If you want to set up a business in New Zealand, there are a few admin tasks that you should consider to get you started. Before you can move on to more fun stuff like designing your logo and building your website, it is a good idea to get the admin, financial and legal foundations out of the way. These may not be the most glamorous tasks, but they need to get done. 

Spend some time tackling them now and you will have peace of mind knowing that you have done things right from the get-go. It will save you time and hassle moving forward!

1 – Choose your business name

If you don’t have one, the first step to set up a business in New Zealand is, of course, to choose your business name. This task can be more difficult than it sounds. Your name will stay with you for (hopefully!) many years to come, so take your time to make your choice. 

You want to find something that is:

  • Easy to spell
  • Catchy
  • Simple (but not boring)
  • Easy to remember
  • A name that matches your business tone

There are several name creation tools out there such as this one from Shopify. Have fun playing around with a few ideas and see what works. 

Check that your name is not taken

If you think you’ve found THE one, it is a good idea to check that it is not taken already taken. You can use the ONECheck tool from the NZ government which also checks for url and social media availability.

It can be disheartening to find out that your ideal name is already taken (I know as this has happened to me before!) but just keep brainstorming. The perfect name will come to you. Once you’ve found the perfect option you will know it in your gut!

It can be a good idea to get feedback from friends and family after you’ve chosen your business name. Take into account their comments, but also remember that at the end of the day this is your business and you have the final say. Don’t let them talk you out of what feels good for you without a good reason.

2 – Choose your business structure

Whether you are going to operate as a business or self-employed, you will need to choose the structure that suits you best. The most common ones in New Zealand are sole trader, partnership or company.

You can use the government’s Choose Business Structure tool to help you decide which is the best option based on your circumstances.

For more info, check out these links to help you set up your business under the right structure:

3 – Register your company

If you’ve decided to structure your business as a company, you will need to register it with the Companies Office. You can do this online in about 10 minutes. It is very easy to do. Go to their website and follow the easy the instructions. Just have your credit card ready!

More info here.

4 – Talk to an accountant

If you haven’t done so yet, you should talk to an accountant as you set your business foundations. If you are an employee, you probably don’t have to worry about things such as filing tax returns or paying GST, but this all changes when you start working for yourself.

You may feel like you don’t need an accountant just yet, but having one on your side from day one will save you a lot of hassle in the future. 

Topics you may want to discuss with your accountant include your business structure (as per above) tax returns, GST, invoicing, and claiming expenses.

If you want an accountant recommendation please email me and let me know! I will put you in touch with the company that has been doing my financials since day one. They charge a fixed monthly fee which includes your subscription to Xero. Their plans start at $75+ get per month, which is very affordable! It is a small price to pay to know that you are doing things by the book and will not get in trouble with the IRD.  

5 – Open a bank account

If you don’t already have one, you should consider setting up a business account so you can keep your personal and business finances separate. Once you have your business account set up, you can include it in your invoices to make it easier for clients to pay you.

You should also look into debiting any business expenses directly from your business account to make it easier to track your expenses. Talk to your accountant and personal banker about the best option for your personal circumstances. 

6 – Get ready to receive overseas payments

If you are going to receive payments from overseas clients, you should look at a service that allows you to receive international payments with lower fees than those charged by banks.

I use Transferwise to receive payments from my overseas clients. I’ve been using them for years and never had any issues. They offer a good exchange rate, low fees, and the money generally shows up in my NZ bank account within 24 hours.

Further reading: How to build a website with WordPress in 5 easy steps. 

7 – Talk to a lawyer

Just as you ensure that things are tidy from a financial perspective, you should also protect yourself and your business from a legal point of view. Talk to a solicitor to ensure that you cover all your legal basis as you set up your business.

Your needs will vary depending on the type of business that you run, but topics to discuss may include contractor agreements, service agreements, privacy policies, website terms, amongst others. 

This will probably be your biggest setup expense (think $1,000+), but it will give you peace of mind that you are legally protected as your business starts to grow.

8 – Consider insurance

Your needs will vary depending on your business, but you may want to consider insurance. Common options include public liability, professional indemnity, and Cyber Liability insurance. Talk to an insurance broker so you can assess your risks. 

I used Bizcover to arrange my business insurance, and I found them to offer good customer support and more affordable pricing than going via a broker. 

They also have a good blog explaining different types of cover and give you the option to get a quote and buy online. 

9 – Get your files organised

It is a good idea to get an admin system for organising your files from day one. It may be tempting to just keep everything on your desktop (I’ve been guilty of this!), but it will pay off to create folders, subfolders, and sub-subfolders to get everything nice and tidy. 

As your business grows, you will have more and more files. You can waste a lot of time trying to find files and documents when they are not properly organisedYour filing system will probably evolve as your business grows, so be prepared to adapt as time goes on.

I like using cloud-based systems so I don’t have to worry about losing my files if my computer breaks. It also makes it easier to share files and collaborate with others. 

I use Google Drive for file management and Google Suite to create the files: Google Docs (a word processor) and Google Sheets (for spreadsheets such as budgets, calculate monthly income/expenses, creating schedules, and so on.).

10 – Set a schedule

It can be a good idea to set a schedule to get organised. I like breaking my goals into small and manageable tasks. Having a schedule for the day, week or month will help you stay focused and in control of your tasks.

I love using pen and paper (I love the satisfaction of crossing off a task off my to-do list!) but you can also try online tools such as Google Calendar or a project management system such as Trello (which I use on some client projects and recommend!).

start business workbook

Bonus tip: work on your mindset

There is no way to sugar code it – starting and running a business is hard work. This is why your mindset will play an important part in your business journey. Being mentally prepared will help you ride the ups and downs that will come along the way. You need to believe in yourself to make it happen!

You may hear a little voice inside of you going “this is too hard!” as you start setting up your business. But don’t let it stop you. Consistency, perseverance and a strong work ethic will help you drive your business forward.

To prepare yourself for the journey ahead of you, think of one thing that you can do each day to nurture your mindset. You can try:

  • listening to a motivational podcast as you go to bed each night
  • following inspirational entrepreneurs on social media
  • practicing affirmations as you make your cup of tea in the morning
  • reading books and blogs about business mindset 
  • surrounding yourself by like-minded people that will encourage you when things get tough
  • trying a mental health app such as Mentemia.

The key is to find what works for you and keep working on your mindset every day.

Once you find what helps you keep motivated, get in touch and let me know! I would love to hear about your ideas. 🌟