Starting your business
Find out how to get started and read some tips for running your business:
- Digital business academy — Join over 20,000 entrepreneurs gaining the skills to start, grow or join a digital business.
- Company Bug — Small business advice covering a wide range of topics, with specific advice for starting a business while you study.
- Start Your Own Business in Portsmouth — Free resources and information to help get your new venture off the ground. Highlights local Portsmouth organisations who offer friendly business advice and services you need.
- The Start-up Series (Enterprise Nation) — Videos covering tips from inspiring entrepreneurs.
- Entrepreneur Handbook — Advice and guides on starting and growing a business for UK entrepreneurs.
- Santander online resources — A range of online resources from Santander Universities.
- 5 Podcasts Every Student Entrepreneur Needs to Listen To — A blog post by Alex Harvey of the Student Food Project on who to listen to if you're starting a business.
- When to jump — A podcast of unscripted conversations with everyday people and public figures speaking about leaving something comfortable to chase their dreams.
Once you've got an idea you need to check if there's demand for your product or services before you start your business. Take the time to talk to your potential customers (not just your friends and family), do some mystery shopping on your competitors, and research the number of customers and your price point and the industry in general. Don’t forget to ask opinions on your business name and the logo too.
You can source firsthand data by conducting a survey or posing questions on social media. SurveyMonkey is a great tool for gathering data online through surveys and getting know your customers. There are also resources available from the Prince’s Trust on how to do market research and analyse your results.
A business plan can help you clarify your goals, identify and resolve potential issues, explore what resources you’ll need and evaluate the viability of your idea before you get started. Your business type will decide what you need to include in your business plan.
Here are some links to some basic business plan templates and supporting information:
You need to choose a business structure before you can register your business. This could be:
- Sole Trader/Self-Employed
- Limited Liability Company
- Public Liability Company
- Social Enterprise
- Community Interest Company
Registering your business
Different structures will require different registration processes so you should research what your business needs before you get started. Don’t jump into registration until you are ready to trade and clear about what organisation you plan to be. You can register in 10 minutes if you know what you’re doing, and seek professional advice from an accountant, solicitor or business registration agent if you aren't sure.
Guidance and resources
- GOV.UK – Setting up a charity — Specific information on setting up a charity.
- HMRC – Company structure — A short e-course if you are setting up as self-employed or a sole trader.
- GOV.UK – Setting up a Social Enterprise — Specific information about setting up a Social Enterprise.
- GOV.UK – Setting up — Information about how you can set up a business and how to register with HMRC.
- Companies House — All limited companies in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are registered at Companies House, an Executive Agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
Intellectual property, patents and copyright
You might feel like you need to protect your ideas and logos straight away, but this may not be true. The rules on copyright, patents, registered trademarks and alike are complicated and can be difficult to read, but you should do as much research as you can before reaching out to a costly patent lawyer or consultant. It seems easy enough to protect your idea in principle, but the laws governing the level of protection, the speed at which it can be implemented, and whether the protection is worldwide or merely local often make this a non-viable option for small businesses.
You should also remember that your idea probably isn't unique. There are 7 billion people on the planet and some of the most successful products have come about through incremental changes.
Advice on intellectual property
Get expert advice on your intellectual property requirements. Book a telephone appointment with an expert from Maucher Jenkins by speaking to a member of the Student StartUp team or emailing email@example.com.
Protecting your ideas
Resources to help you understand and use intellectual property:
- British Library – protecting your business ideas — Find out about patents, trademarks, copyright and registered designs.
- Licence finder — Find out which licenses you may need for business activities.
- IP Basics (videos) — A range of short intellectual property videos by the Intellectual Property Office.
- What’s Intellectual Property got to do with you? — An introduction to intellectual property from Durham University.
- Intellectual Property for business — Intellectual property for business tools.
- GOV.UK – IP Toolkit
- UK Copyright Service — Copyright basics for composers and performers.
- Sound and Music copyright basics — Copyright advice for composers and performers.
Creating a prototype can help make your idea come alive. It doesn’t need to be perfect – a rough prototype will make explaining your concept easier and develop your idea.
Use these tools to get your prototype started:
- SOLIDWORKS® Entrepreneur Program — For early-stage hardware startups, this program offers software, training, and co-marketing resources at no cost.
- Innovate Design — Helping UK inventors with topics like Patent Protection, Product Development and Prototyping. Innovate can review your idea and suggest the best way to proceed, free of charge.
- Appery.io — A rapid development, integration and deployment platform for delivering cross-device apps in the enterprise. Create and run apps that help businesses of all sizes.
- Proto.io for apps — Create fully-interactive high-fidelity prototypes in minutes that look and work exactly like your app should.
A freelancer (also known as a consultant, sole trader, contractor or self-employed) is someone that sells their skills, services or products to people, organisations or businesses rather than work for a regular salary from one employer.
You can set your freelancing business up as you and trade under your name, or create a ‘company name’. Company names are useful because you will often be competing against other freelancers and businesses to sell your skills, services or products.
Get your freelance business started with these guides:
- Online Portfolio: How to Setup & What to Include — A guide that shows freelancers how to create an online portfolio that stands out and showcases your work to help you secure great clients.
- Freelance Terms And Conditions — Top tips on creating freelance terms and conditions by Emma Cossey.
- Freelance Rate Explorer — Explore freelance designer and developer rates, filtered by experience level, skill, and geography, on this tool.
- Freelancing at University — Find out more about freelancing as a business while you're at university.
- A Graduate’s guide to freelancing — Explore freelancing as a recent graduate.
Find freelance opportunities when you first start out can be a challenge. Get started here:
- Becoming an Online Freelancer — Steps to becoming a freelancer using freelance marketplaces online.
- People per hour – find freelancing opportunities — Find freelancing jobs that suit you and use the site to upload work, arrange payments and more.
- YunoJuno — Find work, speak directly with employers and to manage your freelancer life.
Social enterprises are businesses striving to have a positive impact. These companies often reinvest or donate their profits to make support positive social change.
There are plenty of resources specific to this kind of startup including our Social Startup programme, Social Enterprise UK and Setting up a Social Enterprise - GOV.UK. Companies like The Partnership Foundation Fund offer one-off grants for social enterprises, voluntary and community organisations to help them grow, adapt to change, or merge.
About your industry
A lot of the information you need when you create a new business is quite generic, especially when you create your value proposition. You should research your industry as you develop so that you can tailor your services accordingly. Understanding your own sector and keeping up to date with the latest news also helps you to foresee potential problems before they arise.
- COBRA: complete business reference adviser — COBRA provides everything you need to set up a business including searchable fact sheets, reports and bulletins, sector guides, local area profiles, business events, qualifications and courses, and how-to guides for subjects including covering marketing, finance, HR/employment, administration, tax, and e-commerce. The database covers the whole of the UK and is updated daily. Available to UoP students & staff only via campus or by setting up Web Proxy on your home computer.
- Sector Donuts — Expert guidance on how to start up and run a business in more than 200 industries from catering to construction.
- Business Support Bank — Free peer-to-peer advice and guidance on how to develop a business to recent start-ups and established businesses in the PO1-PO6 postcode area. We are currently offering mentoring and advice in: business planning, sales, marketing, and finance. This project is in a pilot phase.
- Creative designers & makers blog — A blog aimed at creative designers and makers by Print & Press.
How I started a fashion label — Pampelone founder Holly Scarsella explores her startup journey. Pampelone is a popular resort wear brand and is stocked by retailers such as Bloomingdales.
- The Creative Introvert Podcast — The Creative Introvert Podcast. By Cat Rose: The Creative Introvert