How to Register a Company

Learn how to turn your business ideas into reality by registering your new company and opening your first business bank account.

Updated: June 5, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

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Generally speaking, although it's incredibly exciting to start your own business and begin building something you've been dreaming of for a while, a lot of newcomers tend to get slightly overwhelmed by the overall registration process.

Though it's fairly understandable, given the lack of experience, this is obviously a vital part of launching your company, meaning it's pretty important to get your head around.

So, throughout this article, we'll be exploring all you need to know about registering your company in the United Kingdom — breaking down otherwise relatively complex jargon into a much easier layout to understand.

Whether you're planning to establish a UK limited company or a private limited company, we've got you covered.

Understanding the Basics

Firstly, let's kick things off by covering some of the background information you'll need to have an understanding of to move forward.

What Is a UK Limited Company?

It might sound slightly obvious, but it's definitely worth clarifying the distinction between regular public businesses and limited companies for any newcomers who are less familiar with the registration process.

Put simply, limited companies in the United Kingdom, in particular, are essentially just a form of business structure where the liability of all its members — people such as shareholders or even guarantors, for instance — is limited to the amount that's unpaid on any of the shares they own.

Essentially, this kind of structure provides a certain level of financial protection to its members that you don't tend to see in other business structures.

Why Register a UK Company?

So, why would you actually want to register your business in the first place — wouldn't it be more convenient to just run your company independently?

Well, unfortunately, that's not the way it works in the United Kingdom, whether it's because it's a poor financial strategy or simply because of the law.

Ultimately, registering your business basically means that you've created a separate legal entity that's distinct from its owners (who, in this case, is you).

We'll come onto why separating your business life and expenses from your personal ones is so important later on in the article when we cover business bank accounts, but in a nutshell — it's vital if you want to protect all of your personal assets, as well as more general things like being able to build credibility with your clients and suppliers.

The Company Formation Process

Now that we've got some of the fundamental concepts out of the way, you should be able to walk through the relatively streamlined process for registering your company fairly quickly — let's kick things off by building the right foundations for how you're going to run your business:

1. Decide on Your Company Structure

Naturally, you're going to have to make the decision of how you want to structure your company pretty early in the overall company formation process.

This holds quite a substantial amount of importance, so let's get acquainted with two of the most common types of business you may have already heard of: private limited companies and limited liability partnerships.

Private Limited Company

As touched on earlier, a private limited company — which you'll probably recognise from seeing ‘Ltd' at the end of company names — works as a separate form of legal entity, essentially meaning that all of the personal assets of the company members should be safe in case you ever face any kind of financial difficulties or even legal issues.

Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)

On the other hand, you've got Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP), which are another kind of business structure that is actually fairly unique — combining elements from both traditional partnerships and a limited company.

To be specific, these kinds of companies have the same kind of limited liability benefits as a private limited company that we discussed earlier, but they've also got all of the flexibility and tax advantages of a partnership.

Generally speaking, you'll more often than not find LLPs to be chosen most commonly by more professional service providers rather than your average brick and mortar shop.

Think of services like law firms, accounting firms, and even consultancy services, for instance — these kinds of business models tend to go for LLPs because of their relatively unique combination of liability protection and operational flexibility.

Having said all of this, it's definitely worth noting still that all of the specific regulations and requirements for an LLP can vary a little bit, so it's probably best to seek professional advice if you want to consider choosing this business structure.

2. Choose a Company Name

If you're a newcomer to the world of business management, you can probably be forgiven for underestimating the value of your company name and instead just thinking about it as a kind of identifier.

In reality, it's much more than this, and it's actually one of the most overt ways of representing things like your brand, values, and just the general essence of what your business stands for.

Generally speaking, a well-chosen name tends to leave a lasting impression on your customers, but this extends to any clients or partners you might deal with, too — ultimately, it's the first touchpoint they have with your business, so you definitely want to make it count.

Choosing a Unique and Memorable Name

Simplicity tends to be key here, as you'll never really see a major company with an overly convoluted name, so just go for something fairly short that's unique, memorable, and generally reflects the nature of your business.

It's always best to swerve clear of any names that might come across as a bit generic or even just too similar to an already existing business, as this can pretty obviously lead to confusion and even a few potential legal issues further down the line.

Going further, try to ‘future proof' your name, too, and consider if there might be any long-term implications of the name you've picked — does it have the flexibility to accommodate future business expansions or even just a change in direction?

Legal Considerations and Companies House

Now, before we go any further and you feel yourself becoming attached to a particular name for your business, it's paramount that you've double checked to see if it's both legal and available.

You'd typically do this by heading over to the Companies House, which is the official government register of all the companies in the UK and contains a database of registered names.

So, in order to save time and potential disappointment, too, do yourself a favour and check if your chosen name is actually available on the Companies House website first so you can be sure it's not already in use by another company.

Checking Domain Availability

In 2024, you shouldn't need us to tell you that having a solid online presence is practically just as crucial as its physical one, so you need to make sure the name you've chosen has an available domain that you can reserve and use for your web or social media handles.

Being consistent across things like your company name, website domain, and social media handles isn't exactly a necessity, but they can definitely help reinforce your overall brand identity and generally make it a bit easier for your customers to find and remember you, so it's worth doing.

3. Register a UK Company Online

We've talked a little bit about the Companies House already, and for good reason, since they're the official government register of businesses within the United Kingdom, meaning you have to go through them if you want to launch your company.

Don't worry, though; it's actually a pretty straightforward procedure that you can complete online — you just need to submit a few different documents/company details, like who your company directors and shareholders are and your office address.

In addition, don't forget to disclose any relevant information about the people who have fairly significant control over your business when you're working through the registration process.

4. Appoint at Least One Director

In the United Kingdom, it's actually a legal requirement to have at least one director representing your business — this is someone whose general day-to-day responsibilities are essentially just running the company.

Aside from the organisational and management benefits of having a director in your company, you won't actually be able to legally run your business if you don't have one, so make sure that whoever your appointed director is meets all of the legal requirements set by the Companies House.

Of course, you'd want to ensure they understand what responsibilities come with being director of a company, too — whether that's handling major financial decisions or any other kind of shrewd decision making.

5. Open a Business Bank Account

As touched on earlier in the article, being able to separate all of your business finances from your personal ones with a dedicated business bank account is imperative, and it's generally the next significant milestone you have once you've fully registered your company.

Whether it's smoother financial operations or being able to filter through your invoices or account statements with ease, there are plenty of reasons why these kinds of bank accounts are beneficial.

If for no other reason, business bank accounts can help reinforce the legal separation between your personal and business finances, which is naturally a key aspect for maintaining the protection you have with your limited liability company structure.

So, let's walk through all you need to know about them and how to apply for one:

Research and Choose the Right Bank

Before you head straight in and apply for the first bank or building society that you see with a promotion, it's definitely worth taking the time to research a few different options to see how they compare with one another.

Naturally, different banks tend to provide fairly different services and features depending on where you go (this is especially true when comparing the differences between personal and business bank accounts, also), so it's pretty important that whichever one you ultimately select is able to align with whatever business needs you might have.

There are plenty of resources available to ensure that you're getting the right deal, but above all, try to land on a bank that offers things like online banking and tries to keep the transaction fees fairly low.

Additionally, it's an added bonus if the bank account comes with a few extra perks like integrated accounting software or even options for business credit lines, for instance.

Free Business Bank Account Options

Generally speaking, you'll find that the majority of banks and building societies out there are fairly understanding when it comes to the kinds of financial challenges you'll face as a new business, so expect to be offered things like free business bank account options for a certain period when you're just starting out.

Of course, there are still plenty of limitations with these kinds of accounts — caps on transactions or even time-limited fee waivers, for example — but that's what you expect with a free account. Ultimately, they're still a pretty cost-effective solution, especially if you're only a startup company.

6. Utilise Company Formation Packages

To wrap things up, you can always go down the company formation package route if you want a more streamlined registration process.

Put simply, these are a kind of service that's offered by a specialised agency or service provider that can help you register your company hassle free.

To get specific, though, expect things like company secretary support, assistance with the business bank account setup, and even just general guidance on compliance matters — all the things you might need help with when you're inexperienced.

Related Guides:

FAQs

Can I Change My Company Name After Registration?

Do I Need a Physical Office for My Registered Office Address?

What Is the Significance of a Company Secretary?

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