From freelancer to small studio owner: The things you need to do when growing a business

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It's true what they say: no one ever prepares you for growing a business. They don't teach you about it in school or at university. It's something we often have to figure out as we go along.

Many of us don't know what's required and that can mean we risk getting in trouble. Because did you know that you need certain insurances in place if you have staff? Or that you're responsible for their health and safety at work?

Here, we'll attempt to cover all the basics, so you're well prepared for the next step. (Here's the disclaimer part: This is merely a guide to get you started; always seek professional advice.)

Is it time to become a limited company?

We can't answer that for you. We can only present the facts. As a sole trader, you're personally responsible for your business's debts. If you form a limited company, its finances are separate from your personal finances, but you do have more responsibilities to consider.

You can obviously sort everything yourself – keeping company records, recording any changes and filing your accounts – but an accountant can help manage these things on a daily basis. Just remember you're still legally responsible for your company's records, accounts and performance.

Follow the rules for your type of business

If you sell stuff online, did you know you have certain responsibilities? What if you trade in the street? Have you got the right permits and licences in place?

How about if you export and do business abroad? And have you thought about data protection yet? These are all important questions to ask yourself, as what you do next might require a few boxes being ticked.

Get the right insurances in place

Did you know some types of business insurance are required by law in the UK? If you're an employer, you are legally obliged to have employers' liability insurance to cover the cost of compensating staff who are injured or become ill through work.

Some professions are also required to have professional indemnity insurance by their professional bodies or regulators. Many other businesses decide to take out this type of insurance to protect themselves against claims – ad agencies, consultancies and design agencies being the most likely. In which case, it might be something you want to consider.

Meanwhile, other insurances are optional – such as commercial property insurance and liability insurance. Take a look at this handy guide by ABI to find out more.

Check what's required depending on where you work

What are your responsibilities if you work from home or rent an office space?

From home, you might be surprised to learn that you may need permission or separate insurance, and you'll need to check if you have to pay business rates, too. The Government offers more guidance on working from home.

If you're renting an office space, you have some responsibilities by law but you'll need to check your lease, as some will depend on what it says. Most importantly, you'll need to carry out a health and safety assessment and take action to remove any potential hazards.

You'll normally be responsible for fire safety, the safety of electrical equipment, gas safety, and managing asbestos. You're also responsible for providing a reasonable temperature, enough space, ventilation and lighting, toilets and washing facilities, drinking water, and safe equipment.

Know the rules about hiring support or employing staff

If you're growing fast and you need help, then you might look to freelancers for support. But did you know you have some responsibilities even with them?

And if you employ staff, you'll need to run a payroll and pay for their National Insurance (you might be able to claim an employment allowance). In some cases, you'll need to provide workplace pensions to eligible staff.

There are, in fact, seven things you need to do when employing staff for the first time. Make sure you follow them all – to protect yourself and your staff. This step-by-step guide will also help.


And that's it. That pretty much covers the basics of growing a business if you work in the creative industries. All of the above can feel quite overwhelming at first but once you're up and running will become second nature.

For further guidance (which we strongly recommend), the UK Government provides excellent help and support for those of you growing a business.