How to Start a Business Whilst on Universal Credit

When you’re living solely off of universal credit, it can sometimes make you feel stuck. You might think you don’t have the same opportunities that other people have, and that doing something like starting your own business is just a pipedream. But that’s not necessarily the case. Just because you might not have a huge amount of disposable income, doesn’t mean you can’t fulfil your hopes and dreams, you might just have to take a different route. If starting a business is what you desire, this is something you can bring to life, whether you’re on universal credit or not. In this article, we are going to look at some of the things to consider when starting a business as a person on universal credit.

What You Need to Get Started

There’s an incredible amount of resources online that you can’t afford to neglect – many of these are at little to no cost. It’s recommended that you seek business advice (check out the government’s website), as depending on where you are in the UK, you should be able to chat to somebody who can answer any questions you have about starting up your business, free of charge. If you don’t have this opportunity though, you also have the option to scour business forums and articles online to answer any of your startup questions.

As well as this, the innovative software available to businesses starting up can prove to be invaluable, from web building to invoice creation. This is especially important once you start to hire your first employees. For example you can use payroll software designed specifically for small businesses which is totally affordable (£7 a month on the lowest tier). Its easy to use, and will make your accounting process a whole lot easier. When you have so much on your plate already as a new business owner, the assistance of smart technology can really ease the pressure, especially when everything is new to you.

Now, if you do need additional funding to get your business off the ground then you should consider grants, loans, financial support from family and friends, angel investors, crowdfunding or anything similar. If your business idea is viable and there’s a gap in the market for it, then people will want to get on board and support it. With this kind of thing, sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know – for instance, if you have a connection who is like-minded and wants to join forces, you could create a partnership. Then you’d share costs and workloads, which could work better in the long run.

How to Come Up with a Business Plan

Before you get started it helps if you have an in-depth business plan (check out this primer for more info). Now, this doesn’t have to cost a penny – all you need to put into it is your time and consideration. By doing this thoroughly, you will get a better idea of what you need to do to achieve your aims. You need to list the products and services you plan to provide, your USP, a brand name, brand colours, your goals, a budget plan, who’s involved, how you’re going to market your business, and so on. Although this sounds like a lot to think about, you don’t have to rush it. There are plenty of free business plan templates online you can utilise as a point of reference.

Having all the important information to start you off laid out in front of you will allow you to come up with ideas and make them a reality. With a comprehensive business plan, you can also anticipate any errors that may crop up along the way. If money is a concern, your business plan needs to note any costs involved, if you can get a grant or loan, when you expect to build an income and anything else that is relevant.

Key Steps to Starting a Business

Once you have your business plan in place, how do you actually get started? Well, it depends on your business in question, but these are some of the typical steps startups need to take:

  • Register the business with the government (you’ll need to decide what type of business ownership you want – e.g. a partnership or limited company etc.)
  • Set up a business bank account to track income and outgoings
  • Get everything in place and put your research in – this could be stock, a workplace or venue, all the equipment you need, etc.
  • Market your business – in this day and age, you’re probably going to need a website and social media, or you could try more traditional marketing methods like leaflet handouts or face-to-face networking.
  • Find customers of clients – following on from your marketing, you will hopefully garner some interest. Encourage word-of-mouth recommendations to spread the news about your business. You could offer first-time discounts or welcome events to get your brand name recognised locally.

How to do Market Research

Although you’re aware you need to do your marketing to draw attention to the business, you’ll need to ensure you’re aiming your efforts at the right audience. This calls for market research. There are various methods you consider, such as simple surveys to discover who’s interested in what you have to offer, interviews, or focus groups. You’re going to want to think of insightful questions that will allow you to recognise who exactly would pay for your offerings, how much they’d pay, how often, when and why. This will give you an idea of how you can reel the right people in when it comes to it, meaning you’ll be able to target your marketing accordingly.

All in All…

Starting your own business is an incredible thing to do, and is something that should be an option for everyone, no matter their income. The hard work and effort you put in should pay off eventually if you make smart moves, plan carefully, and make the most of the resources available to you.

Hopefully, a few years down the line, your venture will have paid you back in multiples of what you put in, although you do have to be patient. If it does all work out, the benefits are endless: you’ll be your own boss, you’ll get to see your business grow from strength to strength, you’ll challenge yourself, control your work/life balance, and drive your own success. Although there’s no doubt it’ll be difficult and stressful at times, that’s all part of the package. 

Your Basic Guide to Broadband on Benefits

The world is growing increasingly connected. In many parts of the globe, internet is now classified as a “basic human right.” Yet, despite this, only 51% of households earning between £6,000 and £10,000 per year are likely to have internet access. 

While access to the web might not have seemed essential a few years ago, it’s becoming much more difficult to live without internet. We need the net for everything from communication, to ensuring workplace productivity. Unfortunately, the price of broadband is still making getting online impossible for many people. 

Fortunately, there are options, particularly for those receiving benefits like Job Seekers Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Housing Benefit, Universal Credit, and Disability Allowance. You could get the internet without spending a fortune.

Are There Broadband Deals for People on Benefits?

Broadband deals do exist for people with a limited income. The following packages are aimed at people receiving specific benefits, so you’ll need to prove you’re getting these benefits to access the deal. Here are your options.

BT Home Essentials

This low-cost phone and broadband package launched in June 2021 to replace the “BT Home Basic” package, which previously offered access to low-cost broadband. The Home Essentials product offers fiber optic broadband with an average speed of between 36 and 67MB. The 36MB deal, with 700 minutes of calls is £15 per month, while the 67MB service with unlimited calls is £20.

A phone line-only service is £10 per month, with unlimited calling. While these packages are more expensive than the older BT Basic service, they’re much cheaper than standard plans. You’ll need one of the following for BT Home Essentials:

  • Universal credit (with 0 earnings)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
  • Pensions credit (Guaranteed credit)
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income support

Hyperoptic Fair Fibre

The Hyperoptic team offers the “fair fibre” packages for discounted broadband when you’re receiving certain benefits. Fair fibre gives you £7 off the 50MB broadband service (which makes it £8), or £10 off the 150MB package (which makes it £15). You can access this if you have:

  • Pension credit
  • Attendance allowance
  • Income-related Jobseekers allowance
  • Care leavers support
  • Housing benefit
  • Personal independence payment
  • Universal credit
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

The availability of Hyperoptic is limited because it’s a Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) provider, and only a small number of homes currently have access to its network.

KCOM Flex

If you live in a part of the country covered by KCOM (Such as Hull or Yorkshire), KCOM offers cheap Flex packages to eligible customers. You’ll pay £9 per month for ADSL if you don’t have access to fibre. If you do have fibre, you’ll be able to use LightStream Flex at £20 per month. 

There’s a data usage limit on all ADSL packages, while LightStream usage is unlimited, with a 12-month minimum contract. You’ll need one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Pension credit
  • Jobseeker allowance
  • Housing benefit
  • Personal independence payment
  • Attendance allowance
  • Universal credit (with 0 earnings)
  • Employment and Support Allowance. 

Care Leavers, Care Home Residents, and Lifeline customers can also access these deals. 

Virgin Media Essential

Offered only to existing Virgin Media customers, Essential broadband is an option for users receiving Universal Credit. With Essential, you’ll get a broadband-only service, with download speeds of 15MB for £15 per month. There isn’t a way to add a phone line.

If you’re not a Virgin customer already, you also can’t sign up for the service either. This could be problematic if you’re not with Virgin already, as you may have to sign up to a normal package, then switch to Essential. 

TalkTalk for Jobseekers

TalkTalk offers 6 months of free, unlimited fibre-optic broadband to eligible jobseekers. As part of the Flexible Support fund, TalkTalk supplies referral codes to the Department of Work and Pensions, and they’ll give them out based on who needs them most. These codes provide users with 35MB of home broadband free of charge. You can continue on a standard contract after 6 months or cancel the contract.

Will These Deals Provide Good Performance?

The performance you get from free and cheap broadband deals will depend on the provider. Compared to other low-cost broadband deals available for standard customers, the options above can be extremely limited, with caveats like:

  • Data limitations: You may be limited to a daily usage limit, or a monthly limit on your data, with penalties if you exceed the cap. Where possible, an unlimited broadband package will be much more flexible. 
  • Phone lines: Most broadband packages will require an Openreach phone line. Even if a provider doesn’t use BT, a phone line is a common requirement. If this is an issue, you may need to consider wireless broadband. Every broadband deal which requires a phone line needs to include line rental in the price. Hyperoptic and Virgin Media don’t require a phone line, but they don’t offer one either, which means you’d have to pay more if you want a landline.
  • Inclusive calls: most broadband deals offered for people on benefits come with a phone package and some calling allowance. Some bundles are generous, whereas others are more limited. You can consider an inclusive calls package if you use your landline a lot.
  • Slow speeds: Customers on benefits packages will tend to get slower speeds than those with a standard package from the same provider. This might not matter to some people, but slow internet can be quite frustrating. Think about how you’re going to be using your internet, and what kind of speed you need. One or two people with light web browsing usage (web browsing, social media, email) can usually manage with a speed of around 10MB on an ADSL service. Families may require faster, fibre optic broadband.

Do I Need to Pass a Credit Check?

Some broadband providers will require you to pass a credit check, but this isn’t always necessary. Some providers like NOW, Plusnet, and DirectSave Telecom will offer access without a credit check if you’re worried about marks on your financial record. These companies don’t offer deals for those on benefits, however. BT Home Essentials does require a credit check, but you won’t necessarily need a high score to pass. For more information, Broadband Genie have a guide to broadband deals with no credit check.

What happens to my contract if my employment status changes?

When you sign up for a benefits broadband package, your provider will check you’re in receipt of a qualifying benefit. They also need to check this on a regular basis. When you become ineligible for the deal, you’ll usually be moved onto a standard service, so your broadband isn’t disrupted. However, at this point, it’s often best to check your options for a better deal. Click here to compare cheap broadband deals.

Alternative ways to get online

If you’re not eligible for the packages above, there are still a few ways to get online, such as:

  • Public Wi-Fi hotspots: Connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot with your phone at a pub, restaurant, supermarket, café, or even a local Wi-Fi-enabled bus. 
  • Library computers: Libraries often offer access to computers for free. You may need to book a time slot, however.
  • Smartphone tethering: Smartphones can be connected to a PC or laptop over Wi-Fi, so you can use the data on your phone to link to the internet. Be careful to keep track of your data usage and confirm with your network provider if they allow tethering first. 

Little changes you can make to be able to save more for your future

One of the things families on low incomes really struggle with is saving for the future. This is, of course, understandable. But, there are still ways to save.

Consider opening an Individual Savings Account

ISAs are really easy to open. You can start with as little as £1 and there is no obligation to put a set amount away, each month. If you would like to know more then take a look at this ISA from Wealthify. That page explains more about how the account works.

If you have children, it is worth considering opening a Junior ISA. However, you do need to be a bit more careful with this type of account. That is because once the money is in these accounts, it is all but impossible to get back out until your children are 18. So, opening these types of accounts is not a good idea for all families. If there is any chance that you may need the money to cover a family emergency you would not necessarily want it to be tied up and out of reach in this way.

Save up in little ways

Saving is a habit and it is one that you can develop even if you do not have much money in the house. Putting aside a small amount of money each week, so you can enjoy a treat at the end of the month is one way to get into the habit. It feels great when you can open the coin jar and treat everyone to their favourite food. The more you save in this way the better you get at saving. In time, it becomes second nature to put something aside whenever cash comes in.

Keep developing your money-saving skills

Most people, who live on a tight income, learn to live frugally. They don’t waste food, shop around for the best deals and think before they spend.But, we all have a tendency to get a bit stuck in a rut. To do the same things we have always done. As a result, we end up missing new ways of getting things done.

Tap into the power of smartphone apps

One example of this is smartphone apps. Most of us own this type of phone, but few of us realise how easy it is to use them to save us money. That is cash you can put into your savings account.

There are plenty of apps to choose from. Here are just a few examples.

Don’t let life knock you off track

Saving when you do not have much spare cash coming in is not always going to be easy. You will have months where emergencies mean that you cannot save anything. This is going to happen and, usually, there is nothing you can do about it. But, it is very important that you do not let these occasions down hearten yourself to the point where you stop saving anything at all. If you miss a month, the next month put something aside. It may just be a few pounds, it does not matter with saving as the trick is to keep the momentum going so that you do not lose the habit completely.