Starting a business? Let’s get started!
1. Choose your business name
Choosing your business name can be easy or difficult. You want something memorable, easy to spell, and most of all, something that is not already taken. Before you decide on a name, check the following:
- GoogleType your desired name into Google and see what comes up. You don’t want to be associated with anything unsavoury.
Also, you may find the name is already taken and being used in another country. If it is, you can still use it, but consider the potential limitation of marketing your business overseas, and the fact that customers could click on the wrong website when they search for your business online.
- Domain name search
Make sure the domain name is available and has not yet been registered. You can check domain registrars like NetRegistry.
When searching for .com.au names, consider registering the .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info and so on, as this ensures no one else can use your domain name under another extension. For example, if your domain name is www.redhats.com.au someone else can register www.redhats.com.
- Intellectual Property (IP) AustraliaConduct a Trademark search for the name on the IP Australia website. This is often one of the biggest pitfalls of many startups. If someone has registered the Trademark, and is doing a similar type of business with that name, just because you may have registered the business or company name with ASIC does not mean you can use it to provide similar goods and services. You may be breaching someone else’s trademark rights.
- Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Registry Search
Check both company and business names on ASIC to see if they are already registered.
Tip: If the name is registered with IP Australia, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it, it just means you can’t use it to sell similar goods and services.
2. Know the Difference between Pty Ltd vs Sole Trader
By having a website business your personal assets such as your house and car are at risk. You have little protection for your personal assets when running your business as a sole trader, business name and website name (whether you register a business name or not). So here’s what should you do to protect yourself and your business in the absence of a Pty Ltd company.
- Good Terms and Conditions.
Your website needs to have good Terms and Conditions that are specific to your services, which include a strong limitation of liability clause. These terms should be kept up-to-date at all times.
If you aren’t going to spend the money on setting up a company until your business starts flying, then at least spend the money to protect your house! And don’t copy the Terms and Conditions from another site, because: you risk copyright infringement, the terms may be irrelevant for your industry or out of date, and if it can be shown that they’ve been copied, you won’t be protected anyway.
There are some great website legal packages available online for very little money.
- Incorporate a Pty Ltd company as soon as possible
There are annual costs, but incorporating at Pty Ltd company will provide invaluable protection because a claim is limited to assets in your business rather than your personal assets. For more information, head to this ASIC page: How to start a company.
*Important Note: when obtaining a Pty Ltd company, ensure you transfer ownership of the domain name to the Pty Ltd company – don’t leave it under your personal name.
3. Write a Business Plan
Whether you’re seeking funding or not, a business plan will help you track and forecast your spending. Revising it each year is a great way to review and refocus your business. Find out how to write a business plan.
4. Website – where to start?!
You have a variety of ways to sell your goods and services. Here are some of your options:
- Sell your goods through a general ecommerce websiteIf you are going to use ecommerce websites like Etsy and Big Commerce, check their terms because they protect themselves, not you. You should ideally have a website with your own terms and conditions of sale.
- Hiring a website designer/developerDo A LOT of research on this. I have seen many unhappy clients due to various problems with their web designer, such as lack of communication and other issues. There are sadly some rogue developers who charge exorbitant fees for a standard ‘theme’ site that cost very little.The most important thing is that you have a site you can manage yourself and add content to; one where you own both the code and final product (in case you want to sell it/get investors).
Get recommendations and ensure you have a good contract that allows you to terminate if you are not happy, and also, one that allows you to own any work that has been completed. The contract should also clarify payment timing and phases.
5. Hire contractors and freelancers for a whole range of tasks
It’s not a good use of your time to do everything, so get help. You can outsource everything from logo design to web design. Happily, there are lots of options available both locally and overseas (many people achieve success using Odesk and Elance).
Just make sure you have good agreements in place with your contractors. Every small business should have a good resource agreement toolkit including: confidentiality agreements, contractor agreements, website development agreements, letters of demand and so on.
These are my top steps when starting a business. You are a rock star for flying solo and I wish you every success!
Do you have any tips or questions in regard to starting a business?