Starting Up A Business - A Guide For Newbies

May 28, 2012
I know it seems daft but if you get caught (which is quite unlikely) then you may well find yourself in hot water! Better safe than sorry if you ask me.

If you do talk to them let us know what they say.

Vicky :)

Hi Vicky,

I am new to this site and not sure if something like this has been asked already (sorry if it has), but I just wanted to ask.. I am currently working full time, but would like to start buying a couple of small items from wholesalers maybe on Ebay to start off with then if it goes ok maybe opening a shop on there or starting up a website.

Would I still have to notify the HMRC as a sole trader ? Or does it clasify me as self employed? This is the paqrt that I'm most confusing.

Thanks for any advice

Aug 2, 2012
Hello Vicky, i am still looking in started my own business and your information has helped me a lot, just wanted to say thank you :D
Jun 17, 2013
Hi there, just like to say you have been very informative and thanks alot for that, but im wondering how does someone like myself get access to cash and carry/wholesalers goods iff they are not in the retail trade at present? I intend to set up a small business but need cheap supplies in the first place! What i mean is, how is someone supposed to set up business iff they need to be noted as a business before they can purchase anything wholesale??? Errr hope im not being totally stupid! Please help me x :confused:

Hi there, I may be of the help on sourcing cheap supplies without the need of importing a full containerload of stuff not up to your satisfaction when you start your business. You need to get the feel of the market first, which can sell, which look good but no market at all, at small quantities, before you tie yourself entirely down
Jun 17, 2013
Hi Vicky
I've just read your post and it's very helpful to a newbie like me! I've got in mind what I want to sell and have some trade sites that I'm interested in contacting to do business with, I'm trying to determine if the products that the sites are selling are going to give me sufficient profit margin, but I can't get this information without being registered and supplying them with business details, which at this point I don't have as I'm just information gathering right now - any suggestions as to how I can move forwards?
Your help is hugely appreciated!
Kind regards

Hi Angela, why you need to supply your business details when you get the information of products you intend to sell? I can gather information for products without revealing those details.
Jun 17, 2013
This is clearly a 'newbie' question and I can see myself regretting posting it, but I'm still not sure about the answer.

Basically, as I'm still planning on what to start-up.etc I've not got a huge amount of money to blow. So the amount of items I purchase will be low (until December where I'll be able to put £5,000 into this) but I'm also considering using some items for personal use? Is this...allowed? Using the purchased items yourself, that is.

To start up a new business you don't need a huge amount of money to blow - stat small, get the feel, get the confidence, build up the relationships...before you geting something big. What business are you intending into? May be I can share some of my views
Hi all,

I have written a few guides and posted them on TSC but I thought it was about time I collated all the info into one easy place. Here goes...........

What to sell

This is the million dollar question! Basically no one can sell you what to sell, you have to come up with that one on your own. The best piece of advice is to choose a niche that interests you and gets you excited. There is absolutely no point trying to sell something does doesn’t get your blood pumping and makes you jump out of bed in the morning raring to go! Once you have decided on the products you wish to sell then the next step is research........... and lots of it. Find as many people as possible that already sell the items and see how they go about it and find ways to improve on what they are doing. Remember being the cheapest does not always mean you are on the road to success, price is not everything! You can still be more expensive so long as you offer a good all round service, try and find a unique selling point that makes you stand out from the crowd.

The other piece of advice is don’t run before you can crawl. Start small and reinvest any profits you make into more stock. Gradually widen your product range but be careful not to overstretch yourself, cashflow is key!

Where do I get it from

Once you have decided on your chosen product range it is time to start souring. Your first big decision is do I get it from a UK wholesaler or do I go overseas? I shall set out some of the pro and cons for each avenue of sourcing...................

UK Wholesalers – There are still loads of wholesalers around the UK (although not as many as there used to be!) who will be willing to supply you but remember that you cant just walk in off the street and expect them to serve you. Many wish to preserve their lines of distribution by only selling to registered businesses and wont supply members of the public. To avoid being turned away make sure you go armed with information showing you are a legitimate business. Take headed notepaper, business cards, utility bill, company registration number or any other form of id you can come up with. I have compiled a large list of UK wholesalers that should help you find someone in your area - The downside of using UK wholesalers is that you may find the margins are not what you would expect and also that you might actually be competing against your own supplier as every man and his dog seems to sell on Ebay these days!

Overseas Suppliers – This mainly covers China as the vast majority of the worlds goods are made there but there are other countries worth looking at if needed. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, India are all worth a look and even some European countries still have thriving manufacturing industries. It really depends on the type of product you are looking for. If the product you are trying to source is branded and you find a good looking Chinese supplier, STOP!! You will not get genuine branded products from China, they are pretty much all fake! If you do take the risk then fully expect your goods to be seized by customs or maybe not arrive at all. If a deal looks too good to be true then it probably is. Having said this there are plenty of legit suppliers out there it is just a case of researching the company to make sure you are happy with them. Start with sites like DHGate, Alibaba, Global Sources and see how you get on. If you are unsure about a particular company try posting their name on the forum and see if anyone has any experience of using them. For those of you with a little more cash in your pocket I would strongly advise getting on a plane and meeting some suppliers face to face. Read my guide here -

Another very useful way of finding suppliers is to go to a trade exhibition and see what is on offer and try and talk to suppliers and build up a business relationship. Again go armed with info on your business and for gods sake, look professional! Too many times people come on our stand at trade shows looking like they just got out of bed and then wonder why they are not taken seriously. You are projecting an image of your business and if you look like you don’t care about your appearance then suppliers will presume you wont care about running a professional business either. If you cant make it to a trade fair then there are literally thousands of suppliers out there with websites that you can contact. I have compiled a list to make things a bit easier for you - One piece of advice I would give is not to email any potential suppliers as this can be easily ignored and most suppliers will pass you off as a time waster. If you are serious about purchasing from someone, send them a letter on headed notepaper, they are much more likely to take you seriously.

Where to sell it

Most people start with Ebay as it is the best way to get your goods seen by millions of people for relatively little money. Many people will moan about the fees (me included on occasion) but it really is a good place to start your business and gain experience in buying and selling. Ebay is very cut throat as everyone is trying to undercut each other, my advice would be not to worry about being the cheapest but instead concentrate on offering a good service and visually appealing listings. If you research the do and don’ts of Ebaying then you should be fine.

You can also try other sites like Amazon and Gumtree but depending on what you are selling you will probably find Ebay is still the best place to sell online.

Another option is to get out into the wide world and actually interact with fellow human beings. Car boot sales, indoor and out door markets and Christmas fairs can be great venues for selling goods. Research some local attractions and go along and find out about pitch costs and availability. Give it a go you might surprise yourself.

The next step is to aim at opening your own e-commerce site . Once you have established sales and built up a good customer base then it might be time to spread your wings. There are plenty of pros on the forum that can help you set up a site for relatively little money.

Registering your business, Tax & VAT

I have written a whole guide on this subject which you will find here - but the basics are this..............

When do I register with HMRC – Straight away. They used to give you 30 days to get registered but now you need to do it as close to your first days trading as possible otherwise you may incur a fine.

Will I have to pay tax? – Yes you will need to do an annual tax return each year and pay tax on any profit your company has earnt.

Do I need to register for VAT – No, not to begin with. You only register for tax once you have reached the £70,000 per year threshold. It is more hassle than its worth when you are first starting out so don’t let it worry you.

Book keeping

This can be the thing that confuses and troubles most start up businesses but once you become used to keeping records it becomes second nature. The most important thing is to keep EVERY receipt and bit of evidence that is pertinent to your business. If you pay for something, anything that is connected with your business then you can claim for it as an expense. When claiming for expenses you total them up for the year and deduct the total from your yearly profit thus paying less tax.

I have created a basic Excel spreadsheet for book keeping that should get you started -

This should cover most of the basics to get you started but if you have any specific questions then I am more than happy to try and answer them.

Vicky :)

I have just finished reading this post and my gosh Vicky thank you very much been very helpful have taken notes on what it is that will benefit my business. I have a question do you know how I can find suppliers from Italy or Spain in terms of Man and woman fashion designer clothing?
Nov 19, 2013
I am a new starter in UK and have contact with marble quarry firm and marble cutting machine company . would like to import the products. and as for marble cutting machine company, they have sales representatives many key countries in the world except UK. they have given me the opportunity to be their 'Sole agent' on a commission basis of 11.5% where an average machine costs €36,000 have 43 different types of machines. can someone give me an advice on this and if i should negotiate higher terms and what are the risks and opportunities in both machine and marble??

Would be great if someone can help as i am currently in negotiations with marble machine company? I am also a beginner with an eye for a goal :)

thanks fellas
Thank you so much, Vicky for this informative post.

One thing I want to be clear about ... Most suppliers say I have to be a registered business to buy from them. I've been registered as self-employed for a couple of years now. I've already been selling things online on a small scale.

Am I a registered business already? Or do I have to form a Ltd?
Oct 30, 2009
Thank you so much, Vicky for this informative post.

One thing I want to be clear about ... Most suppliers say I have to be a registered business to buy from them. I've been registered as self-employed for a couple of years now. I've already been selling things online on a small scale.

Am I a registered business already? Or do I have to form a Ltd?

Yes, you are already a business, as you are a self employed sole trader :)

You don't have to be, in most case, a limited company, I am not and haven't had many problems with this set up.
  • Like
Reactions: ladyvgw
Sep 5, 2013
Does anyone know, how long we have to wait to get approval from hmrc to be self employed? I submit my registration on 22nd february but still didn't get any feedbacks from hmrc.
Aug 13, 2009

Can anybody help please. I am having issues with the idea of stock taking at business start up. Do I have to write down all the products I have for sale on the first day ? Would I have to come up with a value of said products ? Would the value be how much items are worth or how much I paid ? Do I have to list every single item or how many I have of a certain item, i.e PS2 Games ?

Thank you.
May 2, 2014

So I registered (or thought I had) with HMRC on 25th April telling them I was to be self-employed from the 26th.

I received an email straight after saying HMRC taxes application received with a reference number. 7 days later I have received nothing else.

Should I of received something else by now (my unique code or whatever its called)??

Logging on to my HMRC online account it is giving me the option of signing up again for self-assessment but I already have. I don't want to do that again and then find out I have two applications. I haven't been asked for direct debit details for NIC or anything like that yet.

After you guys signed up what was the process and how long did each stage take? As far as i'm concerned I've did everything they've asked but I know i'm still not confirmed as self-employed.
May 11, 2014
Hello everybody and thanks Vicky for your helpful post.

I have one question: I'm going to start a small business on ebay, but at the beginning it is just a "test".
I need to register as a self employed/sole traders in any case?
I mean.. if i buy 100 things to sell on ebay from a chinese supplier, just to try, I must be registered as a self employed or not?
Another thing that I don't have clear is.. there is a difference between self employed and sole traders?
(Sorry if this is a stupid question, but i'm not british native and this is the first time that I try to start a business at all).

Thanks in advance.