What Are Easy Businesses to Start in the UK?
People seem to come at the idea of starting a business from two different directions. They either have a great idea that they want to make money from. Or they really don't want to be employed any more, and want to work for themselves in their own business.
All new businesses start with an idea. Their success rests on several, interlinked factors and is certainly not guaranteed. But if you start with all the relevant information and a well-thought-out plan, you'll be giving yourself the best chance.
Just looking at the title question itself raises even more questions. Exactly what does 'easy' mean in the context of starting a business in the UK? And what does business mean to you?
Here's What We'll Cover:
What Do We Mean by 'Easy' and 'Business'?
So what does 'business' mean to you?
Do you want to fully switch from employment to self employment? Perhaps you are quite happy earning a bit of extra cash on the side. In the future, are you building in growth? Maybe your aim is for more work-life balance, rather than taking a small business into a global market.
Business ideas sometimes start as one thing and then evolve over time. And that's just fine. But as you get started, it doesn't hurt to consider where you want to go with it.
'Easy' isn't a word you'd generally associate with running a business.
In fact, quite the opposite. It requires effort, time and resilience to start a new business in the UK. A good sense of humour doesn't hurt either! For the purposes of being useful here, we're looking at simple UK businesses to set up, with lower initial outlay.
We've gathered together several small business ideas that you can start in the UK as a sole trader. This is the easiest business structure to operate in. All the details are in our 'What Is a Sole Trader?' guide.
The main benefits about this business structure are:
- You don't have to register with Companies House, which saves time and money
- You do have to register for self-assessment with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- FreshBooks has everything ready for digital tax time, so you don't have to spend a lot of time worrying about that side of things
- After tax, you keep all the profits you've made
Of course there are regulations to follow and liabilities to meet. But they're far less onerous than the other UK business structures: Partnerships and limited companies.
To some people, 'simple businesses to start' actually means 'cheap small business ideas.' And that's a huge, valid consideration. Do your new business ideas need a lot of investment to get going? We're going to focus on examples of small businesses with low start-up costs. Going from UK business ideas you can run from your own home to those with some outlay for equipment or vehicles.
We'll also flag any of these small business ideas that require specific qualifications, legal checks, registration, accreditation or certification. But it's unlikely you'd consider starting a small business in these fields if you didn't already have the necessary qualification, or registration with the appropriate professional body. Getting other legal checks, like a hygiene certification, usually costs time and money.
So, here we go! Small businesses you can start in the UK, which can be set up as a sole trader structure, are lower cost and with some extra information you'll need to get started. What takes your fancy?
From Hobby to Job
The classic 'side hustle.' You've got a full-time job and do something you love in your spare time. You might be creating all kinds of things, like jewellery, art, clothes, jam, stationery, or garden furniture. The range of possibilities is only limited by our imaginations.
You've given your creations as gifts to friends and family members. Then they've come back to commission something similar for their friend: "Obviously I'll pay you for your time and materials." Suddenly, you realise that this is something you could sell to total strangers! Sound familiar?
After this revelation, you need to get a plan of action to turn your much-loved hobby into an actual business. Homemade, handcrafted, artisan—all very emotive words for your work. You've got the skills, but you need to cost the supplies and think about quantity. How many can you make in a week and what can you sell them for?
Now you're more than happy working from home, but where are you going to sell them? Social media platforms are an inexpensive place to start: Instagram and Pinterest are great places to promote your wares. As are online marketplaces like Not on the High Street and Etsy, although they will charge commission.
Don't forget about actual, real-life market stalls and craft fairs. You'll usually have to pay for a pitch. But that, and travel, is really the only cost involved. It's a great opportunity to talk to your customers and see what their reactions are to your work. County fairs seem to pop up in an extraordinary number of fields during the summer months—usually guaranteed excellent footfall. And often the craft stands are covered, so you'll be safe from any less than excellent weather.
Everybody loves a Christmas fair—even if it's just for the mulled wine and mince pies! Seasonal craft and art fairs are often held at lovely, warm, indoor venues, as well as some traditional or themed street markets. Book your pitch early to avoid missing out.
It's actually quite simple and low cost to get started with a home-based, creative business. As your business grows, you may want to invest in your own online shop and get rid of the middleman altogether.
It's a really competitive market, with uniqueness and consistent high quality being two essential markers for success. There's also the option to run online or real-life workshops, teaching eager new creatives some of your skills.
The way to bulk orders is with corporate clients, perhaps with personalised offers for their company's Christmas gifts. Get your ideas developed, made and in front of the decision makers as early as possible in the year. There's no point waiting until Hallowe'en is over to get in touch with them—that year's order is all ready for delivery!
Isn't it exciting? The thought of being able to work from home, doing what you love and making the living you want.
Selling Your Knowledge and Experience
You've already paid for your degree, qualifications or certifications. Add this to your professional experience and you've got something valuable to sell to others, with very little outlay. Here are three small business ideas where you can sell your knowledge and experience in business-to-customer contexts.
Tutor for Children and Young People
To be a tutor for primary or secondary aged children, you'd be advised to get a Disclosure and Barring Service check. This costs a minimum of £23 in England and you'll need to allow processing time. The rules around criminal checks vary in the different UK countries.
Successful tutors usually have experience teaching in schools. But if you're not a qualified teacher, tutoring could still be a great business idea for you if you're highly qualified in a particular subject area. For example, if you're bilingual, you'd be an ideal language tutor. You'll need to make sure you're up-to-date with current education policy. Some tutors specialise in preparing children to sit private school entrance exams.
You might prefer having students come to your home, to eliminate travel costs. Or you could teach in the pupils' own homes. Many people with younger children prefer the latter.
There are increasing opportunities in the health and fitness industry. People are starting to invest in their physical well-being, and being a personal trainer could be a great business idea if you're already an expert in the field.
Again, not much outlay required here. If you have space, clients can come to you. Or you can go to their homes, meet up in a public park or rent space at a gym.
You can start your own YouTube channel about just about anything. Creating consistent video content that attracts views, subscribers, and then advertising revenue is the way to turn it into a successful business.
You'll need to invest time into using the platform and making your content. The costs are determined by what your videos are about. For example, a make-up YouTuber might buy a range of different waterproof mascaras in order to make a 'Which is the best?' video.
Even More Options!
The internet provides many opportunities to sell your knowledge in a format that suits you.
If you prefer writing, you can start a blog, or write online courses and eBooks. If you're into making videos, but you don't want to commit to filling an entire YouTube channel, you could record and sell webinars about your area of expertise. Or if you like talking, but are quite camera-shy, you could go for a podcast—basically you produce your own radio show.
Services in the Home
Your small business could be a service that helps people with domestic tasks that they either can't do themselves, or just hate doing themselves. What popped straight into your head just then? Whatever job you hate doing, other people hate it too!
This is not a suggestion to spend your days doing something you can't stand. But think about all the things we just have to do to maintain our homes, and consider turning a job you don't mind doing into a small business.
There are so many possibilities to have a niche service:
- Domestic cleaner
- Oven cleaning
- Window cleaner
- Dog walking
- Jet-power cleaning of outside spaces
- Car cleaning
- Sewing alterations
- Carpet cleaning
To start with, you'll need the correct equipment and a vehicle to get to your customers. But for most of these service jobs, this will be a one-off cost. Ongoing costs could be cleaning products and equipment, although some of your customers would rather supply you with their preferred brands.
Business success is based on regular work from repeat customers. Once you've got a good reputation for reliability and quality work, you'll generate plenty of word-of-mouth referrals for new business.
And of course, you could look into the commercial cleaning market. As a sole trader it'll be tricky to get large contracts that need multiple cleaners all at the same time. But smaller offices and shops are well within your reach.
Doing Things People Can't Do Themselves
Lots of jobs in your home, and workplace, need professionals to do them. These are skilled jobs that, by definition, cost more to set up. You'll need to have the relevant qualifications, current registration with professional bodies, correct tools and safety kit, and a vehicle. Lots of these small businesses are started by people who worked for other companies and decided to work for themselves.
- Mobile hairdresser
- Mobile beautician
If you've got the skills, qualifications, van and tools already, then marketing will be your biggest layout if you're starting a new business like this. As long as you're on top of all your job's regulatory, and health and safety requirements, you're good to go.
Make Your Home Earn Its Keep
Business ideas involving sharing your home usually provoke quite a definite response. Many people don't really like the idea of having strangers in their home. But if you're a people person with an hospitable nature, renting out rooms could be the perfect business idea for you.
There are very few costs to starting up a B&B in your own home. You'll need the correct insurance and will probably list on a platform like AirBnB. These sites take a fee for advertising your business. If you live near a well-known tourist attraction, like Edinburgh Castle or Stonehenge, this becomes an even more attractive business prospect.
Check out your local competition for a guide to how much you could earn by renting out a room and cooking a lovely breakfast. You might want to hire someone to take photos of your facilities, to make sure they can be properly seen. And you might want to add personal touches, like a welcome pack, for your guests. But all of that cost is entirely at your discretion.
How Your Vehicle Could Become a Business Idea
If you've got a car or a van, you could think about putting it to work in a small business capacity.
Taxi driver: You can work for yourself and register with companies like Uber, who you pay to connect you with customers. Or you can get a taxi licence and set up an independent, local taxi firm. The difficult part of being on your own is securing enough passing and pre-booked trade to make the business viable.
Removals: There are several small business ideas that can spring from having an empty van sat in your drive. But the simplest of all is a removal business. Your outlay is in packing materials and another person to help you with the larger items. Other than van maintenance costs and fuel, there aren't many ongoing costs either. The only difficulty is constantly finding new customers, so listing in local services directories is advisable. An ideal situation would be to get into a referral situation with an estate agent.
Private transport: There are some driving jobs that differ from the usual taxi service. A chauffeur-driven transport might be an option for you. You'd need a more high-end car and know that there is a decent volume of business clients. Another possibility is secure or private driving contracts, usually with local authorities. This might involve transporting young offenders to their court appearances. Or transporting a visually impaired student between their home and residential school on a weekly basis. You'll need certain clearances to be eligible for such jobs, but the upside is regularity of payment.
Got an old horse box? You could turn it into a mobile gin palace or pancake station. Mobile food and drink businesses are always welcome at outside events, and you can market yourself to the wedding, festivals and party sector. Stock up, hitch up and off you go to bring your own little bit of joy to revellers everywhere! Or maybe you can secure a regular pitch in a high footfall area of your local town—saves on the fuel that way. You'll need a reasonable amount of investment for the initial transformation. But after that, it's just restocking the consumables and maintaining the vehicle.
It takes a lot of different sets of expertise to keep businesses running smoothly. If you have the skills, knowledge and expertise you could set up a small business meeting one of those needs. Usually people in these industries call themselves consultants, contractors, or freelancers. In many cases, you can work from home with companies that are all over the world.
- Web developer
- Graphic designer
- Business coach/consultant
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) specialist
- Virtual assistant
- Transcription writer
- Social media manager
- Insurance broker
If you've got a laptop and the skills, you can take your business idea and make a good living. Many companies only want to employ people in these jobs on an 'as and when' basis. For example, most businesses don't want to hire a part-time photographer on a monthly basis. They want to employ a regular freelancer on a mutually beneficial, contract-by-contract arrangement.
A great place to start finding new clients is through old and current contact—personal and business. Tell everyone you know about your business idea and ask them to spread the word. You can register on freelance platforms when you're brand new, but it's a good idea to invest in your own business website as soon as possible.
It is imperative that you make sure you have met all the requirements of your business' governing body, if you have one. For example, most businesses in the financial services sector are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Be the Middleman
Small business ideas don't have to be you selling a product or service directly. You could be the middle link in the chain between seller and buyer—and make a business out of it.
Affiliate marketing: You link to things other people sell and get paid a fee for every purchase made through that link. For example, say you have a blog about science fiction and have an affiliate partnership with a site selling sci-fi memorabilia. Every time someone clicks through to buy from their site from your blog, you get paid.
Dropshipping: This is a method of e-commerce that severely reduces the amount of outlay you have to spend. You list a product on your website, but you don't actually buy the item until it's purchased by a customer. Then the supplier of the product sends it directly to them. You don't have to shell out on big orders of products, but the profit margins are reduced. Less risk comes with less reward. The key to the success of this kind of business is finding the right products and having totally reliable suppliers.
Just so Many Ideas!
These are just some of the businesses you can do as a self employed sole trader, with minimal up-front costs and the fewest regulation requirements.
There are so many amazing business ideas already out there, and a whole lot more that haven't even been thought yet.
At FreshBooks, its always thrilling to be part of our clients' journeys. From the excitement at the start, through developments, growth and tricky times. FreshBooks stands solidly beside you with reliable accountancy support.
So, tell us, what's your new business going to be?