It doesn’t matter how big your business is. If you’re looking to work for yourself, to enjoy the freedom and control of running your own enterprise and working for yourself, you need to know the law. You are subject to many of the same laws as other companies. Even if you’re simply working as a sole trader, you have a business’s accountability. So, before you open your doors (whether metaphorically or literally), you should know a little more about the kind of laws you need to start complying with.
Getting the green light
First of all, you have to make sure you’re actually allowed to start running your business, legally. You can’t start a business without registering it first. Even if your business consists of you, working under your own name, running a freelance operation or a blog, you have to start the business properly. Depending on whether you’re operating as a sole trader or some other kind of business structure, you can get help to do it either online or on the phone. There might be further changes needed if, for example, in the future, you decide to stop working as a sole trader and you want to employ someone else, too. This is also where you’ll decide your business’s legal name, too.
Ensure you’re insured
Almost every business needs some sort of insurance. It’s there to make sure your finances are protected, and any wronged parties are covered should there be some kind of accident or damage that your business is responsible for. There are insurance wizards that can help you find out which kinds of insurance you should be looking at in particular. It’s worth noting that you need liability insurance, for instance, if you invite any clients or customers into the workplace, even if that workplace is an office in your own home. When you understand the insurance you need, shop around a little. Trade associations in your industry might be able to hook you up with discounts, for instance.
Tracking your figures
There are all sorts of reasons your business could find itself having its finances more closely scrutinised. There are the tax implications, of course, which we will cover in a little more detail soon. But there are also issues regarding whether you gained the money lawfully, are using it lawfully, and so on. If your business ever comes under audit, you want to make sure that the authorities don’t have any wiggle room to find fault with you. Business accounting software can simplify the process of tracking all your business finances, so you don’t neglect them and you have a much smaller chance of creating discrepancies through human error.
The taxman cometh
Business taxes are a whole can of worms on their own and having some information about the right way to file taxes and get support with them is crucial. You can save money by spotting tax breaks you might be applicable for, yes, but mostly you want to ensure that you’re compliant. To the authorities, accidental discrepancies and fraud can very much look the same. Beyond using an accountant to keep your records as legitimate and clean as possible, it’s a good idea to have the contact details of a tax lawyer should HMRC investigations come your way. Tax investigations can be incredibly difficult on a business owner and failing to understand the law or how to handle the HMRC can make things all the more stressful. Know when you need a little help.
Protecting your online community
As soon as you open a business website, you are responsible for it, too. The ability to set up an online presence so easily is part of what is allowing so many new businesses to start in the first place. In particular, you need to ensure your website does nothing to endanger the data that potential customers and visitors might share. From financial details to things as simple as their name and email address. If you have people inputting information on your website, you must ensure that it’s secured and it has a security certificate. Not only is it a legal matter if the site suffers a data breach, but people are fast learning how to recognise an unsecured site its URL, so it could damage the image of the business to lack it.
The work environment
It doesn’t matter where you decide to work, that officially becomes your work environment and must be treated as such. We’ve mentioned how it impacts insurance, but it has other impacts, too. For one, if you’re renting a property, you have to check your contract to ensure you’re legally allowed to run a business from there. If you’re setting aside rooms or buying office equipment, you have to factor how they fit into tax-exempt expenses. Depending on the business you’re running, you have to ensure that traffic, noise, and other factors of the workplace aren’t affecting your neighbours, too.
Marketing and selling
As mentioned, the reason that so many people are able to start their own business is clear if you spend even a little while thinking about it. The internet has opened the floodgates to freelance remote workers, online stores, service providers, and so on. With that whole new world comes a whole new set of rules. Make sure you do your research on things like the information you are legally required to put on the site (such as contact details) and the criteria for honest online advertising. If you’re opening an ecommerce store, then there’s even more consideration that needs to go into item listings, terms and conditions, and so on. Using an ecommerce consultancy can help you straighten out your store.
It’s all too easy for a small startup or self-employed individual to make little mistakes or simply neglect aspects of the business that could end up with them being legally liable for them. The points above should only serve as a place to start, you need to do more research depending on the particulars of the business, industry, and more.