If you?re considering starting your own business to supplement your income or to escape your current job now is a good time to start. There are plenty of sources of low cost advice, legislation to reduce bureaucracy, greater access to freelancers and new technology to reduce your start-up costs.
If you have a new innovative idea or you can improve on an existing business idea there are plenty of resources available to you. A business is made up of a chain of activities. You may only be missing information on one part of the chain which is preventing you from taking the first step to bring your business idea to the market.
1. Low cost advice
a. Before you launch any business please get the right advice from people who know what they are talking about. Often people can have a brilliant idea but lack real world experience in areas critical for their business. It?s better to speak to people who can pass on the lessons they have learned rather than making the same mistakes wasting your money and time.
b. Government Agencies
There are a number of government agencies setup to help you start your business. One is the Local Enterprise Office (LEO). For a fee of ?20 you can book an appointment with one of their advisors to discuss your business. They will give you useful advice as well as point you to additional resources available to you. They may also be able to introduce you to other entrepreneurs who can provide advice.
If you have a high potential start then enterprise Ireland will want to talk to you. They will want detailed plans on how your business will work including costs and 5 year cash flow projections. If you don?t have a financial background you may need the help of an accountant. They will be keen to offer you support to get your business started.
c. Networking Events
Ireland, particularly in Dublin, is full of start-ups and small businesses. There are a number of network events which take place each month. These events will give you the opportunity to meet fellow entrepreneurs to get advice. Some of these events are run by incubators which house startups such as Dogpatch. Some are run by volunteers such as Entrepreneurs Anonymous (meetup.com). Others are run by government bodies.
d. Entrepreneurs on Linkedin
Linkedin is a great resource for meeting other entrepreneurs in Ireland. I?ve emailed several people I have never met before in my life asking for advice over a coffee. I?m not sure if it?s an Irish thing, but most of the people I contacted were very obliging. If you are not on linkedin please join today and start building your professional network.
2. Legal: Company Registration & Business Name
a. One of the first things to consider is your legal business form. If you are starting on your own a sole trader is probably your best option. Often people rush to set up a limited company wasting money on accountants and company formation fees which is not required to run a business. To operate as a sole trader you only need to register with revenue as being self-employed.
There are three broad types of legal forms. A sole trader, partnership and a limited company. The main difference between a sole trader and a company is your liability is limited to the amount you have invested into the company. As a sole trader you are personally liability for any debts of the business. Be careful with partnerships as generally each member has an equal liability.
In order to set up a company with the Companies Registration Office you need to complete a form A1 and provide your companies constitution (template provided by the CRO) and the ?50 filing fee. You will also need to register with Revenue for corporate tax and employers taxes if you are hiring staff.
Both you and your company do not need to register for VAT until you?ve reached certain thresholds. See this article by Revenue.
b. When you need to register a business name and how to register
If you are trading under a different name to your own or you company?s legal name you need to register a business name with the CRO. This can be done through core.ie at a fee of ?20.
3. Accountants: Tax and Company Returns
a.? ? ? You can find a number of local accountants through Google, Linkedin or accountantpages.ie. Please do your research first before selecting an accountant. Get recommendations. Selecting the wrong accountant can be costly if you miss a return. For example, if you miss a CRO return you will lose your audit exemption. If your accounts need to be audited it can cost up to ?2,500.
b. It?s very important, especially if you set up a limited company you are aware of your filing obligations and what forms need to be submitted. You do need to register for tax with revenue, however until you?ve reached certain sales thresholds you do not need to register for VAT.
4. Website and Office Space
Using wordpress will significantly reduce your costs in launching a website. WordPress is a tool which allows you to easily manage your website online. There are many website templates available from websites such as themeforest.net which cost roughly ?45. There is plenty of learning material available to help you get your business started. One of the limitations with wordpress is that it is a standardised solution so customisation will be difficult.
You can register a .ie domain for ?15-?25 per year (Special offer on register365.ie of ?4.99) and get your hosting for ?50 per year.
If your are starting your first business you need to keep your costs as low as possible. If you are starting a business by yourself, generally you don?t need office space working from home is more than sufficient. There are also a number of free options available to you. For example, Bank of Ireland provides a number of free desks: https://businessbanking.bankofireland.com/campaigns/bank-of-ireland-workbench/
5. Staff & Outsourcing
Starting a business requires a number of broad skills which one individual is unlikely to possess. As a result you are going to need to get the help of others. Particularly if you are also working a full time job, time will be a major constraint. One very useful website is called upwork.com. This allows you to hire anyone around the world. It allows you to take advantage of lower costs of living and oversupply of skills in other countries. For example in Portugal the minimum wage is ?4.38 per hour compared to ?9.80 per hour in Ireland. Just be careful when hiring people for large complex projects. Communication can be an issue as a lot of freelancers are not native English speakers. Also, be very careful when hiring someone to build a complex website. If you do not have detailed specifications then stay away from outsourcing online.
If you would prefer to hire someone locally you can use a classifieds website like gumtree.ie which is free to post an ad.
The first thing you should do when starting your business is to try to sell before you have a finished product or service. Often people can make this mistake of investing a lot of time and money in building a product. After months or years they finally bring their product or service to the marketplace only find they either can?t sell it or there is no demand for it. Getting people to buy a product or service is often the most difficult stage in the process.
You can test your product or service by running ads online and measuring the response you are getting. You can also create a template website and see how far users will go in the buying process. You can start creating content your target market would find interesting. Attend networking events and build up your contacts on linkedin. Work on building an audience first before you have a product to sell.
I hope you found this article useful. It?s aim was to provide very high level ideas aimed at helping you get started in your first business. The main points of the article are not to rush into a business. If you do you?ll end up wasting time and money. Get advice, keep your costs low, get sales experience and try to build an audience to sell to.
If you found this article useful or you know someone who might find it useful, I would be grateful if you would please share with your network.