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8 Step guide: starting a small business in Victoria

Starting a new business is an exciting time – but pre-planning is essential. Before you launch, you should be confident there’s a market for the products or services you’re planning to sell, you understand the regulatory and tax requirements of being a business owner in Victoria, and you can meet the cost requirements of starting your own business.

Read on for tips about how to start a business in Victoria.

1. Research the market

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If you’re starting a business in Victoria, you’ll need to get to know your customers, competitors and market. Many traditional market research techniques are beyond the budget of most new small businesses; however, you can use free tools like social media and Google search to conduct your market research for a fraction of the cost.

2. Decide on your business structure

It may not be something you’ve thought about, but part of starting your own business is deciding on your business structure. Your business structure will affect your legal obligations, taxes and liabilities, along with how you operate the business.

For new businesses in Victoria, the three most popular business structures are:

  • Sole trader: A simple business structure that’s straightforward to set up and operate. However, your personal assets are at risk if things go wrong.
  • Partnership: A business structure made up of between two and 20 people who distribute income and losses between themselves.
  • Company: A company business structure is more complex and limits your liability because the company is a separate legal entity. If you’re an independent contractor, you can set up a ‘one-person company’ with a sole director (you).
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You can change your business structure as your business grows. If you’re not sure which business structure is best for your new business, the Business Registration Service has a handy tool to help you decide.

3. Write a business plan

A documented business plan is an essential step to starting a new business. It should outline your vision for your business and how you’ll achieve the goals you’ve set yourself. A solid business plan template will support you to undertake a thorough SWOT and competitor analysis and help you to really define your new business idea and where it sits in the market. If you need funding to start your new business, most lenders will want to see a comprehensive business plan before agreeing to give you a loan.

You should refer to your business plan regularly, particularly in the early days, and revise it often to ensure it continues to reflect your business and operation environment.

The Victorian Government Business website offers a downloadable business plan guide to help you pull together a business plan for your new Victorian business, and a short video that takes you through how to write a business plan. If you need more business plan inspiration, our blog, How to write a business plan, may help.

4. Decide where you’ll operate from

Depending on your business, you may operate virtually, from physical premises, or even from home.

If you run an eCommerce store, you won’t need a shopfront, but you will need somewhere to pick and pack orders – either a dedicated space in your home or a leased business premises.

If your new business is a retail store, its location will be one of the biggest factors in your success or failure. Consider the amount of foot traffic, any access issues, and whether there’s adequate parking in the local area (particularly free parking). MyVictoria is a free Victorian Government website that lets you search by postcode or suburb to uncover data insights and detailed demographics about business locations you may be considering.

If you’re launching a home-based business, you won’t need to find a new business location – but you must understand whether you need any special registrations or licences, or a council planning permit. The Victorian Government Business website is an excellent resource if you’re starting a home-based business. You should also seek professional advice regarding insurance requirements and tax deductions for your Victorian home-based business.

5. Calculate your costs

Your new business will incur a bunch of start-up and ongoing costs. Your start-up costs will depend on your business type and size but might include:

  • Buying or renting a premises
  • Fitting it out
  • Buying equipment
  • Registration fees
  • Marketing collateral like a business logo and website

The Victorian Government Business website has a comprehensive start-up costing template you can download and complete to get a feel for your potential start-up costs as a new business. From there, you’ll need to understand your likely ongoing or running costs, which might include:

  • Wages
  • Rent
  • Utilities (electricity, water, gas, phone, internet)
  • Marketing
  • Stock
  • Shipping fees

Having a solid understanding of your start-up and ongoing costs is critical for all new business owners. Financial management is one of the topics covered at Business Victoria’s Starting your business right workshops, held throughout Victoria.

6. Register your business name

Unless you’re trading under your personal name, you’ll need to register a business name. When deciding on a business name, consider:

  • Is it memorable?
  • Short and simple? Easy to pronounce and spell?
  • Is it original? Different enough from existing business names?
  • Is it trademarked?
  • Is the domain (website) name available?

Some rules and restrictions apply when you’re naming a new business in Victoria. When you apply to register your business name or check that name’s availability via the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) website, you’ll receive a ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’ result. If you can’t register the exact name you want, use the Australian Business Registration website to explore similar business names.

7. Apply for the licenses or registrations you’ll need

You need certain licences and registrations to operate a business in Victoria. The Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) website lets you search for the licences, regulations, council approvals and other compliance requirements that may apply to your new business, based on your business type, industry and location.

Common registrations for new Victorian businesses include:

  • An Australian business number (ABN)
  • A tax file number (TFN)
  • Pay as you go (PAYG) withholding
  • Fringe benefits tax (FBT)
  • Goods and services tax (GST)

You can apply for these registrations at the Australian Business Register.

8. Know where to go for help as a Victorian start-up

The Australian Government’s SelfStart website is a comprehensive resource for those starting their own businesses, providing support from planning to branding, managing finances and more.

The Victorian Government’s Small Business Bus is another great resource for new and experienced business owners to build their business capability and access practical advice.

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