Sharing Knowledge Blog Series #2: The First Steps to Take to Start Your Own Business in Australia

Welcome to the second blog in our Sharing Knowledge series, in conjunction with Navitas Skilled Futures, to support refugees and migrants to develop the essential skills, find the right tools and get the right information you may need to start your own business.

Starting your own business can be an empowering journey. But there will be problems if you don’t take the correct steps from the beginning to set things up well. Thorough and detailed planning will contribute to your business growing.

Female agent helping client sign the document – supplied by Navitas

Here are some important steps to take so your business has the best possible chance of success.

Step 1: Learn to communicate confidently in English and develop necessary digital skills

We covered this topic in depth in blog 1 in our series but it’s worth mentioning again. While this step may require a little time upfront as you start planning your business, learning English and digital skills will give you a significant advantage by enhancing your communication skills with customers, helping you to network, and allowing you to access valuable resources and knowledge online including navigating all the forms and paperwork, legalities, taxation information, applications and more with ease. Navitas Skilled Futures can assist you here with the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) and the AMEP Pathways to Work (PtW, SLPET) program.

If you know which industry you want to start your business in, you may choose to enrol in an AMEP Pathways to Work course. These courses are industry-specific and can help you to understand words and phrases that relate to the specific industry that you’re interested in starting your business in. Courses such as Customer Service are relevant for all business and industries.

The below steps are all things you can begin to piece together in the meantime as you are improving your English skills. Starting a business involves many considerations and steps and it’s important to consult with experts, such as lawyers, accountants, and business advisors, to ensure compliance with Australian laws and guidance based on your personal circumstances.

Step 2: Investigate visa requirements

If you live in Australia on a visa, rather than permanent residency, ensure that your visa type allows you to start a business in Australia. You may wish to consult with an immigration lawyer to determine your options regarding visas or use this helpful guide from the Australian Government. Your enhanced English skills and digital literacy will help you navigate this process and ensure you are correctly understanding all the information. If you are eligible for permanent residency and need to undergo the citizenship test, then Navitas Skilled Futures can help you with a free preparatory course.

Step 3: Set-up your support network and advisory team

Join local business networks near where your customers will be, as well as online business networks and social groups. You can also research industry associations, and business communities to make connections through, such as your local Chamber of Commerce. Seek guidance from government agencies like the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on how to manage any tax implications. If you’d like expert assistance, you may wish to also speak to an accountant for financial and tax advice, a lawyer to advise on insurance and contracts and perhaps a Business Coach to help with setting up your business plan – note that these are usually at a cost. There are small business grants you can apply for and free support services in the community such as Thrive Refugee Enterprise – these are definitely worth looking into.

To completely understand all the information in this step, you may need a higher level of English to help you read, listen and comprehend the detailed language and business jargon. This is where a program like the free AMEP can help you, particularly through a short course such as English for Small Business.

Step 4: Understand the market and your customers

Conducting market research will help you to understand how much demand there is for your product or service in your community. It will also help you to know more about your target audience and competitors. You can gather this information through existing sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics or by conducting surveys or focus groups. If done well, you will know which customers to target, which products and services are most needed and will sell and how you can reach your potential customers.

It’s vital to have a proficient level of English in this step so you can have a clear understanding of what you are reading in online statistics or demographic information, or clearly ask the questions you want to ask during surveys or focus groups. Solid digital skills will also allow you to do a deep dive online of your competitors and the needs of your community.

Step 5: Develop your detailed Business Plan

Now it’s time to put together a business plan. This might sound overwhelming, but don’t let it make you nervous – a business plan is just a document that helps you get clear on your business idea, who your customers are, and what your products or services are. As you think more about it, you might start to consider what marketing strategies to include, and some financial calculations to ensure that your business is profitable. If you’re going to ask your bank for a loan, a business plan will be essential for securing finance too. It will also help to keep you focused and on track for the first few months, or years, of your business – particularly during those quiet months.

The AMEP can help you to learn business-related terms and phrasing to increase your confidence developing this plan. The AMEP Pre-employment English stream provides guidance around the right words to use, and how to use them.

Here is a helpful Business Plan template to get you started: Develop your business plan | If you undertake a short course like English for Small Business, the course curriculum will also take you through all these steps.

Step 6: Register your business and choose a business name

The information you have gathered in the above steps will help you to choose a business name and structure. Registering your business will provide you with a unique Australian Business Number (ABN). You’ll need to decide what your business structure will be – are you a sole trader, partnership, or one of the other options available?

This helpful link will help you work out which business structure is best for you: Business registration – help me decide tool

Having a higher level of English will ensure you choose an appropriate, unique and memorable business name that sells with your brand. You will need to look on the ASIC website to ensure the name is not already registered by another business. If you plan to have a website or social media presence (vital in today’s world), it’s a suitable time to search for your proposed business name to see what comes up. Before you choose your business name, we also suggest you secure your website (domain) name and social media page names

Step 7: Address financial considerations and tax obligations

A strong level of English is required to become familiar with the Australian tax system and your tax commitments as a business owner. You may need to register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and other taxes, such as Pay As You Go (PAYG) withholding if you have employees. This may sound complicated, so talking to a local accountant or tax specialist is a clever idea, as they will be able to help you navigate this area. They can also assist you with establishing accounting systems and understanding your financial responsibilities. If you need it, they can also assist you with applying for any finance you may need to get your business off the ground.

Step 8: Secure business licenses and permits

Identify any specific licenses or permits required for your industry or location. You may need licenses for businesses that include things like food handling, beauty and wellness services, health services, or construction.

This link from the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) will help you find the licenses, permits and council approvals you may need for your business.

Step 9: Set up your digital presence

Digital skills are essential in this modern world. A website can help you reach a much wider customer base and using social media will help promote your business and connect with customers online. Every successful business is going to need to operate in a digital economy. This means that for your business to grow you’ll need to feel comfortable using digital tools to research, network and promote your business. Navitas Skilled Futures can help upskill you with the basics for getting started which can then lead you on a pathway of being able to set these systems up yourself through online tutorials.

The AMEP has options to help you get started, including specialist Computer Skills courses, plus digital learning is included in every single course, including all Pathways to Work courses. Your first step will be setting up your website, which you can do easily via a simple editor such as WIX or Square Space, and if you need people to buy things online, there are simple widgets you can use as a part of these. To set up your social media pages for your business, this is just like setting them up for yourself, which you’ll be able to do easily! Once you are set up, you can consider doing some social media advertising to help to spread the word of your business to its target customers.

This looks like ALOT! But don’t be discouraged…

If you plan these things from the beginning, your business will be more successful overall. Learning English and digital skills is essential when you are wanting to start your own business – just to ensure you can tackle the above setting up of your business alone – and then see it through in the long-term as you become more independent with your business management.

Where to begin? If you are in Sydney or Canberra, contact Navitas Skilled Futures to find out if you are eligible for the free, government funded AMEP. If you’re in a different area, you can find your local provider here.

Access more information about the above programs at NSF at the following links:

Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) | Free English Classes (

Pathways to Work (PtW, SLPET) | Gain Work Skills (

We’re here to help you to build a better future and reach your goals of starting a business. Contact NSF on 1300 798 111, email or visit click here to find out more or enrol.

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