First Steps in Starting a Business


Establishing a business can be confusing for anyone doing it for the first time. There are new terms to understand and processes you need to complete for reasons you are not sure about.

This article will help you understand the process and to complete your business registration online.

This article is intended for businesses and not for Not-For-Profits Organisations, incorporated bodies, Trusts or Partnerships. (See notes below on Trusts and Partnerships)

Business Names & Types

For many first time business owners, the business name is the catalyst of starting a new business. However, disappointment can quickly follow when they discover, the name is already taken by someone else. So for this first step, you may need to stay flexible on your business name.

The Business Name

A business name is the name under which your business will trade. The name people will remember your goods or services by.

Business names are registered with Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC). Once a business name is registered, your business can operate in any state or territory. If you're trading under your own name as a Sole Trader or the Company name there's no requirement to register a separate business name.  

Types of Businesses

The type of business you select is an important decision. As most startups are Sole Traders or Corporate entities (Company Eg. Pty Ltd) we will focus on these main business types. Partnerships and Trusts business types are outlined near the end of this article.

The following table may assist you in which business type to consider.

Sole Trader

Estimated Cost 

Business Name Registration


A business linked to you as a person, so you are in effect 100% responsible for the business debits and any legal claims.

Suitable for people with few personal or joint assets, business remains small and providing basic services or goods with a low level of risk. Eg. party plan products, retail clothing etc.

Business Name Search 

When deciding on a Business Name, there are three main areas to consider. 

Corporate Entity (Company)

Estimated Cost 

Setup from $795 (Via the AHBC)

Business Name Registration

ASIC Annual Report ≈$236/year


Most small Companies are Proprietary Limited's ('Pty Ltd') having at least one shareholder. Shareholders limit their risk based on the shareholding value. E.g 5 shares at $1 each, total of personal risk is $5.

Ideal for people with personal or joint assets that they want to protect and / or the company provides advice or trades in high risk products or services. Eg. Engineering Services, Food Production etc.

Trade Marks

By simply having a registered Business Name or Company Name does not provide you with exclusive right to use the name. Only a Trade Mark offers this level of protection in a particular Class of goods or services. Click here for further details. Eg. You have a Business Name registered and you are trading and becoming know in your market. Then suddenly you receive a "Cease & Desist" notice as you are using another parties "Intellectual Property", a Trade Mark. 


Like a Trade Mark, a domain name can add value to your business brand and in today's world of the internet marketing and shopping, you should consider securing domain names that represent your trading, product and service names. For example, the trading name for "Biscuits To Crumbs" could have one or more of the following domain names registered:

If most of your business will be within Australia, ensure you secure the Top Level Domain ".au". This helps with displaying your business listing in search engines like Google and to local buyers.

If you are looking at internationals sales, also secure the Top Level Domains like ".com" without the ".au".

To search and register your domains, click here.


You have done your research, picked a Business Name and Domain Name and decided on a Business Type. 

The next step is to get your personal details and credit card ready.

You will need:- 

Partnerships and Trusts 

Partnerships and Trusts are in effect not business structures as neither directly pay tax. These structure in the main are used to distribute profits between partners or beneficiaries

Partnerships are an association of people (Sole Traders) or Companies running a business together, but not as a Company. In a partnership, profits are allocated back to Sole Traders and/ or Companies. The greatest disadvantage with a partnership is that any decision by a partner is "Jointly and Severally" bound to all the other partners. Meaning, one partners issues either in business or life could have an impact on you and the other partners. 

Trusts are entities that hold property or income for the benefit of others. Taxes are paid by the Beneficiaries receiving the funds. A Self Managed Super Fund (SMSF) have some additional legal and taxation considerations.