New Business Checklist: 12 Steps to Get Started | Limecube
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New Business Checklist: 12 Steps to Get Started

Getting started

Starting a business in Australia can seem daunting, but it gets easier when you break the process down into a series of manageable steps.

In our last guide, we covered the basics of starting out in business, including drawing up a business plan and obtaining the finance to make your dream a reality. But that was just laying the foundations – now you need to make sure your business is established and legal in Australia.

Keep this checklist handy to get your local business up and running, with links to the online resources you need. Not all steps apply to every business, but you can't afford to skip any of the steps that are relevant to you.

Step 1: Decide on a business structure
Step 2: Register trademarks or patents
Step 3: Register your business name
Step 4: Register for taxes
Step 5: Obtain any licences or permits needed
Step 6: Register a domain name
Step 7: Open a business bank account
Step 8: Set up record keeping and accounting
Step 9: Take out business insurance
Step 10: Create a website
Step 11: Create social media accounts
Step 12: Review your obligations

Step 1: Decide on a business structure

Before you even write a business plan, you should decide on the legal structure of your business. This is more than a formality, as it determines how much control you have over the business, how you'll be taxed and how your assets will be protected.

The 4 common business structures are sole trader, partnership, company and trust.

  • Sole trader – the simplest type of business to set up. As a sole trader you will be solely responsible for the business. You own all the assets but you also bear all the risk. You may decide to change to a different structure as your business grows.
  • Partnershipgoing into business with a partner or multiple partners (up to a maximum of 19). Partnerships spread the risk, but you will need to agree on how decisions are made and how assets and debts are managed.
  • Company – establishing your small business as a company makes it a separate legal entity. The company is owned by shareholders and you can appoint yourself or others as directors. There are advantages to a company, but it's also more expensive to establish and more reporting is necessary.
  • Trust – a business established as a trust is run by a trustee and distributes profits to its named beneficiaries. A trust can protect your assets, but setting up a trust is expensive and can be complex to manage.
  • Talk to an accountant for advice about what type of structure would be the best fit for your circumstances
  • Find out more about the different business structures at business.gov.au

Step 2: Register trademarks or patents

Before you register your business name, logo or products, check whether you may be in breach of existing trademarks or other intellectual property (IP) laws. You can do this by visiting IP Australia.

You should also take the opportunity to protect your own intellectual property and prevent others from using your ideas. You can register:

  • Trademarks – including your brand name, logo, slogan or other branding
  • Patents – giving you exclusive rights to your ideas
  • Designs – including distinctive configurations, patterns and shapes
  • All of the above can be registered through IP Australia
  • The Australian Copyright Council has more information about protecting intellectual property rights in Australia

Step 3: Register your business

All businesses in Australia are required to have an Australian Business Number (ABN). This is free to set up and should be included on all business and tax documents.

You may also choose to register your business name. This is not necessary if you're a sole trader operating under your own name.

Step 4: Register for taxes

You need an Australian Tax File Number (TFN) to pay tax in Australia. You can apply for this at the same time you apply for an ABN or register your business name.

The type of TFN you need depends on your business structure.

  • Sole trader – you will use your personal TFN. If you already have a TFN to pay tax, continue to use this for your business. You must complete a personal tax return every year and can claim back business expenses.
  • Partnership – the partnership has its own TFN. Business partners decide how to split income and expenses, which are detailed in their personal tax returns.
  • Company – a company has its own TFN and tax returns. Shareholders who receive dividends from the company must report these on their personal tax returns.
  • Trust – a trust also has its own TFN and completes tax returns, but is not generally required to pay tax. However, beneficiaries of the trust must report their income on personal tax returns.

You may have other tax obligations, depending on the nature of your business:

  • If your business has turnover of more than $75,000, you must register for GST and file Business Activity Statements
  • If your business has employees or is a company, you must register for PAYG
  • Apply for a TFN, GST and PAYG through the Australian Business Register

Step 5: Obtain any licences or permits needed

Check whether you need a licence, permit or other approval to operate your business. This depends on the nature of your business or your location and is not applicable to all businesses.

Step 6: Register a domain name

A business website is an important tool for establishing and promoting your brand online. If you want a professional-looking ‘.com.au’ or ‘.net.au’ website address, this must be registered with an authorised company under your business name and ABN.

  • Visit AusRegistry to find an authorised company and register your domain name, of if you have a Limecube account you can register your domain directly in Limecube.

Step 7: Open a business bank account

However small your business is, it's a good idea to keep your personal and business finances separate to make accounting easier, especially as your business grows.

You may also want to set up a PayPal account or other payment gateways if you expect to receive online payments.

  • Talk to your bank or a financial advisor about business banking options to find the best fit

Step 8: Set up record keeping and accounting

Record keeping is important for more than just keeping track of your finances. Under tax law, you must be able to provide 5 years of records for (if relevant):

  • income tax
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST)
  • payments to employees
  • other business payments

If you have employees, the Fair Work Act 2009 requires that you also keep 7 years of wages, workers' compensation and other records.

  • Talk to a financial advisor about hiring a bookkeeper or how to do your own bookkeeping

Step 9: Take out business insurance

Insurance isn't always a requirement for businesses, but it's still recommended that you have the right insurance in place to protect your finances and minimise your exposure to risk if something goes wrong.

The type of insurance you need depends on the type of business you have. Examples include:

  • Building and contents insurance for damage or theft on business premises
  • Business interruption insurance to cover your losses in natural disasters
  • Cyber liability insurance to cover your losses in cyberattacks
  • Product liability insurance to cover injury or damage caused by your products
  • Professional indemnity for professional services
  • Public liability insurance to cover injury or damage on your site
  • Vehicle insurance to cover business vehicles and drivers
  • Workers' compensation insurance if you have employees

Talk to insurance brokers to discuss your insurance options and compare packages

Step 10: Create a website

Your business website should be up and running by the time you start transacting. This is the online home of your business where customers, clients and other parties can find your contact details and other information they need.

You can create a professional website in minutes using customisable website themes. If you don't have time to create and manage your own website content, or you want it to look professional, a digital marketing agency can handle it for you.

Step 11: Create social media accounts

Once your website is established, you should set up profiles on the major social networks to connect with your customers.

The best platforms for your business depend on what your audience is using and what's appropriate for your brand, whether that's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or other platforms. A digital marketing agency can research what platforms to use and take care of social media marketing for you.

Step 12: Review your obligations

That covers the fundamentals for most businesses, but there may be other requirements depending on your industry and the nature of your business. The following resources could be helpful:

Your business should now be ready to go, but it's still a good idea to speak to legal and financial advisors to make sure you haven't missed anything out.

Also read our guide to getting started in your new business to make sure you haven't skipped the basics and sign up to the Limecube newsletter below to get the latest digital marketing news and tips in your inbox.

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