I’m all about making a mess, so if you are wondering how to start a business in Australia, or even just thinking about starting a new business, it’s the best time to get really, really messy.
As your business grows and becomes more successful, you become a leader in your field you will be asked to consult, present at events, and you will build a team of people who share your vision. At that point you can step back from operations and become more of a CEO. Sounds like a dream…there is a downside, at that level, it gets harder and harder to make mistakes. Sure, there are a heap of advantages to owning a thriving business, but mess making isn’t one of them. There are more hoops to jump through, bigger consequences and more noise when you mess up and a lot more responsibility on your shoulders to keep it together. A big mistake at this end can actually damage your brand.
That’s why it is vital to make as much mess and as many mistakes as you possibly can before you get that big. Know what not to do, now.
When you are starting a new business you get to be seriously creative. Now’s the time to experiment with taking risks, and being a disruptive Troublemaker.
As a startup in Australia you are small, nimble and incredibly flexible. ‘Overnight’ sensations happen for these reasons, so use them, get pumped and dive in. Even if you have no idea what you are doing, making mistakes is the fastest possible learning curve and the most rapid way to build your own business.
The biggest mistake small business start-ups make is over thinking everything. It’s a waste of time trying to cover all your bases, writing massive business plans and drawing up a structured framework because, as a start-up business, you have no idea what’s going to happen. You can write the most immaculate business plan and within three weeks of launching your product or systems have evolved into something else completely. The market changes your direction with incredible speed, what you thought was going in one direction actually turns out to be hugely successful in a different area. Success comes from being adaptable and quick on your feet.
Basically, all those plans cost you time and act as a distraction. Every day you spend not taking action in your business and being stuck in the admin gives more power to ‘The Law of Diminishing Intent’, making you less likely to ever take the plunge and more and more likely that someone else will step up and create an idea, just like yours.
The time to start your business is right now. You are in the perfect position for creativity and flexibility, so just start!
I bet any money your business-plan will either be a useless paperweight, or, if you refuse to budge, it might be a strangle-hold on any chance you have of success. The story of McDonald’s is an incredible example of how a plan needs flexibility to first be amazing, and second, to thrive. If you are willing to be creative in getting your product up and going, you have a business. Continued flexibility, re-evaluation, taking on feedback and problem solving will take that small business and create an empire, or…in the McDonalds example, ridged thinking can mean you lose absolutely everything.
Feeling uncomfortable? Great! That’s when you know you are on the brink of incredible learning, breaking through to the next level of your life and ability.
Just because you take action quickly, doesn’t mean you need to do it without any advice or tips on how to start a business in Australia. There are plenty of successful entrepreneurs who are eager to share their mindset and business structures to help you get a leg up.
To help you get started with becoming an Australian business owner, here are some essentials you need to have checked off and some time frames to keep you powering towards your goal of success.
Before we get started on the admin needed to make your business successful, you need to know that admin is only priority #2.
In business, you either love admin (which means you spend all your time doing it and only ever have a business on paper) or you hate admin (and avoid any kind of structure for so long you sabotage yourself). We need something in the middle.
Here’s how to start a business in Australia and make it a success.
Always remember your number one priority is Sales!
Spend your business time getting sales. Do whatever it takes. Once you have some runs on the board, you have something to work with.
Just to be clear,
Step 1. Make a REALLY big sales mess, and clean it up later. That means get sales (even if you don’t have a product yet – SELL). This is disruptive Troublemaking at it’s best. Have an idea and do it. Nothing needs to happen in between, not yet.
Step 2. Go through this checklist, do it out of office hours so that you can’t ‘accidentally’ waste a whole workday tinkering with spreadsheets and forget to actually sell your stuff.
How to set up a business in Australia
- Know your avatar.
If you don’t have an avatar, you have no one to sell to and no customers means no business.
Our Troublemakers Great Escape course has a detailed template, as well as heaps of other strategies to get your avatar locked in and your business rolling. From there, your business name, marketing strategies and communication methods are all taken care of. An avatar is your ideal customer. Getting as specific as possible on your ideal customer is essential for having a focused and targeted sales strategy, as well as giving you the ability to fine-tune your end product and respond to feedback.
This is something many of my students really struggle with on their own. They are afraid that by focusing on one customer they are ignoring everyone else and limiting their market. An absolutely essential business step is having a committed and focused response. It allows you to send a clear message, with clear intentions. You might have no idea what you are doing but your focus will give you cover, act like a beacon of clarity and have you positioned as the expert from the very beginning.
Do this as soon as possible, and allow one full day to really drill down into who your avatar is, what they are interested in, what keeps them up at night, and how, specifically, your product or service can solve their problem.
- Your business name
Sounds simple, and for some people it is. For some, the business name was the starting point of an incredible idea or their personal identity was so strong they have a name long before they have a business. Others wait until the very last minute.
Your business name needs to be simple and short, if only because you and your customers will be using it in conversation, email, internet, blogs, internet searches and referrals. ([email protected] is complex and a lot of hard work for everyone.)
NAME IT: Short, memorable and something that reflects what you do.
Make sure it’s relevant. There is no point getting fancy and flowery if you are selling something to a masculine avatar.
If you are stuck on your business name or keep changing your mind every few days you might have skipped step one. Go back and get your avatar set.
The other reason you might have trouble choosing a name is a lack of commitment to your future business. If you have doubts that are affecting your ability to move forward it’s well and truly time that you talk to a coach, mentor or successful business person you trust about your fears.
Fear in your head becomes illogical and crippling. Talking to someone, especially someone with a positive, creative mindset, will help you find practical solutions to get ahead.
Committing to a name is a massive mental commitment to your business launch so do this quickly and have fun.
Before you move to Step 3. make sure your business name is available. Use and ABN Look Up and a website host such as GoDaddy to see if someone has already registered your name or domain. If so, you’ll need to start again.
Often my suggestion, especially for coaches, is to use your own name. There is no need to over-complicate this process, start with your own name, and change the business name later as you expand!
Again, allow no more than one day to decide on a business name, register your ABN, and to purchase your domain.
- Get an Accountant
You may choose to forgo this one until you find your feet and get some runs on the board. I do recommend that you at least contact an account and or lawyer to discuss your business plans, see how their services will benefit you and get clear on what steps you need to take to get your business prepped for the admin side of things.
The big advantage of having an accountant is they do most of the paperwork, which means less admin for you and more time on actually selling your service or product and engaging with customers!
If your business plan is straightforward and you have experience in bookkeeping you may choose to go it alone. Be prepared for a lot of extra work and decide if the stress and time you spend here is going to be worth it. Remember, sales is your #1 priority.
I’ve listed talking to an accountant as #3. Because when you register for your ABN (#4) you will also need to know if your business entity requires it’s own Tax File Number lodged with the Australian Tax Office (ATO).
An accountant is the best person to talk to about whether you’re best to register as a sole trader, partnership, trust or company.
Your best way forward is unique to your business and future plans.
There are very different responsibilities when it comes to tax reporting, business regulating and safety obligations so it’s best to weigh up the options with a professional and decide what’s going to be the biggest benefit to your future business.
People can get bogged down in these choices. If you don’t know enough at this point to make an accurate decision, don’t let it hold you up. To pass GO put yourself down as a Sole Trader so you can get started. You can easily backtrack this later – my favourite saying is “Make a really big mess and let someone else clean it up”- in this case, your accountant will figure out how to backtrack for you and set things up.
Allow one day for this, and be strategic about it. If you are going to meet with your potential accountant in person, schedule all the appointments for the same day, so you’re not wasting valuable sales time continually travelling to offices to meet people. Meetings are a time-sucker that also give the illusion of taking action!
- Apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN)
It’s important to get an ABN no matter how much or how little you plan to work and earn.
It’s professional, shows commitment and will save any dramas down the line.
Registration is simple and once you input your business name it becomes registered so that your name cannot be used by any other company.
GST or not to GST?
You will need to inform the government when you register for your ABN if you expect an annual turnover in excess of $75,000. Anything under this amount is GST free. If you will be earning over this amount then you will be required to pay GST at Tax time. If you are unsure it is better to put in that you will earn the GST amount. Once your business starts to earn over $75,000 you will be ready for that, even if it takes a year or so.
I recommend putting aside a portion of your income towards GST so that you are not hit with a big sum unexpectedly when you lodge your tax return.
To apply, go to Australian Business Register.
When you apply you will also need to inform them of your Business TFN if you and your accountant set your business up as trust or company.
Do this as soon as possible, it’s a quick job, and should only take you away from focusing on sales for a few hours at most.
- Buy a website domain
This is the only time I’m going to recommend that you spend money on your business. If your business plan involves buying something fancy or spending a lot of money before you have a single customer, I challenge you to reverse it and find a way to generate the income you need through your business and work towards buying the systems to make it work. Allow your business to grow with you.
There are a lot of choices and packages from a range of different domain hosts. This step can be overwhelming.
To start with aim for a medium sized hosting package. You won’t have a lot of traffic yet, the top end packages are for lots and lots of web traffic. For now you are looking at a medium hosting package that is best for small business. These provide more storage than the basic packages. Get unmetered storage if you can, this means you can put as much content as you like online (images, videos, blogs, vlogs, tutorials, PDFs etc) which are essential for improving Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and helping new clients find you.
You cannot just register a domain, you will need to purchase hosting, which gives somewhere for your website to sit.
Your package will typically include website(s), bandwidth, storage, email and your domain.
If you have already purchased a domain but don’t have anywhere to put it you can usually transfer your domain to a hosting package for free.
Packages are annual, you will need to set a reminder in your calendar or phone to make the renewal payment – or save yourself the trouble and set your payments to automatic with your host. If you forget to pay, you will go offline.
You may have already had a website as a hobby or interest on a free (or almost free) platform like WordPress, that’s awesome. You have great experience in setting up and creating content for your website. As a business, you are going to have to take that to the next level and go with proper hosting and the package that comes with it. You can bring your WordPress site with you if you like.
Emails like @gmail.com etc. are not professional enough for your business. Anyone can have a Gmail account for free and use it for whatever they want. You need to begin branding your business as professional from the very beginning. Make sure people see you as a genuine, committed and legitimate business and get a business email address either in your web hosting package or through your email provider.
Is your website secure?
When a host is down, due to hacking or technical failures, your email and website will also be down. There is nothing you can do (or your customers can do) but wait it out.
It is impossible to tell at this point how your web host will perform over time (it will depend on their server to customer ratio, security measures, upgrades and testing)
Tried and trusted web hosting companies for Australian business start-ups are GoDaddy and Crazydomains.
As an Australian business you should look to buy an Australian domain (.com.au). This will show up better in Google for Australian customers. Your email address will reflect what you purchase, so a .com.au website will carry a com.au email address.
Common snags: your business name is already registered.
This happens more than you think. Not all the business names registered are active. There is a real business in buying domains and business names and parking them. In some cases, the user never got around to launching the business, or they want to block out anything they consider to be too similar to their own. Other times a person will anticipate a name’s potential demand and hold onto it to see if someone is willing to buy it back. Big companies have been known to offer crazy sums of money to buy back parked domains. I don’t recommend you take this path, especially as a startup. Use your problem-solving skills and find a creative solution.
Consider using part or all of your own name in your business for a personal touch that is unique.
This process can take a little while depending on your understanding of websites, however, it is important to limit how long you spend on purchasing your domain name. If it is overwhelming, ask around your network and see if someone can help you. You may even want to exchange a service so you can return the favour.
- Set yourself up to get paid.
You need to have easy and flexible payment systems in place. Create invoice templates, template emails for your information, prices and packages that you offer so you have go-to information to sell and easy methods for payment.
Be sure to consider that you pay your expenses, yourself, and leave aside money for tax and to reinvest into the business.
Allow one day to get your invoicing and payment systems in place. When you make the sale, you want to make it as easy as possible for someone to pay you, because a sale is not a sale until the money is in the bank!
Okay, that’s your basics covered and it shouldn’t take more than 1 week. (Actually, you can get it all done in only a few hours if you are massively committed and focused on your business goals).
You can also check out these additional items as required, ONLY if it doesn’t mess up your sales focus.
- Trademarking your name, logo or product. Go to IP Australia or information on understanding intellectual property.
- If you have staff they need to be paid correctly. Your accountant can help with giving you these details on withholding PAYG as required by law.
- Licences and permits. Certain activities and projects require licenses. It’s good to be sure of what is required of you on a national, state or local level. Go to business.gov.au to search your area.
- For government related registrations and licenses you can open an Australian Business Account at http://www.business.gov.au/aba
- Tax Breaks. Your accountant can help you determine any tax breaks you might be eligible for. Never assume that things are tax deducible, things like meals at lunch meetings have very strict guidelines, in most cases you will not get tax exemptions on food and beverages. There are places where you can do well, try massage voucher packs, movie voucher packs and see if you are eligible for the ATO fuel scheme tax credit.
If you are afraid of sales that’s okay, you still need to go out there and generate some business for yourself. The more you hate sales, the more time you need to dedicate to selling. Administration is a great form of procrastination. Sales is action and action is success so get out there and disrupt yourself!