Looking to start a business from scratch? Not sure where to start? This guide will help you understand the key tasks you'll need to undertake as you start your business journey.
Please note, prices listed in this article are correct at time of publication.
1. Assess your current situation
The first thing you need to do when starting a business is look at where you are now. Some important questions to answer include:
- What skills/knowledge do I have that will help me in my business journey?
- What are the areas I need to strengthen or seek outside help for?
- How will my current employment situation impact on my plans to launch a business?
- What sources of funding will I have available to me when starting my business?
- What hobbies and/or interests do I have that I might be able to turn into a business?
- How will I support myself while I'm getting my business off the ground?
- What are my overall aims for setting up my own business?
By answering these questions honestly, you'll be able to understand your current position and start to get an idea of what you'll need to do to get to where you want to be.
It's particularly important to understand what your contract says about starting your own business if you're planning to stay in your job while you get things up and running.
2. Start developing your business idea
Coming up with a business idea if often viewed as one of the hardest parts of starting a business from scratch.
But that doesn't have to be the case. Although coming up with a completely unique business idea can be exceedingly difficult, the truth is that you don't need to come up with a completely unique idea in order to launch a successful business.
Just look at Facebook - it wasn't the first social network but that didn't stop it from succeeding. And just think about at how many bars, and cafes and plumbers there are.
Originality isn't a must-have when it comes to developing a business idea.
Here are some questions that will help you come up with a business idea that works for you.
- What am I already good at?
- What do I know about, or what am I interested in enough to learn a lot about it?
- What product/service do I wish I had in my life but can't find anywhere?
Even if the answers to these questions don't bring an immediate flash of inspiration, they'll help set you on the right track.
If you need more inspiration, you can find 30 work from home business ideas here.
3. Research your idea and potential customers
Found an idea that you like? The next step is to start researching how your business might look once it's up and running.
Some important questions to ask at this stage are:
- What will my ideal customer look like?
- What geographic area(s) will my business look to serve?
- Who will my competitors be?
- How will I differentiate myself from my competitors?
- Are enough people interested in my product/service for me to make a profit?
- Are people willing to pay a sum for my product/service that will allow me to make a profit?
- How will I attract customers?
- What will success look like for my business?
- What are my aims for business growth?
These are big questions, and you may find that as you go about answering them you need to modify your original idea to ensure that your business is viable.
They can also be tough questions to answer on your own, so you may want to consider asking the advice of someone who has already set up a business, and/or speaking to a small business advisor who can guide you on your journey.
You can find a list of places to access small business support here.
4. Work on your business plan
The questions you've tackled in the previous step will provide a strong foundation for your business plan.
Having a business plan is a good idea because it will a) help you if you need to get a loan or outside investment and b) will give you something to measure how your business is performing when compared to your overall goals.
Your business plan will likely include:
- A description of your business, the services it will offer and its goals
- An overview of your target customers
- An overview of your competitors
- An overview of your marketing strategy
- Details of your business's management team and structure
- Financial forecasts
You can find a business plan template here.
5. Name your business and buy your domain name
You might already have a strong idea of what you want to call your business, or you might not have a clue.
Coming up with a business name you like can feel like a huge challenge. If it does, the chances are you're overcomplicating things.
Here are some tips to help you come up with a business name that works for you.
Keep it short and memorable
Aim for two words as a maximum. That way people will be more likely to remember who you are.
Reference what you do if it makes sense
If you're running a business that's easily described in one word, such as a plumbing business or a café, it usually makes sense to include what you do in your business name.
If your business has a wider scope, such as an online shop that sells multiple products, then you'll probably want to go for a less descriptive business name.
Make sure no one else got their first
Accidentally copying someone's business name can range from a minor but regular inconvenience to a significant threat to your business's existence.
If you decide to call yourself "Pete The Plumber" and later discover that there's another Pete The Plumber operating just a few miles away, you can expect to have to deal with some confused customers at some point in the future. But there probably wouldn't be much the original Pete The Plumber could do to force you to change your business's name.
However, if you picked a business name that infringes on a trademark then you're likely to face some sort of action. In a worst-case scenario, the infringement may not come to light until after you have your business up and running, meaning you could end up having to rename and rebrand your business with all the costs that would entail.
Check a suitable domain name is available
Many businesses have some form of online presence these days so even if you don't plan on attracting customers through your website, it still makes sense to get a site up and running.
In order to do that you'll need a domain name. As you'll want your domain name to match your business name, you'll need to factor in domain name availability when choosing your business name.
You'll find it's easiest to get the domain name you want on the domain extension you want if you've chosen an original business name.
But even then you may find that you need to be flexible.
Be prepared to tweak your business name in order to find a domain name that matches, and as you tweak don't forget to check trademarks again.
6. Register your business and protect your intellectual property
As well as drawing up a business plan, you'll need to register your business. Exactly how you register your business will depend on your personal situation, but your main options are:
Sole trader: This is the simplest way to register your business, but you'll be personally responsible for any debts your business accrues. You'll also need to submit a self-assessment tax return.
Limited company: Setting up a limited company will separate your finances from that of your business. However, you will have more responsibilities in terms of reporting, oversight and record keeping.
Partnership: This is the simplest way for two or more people to start a business together. If you form a partnership, you and your partners will be responsible for the business's debt, and will have accounting responsibilities.
You may also want to take steps to protect your intellectual property at this stage - this is particularly important if you're launching a new product. You can learn more about protecting intellectual property in this guide.
Finally, you may want to consider hiring an accountant at this stage of setting up your business, as they'll be able to help you understand the future financial responsibilities you and your business will have.
7. Plan and launch your website
Exactly how you go about planning and launching your website will depend on the kind of business you run and how important the web will be for you as a channel.
Some points to consider when planning and launching your website include:
What do you need your website to do?
Will a few pages describing your business and services along with a "contact me" form do? Or will you need ecommerce functionality with tens or even hundreds of product pages?
You should also think about what your website will need to do when it launches, and what it will need to do in the short, medium and long term.
If you're planning to start small, you might be content to launch your business with just a one page "coming soon" site. However, if you know you'll need to expand your website in six months' time, you should ensure you pick a platform that can grow with you.
Understanding what you'll need your website to do will help you make sure you get the site you need.
Who will design and build your website?
Will you hire a web designer or opt for a do it yourself website builder tool? Or perhaps you're aiming to pick up the skills required to build a website from scratch yourself.
If budget and time are a factor, using a website builder tool will probably hit the sweet spot for both of these.
Hiring a web designer is likely to be the most expensive of the options but it can be a good idea, especially if you're launching a very large site.
If you want to learn to do things yourself, then you face a steep, time-consuming, learning curve.
Plan your website content and keywords
Your website's content and keywords should, where possible, be planned out before your site is built.
If you don't plan out your site in advance, you may find that you need to redesign it straight away once you've launched it because you don't have the content you need to attract the kinds of visitors you want.
You can learn about why website keywords matter, and how to find them in this guide.
Set a budget for your website
If this is your first website, you may find it difficult to set a budget for your site. If you're planning to use a web designer, make sure you shop around to get a range of quotes as this will help make sure you don't end up paying over the odds.
If you use a do it yourself website builder, you'll end up paying a fixed price (either monthly or annually) which makes it easier to keep an eye on your costs. For example, GoDaddy's Website Builder starts at £6.99 for the basic package, while ecommerce packages start from £19.99.
Remember though, there could be other costs involved in getting your site up and running - such as paying for written content or professional product photographs. So don't forget to factor extras such as these into your overall budget.
You can learn more about how much a website costs in this guide.
Integrate analytics packages into your website
Getting the right data is crucial to running a business website efficiently, so make sure you integrate at least Google Analytics and Google Search Console into your website design and creation process.
Doing so will provide you with a whole host of data about who visits your website and what they do once they're there, allowing you to tweak and refine the way your site performs.
And if you're using GoDaddy's Website Builder, you'll have access to even more data through GoDaddy InSight.
8. Promote your business and website
By now, you should have a business and website that are ready and waiting for potential customers to find.
So it's time to start promoting your business and website.
The techniques you use to promote your business and website will depend on the kind of business you're running, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
If you've built your website using keywords as we've suggested, you're in a good position to get started with SEO.
SEO is a complex field and it can take months to start seeing results, so don't expect it to drive traffic to your website from day one. But as SEO can provide you with a steady stream of potential customers, it makes sense to make it part of your marketing mix.
If you're running a business that has a physical location, such as a café or bar, or that serves a fixed area, such as a plumber, you'll also need to look at local SEO.
Done well, local SEO will help your business appear in map results when people search things like "bars near me", or "plumber near me".
Search engine advertising
Although it will take a while for SEO to get your site ranking well in search engines, you can pay to appear in ads which appear at the top of search engine results.
This means you can start attracting traffic from Google from day one.
The down side is that search engine advertising can be expensive, particularly if you target popular keywords.
It's also possible to spend more on attracting people to your site through search engine ads than you make in sales.
So, if you plan to use search engine advertising, make sure you get to grips with the basics first and fully understand how much you'll be spending on your campaign before it launches.
You may also want to consider hiring an agency to run your ads for you, as this could save you money in the longer term.
Social media marketing
Social media sites are a great place to build a loyal, engaged following of existing and potential customers.
Obviously that isn't something which is going to happen overnight, but the good news is that through paid advertising you can start attracting website traffic from social media almost instantly.
This guide gives you a good overview on how to get started with social media marketing, including paid advertising.
Email marketing won't attract new visitors to your website, but it can keep previous visitors coming back for more.
If you encourage people to sign up for your email marketing messages, you can send them special offers and details of products that might interest them.
It's a great way to upsell to existing customers, and to stay in touch with people who are interested in your business but aren't ready to buy just yet.
To run an email marketing campaign, you'll need a tool like Email Marketing from GoDaddy. If you're using GoDaddy's Website Builder, you'll get an email marketing tool as part of your plan.
You can learn more about getting started with email marketing in this guide.
9. Measure, test and improve
Once you've launched your business, got your website up and running, started attracting traffic and hopefully made your first few sales, it can be easy to rest on your laurels.
But, although you certainly deserve to give yourself a pat on the back, you're only just getting started.
Hopefully when you were setting up your website, you integrated Google Analytics and Search Console (if you didn't, it's never too late to add them).
Google Analytics is a particularly powerful tool and you can use it to see which marketing channels perform best when it comes to driving website visits and sales.
Getting to grips with Google Analytics is a good way to identify areas for improvement, especially if you're new to doing business online.
There's no shortage of other things you can test to identify things that could have a positive impact on your business.
For example, you could use a heatmap tool to find out how people interact with your website and make improvements based on that.
You could start A/B testing to answer questions like "will changing the colour of the 'buy now' button from red to green improve conversion rates?".
You can run multiple versions of the same Facebook ad to see which performs the best.
In short, if you can measure something, you can test it to see if it can be improved.
But don't get lost in data - focus on areas that most directly impact on your business's goals. You can always expand your testing as your business grows.
There's a lot to take in here, and it can feel overwhelming. But remember, you don't have to tackle these steps all at once.
Consider breaking down each step into separate tasks and then dedicate a certain amount of time each week to working through each task. That way, you'll feel like you're making steady progress towards your overall end goal.
And, of course, if you need any help when it comes to getting your new business venture online, GoDaddy is always here to help.