriate and memorable. You should also check that the name isn’t already taken by another company. You can do this using the Companies House website.
A good name will be something that is memorable and catchy, while still being related to your business area in some way. It should also be unique and simple because you don’t want to make it difficult for customers to remember or spell your company name.
Create a Comprehensive Business Plan
Once you have chosen a name for your business, the next step is to create a comprehensive business plan. This will be a roadmap for your company and will show you exactly why you are starting this business and how it is going to work. It should also explain what your goals and objectives are, as well as your target market.
You may need to show your plan to potential investors so you need to make sure every detail is considered. A quality business plan can make the difference between success and failure, so it is definitely worth taking the time to get it right.
One of the most difficult things about starting your own business is securing funding. There are various funding sources available to sole traders including bank loans, personal finances and venture capital but it is important to note that you may be seen as a higher risk by lenders.
One way to protect yourself from higher borrowing rates is to find a guarantor who will be responsible for paying the loan if you default on payments. A guarantor may be a family member or friend who will put their money and credit rating on the line to help your business succeed.
Another way to get funding for your business is to look into government grants and loans. The government offers a wide range of grants and loans which are designed to help small businesses get started.
Register as Self-Employed with HMRC
Once you have your business name, a well thought out plan and the necessary funding to get started, the next thing to do is register as self-employed with HMRC. This will let them know that you are running your own business instead of working for someone else. You can set yourself up in two different ways:
If you want to run your business as a sole trader, you will need to complete the self-employment form and send it to HMRC. You can get this form from your local tax office or download it from the GOV.UK website. You will need to register before you start making any self-employed income.
Organise Your Tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs)
When you work for someone else, your income tax and NICs are automatically taken care of through PAYE (Pay As You Earn). When you become self-employed, however, it is up to you to make sure that this is done correctly. This means that you need to pay your own income tax and NICs on time each month. To do this, there are a few things you should know:
You will need to complete a tax return each year and send it to HMRC.
You should set up a Direct Debit mandate so that your tax and NICs payments are taken care of automatically each month.
You can claim various business expenses which can be used to offset your tax bill (see below).
Sole traders have different tax and NIC considerations than people in employment. You will need to fill out a Self Assessment tax return each year and make sure you pay any tax due by the deadline. To help you understand how to do this, HMRC has created a helpful guide which can be found on their website. If you have any issues, it is a good idea to speak to an accountant who will be able to help you with your taxes and other financial concerns.
Register for VAT (If Necessary)
If your business turnover is over £85,000 per year, you will need to register for Value-Added Tax (VAT). This is a tax that is charged on the sale of goods and services in the UK. It is important to note that you cannot register for VAT until your business has actually started trading.
There are a number of benefits to registering for VAT, such as being able to reclaim the tax on goods and services that you buy for your business. However, there are also some drawbacks, such as having to file regular returns and paying HMRC each month.
To register for VAT, you will need to complete the VAT registration form and send it to HMRC. You can find this form on the GOV.UK website.
Claim Possible Tax Deductions
As a self-employed person, you are allowed to claim certain expenses against your income which can reduce your overall tax bill. This includes things like business travel, home office costs and accountancy fees. You may be surprised at how much you are able to deduct so it is definitely worth checking with your accountant.
Make sure you keep hold of all receipts and invoices related to your business expenses, as you will need them to support your tax claims. Without these documents, HMRC may not accept your claims and you could end up paying more tax than necessary.
Obtain any Necessary Permits or Licences
Before you start trading, it is important to make sure that you have the relevant permits and licences in place. This varies depending on what type of business you are running and where you are based. For example, if you are selling food then you will need a food hygiene certificate.
If it is your first time starting up in business and you are not sure what permits or licences you need to get, then talk to someone at your local chamber of commerce for advice. You can also find out more about the different types of licences on the GOV.UK website.
Get Necessary Insurance for Your Business
One of the most important things you can do to protect your business is to get adequate insurance cover. This will provide financial protection if something goes wrong and your business is forced to close.
There are a number of different types of insurance that you may need, such as public liability insurance, product liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance. It is important to speak to an insurance broker who will be able to find the right policy for your business. Without the right insurance, you could be left out of pocket if something goes wrong.
Set Up a Business Account
Having a dedicated business account is always advisable because it makes it easier to keep track of your finances and allows you to separate your personal and business expenditure.
There are a number of different banks that offer business accounts, so take some time to shop around and find one that meets your needs. Make sure you read the small print carefully, as some accounts have hidden charges which can end up costing you a lot of money.