Whilst there’s many things to consider when starting a business, there's a handful of essential tasks that will take you from the idea stage to getting your first customer.

Sure you can spend hours setting up a fancy website or designing your business cards, but that’s not going to help you start turning a profit fast, and validate whether your business will actually work or not.

If you want to save yourself time and money and get right down to what matters, here’s the 5 essential to-dos when starting a business:

Know what problem you solve and who you solve it for

Whether you sell products or services, you’re in the business of solving a problem for someone and it’s your job to clearly understand what that problem is, who has that problem and how you solve it better than anyone else.

Being able to define and communicate this clearly will be the difference between finding and getting customers or not.

And yes, you should have a target market, even if you think everyone could be a customer of ‘your thing’. Why? Because effective marketing only happens when you understand and target a clearly defined audience:

“When you market to everyone, you reach no one”

Clearly define your services/products and prices

Next, you need to know exactly how you’ll solve that problem for your customers and you can do that by creating a list of clearly defined services or products with simple prices.

One way of doing that is writing a dummy proposal to a client outlining the options and pricing structure. The process of writing it out in this way helps you to see how you’re communicating your offerings. Also, outlining the resources, time and costs involved will help you decide on a price that is profitable and you’re happy with.

If you’re just starting out, it’s recommended that you focus on 1-3 key services or products to begin with. You can always add more later, but if you’ve too much choice it can confuse your customer and a confused customer won’t buy.

The key is to keep your offerings and pricing really simple for yourself, and your customer.

Register your business

Now you’re ready to make it official and start taking customers, it's time to register your business.

If you’re based in the UK, you can register with HMRC as a sole trader, limited company or a business partnership.

Although we've got guidance on choosing a legal structure for your business, you may want to discuss the options with an accountant who can advise on the best structure for your individual circumstances.

Once you’re registered you can start trading.

Get insurance

No matter which legal business structure you choose, purchasing business insurance will protect you, any employees and your customers should anything unexpected happen. It's vital that you secure this before you start selling your products and services. Not only is it peace of mind that so many new small business owner’s overlook, it may also be a legal requirement.

There are three main types of insurance to consider, but talk to a lawyer or seek advice before taking out a policy:

  • Public Liability Insurance - protects you against claims for compensation from people outside your business who have suffered an injury or whose property has been damaged because of your business.
  • Employers Liability Insurance- a legal requirement if you employ anyone through your business. Protects you against the cost of compensation claims arising from employee illness or injury, sustained as a result of their work for you.
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance - protects you if your client suffers a financial loss through your work for them.

Get in front of your customers as quickly as possible

The final essential to-do when starting a business is to get in front of your potential customers as quickly as possible. Marketing is vital if you want people to know your business exists and pull in customers.

If you’ve done your research in step one, you'll have a clear idea of who your customer is and how to reach them - through advertising, social media, networking or partnerships.

Whilst there’s so many ways you can market to your potential customers, when you’re starting out pick the opportunities that will get you in front of the most people quickly and easily. For many businesses, this is by attending local networking groups or partnering up with other existing businesses who have a captive audience and your products or services compliment. Here are 15 ways to find your first paying clients

By doing this, you’ll know very quickly whether your business is viable or not.

Next Steps

How do I choose a structure for my business?

Sole trader, limited company or partnership? This article gives an overview of some of the different legal structures available to the small business owner and how to go about choosing the right legal structure for your business.

Read more

What is my unique selling proposition (USP)?

Your unique selling proposition, your USP, is what makes your business stand out from your competitors. You need to decide what is unique, different or special about your business which will encourage customers to buy from you. Here we give you practical tips to develop your USP.

Read more

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