Starting your own small business is one of the most exciting (and challenging!) things you will ever do, as long as you’ve done all the necessary homework and go in with both eyes wide open. While this article is hardly a definitive guide, here are 5 key things that you should do when striking out on your own.

1. Get computerised
By ensuring that you get everything into a computer and are able to work electronically, from accounts to general task management, you are already saving yourself time and money in the long run. Going digital will help you to keep better track of your finances and business operations, as well as develop a global online presence via a good website and the relevant social media accounts. There’s no easier and cheaper way to directly engage your customers!

2. Get a plan
You need to set down your aims and objectives over the next 3-5 years, and have a financial/strategic and operational plan that sets down how you are going to achieve this. Create a simple budget for the business so that you can go through this with your accountant to make sure that you keep on track financially. And yes, do hire a tax accountant to handle all your tax and financial matters.

3. Get a system
This means getting into some good habits when it comes to keeping records of payments and orders, monitoring everything from petty cash to delivery costs, ensuring suppliers are paid on time, and even keeping track of mileage sheets for company vehicles. Making sure that there is a transparent and effective system in place will help with everything from audits to keeping your staff and customers informed and up to date, as well as make your life a lot easier.

4. Get the right support and advice
Having the right tax accountant onboard will ensure that you maximise your business tax return. When you first start out in business, there will be taxation benefits that you can claim that perhaps you might not be aware of as a private taxpayer. For example, if you pay for staff uniforms, you can claim money back not just on the cost of acquiring them, but even on the cleaning of them. Also, if you are looking for a loan to start your small business then speak to an expert in this field. Consider joining local trade and industry sector groups, which are a great place for support, advice and networking.

5. Get a back-up plan in place
Being optimistic and positive is one thing, but you do need to think about what will happen when times get tough. Talk to your accountant and set aside money (no matter how small the amount) from your profit for business emergencies. Look into taking out business insurance to cover property damage and any liabilities, and try to keep about 6-9 months’ worth of savings in case something goes wrong.