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The Lockdown Guide To Starting A Business

A decent chunk of the people visiting Informi are not business owners or self-employed. They work regular jobs but one day hope to go it alone, either full-time or as a part-time side earner. They come to the site looking for business ideas and to find advice about getting up and running.

If you’re one of those people, it’s quite likely your day job is in a funny place right now. With the coronavirus lockdown forcing many of us to work from home, or on furlough, now could be a good opportunity to use that extra time to revisit your business ambitions.

Well, if something good can come of this – a nice shiny new business venture wouldn’t be a bad thing, would it?

We’re going to look at some of the activities you can undertake and the various resources we have to make your downtime as productive as possible.


Business ideas in a post-coronavirus world

At the start of the year, we did some future-gazing in which we predicted the best business ideas to bank on in the 2020s. Clearly our psychic abilities aren’t up to much. We missed the bit about the imminent global pandemic nor did we mention toilet roll as the must-have accessory for 2020. And right now, it’s impossible to get hold of baking supplies…

Rise in home baking searches on Google

On a serious note, though, the current situation could seriously change how this decade pans out – and the sorts of business ventures that emerge from the crisis. Will there be a prolonged recession in the vein of the 2008 financial crash? Will Brexit be delayed? On a cultural level, will we see working from home become the norm as a result? Will talking to your neighbours become a thing again.

All of these factors and many more will inevitably have an impact on the business landscape and will make some business ideas more viable than others. 


So, what is a viable business idea?

Actually, it’s quite simple. For your business to work, there needs to be enough demand for your product or service that people will pay for it. To be truly successful, you’ll generate enough income to cover your costs, pay yourself, and make a profit. If it’s also scalable, you’re winning.

One way to establish this is to do a bit of market research. Yes, the perfect activity for a lazy lockdown day.

Establishing the market demand for your product can be done in a variety of ways.

  1. Download industry reports from websites like Mintel and YouGov (many of which are free).
  2. Use insight tools like Google Trends and Keyword Planner to gauge the search volumes for related key words. (More on that here)
  3. Conduct interviews and surveys with the public to understand their needs and wants. (Why not throw out a question on Facebook?)
  4. Check out the competition and assess how they’re doing. (In the post-lockdown world, we thoroughly recommend walking down the high street and going into stores)

At the end of this, you’ll hopefully arrive at the conclusion that the demand for your business outstrips the supply. Even better, you’ll identify that there’s a new opportunity or niche not being served. (Check out our handy guide on how you can find gaps in the market)


Still struggling on an idea?

However, it’s wrong to fixate on being a totally new and unique business venture. Obviously, if you can tick all the boxes and be innovative, great, but sometimes a good business simply takes a well-worn idea and improves on it.

Does the world need more hairdressers…? But this one serves beer as well!

Equally, whilst there’s no such thing as a failsafe business, some ventures will always see strong demand and – here’s the charm – will also be quick and cheap to set up. Accountancy services, for example, are always in demand, even during a global pandemic, and, provided you have the skills and experience, you don’t need a huge amount of money to operate – you can do so from home with a laptop and internet connection.

If you want to do more thinking outside the box, here are some of the ways to spark inspiration (and we’ve got plenty of online money making ideas too).


Competitor research

We touched on competitors earlier and it has since occurred that this is another awesome lockdown activity.

Here’s why: all you need to do is go online and do some digging on your competition. This might be looking at their website, checking out their reviews (via Amazon, Trustpilot, Google) and perhaps signing up to some of their emails. Yep, prepare to

From this, you can build a picture of the market landscape and how your business will fit in.

There’s so much info you can gather, but here’s a very basic idea using budget gyms as an example.






‘The UK’s number 1 budget gym’

‘Train. Sweat. Laugh’

‘Get your fitness on target’


£8.99 (Off peak)
£14.99 (Core)
17.99 (Plus) + joining fee

From £9.99 per month

From £9.99 per month






250+ gyms nationwide

5 (expanding to 11)

52 clubs across the UK


50+ free classes a week

Pack45 – free group training

40 fitness classes running every week

Other benefits

·  Student membership: 10% off first 6 months

·       Also offer day, week and happy hour passes

·       Ladies only zones

·  Students join for £1 (Limited offer)

·  Complimentary five day free pass for friends


Customer profiles

Ok, we’re moving on to the bit where you’ve got your idea and you’re happy it’s a go-er. But we now need to start envisioning it in action.

One of the best ways to do that is to start imagining who your customers will be and how your business will cater to their needs.

“Get so close to your customer that you know what they want before they do.”

Steve Jobs

That leads us nicely into the perfect lockdown activity: creating customer profiles. For one, it’s something that can be squeezed out of being a priority in normal circumstances. However, it’s a fundamental consideration when you’re thinking about your brand, your positioning in the market, and your marketing activity.

Let’s use budget gyms again as an example.


Asif Oshani (18-22)

Anna Sandfoot (25-35)

Gary Thompson (35+)


The student

The would-be gym enthusiast

The out-of-shape dad



Call centre worker

Lorry driver


Works part-time at Bowling alley

Not much money

Health conscious

Plays football


Middle-income, but bills are tight


Pretty hectic homelife

Generally healthy

Fun & bubbly 


Works shifts


Likes a drink, takeaways

Has two kids

Video gamer


“My body is a temple”

“I’d love to get fit but life just gets in the way”

“Exercise? I haven’t exercised in yonks!”


Wants to get ripped, but have money to spare

Wants to look and feel good, meet people, and have fun! 

Not that bothered about joining a gym, but wouldn’t mind getting rid of his belly. 


Google, Lad Bible, Snapchat, Netflix, YouTube

Google, Daily Mail, Instagram, Email, Facebook

Google, The Sun (Print), Dave, ITV2, Money Saving Expert

Why will our proposition appeal to them?

·       Student membership

·       Flexible plans

·       Modern

·       App + hi-tech

·       Specialised classes

·       24/7

·       Loads of classes

·       Fun and social

·       App to keep you on track

·       Near to the shops

·       Free parking

·       Personalised training programme

·       Cheap

·       Convenient

·       Fit around work

We’ve created a few different target customer personas and they all differ slightly. We now have a clearer idea in mind of who they are, how to reach them, and what we need to say them. We might also look at one of them and think ‘actually, they’re the key audience to target’ – perhaps because they’re more likely to spend more money? Kerching! 


Writing a business plan

Assuming you’ve followed the above steps, you’re in a great place. So, if ever there was a time to write a business plan, now is it! We often talk to business owners who’ve found this to be a task they really put off for one reason or another – whether it’s collating the financial data or the arduous task of writing it up.  The Apprentice probably doesn’t help either…

Put aside those anxieties. Now, is a time of positive action.

“The term “business plan” is often met with fear and the assumption that once you’ve agreed the plan, it’s set in stone. But that is not the case.

“A good business plan is the result of time spent focusing on the idea, mapping out the vision and summarising how best to achieve it by asking what you need to execute the plan (finance, people and so on) and having a clear method for measuring progress and success.

“A brilliant business plan is all of the above but with the room for creativity, innovation and evolution.”

Jo Malone

We like this fresh take on writing a business plan, but it is still something you’ll want to put a good amount of thought into. Here are some of the typical things you’ll want to include, but, remember, it’s your plan, so you make the call. 

  • What your business will do
  • The business structure and operations
  • Team members and their expertise
  • The current and projected state of the market and industry
  • How your business will sell and market
  • Startup costs and funding required
  • Financial projections
  • Legal requirements

For more guidance, you can use our full guide and downloadable business plan template. Woohooo!


The boring stuff, that’s actually quite important

One of the biggest decisions, you’ll need to make is whether to register as a sole-trader or limited company. This has ramifications on your tax and administration liabilities later down the line. It’s worth doing a bit of research on this and speaking to an accountant if necessary. Whilst one option might save you a bit on tax, you might find yourself with more paperwork.

“I’ve seen many businesses who are working through an inappropriate structure. For instance, a window cleaner, who has become a limited company to make some tax savings, whilst not considering the additional compliance costs.”

Henry Cooper

Also, you’ll want to use this time to research suppliers and consider what sorts of business insurance you’ll need. Obviously, this will vary depending on your specific business and will all feed into your business plan – remember what we said: it’s an evolving document.



All of the activities outlined in this blog are things you can do from home and are great tasks to get stuck into with the extra time you may have. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by the process of getting up and running, our how to start a business in 20 days guide condenses everything into a practical action plan. 

Or, failing that, you could just binge on these startup podcasts or watch some business-related films and tv shows. It’s all research, right?

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