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Social Media Marketing doesn’t need to be complicated. And utilising Social Media for business is crucial to getting the most out of your marketing efforts. The quantity of social media marketing agencies that have sprung up in the last few years is staggering. A relatively unknown subject ten years ago, using social media for marketing these days is a vital aspect of any sales and marketing plan. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of social media marketing platforms and what you need to know to market on social media as an entrepreneur. What is social media marketing? Social Media Marketing is the act of making your services known by means of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even TikTok. It is an activity which requires: Constant attention Monitoring of buzzwords and trending topics A regular social media content schedule Coordinated campaigns between social media platforms And numerous other skills to keep the entire campaign running smoothly and bringing your business inbound leads. How social media can help your business Billions of people use social media. If you do not use social media in your business, your brand will suffer for it. One of the main benefits of having an effective social media strategy in place is to raise brand awareness. The second reason businesses utilise social media is to increase traffic to their websites. Other reasons for engaging in a social media marketing strategy are: Improving conversions Creating Engagement Monitoring your brand appreciation and sentiment (i.e. what customers say about your brand and products or services) How does social media marketing work Social media marketing is more straightforward than most people think. It’s easy to overthink the subject and get too complicated. Here are some simple steps to creating an excellent social media marketing campaign: Create a business page on each social media platform. Add a high-quality description that tells people what you do and which makes them want to engage with your brand. Add any other information about your company, including key links to products and services. Regularly share awesome content and news, which makes people want to engage with your brand. Make sure this content is not “salesy” but offers people helpful information and makes them want to click and know more. This matter of awesome content is really the crux of the matter. In Social Media Marketing, you need to master the art of creating content that “sells without selling” and which generates interest on its own. Think of people on Social Media as guests at a party. No one wants a sales pitch at a party. They want to have fun, and they’re more likely to buy something sincerely recommended to them by one of their friends than from a hawker in the corner. For this, it might be a good idea to hire a content writer to assist you. Excellent content isn’t only about tweets and LinkedIn posts. Excellent content encompasses: Vlogs and videos Useful and interesting blog articles Animated videos eBooks Etc Through content, you create a community and engage with them. Also, get creative. Run competitions, set up creative ad campaigns. Focus on building your audience. Data analytics can help here, so as to analyse audience behaviours and thereby improve your overall social media strategy. What are the best social media platforms to promote your business? Each social media platform is its own channel and has its own goals for businesses. For example, you wouldn’t be promoting B2B content on TikTok! Compartmentalise each part of your strategy, noting down who the target market is for each, and then match that market to a particular Social Media Platform. For example, LinkedIn would be the platform to use for business-only content. LinkedIn is a social media platform dedicated to finding new business, and the content created on there is quite different from the content shared on, say, Twitter or Instagram. Twitter, on the other hand, is a nifty platform to use to get the conversation going. It’s a great tool to create a buzz, run competitions, get instant feedback, run a poll, and so on. Facebook strikes a good balance between business and personal. You can create a business page on there and get people to like it, and so show up on their feeds later on when you post some new content. Instagram would be for visual ad campaigns. Each of the above channels has its market and its specific part in the overall strategy. It’s essential to break down your social media strategy to match each social media platform you will be using, and publish content specific to that channel. Is social media effective? Several studies have been carried out regarding this, and the results are astounding. In short, yes and absolutely, social media is not only effective but highly effective for marketing your brand — with one caveat: You have to do it right. For example, if you’re posting on Facebook, you should include an image to get more engagement. The best times to post on Instagram are apparently at 1 pm and 5 pm. These and numerous other factors need to be taken into account when embarking upon a social media marketing campaign. Because the topic is so broad and yet can result in such high ROI, many entrepreneurs choose to hire social media professionals to assist them in getting the most of any social media marketing campaign. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
Unfortunately, the world of “legalese” tends to close out understanding from people who do not work in the legal profession. Here at Start My Business, we operate on the philosophy that everyone should be able to understand and take care of their business’s legal issues without the need to call in an expert lawyer. In this article, we will explain the often misunderstood concepts of: Patent Inventorship Patent Ownership Authorship What is a patent? Firstly, what is a patent? The Oxford Dictionary defines a patent as: “A government authority or licence conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention.” There’s an important word in that definition above which is key to understanding these concepts. That word is invention. A patent is, basically, a license or authoritative document from a government which gives an entity the sole right to make, use or sell an invention. When a legal entity files for a patent and gets it approved, that gives that entity (a person or corporation) the right to take legal action against any other person or corporation that is trying to make, use or sell that specific invention. What is Patent Inventorship? Who invented the item or process being patented? This is a matter to be determined before — and sometimes during — the patent application. One thing is certain: The inventor of a product or process is always a natural person. The inventor is never a corporation or a company. Thomas Edison was an inventor. Nikola Tesla was an inventor. Benjamin Franklin was an inventor. All these inventors were people, not organisations. A good example of an inventor who did not immediately gain the right to commercialise and protect his invention is Shane Chen, the inventor of the hoverboard. What is authorship? Authorship applies specifically to artistic works, more specifically to written works — journals, essays, books, etc. Authorship is a subject dealt with under copyright law. Inventorship is a subject dealt with under patent law. Here are some important concepts to understand: Authorship relates to authored works. Inventorship relates to inventions. Establishing who the inventors of a process or product are can often be a fairly subjective and complicated process. Establishing who the author of a publication is, is not. Either someone wrote something that was published, or they didn’t. The biggest problem with not naming the correct inventor in a patent is that it can make the patent unenforceable if litigation ever ensues. It is quite common that parties attempt to invalidate a patent by challenging the validity of its stated inventorship. If a party does manage to prove that the inventor (or inventors) named in a patent are not the true inventors, the patent can be rendered null and, therefore, unenforceable. Work for Hire It’s important to understand the concept of “Work for Hire”. Often, an author or inventor transfers their rights to their invention or authored works because they have specifically signed a contract doing so. An author who creates work “for hire” automatically transfers the copyright for that work to the entity which has hired them. In the case of an inventor, nothing can ever change the inventorship of something, not even a contractual clause, but contracts almost always transfer ownership to the hiring entity for anything invented. Again, it’s important to appreciate the difference between copyright law and patent law. “Ownership” is tightly coupled with copyright. In patent law, the creator and owner are separated. The copyright owner is also the “owner” of the work. An investor can transfer ownership but will always remain the inventor. What is patent ownership? We’ve touched on this already above, but let’s summarise. An inventor has no right to monetise an invention which they do not own. Ownership of an invention can be transferred by contractual clauses, or in a patent. The owner of a patent can litigate in an attempt to prevent anyone else from using or manufacturing an invented product, including the inventor themself. Ownership is, essentially, a proprietary right. So, can anyone claim ownership for a patent? No, definitely not. And that’s why it’s so important to specify the inventor in any patent application. Only the inventor or the person claiming proprietary ownership ov er the invention can file for a patent. This is why Work for Hire is such an important concept. If the inventor has signed away their right to ownership of an invention, then the rightful owner can file for a patent on that invention. Being an inventor is something that can never be taken away from a person, and it looks great in someone’s CV! But it doesn’t automatically confer ownership. Simplifying the patent application process We hope the above clarifies the patent application process, as well as the differences between ownership, authorship and inventorship. Applying for a patent is crucial if you wish to protect your or your employees’ inventions. It’s important to understand the patent application process as well as the basic terminology of patent law to ensure a smooth and successful application in the end. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
It has been said that there are only two things needed when starting a business: A great idea, and an accountant! An accountant’s duties are often misunderstood by laypeople. Accountants work in the realm of compliance, mainly, making sure that you fulfil your fiscal obligations to the government. But great accountants also offer others services. Here are five ways that an accountant can help your business. 1. Second opinion for your business idea A “side benefit” of being an accountant is that they gain vast experience of all sorts of different businesses. A car mechanic only learns about cars. A painter only learns about paints and brushes and types of canvases. But all these businesses have one thing in common: They must file their taxes. And they need an accountant. As a result, accountants are often the “secret sauce” of excellent business consulting because they work with so many different businesses in different fields. Indeed, the most valuable business consulting one could have is that of how to manage one’s accounts. Accountants have extensive experience in seeing what has worked for clients in different industries (and at different times) and so can bring a wealth of advice to the table when you bring them a business idea. 2. Review your business plan (forecast and financial model) As experienced “number crunchers”, accountants can think with figures and can see meaning in those figures that many of us can’t see. The challenge for many accountants has been to communicate these intricate significances to other people who are not so mathematically inclined. Financial Models are an invaluable tool in getting everyday Janes and Joes (such as you and me) to understand their financial position. Financial forecasts are also crucial in determining a business’s viability, and there is no one better suited to putting together a meaningful forecast than the “Number Crunchers” themselves. Proper financial planning and understanding are essential if you plan on putting together an effective business plan in order to take out a business loan or get funding from investors. 3. Advising on legal structure Accountants are, in a sense, “mini lawyers” and must understand fiscal law like the back of their hands. As such, accountants are great assets when it comes to structuring a business entity so that its taxable footprint is as small as legally possible. There are limits to this, of course. And lawmakers have gotten wise to all the “tricks” that many businesses have adopted to minimise their tax payouts. But there are perfectly legal ways for a business or individual to optimise their tax structure. Doing so efficiently requires an in-depth understanding of tax law for that specific country. An accountant is an invaluable aid in these cases. 4. Manage your bookkeeping and accounting An accountant is not a bookkeeper. It’s important to understand that difference. A bookkeeper is responsible for filing and administrative tasks, keeping your books in order. Hence the term “book-keeper”. An accountant is responsible for ensuring your company stays compliant with fiscal regulations and that you fulfil your filing obligations each year. As the world of accounting has grown more competitive, accountants have additionally expanded into offering services such as financial advice and tax consulting. These are not, technically, accounting duties, although they do fall within the same umbrella of financial services. In either case — whether from a compliance view or an advisory view — a knowledgeable and experienced accountant’s skills are utterly invaluable when it comes to ensuring that your business uses its pennies wisely as well as pays up all its dues to the relevant fiscal authorities. Although bookkeeping services have mostly been overtaken by software tools these days, some accounting practices still offer this service to their clients even though it is not particularly profitable for them. They do this because it ends up saving time in the long run, both for the client and the accountant. 5. Financial advisory functions Many accountants have had to pivot in recent years in order to remain profitable. Online tools such as Xero, Quickbooks, FreeAgent and others have taken away many of the duties of traditional bookkeepers and accountants. Some of these tools also offer automatic filing services for individuals and businesses. As a result, many accountants have expanded the service they offer to include financial advisory functions. This is different from tax advice. Financial Advisory functions refer more to what to do with one’s money and, often, even where to invest it. It’s important to not confuse the two trades: An accountant is not automatically a financial advisor, and vice versa. But many accountants have trained up and learned some of this trade in order to offer more value to their clients. It’s convenient (and also advantageous) for an accountant to be able to offer financial advice in terms of investment and, to some degree, portfolio management. No matter where revenue comes from, there are (almost always) taxes to be paid. An accountant who is also an experienced advisor can assist in structuring your business’s wealth in such a way that its tax liabilities are minimised. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
Everywhere you look, there seems to be a piece of software to do something you thought could only be done manually. There is such a thing as “too much software”. Just as there is such a thing as “too little”. In running a business, it’s vital to establish what software is absolutely necessary and which is just nice to have. When starting a business, you want to be as lean as possible, investing in just the right software for your business to help you turn a profit while keeping your budget as low as possible. Here is our selection of absolutely essential software tools for startups and small businesses. Accounting software tools All of your bookkeeping can be done online these days. And all the major accounting software providers also come with phone apps so that you can manage your accounting on the go. Bookkeeping can take so much valuable time away from your day that it’s essential to invest in a tool that provides even the most basic functionality to keep your books in order. Tools such as FreeAgent, Quickbooks, Xero and others allow you to create and send invoices, reconcile your bank accounts, prepare end-of-year accounts as well as scan in your receipts, so you never miss a deductible expense. All of them also run payroll and take care of the dozens of different actions which must be taken to stay in compliance with HMRC’s monthly PAYE and other requirements. Good and affordable accounting software is absolutely indispensable for any business and will save you plenty of money in the long run. Project management tools You need something to be able to keep track of ongoing projects. The tool needs to be accessible via your phone, your browser and should give you a quick overview of where your different projects stand and how to get them unstuck if they are stuck. There are several excellent project management tools out there, such as Monday.com, Trello, ClickUp and Wrike. Although not technically a project management solution, AirTable can also be used successfully as one. CRM — Customer Relationship Management When you’re small, it’s possible to keep track of all your clients and leads in spreadsheets and maybe even on scraps of paper. This isn’t the case when you start to grow even a little bit. Keeping track of leads and the sales pipeline is crucial and can suck up a lot of time; not to mention that failing to keep tabs on this aspect of your business can lead to missed sales and opportunities! HubSpot offers a free CRM which covers most basic needs to manage your customer and leads database until you are large enough to afford one of their higher-tiered packages. Salesforce is another popular cloud-based CRM. Team suites Team suites will typically contain some or other project management tool as part of their offering. But, still, some companies prefer to go with a separate choice for project management because the standalone products are often so much better. As for the team suite itself — secure team chat, video telephony, email, document collaboration — the two main players are undoubtedly Slack and Microsoft Teams. Each has its pros and cons, and the choice between the two often comes down to personal preference. Telephone software (VOIP) It just makes sense to use VOIP for your business, and there are several solutions on the market for this. Using VOIP is particularly important for companies that handle a lot of international business. VOIP can also integrate deeply with analytics tools and computer software to provide additional features not customarily available on a normal phone. Video-conferencing tools Video-conferencing is here to stay. And, whereas we’ll all probably return to the office again eventually, there are numerous benefits to video conferencing compared to in-person meetings. Video conferencing saves time and makes it easier to arrange meetings on short notice. The ability to record video calls also obviates the need for extensive note-taking or additional software for recording. Basic marketing tools This covers a wide range of tools, spanning from actual design tools such as Canva and Adobe Creative Cloud to social media marketing tools such as Hootsuite which allows for scheduling of social media posts. In this category would be included basic video editing tools as well. There’s only so far a DIY marketing approach will get you. Not only is it a skill that takes years to hone, but design-work also takes up a tremendous amount of time which is not good if you’re trying to get your startup off the ground. Eventually, you would probably want to hire professionals to take care of your business marketing. Online storage Storing your files online is the easiest way to keep them backed up when you’re busy. There are too many horror stories of professionals who lost a ton of data because they didn’t have a backup for it. Also, online storage makes it easier to work on the go, from any device. Popular online storage providers are Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox. About author Julia Richards Our head of content, Julia has spent the past 20 years assisting entrepreneurs with all aspects of business launch and growth strategies in various industries around the globe.
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