How to start a business from home

by Maxine Bremner

Published • 15/12/2023 | Updated • 15/12/2023

Starting a business

How to start a business from home

by Maxine Bremner

Published • 15/12/2023 | Updated • 15/12/2023

Starting a business

Learning how to start a business from home is one of the most accessible ways to take your first steps into entrepreneurship, with reduced start-up costs and a high level of flexibility that makes it easy to balance your business responsibilities with your day-to-day routines.

Though starting a home-based business can remove various challenges, there are still certain best practices that every new business owner should bear in mind for the best chances of success.

In this guide, we’ll go through the most important considerations and steps you’ll need to take to successfully start a business from home.

Starting a business from home: the pros and cons

For many, running a business from home can seem like the ideal way of becoming an entrepreneur. While there are certainly a lot of advantages to running a home-based business, there are also potential drawbacks which can be overlooked when people are deciding how to approach starting their business.

Before we go any further, here are some of the biggest pros and cons of running a business at home that all aspiring entrepreneurs should consider.

Pros of starting a small business at home

The benefits of starting a small business at home are characterised by a high level of flexibility and freedom to spend your time in a way that suits you. Here are some of the pros to be aware of when you’re considering starting a home-based business.

Low start-up costs

As you already have somewhere to operate your business from, and probably have certain core pieces of equipment like a computer and workspace, starting your business from home can reduce a huge portion of your usual start-up costs straight away.

Flexibility with your time

Starting a business from home means you won’t have to deal with a daily commute. Also, with your workstation always within reach, you’ll be able to enjoy greater flexibility as you schedule your working hours around your personal commitments. It can also give you the freedom to maintain a day job if you’re planning to work part-time as you try to get your business off the ground.

Tax advantages

Like many home-based entrepreneurs, you might be planning to build a service-based online business that’s aligned with the skills you’ve already picked up in previous permanent jobs. In this situation, starting a business from home can be a great way to carry out a similar kind of work while potentially paying less income tax. 

As you’ll now be using a portion of your home, utilities, and so on to facilitate your business, you’ll have a number of potentially allowable expenses you can use to reduce your tax bill at the end of the year. 

Cons of starting a small business at home

Though the flexibility of starting a business from home can be a major benefit for many entrepreneurs, being a home-based entrepreneur comes with certain inevitable drawbacks you’ll need to consider.

Work-life imbalance

Though going self-employed can help many people achieve the great work-life balance they’ve always wanted, for others it can have the opposite effect. 

When your office is in the same building where your domestic chores and downtime take place and where you interact with family and friends, the line between your work and home life can start to blur. 

When starting a business from home, many people find that they either get distracted by their home life and neglect the needs of their business, or get into the habit of working long hours and become distant from the people they live with.

Challenges when trying to scale

When you start a business from home, you may find it difficult to scale your operations to match its growth in revenue. 

Though it’s certainly possible to hire employees on an 100% remote basis, this isn’t always practical for certain companies, and you could find yourself needing an outside business premises sooner than anticipated.

It can look less professional

The internet has made it easier than ever to start a business, and home-based businesses are becoming more and more common each year. However, not having a commercial address can still detract from your company’s sense of professionalism, and can make it hard to secure investment or negotiate with suppliers until you’re able to scale.

Step 1: Come up with an idea for a home business

The first step in starting a business from home is coming up with an idea, and deciding what kind of business you’re going to run. 

For some people, this part of the process comes naturally, and you may already have a fairly detailed idea of what your home-based business is going to look like.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a business idea, there are a few exercises you can try to get inspired, such as:

Thinking about your own pain points

Whether it’s in your personal or professional life, everyone faces some kind of challenges which they could use a better solution for. 

If there’s something tied to your industry, your responsibilities at home, or anything else in your life that’s frustrating you, there are probably other people out there who are experiencing the same thing.

Find a way to monetise your hobbies

There are countless great businesses out there which have started from the founder’s hobbies and interests. This is often a particularly attractive prospect for first-time entrepreneurs, as if you’re a passionate hobbyist, you may have a lot of equipment already, meaning you can start a business with no money

Furthermore, when you start with a detailed knowledge of a particular hobby or interest, you’ll find pricing a product in a suitable range requires much less research than if you were starting from scratch.

Whether the business model actually involves partaking in your hobby, like creating an e-commerce store for hand-crafted goods, or starting a business that’s more hobby-adjacent, like an online woodworking supply store, considering your hobbies can be a great way to pick a business idea that you’re passionate about.

Think about what you’re great at

In your previous jobs, you probably had at least one specialist area that you were known for. Whether it was tackling creative tasks, strategising projects, or closing sales, your unique skill set likely has an inherent value that somebody will pay for.

Get out of your comfort zone

If part of why you’re starting a business is to re-define yourself as a professional, then you may want to go in the complete opposite direction and find a business idea that doesn’t involve the skills you’d worked on previously. 

Reading up on industries that you’ve had nothing to do with before, attending conventions and networking events, and generally exploring options outside your comfort zone, can be a great way to get inspired.

Identify your niche or a gap in the market

However you go about finding your business idea in the first place, once you have an idea you’re interested in pursuing, it’s important to think about whether this idea fits into a market niche or gap that you can exploit for success.

One of the great things about starting an online business from home is that it lends itself naturally to researching what your competition is doing in digital spaces, and the sentiment these companies are generating with their online audience.

Armed with a business idea, researching the state of this industry online can be a great way to figure out what the industry is currently lacking, and how you might be able to position your business to address this need.

Some effective ways to find your niche or gap in the market include:

  • Surveying your target customers through participation on popular online forms or social media groups where people discuss topics relating to your business idea.

  • Researching some of the key players in the industry you’re planning to enter, looking for negative press and reviews for their products or services, and finding a way to address these shortcomings in your own business plan.

  • Keeping up to date with industry news in order to recognise the value in new, emerging solutions or adapting ideas from overseas markets to suit yours.

Identifying a market niche or gap can give you an essential sense of direction as you work to develop your business idea. Take the time to articulate this alongside your idea, and you’ll enjoy a much smoother ride ahead.

Step 2: Do your research

Once you’ve settled on a small business idea that you feel confident in, the next phase of starting your business is to carry out thorough research on your product or service, the current state of the market, and your competition.

The majority of new businesses fail within their first few years of operation, and in many cases this is due to coming up against unforeseen challenges which could have been avoided with enough analysis and preparation.

Whether you’re just looking to start a side hustle or have a much more ambitious goal in mind, it’s essential to carry out research in the following key areas.

What are you selling? Products vs. Services

By now, you likely know whether you’re going to be starting a business that’s built around selling products or selling services. 

To help your chances of success, it’s important to research the different challenges associated with each business and how this will affect your approach to developing your business.

Product-based business

When you’re selling a product, you need to focus your strategy around meeting the needs of customers who are facing a certain pain point. This means getting to know the products on the current market, identifying their shortcomings, and articulating how you’re going to fix them to effectively attract your target audience.

When running a product-based business, the quality of the product is much more tangible than the quality of a service, and will be a key deciding factor in your business’ future success. 

When customers try a new product in order to address a certain need, it will be easy for them to give you a sense of how it will perform on the market.

Unlike service-based businesses, product-based companies have to maintain a certain level of consistency in all their products, and won’t be able to customise the customer experience as easily as businesses centred around providing services. 

Some of these businesses will also have to deal with variable demands fluctuating throughout the year, making it harder to project cash flow and stay prepared.

Service-based businesses

Service-based businesses tend to carry significantly less start-up costs compared to product-based businesses, but come with their own set of challenges you’ll need to consider.

Service industries tend to have a wider range of pricing, with companies that can demonstrate more expertise and experience charging a higher rate for a premium experience. Determining how to price a service will require a keen understanding of your market and the level of prestige your brand carries.

A service business’ clients need to feel like they can trust the company before they part with their money, and building this trust can be challenging when you’re new to the industry.

It’s also important to note that service-based businesses have more customer touchpoints to consider than product-based ones. This means that while some clients require just a few hours of labour from your side for you to extract a certain amount of value from their account, another client might require twice as much work for the same amount of revenue. So, it’s important to understand how to deal with difficult clients and set realistic expectations early on.  

Service-based entrepreneurs must be prepared to constantly examine and optimise their processes to ensure they’re operating as efficiently as possible and that their interactions with clients are worth their time.

Competitors

Running competitor analysis is an essential part of understanding the current conditions in your industry. 

Studying businesses that are offering the same kind of product or service as you will help you understand what’s helped big market players to succeed, what their shortcomings are, and how you set yourself apart as a better choice for your customers.

Every competitor you’re going to be up against carried out competitor analysis when they were first starting out, and it’s important that you do the same as you prepare to enter the market. 

Right now, you’re in a privileged position where you haven’t committed to a particular direction for your business to take, and you’re free to adapt your product, service and business model to perform where your competitors are falling short. Be sure to use it.

Target market

Your target market is the people who you’re going to be selling your product or service to. The first step is understanding how to identify your target market and position your product or service to serve their needs.

Casting too wide a net, especially as an unknown brand, will only mean that your marketing doesn’t land with any particular audience segment. If you want to have any kind of success, it’s essential that you research this thoroughly and define your target market in as much detail as possible.

Once you’ve articulated the kind of people who would benefit from your product or service in the form of a detailed customer persona, you’ll need to carry out market research with these people to determine how your business idea would be received by them. 

If you’re wondering how to do market research for a small business, there are a few avenues that you can get started on right away:

  • Sending out online surveys,

  • Participating in hot discussions

  • Reading original market research from around the industry 

These can all help you get an intimate knowledge of your target market.

Step 3: Create your business plan

Next up, it’s time to think about writing a business plan for your small business. 

A business plan is a document that outlines a long-term vision for your business, and a plan of how you’re going to achieve it. This is not only essential for presenting to investors when you want to scale your business up, but can also act as a handy checklist for starting a business you can refer back to whenever things get challenging.

Learning how to make a business plan is a large and complex topic that will require your own research. To get you started, here’s a breakdown of the essential sections to include in a business plan:

  • Executive summary: A top-level summary of your business plan’s contents, with the aim of succinctly presenting the essence of your business and the goals that you’re setting out to achieve.

  • Business description: A natural extension of the executive summary, your business description will go into further detail about the essence of the business, describing the organisation’s products or services, its goals, and its target audience.

  • Product or service description: Whether what you’re selling is simple or complex, every business plan needs an in-depth description of the company’s product or service, ensuring anyone that reads your business plan can come away feeling familiar with the kind of value your company is offering to its customers.

  • Market analysis: A section that collates the data you’ve gathered on the state of your market and the wants and needs of your target audience, with the aim of articulating how your business will find its niche in the market as it currently stands.

  • Marketing plan: Here, you’ll need to describe your strategy for promoting your company’s products or services. The primary focus here is the kinds of communication channels you’re planning to use as part of your marketing strategy. This might also include details about your pricing plan or localised ‘grand opening’ promotions like sending out gift cards, and how this will help to give your business a kick-start as a new player in the market.

  • Financial analysis: The financial analysis focuses on projecting the up-front costs needed to start your business, the revenue streams that it will rely on, and the projected revenue figures for the company’s first year of operation.

  • Appendix: Though it may not be necessary for every home-based business, the appendix of a business plan provides a space for you to organise any supporting figures that readers might find helpful when going through previous sections, for example the details on studies that you cited as part of your market research.

Step 4: Choose the right business structure

For your business to trade legally in the UK, you’ll need to choose a business structure that’s recognised by the government. This designation will determine how much tax is deducted from your profits, who’s officially in charge of your company, how much legal liability you have for your business’s debts, and more.

Though your business idea may make the right structure for you feel fairly obvious, it’s important to get familiar with what each structure means for your business before you make this decision.

Structure; sole trader or Ltd?

The vast majority of home-based businesses will set-up as either a sole trader or limited company. As a new business owner, it’s important to acquaint yourself with the major benefits and drawbacks of each of these structures.

Setting up as a limited company is generally the safer option for the business owner, as it provides legal liability protection which will mean you won’t have to cover any debts should the business fail. However, setting up a limited company is considerably more complex and labour-intensive than starting your business as a sole trader. There may also be some tax benefits compared to registering as a sole trader.

This will involve coming up with a business name that’s not already registered with companies house, and designating certain roles within the company structure like the director, company secretary, and shareholders. The whole incorporation process usually requires the help of a solicitor to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Setting up as a sole trader, on the other hand, is quick and simple, and only requires you to register a few key pieces of personal information when you come to submit a tax return. Though the registration process is no more complex than signing up for a new bank account, there are some shortcomings compared to limited registration to be aware of.

Unlike limited company directors, sole trader business owners are personally responsible for the business’ finances, as you and the business are seen as the same legal entity. This means that if the business fails with outstanding debts, you’ll be responsible for paying them off. 

Aside from this, limited companies command a certain level of prestige which can make a big difference when prospecting clients, negotiating with suppliers, and navigating similar situations.

What legal requirements do I need to consider before starting a home-based business?

If you’re running your business as its sole employee and using a space in your home that’s also used for regular day-to-day living, there may be some legal considerations to consider.

Many home-based businesses will have a list of legal requirements for small businesses outside of registration that they’ll have to consider, such as:

Permissions from your landlord or mortgage provider

Whether you’re renting or have a mortgage on your home, there are certain business activities which will require the express permission of your landlord or mortgage provider. 

As a general rule of thumb, anything that could be disruptive or otherwise noticeable to people outside the property may need planning permission or another kind of written consent. This is a common concern for businesses like recording studios or dance lessons.

Things like an increase in people coming and going from your property (customers or clients), major structural changes to your home, the storage of business equipment outside your property, or signs being erected, can all require either planning permission or the consent of your landlord or mortgage provider.

If you have any doubts about whether your business activities will need permission, get in touch with your local planning office, landlord, or mortgage provider to avoid legal issues further down the line.

Insurance

When you start running a business from home, you may be carrying out certain commercial activities that aren’t covered by your standard contents insurance. 

This is particularly true if you’re planning to store a lot of physical stock in your home, or if you’re going to have customers and clients coming into your home.

If you’re going to have members of the public entering part of your home, then you’ll need to have public liability insurance to keep your business legally above board. 

You may also need employer’s liability insurance if you’re going to have employees working on the premises. Furthermore, any stock or equipment that you’re keeping at home will have to be covered by business contents cover.

The precise legal requirements for any home-based business can vary greatly depending what type of business you are starting. If your own research leads you to think you may need legal protections to start your business, try to consult with a legal professional to avoid any issues in the future.

Are there any restrictions on the type of business I can run from home?

Though there aren’t any explicit restrictions on the types of business you can run from your home, there are certain business activities that will be illegal to carry out in a residential area.

If your business is going to be run wholly from your computer, for example as a handmade crafts e-commerce store, it’s unlikely that you’re going to need any special permissions to run it from your home. However, for more brick-and-mortar, hands-on business types, you may need express legal permission for business activities and be required to pay business rates.

Generally, any kind of business activity that has the potential to cause a nuisance to your neighbours, regularly create excessive noise, or generate hazardous waste, may not be legal to carry out from your home. 

Research the particulars of the business niche you’re targeting thoroughly before becoming too invested in your business idea.

Step 5: Register your business

No matter the business structure you’ve chosen or the industry you’re planning to enter, you’ll need to register your business with the government to keep it legally compliant.

The steps involved in registering a business vary depending on the structure you’ve selected, and the details tied to each business type is a topic for a whole other guide.

For now, there are two major considerations to think about when you come to register your new home-based business:

Your business name

When you set-up your business as a sole trader, your business name isn’t especially important. This information will only appear on your Self Assessment tax return records, and will only be viewable to you and HMRC. 

You can even trade under your own name if you like. However, if you do choose to have a separate name for your business, it’s important to include both names on any kind of official paperwork, such as: 

  • Invoices

  • Client account reports

  • Letters.

If you set-up as a limited company, however, things get a little more complicated. As a limited company, your business name will be a matter of public record on Companies House. 

After the registration process, your business name will be legally protected intellectual property, meaning no new companies can register under a name that’s the same or too similar to yours. 

Similarly, you’ll have to ensure that your name isn’t the same or too similar to any companies already registered on Companies House.

Registered address and privacy

Registering as either a sole trader or a limited liability company will require you to declare a business address to HMRC. The key difference between the two is that as a sole trader, your business address will stay between you and HMRC, whereas a limited company’s registered address will be publicly accessible via the Companies House registry.

The majority of limited companies provide the registered address of a commercial building like their head offices. When you’re starting a business from home, of course, you’re unlikely to have access to a separate premises you can give as your address. Because you’ll be required to publish your registered address during the incorporation process, it’s important to consider what setting up your home business as a limited company means for your privacy.

Step 6: Set-up your home office

A huge number of people in this post-covid business environment work full-time from home. As a result of this shift, you may already have a home office set-up and you’ve probably spent some time tailoring it to your own working habits and optimising for productivity.

However, if this is uncharted territory for you, it’s important to set-up a designated home office that’s free of distractions and conducive for your business success.

Creating the right environment

The home office you work in will have a tremendous impact on your ability to perform. Before you start trading, it’s essential to take certain steps to create a working environment that’s right for you.

Some effective pointers to bear in mind are:

  • Separate yourself from distractions as much as possible, such as TVs and hobbies, desk clutter, and pets.

  • Walk yourself through a busy and varied day of managing your business, and think about how this would look within your home office. This can reveal some necessities in the layout or equipment that you hadn’t thought of before.

  • Get as much light as possible. Good lighting can have a big impact on your mood and productivity at work. 

  • Communicate with the other members of your household to set boundaries and ensure that you’re not distracted by intrusions into your home office.

  • Create a storage and organisation system early on to avoid any paper documents, stationary, or equipment creating clutter over time and causing distractions.

Productivity

Being your own boss can be a major shift for a lot of people who have always worked in permanent jobs beforehand. 

One of the biggest struggles that home business owners run into is staying productive when they don’t have a supervisor checking up on them or an outside system tracking their work.

You can maintain good productivity in several ways, including:

  • Using task management software - like Asana or Clickup to organise your tasks each day, assigning them hourly values, deadlines, and other information to help you stay focussed.

  • Having a set schedule - though one of the perks of owning a business is having flexible hours, working a set amount of hours a day will help set your body clock to business hours and downtime, and get you into a rhythm that will help you have more consistently productive working days.

  • Work in blocks using time management systems - like the pomodoro technique or similar, to avoid getting distracted. As a home-based business owner, you’ll have countless other things to do just down the hall. Doing the dishes or taking out the rubbish can feel hard to resist when you’re trying to build a challenging sales deck. Using timers to block off your time will help you keep your mind on your work and complete tasks on schedule.

  • Have hard stops in your schedule - like a regular exercise class or an activity with a member of your family, to ensure that your business doesn’t swallow up your whole life. Being passionate about your business is great, but if you don’t have a hard separation between your work and your personal life, this will be detrimental to your business in the long run.

What resources or support are available for home-based entrepreneurs in the UK?

Taking the first steps on your entrepreneurial journey can make it feel like you’re left to learn everything on your own, and your fellow business owners are holding their secrets to success close to their chest. However, there are plenty of accessible resources and support for home-based entrepreneurs in the UK that you can be making use of.

Here’s a brief round-up of some of our favourite resources for home-based entrepreneurs who are just starting out.

  • makeGov.uk: The government maintains a wealth of reliable and free resources for learning about company formations, business law, registration, taxes, and much more. 

  • British-business-bank.co.uk: A government-owned financial institution dedicated to business development and helping small businesses access the capital they need to succeed. Aside from offering a great platform to learn about and apply for business financing, this site also has a large and varied content library of trusted business advice.

  • Startups.co.uk: An independent website brimming with news features, case studies, tutorials and other educational content. It also has an active forum with thousands of active members from the UK’s small business community, making it a great space to ask questions and get advice on challenges your business is facing.

  • LinkedIn: A business-oriented social media platform and the main online hangout for entrepreneurs all over the world. Aside from being full of useful content for any new business owner, LinkedIn’s networking potential is huge, giving you countless great opportunities for forming collaborative partnerships, prospecting, joining industry communities and more.

Step 7: Developing a marketing strategy for your home business

You could have the best small business idea in history, but if your target audience doesn’t know about it, it’s not going to go anywhere fast.

The next thing on your list is developing a marketing strategy: a plan you’re going to use to determine the best way to advertise your business and get the exposure you need to start selling your product or service.

Creating a marketing strategy is another complex topic that would require its own guide, covering aspects like creating a detailed buyer persona, identifying realistic and measurable goals, acquiring digital marketing assets, and reporting. Be sure to carry out your own research and find examples of similar businesses’ marketing success to get started on the right foot.

How can I market my home-based business?

Some of the most popular and effective methods of marketing a small home-based business include:

  • Organic social media marketing

Posting regularly on social media and interacting with the people who engage with your content allows you to get your name out there and start to build a community around your brand.

  • Online and in-person networking

Great for B2B and B2C entrepreneurs alike, being seen in either online discussion groups or in-person networking events for your industry will show other businesses that you’re serious about your product or service, and help develop a sense of trust in your target audience.

  • Local Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation is the process of making your website and other online assets as search-friendly as possible. Though it takes time, local SEO is a free and hugely effective technique which lends itself naturally to small, home-based businesses. Adding location-based keywords to your website, getting listed in local directories, and publishing content that’s tied to your local area, can all help you become more visible in local search results.

  • Email marketing

Email marketing can be hard to get started with, as it requires you to gain the contact consent of a large mailing list, usually through high-quality content or some kind of digital freebie such as a whitepaper or ebook. However, it’s known for giving small businesses a fantastic return on investment and a great way to build a thriving online community.

  • Content marketing

Writing blog posts, creating infographics, and filming videos that have some kind of value to your target audience is a great way to build trust in your brand and spread awareness of your product or service. Aside from this, having great content on your site is a prerequisite to link building, an important part of SEO that you may want to try in the future.

Step 8: Financials

Most businesses exist to make money, and you’ll need to give due consideration to your home business’ financials if you want to succeed.

Here are some of the biggest financial considerations you’ll need to tackle when starting a business from home:

How to fund your home business

One of the first things a lot of first-time business owners ask when starting out is “how much does it cost to start a business”? If your research has shown that you’re going to need some start-up capital before you can start trading, it’s important to read up on your options for funding your business.

Traditionally, small businesses have been started by using business loans from banks. Like other kinds of lending, this will require you to have a strong credit score, alongside a detailed explanation of how the amount you’re looking to borrow will be used. Learning how to qualify for a business loan through informed projections and market research can be challenging for first-time entrepreneurs, but this route is often the best way to access the capital you need to succeed.

Aside from traditional bank loans, there are many ways that a home-based entrepreneur can fund their operation, such as small business crowdfunding, small business grants, merchant cash advance, and asset finance. Each fundraising method has its own distinct pros and cons, so be sure to weigh up your options and research different routes thoroughly to find the one that’s right for you.

Getting paid online

Unless your business is strictly face-to-face, customers will expect online payment options as part of their customer experience. 

If you’re running a business that traditionally runs on large, monthly payments, then this can be as simple as sending clients an invoice at the end of the month and letting them transfer you the outstanding amount. For other businesses, like if you’re setting up an e-commerce store, you’ll need something more instant and streamlined, like a payment portal that accepts card payments, digital wallets, payment links, QR codes, and so on.

Be sure to find the kind of payment solution your customers will expect to ensure a smooth first year.

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Getting paid in-person at home

Some businesses, like construction, are still heavily reliant on cash. However, these niches are quickly disappearing.

If your business plan involves getting paid in-person, it’s essential to think about payment processing solutions that suit your needs. Whether it’s familiar tech like card readers or more modern solutions like a self-service kiosk, that’s not only fast and reliable, but compatible with whatever payment methods are popular with your target market.

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Keeping your finances in order

The need for proper accounting systems and processes is often the downfall of many first-time business owners. Fundamentally, keeping on top of your forecasts, cash flow and general financial situation is one of the most vital, yet most underestimated areas of keeping a business afloat. With a clear view of debts, debtors and the forecast ahead, business owners can more accurately plan for growth and keep one step ahead of the challenges that will inevitably arise.

From your first day of trading, an online business account will help make sure that you are:

  • Keeping accurate records of every payment you make or receive.

  • Being strict with deadlines, whether that’s in terms of reporting income, making payments, or calling in invoice payments.

  • Tracking all expenses that you incur as part of running your business. This will not only give you a clearer view of your cash flow, but will be essential for claiming tax deductions at the end of the financial year.

Using reliable accounting software that makes these processes more efficient.

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What taxes do I need to pay for my home-based business?

The taxes you’ll pay on your business’ profits will depend on the business structure that you select.

For sole traders, taxes work more or less the same as they would for a regular employee. You’ll pay income tax on your revenue based on how much you report in the financial year, minus any allowable expenses that were used to keep your business running. You’ll also need to pay National Insurance contributions unless you have an exemption.

If you’re running a limited company, on the other hand, you’ll need to pay corporation tax, national insurance and pension costs. Unlike the income tax rates that you’ll pay as a sole trader, corporation tax is  currently set at a flat rate of 25% on the business’ taxable income, minus any kind of tax relief, allowances, and expenses needed to keep the company running.

Any business whose turnover exceeds £85,000 will be legally required to register for Value Added Tax (VAT), which will need to be recorded separately to the costs of your products or services and reported as such during tax assessments.

What kind of expenses can I claim when running a home-based business?

The short answer to what counts as an expense when you’re running a business is “anything that you need to keep your business running”. However, when you’re running a business from home, things can become a little confusing.

Aside from obvious expenses, for example equipment that you use solely for running your business, you’ll have expenses such as your home electricity bill, broadband bill, your rent or mortgage, etc.

Though these things are essential to the running of your business, you can’t simply claim all of these expenses on your tax assessment. To stay compliant with HMRC’s rules around allowable expenses, you’ll need to portion up these kinds of expenses according to how much of it is actually needed for your business.

For example, if you’re using one of your home’s bedrooms as an office for your business and working 40 hours a week, and your home has 4 rooms, you can claim a percentage of your monthly electricity payments as an allowable expense.

Grow your business while staying at home

Traditionally, small businesses move from the home office to an outside premises before they start to welcome in major investors, hire full-time employees, and do other things associated with “proper” businesses. However, today’s digital-first way of trading has lifted a lot of these barriers. Today, it’s common for home-based businesses to undergo significant growth while still being run entirely from the business owner’s home.

Can I hire employees if I have a home-based business?

As business picks up, you may soon see a level of demand on the horizon which you can’t keep up with as a solopreneur. As a start-up, your first hiring drive is going to be fairly different to what you might be used to in previous positions.

Here are a few key pointers for hiring employees for your home-based business:

  • Carefully consider your resources: A full-time employee is going to need reliable equipment, access to software tools they need to do their job, and possibly a workspace that you’ll need to provide. Couple this with the cost of a salary, and the cost of hiring for your home business will quickly ramp up. Before you post a job ad, take some time to consider alternatives like hiring a freelancer, and make sure you’re being realistic about your goals.

  • Look for an entrepreneurial mindset: In the early days of your business, the first employees you hire are going to have to pitch in with a variety of different tasks, and may have to deal with sudden leaps in demand they may not be used to. While some professionals thrive in these start-up environments, others will find it very hard to adapt to, and could hand in their notice when you need them the most. Try to look for candidates with a forward-thinking, entrepreneurial mindset that will help them get stuck into their responsibilities, and you’ll avoid these kinds of disappointments.

  • Use trial tasks in your hiring process: Because those first few hires will have a big impact on your home-based business, you need to do everything in your power to get a clear read on how candidates will perform in real-world situations. As long as it’s not too demanding, a uniform trial task that you set every candidate will weed out the people who aren’t all that interested in working for you, and show you the quality of work that you can expect from them.

Outsourcing

There’ll likely be a period in your business growth where you’re dealing with a high demand, but aren’t in a position to hire permanent employees. When you’re forecasting the flow of business, be sure to consider outsourcing some key business functions, such as:

  • Website development

Though there’s plenty of intuitive sitebuilder programs out there, hiring a professional web developer will help you create a site that’s more in line with your vision, with features that you may not be able to get otherwise.

  • Design

Your business logo, ad creatives, print marketing, and so on, will all require a professional treatment if you want to develop trust in your brand. Hiring a reputable graphic designer will give you the visual assets you need to succeed, without the need for a well-executed hiring drive.

  • Finance

While digital-only service-based businesses can get by with a fairly simple bookkeeping set-up, if you’re dealing with variable business expenses, custom products, and other things, your finances may quickly spiral out of your control. 

Finding a freelance accountant to review and manage your finances for you can give you a lot of time back that would usually be spent on number-crunching, not to mention peace of mind when it comes to filing your taxes.

  • Marketing

Marketing is a vast and complex discipline that changes just as fast as people’s media consumption habits. Though it’s a good idea to learn some core principles when creating a marketing strategy for your small business, hiring a marketing expert on a freelance basis can give your brand a healthy jump-start as you begin trading.

Prosperity starts at home

Learning how to start a business from home is one of the most fun and rewarding ways to start your entrepreneurial journey. 

While it should be a valuable learning experience, approaching your unique business idea through the lens of these methodical steps will help you avoid common pitfalls and enjoy an easier first year of trading.


Disclaimer: The contents of this page are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. For matters requiring legal or financial expertise, it’s recommended to seek guidance from qualified professionals.

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