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Starting A Business In The UK: An Expat Guide

How to start a business
Following the upheaval and confusion of the previous two years, and in the face of fresh obstacles posed by Omicron, you might be shocked to find that now is an opportune time in the UK for entrepreneurship and new business. Despite the difficulties, a record 800,000 new firms were founded last year. In addition, over half of all Britons started a side business due to new flexible working laws.

Whilst starting a new business can be intimidating, approximately half a million new enterprises are launched in the UK each year, many of them succeeding and making a profit. Because there are so many things to do when starting a new business, it's helpful to have a list of everything you need to do before you get started. In the United Kingdom, there are around 5.5 million small business enterprises (SMEs) functioning, accounting for 99.9% of the country's business population. Each of their founders was once a novice whose dream blossomed from a flower of an idea into a fully developed business. Anyone can start a business; you don't need a prestigious degree or a large sum of money to get started. However, you will need a basic set of tasks to give yourself a realistic time range and a clear goal to strive toward.

Steps to start a business

If you want to start a business in the United Kingdom as a foreigner, you need to complete these steps.

  • Business idea

  • Introducing brand new products and services or providing a service or product that is cheaper or better than competitors are some examples of viable business ideas. Suppose you're having trouble developing a decent business plan to construct your new company around. Start by brainstorming many concepts—concentrate on determining what individuals want and the problems they experience.

  • Business assessment

  • It takes time, hard effort, and perseverance to establish and grow a business, so be realistic about your condition. For example, if you're running a part-time business, you may need to hire an aide to assist you while you're busy or take on the less challenging tasks.

  • Checking legal status

  • EU residents who lived in the UK before January 1, 2021, may be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme. Still, most foreigners will need to apply for a work visa before starting a business.

  • Planning

  • Make a detailed plan for your business's first five years, including a strategy and marketing approach. Define your market and target audience, as well as your competitors, in your business strategy. Pricing, production costs, marketing, and advertising expenditures should all be planned ahead of time to reasonably predict your revenues. An excellent method to avoid such issues is to plan your business. Many new businesses fail in the long run, but by developing a clear plan, you can help assure the viability of your venture and enhance your chances of success.

  • Market research

  • Market research is critical for understanding your target market, competition, and industry. Your business structure, finances, consumer demographics, and pricing will all be shaped by your research findings. For optimum results, we suggest conducting research with a random selection of responders who can provide you with an accurate assessment of your company idea.

  • Financial assessment

  • After you've assessed yourself and done your market research, you might have a good idea of what kind of talents and investment you'll need to get started and how much (if any) cash you'll need to raise. Unsurprisingly, one of the most significant impediments to starting a new firm is obtaining financing. According to CB Insight research from 2021, cash flow problems were the leading cause of startup failure, with 38 per cent of small business owners reporting this was the case.

  • Choosing an appropriate business structure

  • You'll need to register your business once you've settled on your business concept and name. You can choose from various business arrangements, ranging from forming a sole trader to creating a limited company. All have advantages and disadvantages, so be sure you select the optimal structure for your company.

  • Registration of your business

  • Before applying for corporation tax, you must be legally registered on Companies House and have obtained your 'certificate of incorporation,' which confirms that your business is legally recognised.

    It will necessitate the name of the chosen business, address of the company, a director's name or a group of directors' names, shareholders who have been nominated and the nature of their rights, SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) code and details about your company's PSCs (People with Significant Control) include those who own relatively large shares.

  • Branding the business

  • A strong brand is critical to every company's success. Start by thinking about the companies you're familiar with and what makes them unique. Branding can take many forms, and how you choose to brand will be determined by various criteria such as your target demographic, unique selling proposition (USP), advertising platform etc.

  • Networking

  • The act of networking can be done in a variety of situations. There will always be opportunities to take advantage of whether you're attending a conference or an event.

    Using the resources of a larger organisation might provide you with access to a broad knowledge base from which you can get feedback on your ideas. You may also be able to use professional equipment and tools and access other professionals in your sector who are qualified for positions in your organisation.

    Another benefit of networking is that it can assist you in obtaining mentoring or assistance from existing businesses. Mentors typically have more extraordinary industry expertise and will be able to assist you through the company and help you avoid costly mistakes while also offering you insight and advice on your business path.

  • Team building

  • Building your team is another aspect of beginning a firm that may or may not be relevant to everyone; in some industries, it may be a stage that must complete sooner. Putting together a team can be difficult, and it is unlikely to be ideal. One of the most critical aspects, though, is to know what you want ahead of time.

Types of business in the UK

There are many business types in the United Kingdom, and you'll need to choose one that best fits your company's structure.

  • Sole Trader
  • Limited Company
  • Partnership
  • Limited Liability Partnership

The legal business structure you choose will influence many aspects of your business, including taxation, personal liability, and the quantity of administrative labour you must undertake. Because companies exist in a range of purposes and sizes, there is no "one size fits all" answer to the structure.

Business visas

You can operate as a contractor, be self-employed, or start a business if you have the legal right to work and live in the United Kingdom.

  • Innovator Visa

  • Innovator Visa is for individuals who wish to establish a new business in the United Kingdom. If you want to apply for this visa, you must ensure that your business idea is original and that an endorsing body has approved it. To be eligible, you must have at least £50,000 in investment funds and show where this money came from. You should also have enough personal finances to cover your expenses. You'll need to show that you've had at least £1,270 in your bank account for 28 days before applying for, extending, or switching to this visa.

  • Start-Up Visa

  • You can apply for a Start-Up visa if you obtain an endorsement from a UK institution of higher education or an organisation with a history of aiding UK businesses. You'll need to demonstrate that your business concept is new, innovative, and has room for growth. The application fees start at £363 and go up from there. A two-year Start-Up visa allows you to stay in the UK. While a Start-Up visa cannot be renewed, you can change your visa while in the UK.

  • Global Talent Visa

  • You can apply for a Global Talent Visa in the UK if you're a leader in academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology. The fee for the application is £608. If you fall into this group, you can work in the UK for up to five years.

Establishing a branch as a foreign company

Companies House requires international companies to register as overseas companies if they intend to do business in the UK or open a branch. You must complete form OS IN01 and send it to Companies House if you run a company in another country and want to open a branch in the UK. The registration fee is £20.

Business bank accounts

Many firms in the UK, except for sole traders and partnerships, many firms in the UK require a separate business bank account. However, it's good to register a different bank account to keep accounting processes as simple as possible.


All UK businesses and entrepreneurs must register with HMRC for tax purposes, and they are responsible for filing their tax returns. Profits earned by sole traders and partnerships who work for themselves are taxed, and limited firms and foreign companies with UK subsidiaries must register for Corporation Tax. Corporation Tax is imposed on profits at a rate of 20%, minus any deductions or exemptions.


To stay within the law and safeguard your firm, you must get business insurance. The most prevalent types of business insurance in the United Kingdom are employers’ liability insurance, public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance.

Employing staff for your business

If you're starting a company in the UK that will employ people, you'll need to register with HMRC as an employer and obtain employers liability insurance. If they have legal permission to work in the nation, you can engage foreign workers in your UK company. You must obey minimum wage standards when recruiting employees and pay social security and pension contributions as required by law.

New rules for EU citizens

New legislation took effect on January 1, 2021, because the Brexit transition period ended on December 31, 2020. This means that citizens of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein who want to start a business in the UK will need to apply for a visa similarly to non-EU residents.

Several initiatives specialising in various areas, such as finances, taxation, and business planning, can help and support your UK company. The cost of launching a business in the UK varies depending on various circumstances; however, there are several resources available in the shape of UK business grants and loans.