The quick guide to starting a business

I got my ABN (Australian Business Number, more on that below) when I was 20 and doing freelance work in Advertising agencies. Things were pretty simple then because I was doing it part-time and wasn’t earning much money – I was still a uni student, after all. I didn’t need to promote myself as I was getting consistent work from one agency so advertising was taken care of. When I started my marketing consultancy business in 2020 (yep, in the middle of a global pandemic!) things were very different and I had a few things to learn! 

Please note that everything in this article is based on my experiences and research. I wish I had this info in the one place before I started rather than making it up as I went along! Please do your research, check your legal and tax requirements and do your due diligence before making any business decisions to determine what’s right for you.

Registering your business

Depending on the type of business you’re running, you might need more than an ABN and a business name. You may need to register for GST, register a trademark, register for licences and permits or as a company. There are a lot of decisions to make here, so do your research! 

ABN

I already had my ABN, but getting an ABN is the first step in starting a business if you don’t already have one. It is a requirement under Australian law to have an ABN, and you’ll need it for tax purposes. They’re free to get, and you register for one on the ATO website

Business name

A business name helps people to find you and understand what it is you do. It could just be your name, a variation of your name (e.g. Court Garfoot Nutrition), or something related to the products or services you offer. Your business name doesn’t have to do everything because your website and other promotional materials will do most of the heavy lifting. Apple, Nike, and Adidas don’t mean much on their own! A business name should be:

  • Unique
  • Easy to remember
  • Easy to pronounce 
  • Easy to spell
  • Have an easy domain and social handles available

Insurance

Every business needs insurance! You may be able to get insurance through your industry association or through an insurance broker (that’s what I did). Have a chat with other business owners in a similar sector and see who they’re insured with, as they may be able to give you a recommendation. 

Some types of insurance are compulsory; for example, any business with employees requires workers compensation insurance. In addition, a certain level of insurance may be required to work with particular organisations, so make sure you check your legal requirements.

The main types of business insurance are:

Public liability insurance

Public liability insurance covers your business should a customer, supplier or member of the public lodge a claim against you for any injury or damaged belongings that your business caused them. This insurance is compulsory for certain types of businesses.

Professional indemnity

Professional indemnity is essential for businesses in the service industry. It offers protection for businesses that deal in specialist services or professional advice. In addition, it helps cover lawsuits and financial loss from actual or alleged negligent acts or omissions that occurred when you provided a professional service or advice to a client. 

Product liability insurance

Product liability insurance is vital for businesses in the goods and sales industries. It provides financial protection against claims of personal injury or property damage caused by products your business sold or supplied.  Reasonable costs incurred in defending a claim covered by your insurance are also covered.  Product liability is generally a part of your public liability policy, but please check your policy.

Branding, marketing and promotion

How are you going to tell people about your business? The first step in promoting your business is establishing a brand. A brand is a shortcut to people recognising your business and should include:

  • Logo
  • Colours
  • Fonts
  • Image style

These will be used across all your marketing and promotional materials, so people know it’s you. 

There are many ways to market your business, depending on your target audience and where they are. You also need to decide if you’re offering any promotions to get people through the door. Discount based promotion impact the perception you’re trying to build of your business, so think about this carefully! If you’re looking for more marketing information, my eBook might be a good place to start.

Accounting and other software

What software will you need to run your business? I guarantee you will need some level of accounting software to keep track of the money that’s coming in and out. I use Quickbooks, but there are many choices out there for you to choose from. You need to consider what will work for you and what you need it to do. You may also want to introduce an online booking system, an online form system for your website to manage enquiries, and an eDM system to send out emails to your clients and/or suppliers. Start with the minimum to work out what you need and go from there. Many programs will offer a free trial so take advantage of that.

Accountant 

Book an appointment with your accountant ASAP! Seeing my accountant was one of the best things I did when starting my business. They advised me on how to set up my bank accounts, how much to put away for tax, what I could and couldn’t claim, and how to do a BAS Statement. I went into my accountant and asked ALL the dumb questions, and they were lovely in explaining everything. So don’t be shy, and make sure you ask all of the questions. They will help you save a lot of money in the long run! 

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