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Be your own boss

Starting a business or becoming self-employed is a life-long dream for many. The number of self-employed people aged 65 and over has more than doubled in the past five years. Starting a business can be risky, so legal and financial aspects need to be carefully considered.

How can I start my own business?

Self-employment or starting your own business can be a way of using your knowledge and skills to earn money or turn a hobby or passion into a way of life. It also allows you to work flexibly and decide your own workload.

For example, you may choose to work part-time or only during certain times of the year if that’s what you want.

Some examples of businesses you could set up include cake making, a coffee shop, a bed and breakfast, a driving school and tutoring. You could also use your experience and knowledge to become a freelance consultant, sharing your skills with others who need them.

There are some important things to consider before starting your own business:

Creating a business plan

This should contain a careful estimate of expected income and expenditure over the first years of your business, based on your market research. You will need this to seek a loan for your start-up costs.

Financing your business

Consider how much money you need and where you will get it from. Banks may not be willing to lend money if you have a low credit rating, no credit rating at all, or you have no collateral (e.g. a house that could be re-mortgaged if things went wrong).

If you can’t get a loan from a high street bank, you could approach a Community Development Finance Institution, as they lend to disadvantaged groups who are not able to get loans from other banks.

Checking taxes and benefits

Make sure you seek advice about how becoming self-employed or starting your own business will affect your taxes and any benefits you receive. Contact HMRC or see their online information on self-employment.

How do I set up a franchise?

There are lots of different types of business franchises available. The advantage of a franchise is that the product or service has already proved itself and may be well known to people. Famous franchises include The Body Shop and fast food chains McDonald’s and Subway.

You can find franchises for all kinds of businesses, including education, care, health and fitness, as well as food and drink.

There may be disadvantages in the constraints of the legal agreement you make, and you will need to take independent legal advice if you’re considering a franchise.

How do I set up a social enterprise?

Social enterprises are businesses with a social purpose, using their profits to help others in the community. They:

  • aim to make income by selling goods and services
  • are set up to specifically make a positive difference
  • reinvest the profits they make to help others.

They are a good choice if your motivation is to put something back into the community. Some types of social enterprises include:

  • furniture recycling projects
  • restaurants which train and employ people released from prison
  • employment agencies for people with learning disabilities.

Where can I get help to start a business?

Whether you are already starting out in your own business venture or have yet to come up with a plan, enterprise agencies and the New Enterprise Allowance could provide further support and advice.

Enterprise agencies

Enterprise agencies provide free support, training and advice to help you set up a business. Many offer a mentoring service after you have started your business.

Each enterprise agency has a slightly different process for helping you. Some may offer a one-day or two-day course followed by counselling and advice, others start with counselling or advice sessions. There may be optional training courses, and some will have areas where you can work on your business plan.

After you have been trading for a while they may begin to charge you for advice and information.

New Enterprise Allowance

New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) offers help if you want to set up your own business. You may be eligible for this scheme if you’re claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support or work-related Employment Support Allowance.

If you’re accepted, a business mentor will help you develop your business plan. Once your business is running you may be eligible for both a loan and a weekly allowance while you get started.

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All the information and advice we provide on the website is free and completely independent, as is our Advice Line that is open 365 days a year.

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Last updated: Jan 16 2024

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