London is a wonderful place for entrepreneurs. One of the best things about the city is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, you have an equal chance at setting up a successful business.
Of course, to set up an enterprise you have to have the right to work in the UK. Those who are citizens of any EU or EEA country are in luck, because thanks to the collaboration between all these countries, you have the right to live and work in any of the member states. And that includes setting up your own business.
For those who are citizens of countries other than these, it’s essential to ensure that you have the correct type of visa in place. The different types of visas available are described in full on the official UK Government website.
So, let’s take a look at 9 top tips when it comes to setting up your new London business.
1. Research your field and area of business
The very first step is to come up with your business idea. It might be something completely creative that no one’s ever heard of before. Or it could be something as simple as window cleaning, gardening, and maintenance. Perhaps you want to set up as a handyman. Whatever it is that you want to do, you need to do some detailed research into every aspect.
This includes current market prices, is the field already saturated with similar ventures, what insurances will you need, will you be subject to any regulatory bodies like The Food Standards Agency for food hygiene certificates, and do you need any officially recognised qualifications to run the business? The list is endless, but you get the picture as to what you need to be researching.
2. Suss out the competition
Unless you’ve come up with a completely unique idea, there is going to be other businesses in a similar vein already trading. Now is time for you to glean some important information from them. The easiest way to do this is simply to phone up and question them.
Obviously you don’t say what you’re doing (imagine your reaction if someone called you and said they were thinking of becoming a competitor—you’d hardly be likely to provide them with much information).
Instead, pose as a customer. Ask questions about prices. If they offer a service, when can they fit you in? Top tip: if they can fit you in today or tomorrow, you should question as to why are they so quiet. Ask about insurances they hold and any qualifications.
You can also find out a lot of information online. Any business worth its salt has a website – so log on and start snooping.
3. Decide on your target customers and targeted area of London
Knowing your target market is a crucial key to your business being a success. This is where market research comes into play. Get out there and question people about your proposed business. Do they think it’s a good idea? What would they be prepared to pay for your product or services? Do they actually like what you’re planning on doing?
If you’re planning on a service-based business, you need to decide on the area of London you’re going to target. For instance, a gardening business in the affluent area of Chelsea or Knightsbridge might seem a great plan.
But unless you hold qualifications or are a landscape gardener, perhaps lawn mowing and general tidying might do better in a more average area of the city?
If you’re going to be selling a product, then you might not need to be so area concerned. You will naturally be advertising and selling your product online. It’s your decision as to whether you’re going to need a physical location as well. If so, once again you need choose your target area carefully.
4. Create your business plan
The next step is to write your business plan. This is where you work out expenditures to get started and predict incomes and growth for the first few years. Don’t worry if you’ve no experience in doing such a thing. Help can be found in many places, such as the Official UK Government website and Barclays Bank.
4a. Speak to a lender if you need capital
Your business might have very little start up costs (especially if it’s an online business), or you might need a little or a lot of capital to get going. If you need to talk to a lender about this, you need to prove to them that you’ve done your homework. And you’re going to need a sound business plan.
In addition, you might be eligible for funds or tax credits through such schemes as New Business Start Up Loans.
5. Plan your marketing strategy
This will depend on the type of business you are planning on. This could be in the form of adverts in the paper, online, emails, and auto responders or even a simple leaflet drop.
However, your strategy needs to be one that will grow and mature as your business does. In other words, it needs to be dynamic. One again, help is available from many sources, including your bank, which should give you advice for free.
6. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise
When you’re getting ready to launch, be sure to tell the whole world. Tell everyone you know – tell people even if you don’t know them. Get your mum, sister, cousins, neighbours, friends, pet rabbit… (Ok, the rabbit won’t do much, but you get the drift). Advertise in any way you can think of to get the word out that a new business – YOUR business – is about to be born.
7. Ask your initial customers to place reviews on your website
This is a great way to endorse what you do. People are generally happy to help out where they can, and some genuine positive reviews about your products or services are a great way to become established.
8. Put schemes in place that will continue to work as your business grows
This is one area that many people forget to plan for. As your business grows, it’s going to need to be more streamlined to cope with the extra work. Try to foresee that when setting up any schemes (this could be anything: payroll, the ability to take card payments—PayPal provides an easy service—increased mailshots as your database grows).
You’ll save a lot of time, effort and money if you put into place schemes that will work just as well when your turnover is 500,000 as it did when it was 50,000
9. Expand your business
No matter how successful you become, continue to plan to expand. Sure, your restaurant is going really well and bringing in a tidy profit. Isn’t it time to be thinking of opening a second? You’re working at full capacity on your sandwich round business—so it’s time to take on an employee so you can bring in double the amount of money.
If you’re entrepreneurial enough to set up your own business in the first place, then you’re certainly savvy enough to expand as and when you can.
Enjoy, and the best of luck.