Guide to Starting a Business in Australia: Key Steps and Strategies

Starting a business in Australia is an exciting roller coaster ride filled with thrilling highs and challenging loops. As an aspiring entrepreneur, you have a world of possibilities, many practical decisions to make and legal hurdles to cross.

December 13, 2023

Learn The Key Steps to Launching Your Business

You may already have a brilliant business idea percolating - but it takes more than a lightbulb moment to succeed. Careful planning, market research, and number-crunching are vital pre-launch steps. Understanding Australia's legal and financial requirements will also ensure your new venture doesn't hit any bumps.

Most importantly, be clear on why you're taking the startup plunge. Your vision and passion will steer your business through the ups and downs ahead.

This article will explore all the key phases of starting a business in Australia. From structuring and registering your company to hiring staff and attracting customers - you'll find practical guidance and local insights. 

Making All the Initial Decisions

When starting a business, your initial decisions help set the critical foundations for success. Rushing into things or glossing over key choices in your eagerness can cause issues down the line. So, be sure to evaluate these foundational steps carefully. 

Pick Your Business Structure

Starting a business in Australia means first choosing your legal structure - will you be a sole trader, company, or trust? Or are you thinking of having a business partner? 

Each business structure has different setup requirements, legal protections, and tax implications that you need to consider. For example, a structure like a company may make more sense if you want to raise investment capital. 

Choose a Memorable Business Name

Your business name is an important decision. Pick something clear and catchy that reflects what you do. An abstract or vague name may seem clever initially, but it will confuse customers. Do trademark checks to ensure it’s legally available. Once decided, use your name prominently in branding to build recognition.

Handle Registration, Licences, and Permits

Before opening doors, you need to get street legal. Register your business name with ASIC to make it officially yours. Depending on your industry, specific licences and permits may also be required. A restaurant needs council permits, for example. Taking care of these compliance steps early prevents headaches down the road.

Plan Your Business Idea Thoughtfully

Laying solid foundations is crucial when embarking on your entrepreneurial journey. Rushing into business operations without thoughtful planning risks issues arising later that could have been addressed proactively. 

Carefully evaluate these key areas upfront:

Develop Your Own Business Plan

Create a well-developed plan outlining your business goals, strategies, timelines, market analysis, marketing approach, financial projections, and funding needs. This serves as a roadmap and shows investors you have critically charted a path forward.

Conduct In-Depth Market Research

Identify your target customers and thoroughly analyse their demographics, values, frustrations, and purchasing drivers. This allows you to tailor your offerings effectively. Monitoring competitors also reveals differentiation opportunities

Create a Dynamic Marketing Plan

Outline marketing objectives and strategies across digital, social, digital marketing, print, proposed budgets, and resource allocation channels. Keep the plan flexible to shift focus to higher-performing areas.

Establish a Strong Online Presence

Create a branded website, leverage social media to engage customers, and employ digital marketing for greater visibility. An omnichannel strategy integrating digital and traditional methods is key nowadays.

Set Up Your Business Finances

Proper financial setup is a critical first step when starting any new business. Working with an accountant or financial advisor can help you organise your finances and set up an effective system from day one. This prevents issues down the road as the business grows.

Some key areas to focus on include:

  • Cash flow forecasting - Project your income and business expenses for the first 12 months. This helps you anticipate costs, manage cash flow, and determine your needed funding. An accountant can help develop realistic forecasts.
  • Business banking - Open dedicated business bank accounts and credit cards. Don't burden personal and business finances. Also, set up accounting software linked to bank accounts.
  • Accounting system - Use accounting software or work with a bookkeeper to establish your chart of accounts, invoicing system, expense tracking, payroll, and financial reporting.
  • Tax registration - Register for an ABN and GST, if applicable. Understand tax obligations for your business structure. An accountant can advise on structure and ensure tax compliance.
  • Finance and funding - Explore funding options like loans, investors, or grants if needed. An accountant can help with business plans and funding applications.

Protect Your Business

There are various ways you can protect your business, including: 

  • Formally registering trademarks, patents, and other intellectual property to safeguard your valuable assets and prevent unauthorised use.
  • Having contingency plans and insurance to handle unforeseen events like economic shifts or disasters. This readiness helps minimise disruption and recover quickly.
  • Ensuring your workplace is safe for your employees. This involves identifying potential hazards, implementing safety measures, and providing safety training to your employees.

Obtain Business Insurance 

In Australia, businesses must have certain types of insurance, while others are highly recommended based on the nature of the business:

 Here is the information from the table converted into non-table format:

Workers' Compensation Insurance: 

- Compulsory if you have employees. 

- Covers costs if employees are injured or become sick due to their work.

Public Liability Insurance:  

- Suggested to have.  

- Covers your business for legal costs and compensation payments if a third party sues for injury or property damage.

Professional Indemnity Insurance:

- Suggested/Compulsory for certain professions

- Protects professionals who provide advice or services from legal action taken for losses incurred due to negligence.  

Product Liability Insurance:  

- Suggested to have.

- It covers your business if a product you sell causes injury or damage.

Business Interruption Insurance:  

- Suggested to have.  

- It covers loss of income and increased business costs due to an unexpected event.

Property and Contents Insurance:

- Suggested to have.

- Covers damage or loss of business premises and contents.  

Cyber Liability Insurance:

- Suggested to have.  

- Protects against losses related to cyber attacks or data breaches.

Management Liability Insurance:  

- Suggested to have.

- Protects directors and officers from legal liability they may incur personally in managing a company.

Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Insurance:

- Compulsory (for vehicle owners) 

- It is required if your business owns vehicles. Covers costs of compensation claims if your vehicle injures or kills someone.

Building and Construction Insurance:  

- Suggested for construction businesses. 

- Essential for construction businesses, covering a range of risks from construction projects.  

Marine Cargo Insurance:

- Suggested for relevant businesses.  

- Important for businesses involved in importing or exporting goods.  

Trade Credit Insurance:

- Suggested to have.

- Protects businesses against clients not paying their debts

Understand Staff Requirements 

Whether you're considering hiring employees or engaging contractors, each choice has its own considerations and legal implications.

The Difference Between Employees and Contractors

  • Legal Status: Employees have legal rights and obligations that are different from contractors. It's crucial to understand these differences to classify your workforce correctly.
  • Control and Independence: Contractors typically have more control over completing their work and may work for multiple clients, whereas employees usually work exclusively for one employer.

Fair Work Regulations

  • Awards and Agreements: Ensure you understand and comply with the Fair Work Act, including awards and enterprise agreements that set out minimum terms and conditions of employment.
  • National Employment Standards (NES): Familiarise yourself with the NES, which outlines minimum standards for employment, including leave entitlements, hours of work, and redundancy pay.

Taxation and Superannuation

  • Tax Obligations: Understand the tax implications of hiring employees versus contractors, including Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding and Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • Superannuation: For employees, you're generally required to contribute to their superannuation fund. This is not typically required for contractors.

Set Up Record-Keeping Systems 

Proper record-keeping is essential for managing your business operations, meeting compliance requirements, and making data-driven decisions. 

Set up organised systems to maintain financial records, tax and super documents, employee files, and other critical business information. You must keep tax and superannuation records for at least five years to comply with Australian regulations. 

Key Takeaways 

  • Choose the right legal structure (sole trader, partnership, company, etc.) based on your needs, as each has different rules and tax implications.
  • Create a strong business plan outlining goals, target market, operations, marketing, and finances to guide the venture.
  • Research the target customer segment thoroughly to shape effective products and messaging.
  • Handle registrations, licences, and permits early to operate legally and avoid issues.
  • Manage finances properly from day one, including cash flow, accounting, tax registration, and potential funding.

Finally, remember that starting a business is a journey, not a destination. It's about learning, adapting, and growing along the way. And, if you need help on this journey, consider a collaborative approach to starting a business with Ashmans Accounting

We offer various business services designed to help you start, grow, and succeed in your business. 

Contact us today to find out more. 


What is Required to Start a Business in Australia?

To start a successful business in Australia, you must choose the legal structure, such as sole trader, partnership, company, or trust. Each structure has different requirements regarding registration, tax obligations, liability, and ability to raise capital. 

You'll also need to check that your proposed business name is available and register it with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). Depending on your industry, specific licences or permits may also be required. Developing a comprehensive business plan outlining your goals, target market, operations, marketing strategy, and financial projections is important. This will help guide your venture and provide credibility when seeking funding or investors. 

You must set up business banking and accounting systems, understand your tax obligations, and meet work health and safety requirements. Consulting professionals like lawyers, accountants, and advisors can help navigate all the startup legalities and requirements in Australia.

What are the 5 Key Steps to Starting a Business in Australia?

The five key steps to starting a business in Australia are:

  • Choose a business structure - Sole trader, partnership, company, and trust are common options, each with different rules.
  • Register your business name - Check availability and register the name nationally with ASIC.
  • Obtain licences and permits - Certain industries require specific licences and permits to operate legally.
  • Set up your finances - Open business bank accounts, understand tax obligations and implement accounting systems.
  • Create a business plan - Develop a comprehensive plan outlining your business goals, target market, operations, marketing, and financials.

How Much Money Does It Take to Start a Business in Australia?

How much money it takes to start a business in Australia really depends on the type of business, industry, location, and other factors. Some online businesses may only require a few thousand dollars while opening a retail store could cost $100,000 or more. 

As a general guideline, it's recommended to have access to at least six months of living expenses and business operating costs when starting a business in Australia. Developing a detailed business plan with cash flow projections, cost estimates, and funding requirements will clarify the level of startup capital needed. 

Your own savings, loans from banks or family, crowdfunding, business grants, and investors are potential funding sources. While the costs vary widely, having sufficient capital gives your new venture the best chance of success.