Six tips for setting up as a sole trader from home

Starting life as a sole trader can be an exciting, scary time, particularly if you’re working from home.

home office

At times it can be overwhelming to think about the whole process you need to go through, and other times the enthusiasm for starting something new can cause you to end up forgetting something. 

So, we’ve created this list of the essential steps you need to set up your new venture with the help of small business website experts UENI.

1. Insurance and working from home

First, you should communicate with your insurer that you’ll be working from home. 

Why? Because if you run your own business, your insurer will want to have the most up-to-date information about your work circumstances – oftentimes, standard home contents insurance won’t provide full coverage for your services, equipment or stock. 

If you’re performing clerical or office work, home contents insurance may cover some items like a desktop computer or laptop (Admiral covers office equipment only, for example). Check your policy carefully to make sure you have the cover you need if your customers are visiting you at your home or if you have any staff working for you – you may need additional cover.

While the types of insurance you need to take out vary, you’ll most likely need to be looking at the following: 

Tools of the trade
This covers any specialist items you may store at home for work. Often these are things that may fall outside the scope of normal contents insurance due to their relative uniqueness and value but could be any item that's only used for your business, trade or profession.

Materials/stock cover 
You’ll need to make sure your insurer knows about any goods you’re storing at home, and that you’re storing them safely. This is because they can elevate the risk of things like theft or, in some cases, fire or other calamities.

Public Liability Cover 
If you are receiving clients or customers at your home for work, this will cover you against injuries they may suffer or damage to your belongings.

Professional Indemnity Cover 
This insurance protects you against financial losses suffered by your clients or customers who may have suffered a loss following your professional advice or relying on you for services or designs.

It's usually separate from home insurance, and as such is something we don't cover.

As you can see, your work from home status can change some aspects of your insurance, so it’s important to discuss your circumstances with your insurer.

If you’re starting a business from home and you have Admiral Home Insurance, take a look at our guide to home insurance for business use for more information about what is and isn’t covered by a standard policy.

2. Business bank account

Another critical question to consider at the beginning is how you’ll handle your banking. Having a secure, separate account for your business assets is very important.

You should also be thinking about which bank gives you the best structure and procedures, especially surrounding banking tasks you can handle without having to visit the bank every time. 

Money might be tight when you’re just starting out and every little helps, so it’s worth seeking out companies that offer perks aimed specifically at helping SMEs. 

Tide, for example, don’t charge monthly or annual fees. Instead, they take a tiny fee when you move money between accounts or move cash. They also provide a full UK sort code and account number to help get your business off the ground. 

You’ll also want to look for a business bank account that allows you to have free card payments both in the UK and abroad. Any account that allows for automatic categorisation of your transactions is going to be a winner as well, since this will help you with your accounting.

3. Setting up a website

According to Statista, the UK has the most advanced e-commerce market in Europe, and in 2018 its e-commerce revenue was over £688billion – so it’s vitally important you get a website for your business. 

If the option of creating your own website doesn’t appeal, you’ll want to make sure you have a well-made, attractive website and this doesn’t have to cost the earth.

UENI, for example, will create a small-business focused website that’s optimised for Google and will also support you with advertising and marketing solutions. You give them the information you want included and they’ll make a fully functioning website for your business. And the best bit? It’s free. 

4. Get a Google My Business listing 

Creating a Google My Business profile is highly beneficial as it will display information about your business to your potential clients that might be searching for a company like yours online. 

They’ll be able to find your business name, address or areas you cover, phone number, opening hours, website and the services and products you provide.

All these things help legitimise a company and lets customers see you as a trusted and reliable professional, and they’ll be more likely to check out your services and products. 
A verified company on Google will be more likely to appear in locally-based searches on Google platforms as well as searches that are relevant to your industry. Of course, businesses with more reviews are more likely to rank higher, as well.

5. Invoicing tools 

An invoicing tool can become a good friend on your journey. Companies such as Freshbooks can create custom, professional invoices, and create project budgets. You can also file your VAT return, stay Making Tax Digital compliant, and easily send estimates to your clients. This last step can be key when it comes to successfully winning contracts. 

It’s really important you find a company that securely stores your information no matter which payment plan you choose. Cyber-security is key in any industry, but particularly if you’re starting off as a sole trader.

6. A landline? Yes, a landline

Another thing that sometimes gets overlooked is how your customer will contact you. We know they can sometimes seem old fashioned but having a landline phone might be more trustworthy than a mobile phone number.  As many customers relate it to a physical space, this can appear more stable. 

Think of calling your local shop, do you expect it to go to a mobile phone or a physical store?

Activating your landline is pretty straightforward and it’s worth shopping around for combined phone and broadband deals. It’s also possible to set up a landline number through any company that provides online calling services. This can be helpful if you don’t want to establish an actual landline from your home.

Flexible home insurance from Admiral