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For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

Tax and National Insurance

The prospect of bookkeeping is enough to strike fear into many people who want to start a small business. Yet with the right system in place, maintaining simple financial records doesn't have to be an ordeal - it simply involves detailing business income and expenditure from the outset and keeping accurate records.

As well as being a legal requirement (you must retain your financial records for six years), staying on top of your bookkeeping will help you to monitor your cash flow.

Simple bookkeeping

All you need to run the most basic set of accounts is: a cash book to record money entering and leaving the business; a sales ledger, detailing money received and amounts still owed; a purchase ledger to track outgoings; and a wages book, which details salary payments and National Insurance contributions.

As a small business, you may decide that it is a better use of resources to find a suitably qualified bookkeeper or accountant to keep your records for you - especially if you don't feel confident enough to tackle it yourself. A good bookkeeper or accountant can ensure you keep the right records, stay on top of your finances and free you up to get on with establishing and growing your business. They can also help you avoid potentially expensive mistakes!

If you decide to do the bookkeeping yourself, you will need to: keep your cash purchase receipts and invoices for all business expenditure such as utility bills, bank and credit card statements; fill out paying-in books and cheque book stubs; maintain payroll records (if you employ people); and keep VAT records (if you're registered).

You can keep these 'books' as paper records or computer spreadsheets, but most businesses now prefer to use simple bookkeeping software to keep track of income and expenditure - especially now that many tax returns and all NI and PAYE information has to be submitted electronically to HM Revenue & Customs.

If you decide to run manual accounts, you need sections for purchases paid and purchases unpaid. When you pay an invoice, simply transfer it from unpaid to paid. You'll need to do the same for sales paid and another for sales unpaid.

You should set up a dedicated business bank account. Avoid using your personal account to accept payment or buy things for your business.

Electronic bookkeeping systems

Basic accounting software is more affordable than ever (budget £100-£180 inc VAT) and many deals come with free support. You could even set up a few simple pages in popular spreadsheet software, such as Microsoft Excel.

Dedicated accounting packages are easy to use – even for those with limited know-how. Errors can be corrected quickly (which is more complicated when using manual systems), you get a snapshot of your cash flow at the click of a mouse, and it is simple to check what money you owe and are owed. Handy financial reports can also be gained at the touch of a button. You can also view sales patterns and costs, which can help with forecasting and budgeting.

DIY or use an accountant?

Employing a full-time bookkeeper isn't viable for many small firms. Sometimes such a role is combined with other duties such as office and HR manager. Often a spouse gets drafted in to take care of the books in return for a part-time wage. You might be able to afford a part-time bookkeeper or may consider outsourcing the job to your accountant or to a local bookkeeping service.

The no-cost option, of course, is to do it yourself and maybe get an accountant to take care of the more complicated stuff. Having to 'do your books' after hours or at weekends is an occupational hazard for many small-business owners. It can be the last thing you need after a long, busy day - but it can't be avoided if your business is to survive and prosper

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