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Checklist for starting a business in Australia

9-minute read

Owning your own business and becoming your own boss is the dream of many, but there’s a lot of detail to consider. Use this checklist to help you work through some of the key actions required.

What we’ll cover

  1. Business idea
  2. Business plan
  3. Business structure
  4. Registrations, licences and obligations
  5. Finance options
  6. Digital presence
  7. Marketing strategy
  8. Insurance
  9. Business banking
  10. Record keeping
  11. Taking payments
  12. Launching your business.


Key take-outs

  • It’s a good idea to step back and fine tune your business idea before launch
  • You’ll need to choose a business structure, then register your business
  • You may need licences or permits to operate
  • It pays to write plans for your business, marketing and social media strategy
  • There are ways you can simplify tax, accounting and record keeping
  • Getting the right business finance may help you with start-up costs.

What are the 12 key steps when starting a business?

The discipline of working through this checklist will help you organise and prioritise tasks, while focusing on the ultimate goal of a successful business launch. If you’re unclear about any elements, you’ll find plenty of detailed resources online, including in the Help for your business section of this website.

1. Review and refine your business idea

Before plunging into the fine detail of starting a new business – which we cover later in this checklist – take some time to pause and reflect on the idea, to ensure it is well thought out before you go public with it.


  • Carry out market research

The aim is to work out where your potential customers are and, most importantly, what their precise needs are. Market research also helps to give you a clear understanding of the competitor landscape you’ll be operating in.


  • Think about your unique selling point (USP)

Your USP is what differentiates you from your competitors, giving you a strong message to feature in marketing. If you can’t think of a USP, maybe rethink and refine your product or service to create one.


  • Decide on a name for your business

If you’re a sole trader, you may just wish to trade under your own name. But that doesn’t stop you from having a snappy and memorable ‘trading as’ business name. When considering branding, remember that your business may expand over time into new sectors, with a broader range of products and services – so don’t make it too specific. If you need help with naming, check out our What shall I call my business? article.


  • Seek advice from a business mentor

It’s good to have someone experienced in business to bounce ideas off. Ask around within your network or search online to find a business advisor in your area. Or try the Australian Government Adviser Finder tool.

2. Write a business plan

A business plan gives you the opportunity to pull all the other elements of this checklist together into a single document that summarises every aspect of your new venture. It helps you prioritise your efforts, gives you more control of outcomes, and provides key information to share with lenders and investors if you’re seeking finance.


Typical sections of a business plan for a startup business are:

  • Executive summary – which you generally write last, encapsulating all the other sections
  • Business and market analysis – an overview of the idea and its marketplace
  • Marketing strategy – how you plan to promote your business
  • Business structure – such as sole trader, partnership, company
  • Legal – including registrations, licences and permits
  • Operating plan – how and where you intend to run your business
  • Financial plan – including your cost analysis and profit forecasts.


Search online for a business plan template to complete. Or get some tips in our How to write a business plan article.

3. Decide on a business structure

Business structures include sole trader, partnership, company and trust. Choosing the right one is an important decision when setting up a new enterprise and you’ll need to consider the ownership, liability and tax implications of each business type.


You may already be clear about how you want to operate. But if you’d like to see some of the pros and cons of each type of business entity, see our Choosing a business structure article.

4. Manage registrations, licences and obligations

First up you’ll need to apply for an ABN (Australian Business Number) or ACN (Australian Company Number) depending on your business structure. You may also need a separate TFN (Tax File Number) to your personal one. You’ll also have to work out if you need to register for Goods and Services Tax (GST), which will depend largely on your projected turnover.


To learn more about business registrations, read our 4 key steps when setting up your business article.


In some business sectors, you may also need a licence to operate. Search for required permits in your area using the Australian Government Licence and Information Service.


Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) is an important consideration too. Learn about your legal obligations in the Work health and safety section of the Government Business website.


Other registrations to consider are your business name and any trademarks you’ve developed.

5. Review finance options

Many new businesses require a cash injection to cover start-up costs, including premises, equipment, vehicles and initial supplies. You can use your own funds or seek investors (including family and friends); or you may be able to apply for a grant or finance to help get you up and running.


Government-funded grants are available to startups in a wide range of industries. To find out what’s on offer, start by searching ‘<Your state or territory> business grants’. Or use the Australian Government grants and programs finder tool.


Another option is to borrow money with a business loan for startups. Specialist vehicle and equipment finance is available for those purchasing or leasing. Or you might want to consider a business overdraft or ‘line of credit’, giving you access to extra funds to support your cash flow as you start and grow your business.

6. Establish your digital presence

Build a website, which may simply promote your products and services, or actually sell goods online. If you don’t want to pay a website developer, search ‘website builder’ to get links to all the main self-build website providers.


You’ll want a URL for your website and email addresses that encapsulates your business and acts as your initial advertisement when people are searching. To find out if the name you want is available in any relevant domain extension (such as, search ‘domain registration Australia’ and choose a registration company to search URL options through.


Then as part of your digital marketing strategy, build a social profile for your new business on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Attract followers by offering industry news and insights plus exclusive offers; and allocate regular time each week to keeping your social media fresh and relevant for customers.

7. Create a marketing strategy

However great your business idea is, it won’t promote itself – you’ll need to decide how to market it. To help focus on priorities, put together a marketing strategy and plan covering:

  • Marketing budgets – launch and ongoing
  • Marketing objectives – what you hope to achieve in the short and long term
  • Target markets – there may be different sectors you can promote to
  • Brand position – the name and personality of your business
  • Value proposition – such as economy versus premium
  • Key marketing mediums – from leaflet drops to broadcast mediums such as local radio
  • PR – helping you can gain publicity through press releases and interviews.


The strategy should also include ongoing optimisation of your website and social media marketing.

8. Obtain business insurance

What will you do if fire or flood impacts your business, or you or other key personnel are incapacitated by illness or injury? Some of the business insurance options to consider (or that might be compulsory) include:

  • Workers’ compensation insurance
  • Public liability insurance
  • Third party personal injury insurance for business vehicles
  • Buildings and contents insurance
  • Management liability insurance
  • Product liability insurance
  • Professional indemnity insurance
  • Personal accident and sickness insurance.


Westpac offers a range of Insurance policies for business that you can explore. Or chat with a business insurance expert to find the right protection for your needs.

9. Set up your business banking

However small your business is, it can be worth separating your business finances from your personal banking. Dedicated bank accounts make it easier to track business performance, manage income and expenses, and plan for tax time. Plus, choose a business account (rather than a personal account) and it may include extra features that support your operations and accounting.


With Westpac for example, you can choose between a $0 monthly fee business account (Business One) and an added value business account (Business One Plus) that gives you access to exclusive discounts on popular business products and services. To simplify financial management and bookkeeping, you can connect your account to accounting software such as MYOB and Xero.

10. Plan how to keep records

Record keeping driven by a sound accounting system helps you track business performance, manage cash flow, prepare for tax time and meet your superannuation obligations.


Keep records electronically, as hard copy, or both. And make the most of accounting software, which can simplify your bookkeeping and business record keeping.


The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has a Record keeping evaluation tool that can help you track how well you’re keeping your records.

11. Decide how to take payments

Will you be getting paid online, or face to face? Or any combination of those? One of the keys to getting paid fast is to make it as convenient as possible for customers to pay you. So it’s a good idea to choose options that help them pay the way they want to.

  • Get paid remotely

If your customers will be making bank-to-bank payments, you can just give them the BSB and account number of your bank account. However, if you’d rather not share your bank account details, you can ask customers to pay into your account using PayID®, meaning you’ll only need to provide the unique number you’ve registered for the service – which could be your mobile number or ABN.


  • Get paid face to face

Depending on the nature of your business, you may want to take  card and digital wallet payments with anan EFTPOS machine;  in which case you’ll need to decide if you want an EFTPOS terminal that integrates with your point of sale (POS) system. Or for ultimate flexibility and portability, you can now download1 the EFTPOS Air app to your compatible2 phone or tablet, allowing you to take secure payments on the go you EFTPOS Air also features point of sale capabilities, so you can build menus of items or services on it.


  • Get paid online

If you’re building an eCommerce website using an off-the-shelf platform, it may already incorporate a payment gateway. But if you’re looking for your own way of accepting card payments online or by phone, you may wish to consider one of the eCommerce solutions provided by Westpac.

12. Don’t forget your launch party!

Partying may be the last thing on your mind right now, but launching with a bang gives you some great shareable content to support your social media strategy. Maybe think of a distinctive theme or venue that complements your product or service, and make sure to invite the radio, press and influential members of your business network.


To sum up

Starting and building a new business requires dedication, hard work, innovation, creativity, and continuous adaptation to market forces and trends. Use this checklist to ensure all the pieces are in place, to help you kick off on the right track to success.



Read more

Set up costs when starting a business

To give your business the best chance of success, it’s important to start with a clear idea of the costs involved.

The ultimate guide to business loans and finance for startups

It’s time to turn your business dreams into reality. But where do you start when it comes to finding finance?

Turning your business vision into a plan

Starting a business is exciting. For the best chance of success, you’ll need to think about writing a business plan and getting in the right mindset.

Things you should know

Westpac’s products are subject to terms, conditions, fees and charges; and certain criteria may apply. Before making a decision, read the disclosure documents for your selected product or service, including the Product Disclosure Statement and T&Cs; and consider if the product is right for you.


This information does not take into account your personal circumstances and is general. It is an overview only and should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon. Consider obtaining personalised advice from a professional financial adviser and your accountant before making any financial decisions in relation to the matters discussed in this article, including when considering tax and finance options for your business. Westpac does not endorse any of the external providers referred to in this article.


PayID® is a registered trademark of NPP Australia Limited.


1. Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions apply for EFTPOS Air. To qualify, a customer still needs to apply and be approved.

2. Compatibility: To use EFTPOS Air your iPhone or Android device will need to be Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled and running on one of the supported iPhone Operating System (iOS) or Android Operating Systems (OS), listed at visit, which may change from time to time. Tap to Pay on iPhone requires iPhone XS or later running iOS 16.4 or later and a supported payment app. Some contactless cards may not be accepted by your payment app