The first year of running your small business will go by in a blur. There’s a lot to do, and it’s got to be done right first time. Fortunately, there’s plenty of advice and software available to help every entrepreneur get going.

Wondering where you’ll start? Here are some of the things you should know as you set out to tackle your first twelve months.

Have a clear business plan

Set a clear end goal or ambition for your small business: who are you trying to help? What are you aiming to improve? Keeping this goal in mind will help you stay focused and make informed decisions at every stage.

Your ultimate end goal may take much longer than a year to reach, but creating shorter, periodic objectives will keep you moving in the right direction. Set yourself quarterly or annual targets for brand recognition, sales, profit and other important factors. The key is to keep them manageable and achievable so that you don’t overstretch your resources or funding.

When starting a small business, it’s always better to set lower targets and succeed than overstretch and crash.

Your first year in business will be hard workGet your marketing right

Once you know what you want to achieve and how you intend to do it, you need to get customers on board. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your target audience, and that your campaign has a clear call to action to motivate them.

Try testing your marketing campaigns and channels to see what works and what doesn’t. Make small investments in each, then increase spending on what works and reduce spending on what doesn’t.

Some of the marketing channels you can consider are:

  • Social media (one of the best ways to hold a conversation with customers)
  • Blogging (a great way to build your reputation as knowledgeable)
  • Trade shows (though more expensive, they’re great for showcasing your business to peers and potential clients)
  • Email marketing (don’t buy email addresses and spam them, but follow up on interested clients with interesting content and customer support)

Keep your marketing cost effective and on message, and don’t be afraid to admit something isn’t working for your brand.

Expect plenty of unexpected costs

Having a website built and then hosted at an ongoing cost, paying for genuinely competitive Google Ads, paying for trade show stalls, business cards and other marketing materials… setting up a small business can be more expensive than it first seems.

Keep your expenses as low as possible and ensure you have a good return on investment. Don’t, for example, hire a whole office if you can work from home to start.

With KashFlow, you can be sure of your ROI and measure the success of your campaigns by using the Projects feature to track any activity. This way, you can plan future campaigns from a scientific and tested perspective.

Be smart with your hiring

Bringing others into a new venture is a great way to inject innovation and critical thinking into the establishment of your business.

If you’re hiring, look for potential employees with the skills and mentality you need. The right mentality is key to a good hiring, particularly during the early stages of your business as there’s no way to predict how it will change.

When you’re employing new people for the first time, make sure you comply with all relevant UK law. Once they’re hired, you’ll need to keep on top of the HR duties including Health and Safety Compliance, managing absences and, of course, payroll.

Understand the difference productivity and busyness

Being busy doesn’t necessarily you’re being productive. Make sure you, and your employees or colleagues if you have them, have healthy workloads with clear goals and objectives. This’ll keep you focused, and give you the added bonus of ending each day with a sense of accomplishment.

You need to make sure everything you do adds value to the business.

It’s also important to maintain a work / life balance. If you want your business to be a lasting success, you need to maintain your enthusiasm and energy levels. There’s no sense draining your creativity and energy in the early days, only to burn out before long.

Get your accounts in order

When setting up a new business, ensuring you’re fully HMRC-compliant needs to be your main priority.

When the Making Tax Digital initiative is introduced, you’ll need to provide quarterly updates instead of an end of year statement. You’ll also have to keep track of payments, bank accounts, transactions and other financial data. Even if accounts are your strong point, setting up your own business can create a mountain of work. You can learn more about Making Tax Digital here and here.

Reinvest in the business

It’s common for the business owner to be paid after essential costs have been paid. Investing in your product or service, your company and your marketing is key to encouraging its growth and success.

Remember: it could take 18-24 months for your business to get going, so don’t give up after the first year. Perseverance is key!

The first year in your new business is both a very long and very short time; but with a solid plan, a firm hold on your finances and the ambition to succeed, you could be setting the path for your future career as a business owner.


KashFlow is UK based bookkeeping and accounting software for sole traders, small businesses and start-ups. You can manage your business finances from anywhere and create professional, branded quotes and invoices in minutes. For a free personalised demonstration of the software, just call the KashFlow onboarding team on 0344 815 5779.  

See how IRIS KashFlow works with your business and your books