Tips for starting a business in 2021

Starting a business is always a challenge, and this is particularly true now, given the difficult market conditions that have resulted from COVID-19 and Brexit. For those considering this, we outline some key considerations and tips to help you on your new journey.

5th February 2021

Despite the current challenges, people may be surprised to learn that there is still a strong appetite for starting a business. According to a survey we issued in 2020, across Scotland, around two-thirds (67%) of the survey sample said they are at least ‘seriously considering’ starting their own business within the next six months, including half (49%) who said they were ‘definitely’ going to do it. Some of the main reasons why included wanting to be their own boss, doing something they enjoy and exploiting an opportunity in a sector or industry.

If this is the case for you, here are some factors you may want to consider:

Your offering

Does your product or service solve problems or provide enjoyment? Is it safe, legal, and as well developed as it can be? The team at Business Gateway are perfectly placed to help get you answers about start-up requirements such as copyright, design rights and intellectual property. No one knows your business like you do. But for those times where you need advice, support or just a fresh pair of eyes, turn to your local Business Gateway service.

Financial planning

A lack of funding or contingency planning can bring major problems. Building up cash reserves will ensure that you can continue to trade even in difficult times. Not forgetting the cost of administering the business and the intangibles such as insurance and any licences or permits needed – these could cost more than everything else. Consulting an accountant or financial advisor can help you borrow and manage money effectively. For support with funding and financing your business take a look at Business Gateway’s Finance section.


It can be easy to forget to look at the competition. Successfully monitoring your rivals will allow you to see what competition or threats to your business exist in your marketplace. Assess their strengths and weaknesses and ask yourself how you could differentiate your business by operating better and faster, but not necessarily cheaper. Take a look at Business Gateway’s Market and customer research guide to help get you started.

Business plan

During the start-up phase it can be easy to make over-optimistic forecasts, but there can be serious consequences to unrealistic projections. Drawing up a business plan will help to secure external funding, pre-empt problems and measure how well your business is doing. Business plans are not easy to write, even the most skilled storytellers find it can be a difficult task and enthusiasm can soon evaporate if you get stuck. There is a business plan template and guide available on the Business Gateway website and local advisers can assist with the process.

Using digital as a resource to market your business

It’s easy to get carried away and set up a business without testing its viability. The free Business Gateway Information Service can help you find the information you need about your market, including market intelligence and statistics. With a team of researchers, Business Gateway has access to market knowledge at your disposal. Just tell them what you want to know, and they will come back with the information you need, at no cost. You can also download any of their existing market reports for free.

Marketing a business often depends on what you plan to sell. Traditionally, word of mouth has been a very powerful marketing method, but it takes time to build a reputation. New businesses can increase their chances of success by using a social media presence to market products as it is an accessible, low-cost method to reach customers.


What kind of digital presence you have will depend on your business – whether it is a virtual shop window or a fully functioning e-commerce site, Scotland’s digital skills training programme delivered by Business Gateway, DigitalBoost, provides businesses with free support to help them take advantage of technologies, improve productivity, increase resilience, and create new market opportunities.

Free webinars are available on a wide range of topics such as switching to online sales, digital strategy, using video for business, Facebook, SEO and much more. Online guides, articles, tutorials and podcasts focused on key issues that businesses are facing throughout the coronavirus crisis are available on the Business Gateway website including e-commerce, key word search, communications and more.

Free business support available across Scotland

As businesses across Scotland look to plan, change, and adapt as we move through the next phase of the pandemic, Business Gateway is here with valuable resources which may prove very useful during this challenging period.

Business owners may also make use of the information that is available from public bodies in Scotland and the UK by connecting with local, regional, and national trade bodies.

Make time to check on your market and trading environment and most importantly, use the support of friends and family when needed. Enjoy the experience and make time for your other interests, as these are what will keep you fresh and motivated.

Get the support you need right now

You can connect with us through the contact form, call us or contact your local Business Gateway office.