How to Start a Business in Australia

Embarking on a new business venture is both exciting and terrifying in equal measure. On one hand, you’ll finally be the boss; the master of your own destiny who’s pursuing success in something that you’re truly passionate about. On the other hand, you now have a laundry list of things that you need to tick off before you even start to make sure everything kicks off smoothly.

Whereas working for someone else alleviates these responsibilities, the startup owner takes on all these stresses themselves. Not only that, every country has different laws, regulations and requirements to get your business up and running. So, even if you’ve started a business in one country, you’ve still got to do a pile of research to make sure you do it properly in another.

To help you out in Australia, at least, we’ve put together a list of the main things you need to sort out when starting a business Down Under:

How to Start a Business in Australia

1. Choose your business structure.

The structure you choose for your business is very important, as it has a direct effect on things such as:

  • Your level of control
  • The amount of tax you need to pay
  • Regulatory obligations
  • Health and safety requirements in the workplace
  • The level of personal liability you will incur

There are four structures on which you can build your business in Australia:

  • Sole trader: This is when you register someone (usually, yourself) as the sole owner of the business. That means you’re responsible for all legal aspects of running the business, but you’re entitled to hire people to work for you.
  • Company: This is a commercial business or entity that has a separate legal existence to its shareholders.
  • Partnership: A Partnership is when more than one person and/or entities run a business together, but not in the form of a company.
  • Trust: A Trust is an entity that is in possession of property, income, or any other assets for the benefit of a third party.

Image Source: AnyBusiness.com

You must decide on the structure of your business before you register it, as each structure entails different steps to do so. Along with this, it’s worth noting that you might change the structure of your business as it grows and evolves over time.

2. Pick a business type.

With a structure in place, you can better understand the type of business you’re likely to need. There are a myriad of business types to choose from, and some of the main types include:

  • An online business
  • A franchise
  • Independent contractor

Every industry has a different set of legal obligations and regulatory requirements, so it’s crucial that you pick the business type that best suits your industry.

3. Apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and register your business name.

You can’t legally start a business in Australia unless you own an ABN. This is an 11-digit number that is unique only to your business and acts as a government identifier for the business.

Once you’ve got an ABN, you’ll be able to:

  • Register your business name
  • Identify your business to other entities for things like ordering goods and services or sending invoices
  • Claim taxes such as Goods and Services Tax (GST)
  • Avail of credits for things like energy grants

It’s best to decide on your business name before you go about creating assets like your website URL, logo or any other designs. Otherwise, you’ll need to change everything in the event that your business name changes. If you do create a business logo, it’s worth considering if you need to patent it to protect yourself from copyright infringement.

You can register your ABN and business name separately if you wish, but it’s easier to apply for both at the same time here.

Image Source: Department of Industry, Innovation & Science

4. Register your domain name.

You can only complete this step after you’ve secured your business name and ABN as it’s only possible to get a .com.au address if you’re a registered Australian business. The domain name you pick should be related to your business in some way and make it easy for prospective customers to find and recognize.

While you might have the perfect domain to go with a killer business name, you’ll still need to check that someone else hasn’t taken it already. Luckily, there are plenty of sites out there that can help you with that — here’s one of them to give you a head start.

Image Source: Instant Domain Search

Once you’ve found a domain name that isn’t taken, you can go to the .au Domain Administration Ltd (.auDA) website to find links to domain registrars and resellers. Here, you’ll get an idea of how much you’ll have to pay to secure your domain name.

4. Identify your funding source.

If you’re like the majority of new startups, cash flow will be your primary concern. You can have the best business plan in the world, but it won’t be of any use if you don’t have the money to keep the lights on while you’re getting your feet on the ground. With this, it’s important to know what resources are available to make the initial growth period a lot easier.

While there aren’t many government grants to help you start your business, there are plenty of options that are specific to each state. For example, if you’re starting a business in Adelaide, you can apply for a cool $20,000 Small Business Development Fund.

Image Source: Department of Industry, Innovation & Science

There are other grants based on:

  • Taking your idea to market
  • Marketing and sales
  • Buying equipment
  • Importing and exporting
  • Employing people

Check out this page for a full list of grant types that can help fund parts of your venture.

5. Register for the correct taxes.

As the saying goes: “The only certainties in life are death and taxes.” Unfortunately, this is also true if you start a business in Australia – you absolutely must register for the correct taxes to avoid any potential legal implications. The taxes you must register for are dependent on the type of business you choose to start, with some applicable to every type and others only mandatory for certain types.

Some examples include:

  • Goods and Services Tax (GST) – this is compulsory if your business has a turnover of $75,000 AUD or higher
  • Pay as You Go (PAYG) withholding tax – this is required if you need to withhold an amount for tax purposes, such as paying wages or salaries
  • Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) – if you’re lucky enough to be able to provide perks like a company car to your employees, then you’ll need to register for this

You can get more details on tax types by clicking here.

With the above essentials sorted, you’re almost good to go. But, we do have one last tip for you – starting a business is a tough task that’s made a lot easier if you can find ways to save money and build a solid network of peers and partners to work with.

A great way of doing both is to set up shop in one of Australia’s many coworking spaces. You’ll save a tonne of money on office costs and also open the door to networking opportunities which can lead to other benefits down the line.

Whatever you do and wherever you decide to start your business, we wish you the very best of luck!

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    Updated on 19 October 2018

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