Here is directory of useful websites for small UK businesses covering topics including starting a business, creating a website, online business ideas, e-commerce and marketing advice.
Please note that Hairy Robot does not get any money from listing these external sites – we do not do affiliate marketing (i.e. receive money for sponsoring others and their products). Nothing against affiliate marketing, it’s just not our thing.
Starting a UK Business
Set Up Your UK Business
The gov.uk website has all the information you need about running your own business.
Set up as a Sole Trader
This is the easiest way to set up a self-employed business. You can still employ people. Annual accounts are easier to fill in, but you may miss out on some tax benefits that are available to Limited companies.
Set up a Limited Company
A Limited Company is a separate business entity which you are the owner and director of, and can have other directors in the business. The Limited Company itself is responsible for payment of tax on profits, which can be less than the tax you pay on personal earnings. It’s a little more complicated to set up and to manage the accounts than for a sole trader, but there are services to help you with this.
Difference between Sole Trader and Limited Company
This article by RossMartin&Co explains the differences in tax and responsibilities between a Sole Trader and a Limited Company.
HMRC is contactable for questions about your business, self-employment and tax. When you have an HMRC account you can contact them by phone too.
Register a UK Business Address
Register a UK business address with Rapid Formations
Rapid Formations offer a business address for those who do not, or cannot, use their home address as their trading address. It offers many other business services too including setting up a Limited Company.
Register a UK business address with 1st Choice Formations
1st Choice offer a similar range of services to Rapid Formations. Their pricing is quite similar too but some services (such as a business address for sole traders) are cheaper.
Email Services For Your Business
Google GMail for Business
Google is a choice for many small businesses, particularly online business, for managing their emails. For a monthly fee you get email addresses to both send and receive email as your business domain, e.g. [email protected]iness.com, and [email protected]
You also get access to Google’s G-Suite, their online equivalent of Microsoft Office with software similar to to Word, Excel etc.
Microsoft Email (and Microsoft Software) for Business
Microsoft’s Outlook email service (formerly Hotmail) is part of their business software productivity suite which can be rented annually. Both small and large businesses alike use Outlook for email because of their familiarity with other Microsoft products.
As with Google’s Gmail, you can also set up Outlook to receive and send emails from your business email address.
Zoho Email for Business
Zoho is a popular email service for small businesses and offers a FREE service as well as paid-for services. Recently Zoho has released its own online productivity software products, similar to Microsoft Office and Google’s G-Suite.
Get a UK local phone number for your mobile phone
There can be many reasons why you may want a UK phone number that connects to your mobile phone wherever you are in the world. If your customers are UK-based, it will be often free from them to call a UK landline number using call minutes included in their phone contract.
It is also useful to have a UK number for your bank and other business services to contact you wherever you are.
Skype offers a local UK number for several cities and towns in the UK. The annual cost is around $45 (2019) and it is free to receive calls wherever you are, so this is possibly the best option for small one-person businesses.
The call comes through to whatever device you have Skype running on, whether it is your phone, tablet or computer. When you make a call, the person you’re calling with see your UK number as the caller ID.
You can also have calls redirected to voicemail or to another phone number, although you have to pay Skype standard call rates for this, from around $0.12 a minute, depending on where you re-direct the call to.
The cost of making a call is also at Skype’s standard call rates, so pretty cheap even when calling internationally. You need to have a Skype subscription or call credits to make calls. If you have Office 365 you get 60 minutes of free Skype call per month to anywhere in the world. To the UK these free minutes are to landlines only, but still really useful to have.
Sonetel is a popular service and you can arrange a local UK number in more towns and cities than with Skype. Sonetel charge a monthly fee of around £4.50 plus a charge per minute for receiving calls which varies depending on which Country you are in. So it can cost quite a bit more than Skype. You pay local call costs at Sonetel’s rate for the Country you’re in when making calls from your UK number.
One advantage over Skype is you can change your receiving number to any phone number you are using when abroad. You can also use the Sonetel App to manage your numbers on your phone and to take calls on your computer. They also have additional services, for example if you need multiple numbers for different staff.
Online Business Ideas
How To Work Online As A ‘Digital Nomad’
What is a Digital Nomad?
This link is to Wikipedia’s definition of a ‘Digital Nomad’ – essentially a person who has no fixed business premises and works online. Most digital nomads work abroad at least some of the year. You can have a UK registered business and work abroad.
Digital Nomads make money by selling their services to other businesses and individuals. Services include giving technicial support and tuition, managing online marketing, creating and promoting websites and YouTube videos to sell their services or to advertise others.
A few Digital Nomads also sell products online, using third party services in the UK or other countries to store and ship their products to customers (See fulfilment services under E-Commerce, below).
Ideas for Digital Nomad Work
This article has a few good ideas for those interested in working and travelling.
Freelance your services with Upwork
Upwork is an online platform where you can advertise your services and also apply for jobs advertised by businesses looking for freelancers. It is a popular way for digital nomads and anyone with particular skills (web building, graphic design, coding etc.) to find work.
Freelance your services with PeoplePerHour
Another very popular platform to find jobs and for businesses to advertise jobs for freelancers.
How to Create and Sell Online Courses
Be an online teacher / instructor with Udemy
Udemy is an online course marketplace. If you have teachable skills and like communicating them to others, creating and selling online courses on Udemy can be very rewarding and generate a good income.
You create a course and set a price and receive a percentage less commission to Udemy. Udemy is also a great place to learn skills in a wide range of subjects.
Be an online teacher / instructor with Skillshare
Similar to Udemy, this online platform enables you to sell your knowledge through creating downloadable paid-for lessons. Unlike Udemy, you get paid for the minutes that your videos are watched from the subscription fees students pay to sign up to Skillshare.
Create and sell your online courses with Teachable
Unlike Udemy and Skillshare, Teachable doesn’t promote your courses through its platform, you have to market your courses yourself using your website or social media. This may be a preferred option for some as you keep more of the income from courses you sell.
Teachable also offer a limited FREE plan so you can see if making money from online courses is right for you.
How To Make Money Writing Blogs (Reviews etc.)
Register and find work on Bloggers Required
If you are a good writer, Bloggers Required is a marketplace where you can advertise your writing skills and specialist knowledge, and also apply for writing work advertised by businesses. Many businesses need good content to bring customers to their websites.
The work can be anything from product reviews and descriptions to promoting a business brand. BloggersRequired has a free membership plan and a £5 a month membership plan, the latter includes additional promotion of your services.
Find blog and writing work on ProBlogger.com
Similar to Bloggers Required, you can find and apply for writing work across a wide range of topics here.
How To Make Money using Click Bank (Affiliate Marketing)
Make money from affiliate marketing using ClickBank
Promote your product using ClickBank marketers
ClickBank market place
Build A Website
YouTube tutorial on building a Website by WPCrafter
This 3-hour long video by Adam of WPCrafter covers nearly everything you need to know to understand how to create a website. From buying a domain, to hosting, to installing WordPress to using tools to make the pages for your website. Definitely worth a look!
Get a Domain Name From NameCheap
There are many domain name registrars and re-sellers including the popular Go-Daddy. Hairy Robot uses NameCheap because they have proven reliable, have no hidden costs, an easy to use website, and good support (although some reviews say otherwise, we’ve never had a problem).
NameCheap also offer cheap hosting which may be ideal for starting out with a WordPress website, or just getting to learn what website hosting and creating is about. However, we would recommend a dedicated hosting provider (SiteGround is our preferred host) if your main business is online.
Get Website Hosting from SiteGround
We recommend SiteGround because it is one of the main hosting providers for WordPress and they have web servers in the UK. Also their support is exceptionally good with fast response and a very knowledgeable support team who are able to assist non-techies too!
SiteGround isn’t the cheapest option for hosting, although their first year introductory prices are very good. After that, they remain a little cheaper than other leading hosts such as BlueHost, whilst giving a lot of free extras including SSL (security certificates), CDN (for faster delivery of website content) and other tools to optimise your website performance and security.
Install WordPress on SiteGround Hosting – Video
A short but useful video to help you get started when you get your first website hosting with SiteGround. This video covers the installation of WordPress using CPanel and Softalicious, so it may also be useful to those using other web hosting providers.
Tools and Resources for Web Design
Free Web Photos, Images and Fonts
Web Graphic and Design Tools
Free tool to re-size photos in bulk
Social Media Image and Video Sizes Guide
Free Online File Converter for Audio, Image, Video etc.
View a website at different screen resolutions
Find a colour scheme for your design
Convert colour formats (hex to rgb to cmyk)
CSS Code checker
W3 Schools CSS3 Tutorials
How To Use Shopify For Your Online Store
If you are starting an online store selling either products or services (that customers buy online), then we recommend Shopify as the platform to use.
Shopify is a dedicated platform for building an online store. It has an intuitive website to create your store and upload your products. It’s particularly good if you are not very technical, and there are plenty of people out there (including us) who can provide Shopify technical assistance if you need it.
Shopify UK Main Page
Shopify Themes (Website Layouts) Collection
Getting Started With Shopify (Help Centre)
Connect your Domain Name (Namecheap) to Shopify
Shopify Guide to Make Your First Sale
Set up Google Analytics in Shopify
Some of the best Shopify websites for design inspiration
How To Use Amazon For Your Business
Create an Amazon Account
Create an Amazon Business Account
Fulfilment Services by Amazon
Advertising on Amazon
Find Products to Sell on Amazon with Jungle Scout
Advice on Amazon Selling from Jungle Scout
How To Sell Using Drop Shipping Suppliers
What is Drop Shipping?
Drop Shipping companies
Drop Shipping Companies in Europe
Drop Shipping in the UK with Oberlo and Shopify
Get Faster Deliveries When Drop Shipping – Video
Import and Export to and from the UK
These links apply to both online and high street retailers who are sourcing their products from abroad, or looking to sell abroad from the UK.
Import VAT and Duty Charges
Import Duty Calculator (UK and other countries)
UK Trade Tariffs for Imports
Export from the UK
How To Use Facebook For Your Business
Create a Facebook Business Page
Sign up for a Facebook Business Account
Running a Facebook Competition
Creating a Facebook Ad – Video
Choosing your Facebook Ad objectives
The Cost of Facebook Ads
When to use Facebook Ads vs Google Ads – Video
Direct Marketing (Leafleting) For Your Business
Get your leaflets and flyers printed using Solopress
Leaflet Distribution with Media Force
Marketing Products Distribution with Meads Ltd