Getting Started as an online business

Hello all.
I'm wondering if there might be someone out there that can help point me in the right direction.  Having spent a long time looking at ways to boost my income, I've settled on creating books on Amazon as the most suitable way to start for me.  But I'm getting totally confused over the business side of things, and I'm jargon illiterate!  Do I need to register as a business, or am I just a freelancer for Amazon (Like a zero-hours worker)?  Do I need a business bank account or do I just use my personal one?  Do I need to tell HMRC straight away or do I wait to see how much (or little) I make to start with?

I'm not expecting to make millions, but if I made £1000 a year I'd be more than happy.  It's mostly so I can buy voluntray NI contributions for the future as my part time job doesn't pay much, and for personal reasons I can't change jobs right now.

So, is there a book you can recommend that might be helpful, or a website that explains in plain english?  I did do business studies at school but that was 25 years ago and I'm pretty sure things have changed since then.  I'm not even sure we had the internet!

Thanks in advance


  • hayley11
    hayley11 Posts: 7,625 Forumite
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    You don't need a business bank account, any will do but I'd recommend keeping it separate from your regular bank account so it's easy to keep track. 

    I'd register self employed straight away, but if your SE earnings are below £1000 a year, you won't have to do a tax return. You'll then get a UTR which you can add to Amazon. 

    Also think about marketing, how are you going to get sales? You might get lucky and people will just find you through Amazon but I wouldn't count on that.

    This website is quite useful but isn't about tax:
    Gov website has more on the tax side of things:

    All the best :)
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  • Vectis
    Vectis Posts: 683 Forumite
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    It's not directly in answer to your queries but just a sort of general note about book publishing on Amazon.

    I did it for a few years some time back, for enjoyment mostly but also wanted to make some extra cash. The thing was, that I didn't properly realise at the start, was that unless you have a Harry Potter type book which sells and sells you have to keep a production line of books coming. It seemed to me that sales were highest when a book was initially released then faded away over the months as newer books took prominence.

    It's odd, because when I pick a book to read I don't look to see if it's a new release or has been around a while, but it was a definite issue when I was self-publishing. I don't know what type of book you're planning on publishing, but novels, for instance, can take 6 months or more to write and in that time it seems your previous title's sales are dwindling.

    When I looked again at creating an income stream more recently, I disregarded publishing because of this very issue. You could, for instance, spend 3-6 months writing and editing a book and then find it doesn't sell for some reason. To ensure guaranteed cash coming in each month I looked elsewhere, even though I enjoy actually writing.

    On the actual business side, as hayley11 says, I wouldn't bother with a business bank account, or not yet anyway. And, yes, register as self-employed even if nothing comes of it.

    Have you also thought about cover design etc for the books? Quite often it's the cover which attracts people initially to look at your book. There's ways you can do this online but I always preferred to do them myself in something like Photoshop and Illustrator or equivalents.

    Plus, how are people going to find your books, how are you going to market them? If you simply press Publish on Amazon your books will get lost in amongst a million others. Back when I did this I set up a web page dedicated to it plus Facebook pages etc and did stuff on Twitter and other social media, and you have to keep updating this constantly. To keep on top of things and keep people interested and looking at your books took a lot more time than I bargained for, which is obviously why this part of publishing is actually a job on its own if you were trying to make a living out of writing.

    So, my conclusion for what it's worth, is that it's fun writing and publishing your own books but it's actually a lot more work than you possibly realise, or it was for me anyway. But, if you enjoy it, give it a go and see how it works out. At the end of the day it needn't cost you anything apart from your time.
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