There are a number of steps you need to follow before you can start trading as a limited company, including choosing a company name, appointing officials, and the method of formation itself.
1. Deciding to go limited
If you are ready to start the formations process, you will already have decided that the limited company route is the best for you and your business.
The main alternative to the limited route is to set up as a sole trader (become self-employed) or form a partnership with one or more other self-employed people. Read our limited company vs. sole trader article for more information.
If you undertake contract work for clients (as a contractor/freelancer), you may also consider the umbrella company, which is seen as a ‘hassle-free’ route to contract.
2. Is your company name available?
Unsurprisingly, you should first check that your preferred company name has not already been taken. You can do so on the Companies House site, or search using our in-house formations service here.
We recommend you consider your domain name choices simultaneously, as you may well want an internet presence for your new company (as well as email), even if you are not currently online.
3. Company Details
Since the implementation of the Companies Act 2006, a limited company can be set up with a sole director. You may still decide to appoint a company secretary, as well as additional directors.
You will need to provide Companies House with the residential address of each director, and can now use a ‘service address’ if you would prefer your details to be kept off the public register.
You will also need to provide a registered company address, and a statement of capital (assuming your company is limited by shares).
4. How to form your limited company
There are three main ways to incorporate your company:
- Via a Formations Agent (the Company Bug service costs £75 + VAT, which includes support and backup).
- Via your Accountant (either for an additional fee or ‘free’ if you become a client).
- Directly with Companies House
Many people prefer the hassle-free route of using an intermediary (formations agent).
In each case, three documents are submitted to Companies House – Form IN01 (your company details), and the Memorandum and Articles of Association (model articles are available online).
Once you have formed your company, there are a number of further steps you will take when you start trading, including:
- Choosing an accountant (a small business or specialist contractor accountant, depending on your business type).
- Opening a limited company bank account (you must open a separate account as the company is a distinct entity).
- Taking out limited company insurance cover (depending on your business needs).
Please do browse through our limited company guides for further details on each step of the incorporation process.