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What are The First Steps to register a business?

Updated on September 9, 2017

Companies House is the government body in the UK who legally form companies, and all formation paperwork must go through them in order to officially register a limited company. Creating one does involve a lot of paperwork but, if paperwork is not your thing you can use a formation agency instead who often make the application process simpler (more on that later).

The Process of Setting up a Limited Company in Simple Steps

You have a good idea for your business and want to setup up a company, but where would you go next? What help is available to register a limited company? While we can’t help complete the form for you, we can help you on what information you'll need to hand, and exactly how registering a business is done. Be assured, it could be made easily!

Let us guide you through the steps when considering opening a limited by shares company, and of course how to go about applying to register itself.

The Limited Company Setup Process and requirements -

Here’s a list of the information that’s required to open a business:

Company Name

  • The name cannot be the same as any other registered company name in the UK
  • There are some words and expressions that can’t be used without permission, Queen for example
  • The name must end with Limited or Ltd

Registered Office – the business’s Official Address

  • This can be any UK address that you have permission to use
  • The company does not need to trade from the address but government mail that’s sent to the address must be forwarded on to the necessary people (so it’s okay to use an accountant’s address for example)
  • The address is on the public register so publically viewable to anyone, it’s because of this that some people choose not to use a residential address as the registered office

Director/s – The People who run the business

  • A company can be formed with just one director
  • Whilst corporate appointments are allowed at least one person must be appointed as the director
  • To appoint a director you need the following information: Full name, occupation, date of birth, nationality, service address (the director’s official address that is on the public register – similar to the registered office), residential address (this is not on the public register)

Shareholder/s – The People Who Own the Business

  • A company can be formed with just one shareholder (and this person can also be a director – so it can be formed with one person)
  • Corporate appointments are allowed
  • To appoint a shareholder you need the following information: Full name, service address, town of birth, eye color, phone number, number of shares to be held, currency of shares, value of shares

The Memorandum and Articles of Association

  • These are the documents that outline how it will be run
  • You can draw up your own or use a pre-prepared version (often supplied for free by formation agents)

So who do you give this information to? All companies are formed at Companies House – the UK’s registrar of companies. You can form online directly through them for £15, alternatively you can use a online formation agent from as little as starting at £13.99 with the £15 Companies House fee included (yes, included).

What information is needed?

You will need to have the details of the Directors, Shareholders (and how many shares they will each have), People with Significant Control, as well as where the company will be registered (a registered office address). In order to register a limited company you are required to have Memorandum and Articles of Association (which act as the rules and regulations of your company) and a Standard Industry Classification code (SIC), which represents the industry your business most adheres to. Of course you will also need to have a good name in mind and first check to see if it is available to register.

Check Name Availability

In order to register a business you will need to have a company name that isn’t already incorporated. Note that you can register a company name and trade with another name (known as a business name) but check with Companies House or seek legal advice for full conditions of this. You can check company name availability online easily. You will also need to decide if you would rather have ‘LTD’ or ‘Limited’ at the end of the name. Company names appear officially on record in upper-case letters, but you can display it as preferred on your website and stationery.

Things to remember before you register a company:

  • Who will be the director and shareholders? The same person can be listed as both, so you’ll need to decide if you will be the sole director/shareholder, or if anyone else will be officially involved.
  • Where will your company be based? Business and Directors' addresses appear online, but if you’d rather not have your personal address appear publicly you may want to consider using a Registered Office Address service.
  • Do you need to consider any particular clauses or conditions when setting up your business? If so then these can be added to your Memorandum and Articles. You can speak to a business advisor for more information, but most formation agents include standard memorandums and articles that can also be customized to your needs. Doing so can make sure that you are covered, especially if you are going into business with others.
  • Have a business plan so you know how you’d like the company to progress, and keep a note of important dates, such as filing dates.

You can register a business and not trade straight away - just remember to let the relevant authorities know (such as HMRC) when you do decide to trade


If you’re unsure of anything when setting and registering up a business and want to be sure that you are protected if anything goes wrong, it is important to seek legal advice before you register a business. You should also seek advice if you need guidance on tax and VAT. Make sure you are aware of your responsibilities and any records you need to keep. It is best to address any concerns before going further.

Where can I register a company?

There are different ways to register a company. The costs of doing so can vary - but this depends on your preference. More often than not, companies are now formed online as the process is a lot quicker.

You can still register your company via paper format (IN01) and sending the forms in the post, which is how a company setup used to work in UK. But it should be noted that this option is more costly (£40 for a 8-10 day wait, or £100 extra for the same day formation). This is why it’s now easier than ever to apply via online agents. It’s much cheaper and the company will be formed within 24 hours (excluding bank holidays and weekends).

Setting up your business Online with formation agencies

If you are looking for further assistance in filling in the information needed on the application forms, then a formations agency may be a better option to register your business. Companies House may be able to help with queries you may have, but formation agencies are quite popular as they are aimed at helping first-timers get set up and are able to go through any concerns you may have.

Most formation agencies don’t usually provide services to help register your company via paper format as they are often set up to submit your application online (and some have handy auto-fill options to prevent typing in the information again and again). Other benefits of using a formation agency include reduced and simplified forms that are submitted straight through to Companies House without any further requirements. This means that hours of form filling are no longer required! Third-party software (if you know how to do so

This is Poll

Which is the Best Way to Form a Limited Company?

Top of Form

  • DIY Formation with Companies House
  • By Company Formation Agents

How does it work?

  • These agencies can sync data with Companies House’s systems in order to automatically send through the applications which, makes updating details much easier if their service also includes an online secretarial system.
  • They do this via the Web Filing Authentication Code (which is an important 6-digit alphanumeric code that acts similar to a signature for each company), as the code is generated once the company has been formed.
  • The code is also important as it may be needed when filing some of the annual filings, and is usually sent in the post from Companies House roughly 3 weeks after your

If you decide to go with a company formation agency, as well as offering the services mentioned above, they can also provide further services to help complete any filing obligations (which, also saves on any additional accountancy services).

If you are thinking of keeping your home address private, they also assist with supplying a Registered Office Address service and a business bank account referral, whether you are looking to trade now or not just yet.

We hope we have provided some information on how easy it can be to form a limited company in the UK, and educated you on some of the ways this can be done. Creating a company shouldn't be a headache - the process is now easier, which is great for start-ups and people to the business world. We wish you luck on your Business Venture!


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