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How to start my business in 5 steps?

Reading time: 7 minutes — Updated on 15 May 2023

In summary

Whether I want to open a restaurant/café, a beauty salon, a neighbourhood grocery store or a childcare service, I need to ask myself the same questions about where to start and what I need. 

Defining and costing my business start-up project is the first crucial step in answering the questions "why will my project be successful?", "how will I roll it out?" and "what do I need to get started?". 

My accountant and my business counter are there to advise and guide me through the steps and administrative procedures involved in setting up my business. 

Define and cost my project

I will start by zooming in on my project and myself

  • I need to be motivated and aware that being self-employed means being a jack of all trades (salesperson, accountant, manager, etc.).
  • I will zoom in on my career path, my skills, my strengths and the people around me. 
  • I will clarify my idea, analyse my project's strengths and the potential risks. 

The business model canvas tool allows me to visualise and analyse the key aspects of my project by asking myself the right questions about:  

  • My future customers and their needs. 
  • My product(s) and/or service(s) offer, the quality and any options.
  • Distribution and communication methods adapted to my customers and my resources.
  • Relationships with my customers to build loyalty and win new ones. 
  • Sources of income (cash flow) generated by my business.
  • The resources I need to offer my products and/or services to my customers. 
  • The key activities I need to carry out to run my business. 
  • The partners I need to develop and improve my offering. 
  • The costs essential to the running of my business. 

Read more 

Practical sheet: How do I define my business project? 

Building my sales strategy 

  • A market study will help me get to know my customers, suppliers and competitors. I will ask myself about my customers' needs and expectations, sales volumes, market trends and developments. 
  • Carrying out a market study is not rocket science. I can conduct research on the Internet, go into the field and be a mystery shopper at my competitors. I can also go and meet my customers and conduct open interviews and/or interview them using a survey questionnaire. 
  • This will help me build a business strategy tailored to my project:
    • Calculate a fair, competitive selling price and realistic sales targets. 
    • Work out the means to offer and promote my product(s) and/or service(s) that will meet my customers' expectations. 
    • I will also write down my ideas for standing out from the competition and building customer loyalty. 

Good to know 

  • I can draft my business plan with the help of the microStart e-learning platform. Modules 5 and 6 explain how to build my sales strategy using the right tools. 

Costing my project 

Read more 

Practical sheet: How do I cost my business idea? 

Check the conditions required to get started

In Belgium, anyone can start a business, provided certain conditions are met: 

  • I am of legal age (at least 18). 
  • I have Belgian nationality. If not, I will consult the practical sheet "How to start a business in Belgium if you are a foreign national".
  • If I want to start a business in Wallonia or Brussels, I must have access to management and to the profession. This is to prove that I have the basic business management proficiency and professional skills required for certain regulated activities (e.g. restaurant owner, baker, beautician, optician, etc.).
  • For some activities I also need additional authorisations (environmental permits, export licences, authorisations to manufacture and market foodstuffs, etc.). The business counter will check the start-up conditions and authorisations necessary for me to start my business.

Read more  

Practical sheet: How to start a business in Belgium if you are a foreign national?

Practical sheet: How do I get access to management? 

Practical sheet: How do I get access to the profession?


Good to know

microStart offers free basic management courses in preparation for the exam of the central jury.

Setting up my company

I now have to choose my self-employed status and business form. These choices take various factors into account, and each option has its advantages and disadvantages. I will examine them in the light of my situation and my business project, without forgetting to analyse the tax, financial and social security implications. Here again, my business counter or a trusted accountant will be able to advise me. 

I will choose the self-employed status best suited to my situation:

  • Self-employed status as my main occupation is right for me if I devote 100% of my time to my project. 
  • Self-employed status as my secondary occupation is right for me if I have another paid activity (at least part-time) in addition to my business idea. 

I will choose the legal status of my business:

  • If I start as a natural person (sole trader), I form a single person with my company. I am the sole decision-maker and responsible. 
  • In the case of a company, I create a company with legal personality (legal entity). My personal assets are protected, and I act in the name and on behalf of the company as its director. 

If I set up a company, I must choose its legal form:

  • There are a number of different forms: Limited liability company (SRL), Cooperative company (SC), Public Limited Company (SA), non-profit organisation, etc.
  • The type of company I choose must be appropriate to my situation. 

Managing the administrative aspects

Making sure I am in compliance with my administration means managing the administrative formalities involved in setting up my business. It also means protecting myself and my family in the event of a problem. 

An approved business counter, such as Partena Professional or Securex, can inform me, advise me and assist me with the obligatory administrative formalities. 

The mandatory steps: 

  • If I set up my business as a limited liability company (SRL, SA or SC), I will first go to a notary to have my company's articles of association drawn up. 
  • I will go to the business counter of my choice to register my company with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (BCE) and obtain my company number
  • I will activate my VAT number so that I can invoice my customers for my product(s) and/or service(s). My business counter can take care of this for me, or I can fill in the online VAT number application form myself. 
  • I will open a business bank account (mandatory if I am incorporated, but recommended for everyone). 
  • I will join a social insurance fund: paying social security contributions will entitle me to family allowance, sickness and disability benefits, maternity insurance, my pension and bankruptcy insurance. 
  • I will send the certificate of affiliation to my social insurance fund to my mutual insurance company to ensure my affiliation as a self-employed person is in compliance. 
  • I will find out about compulsory insurance policies as a self-employed person and insurance related to my business (professional liability, third-party liability, workers' compensation if I have employees, etc.). If I open a catering business, for example, I must take out civil liability insurance. 

Useful steps: 

  • If I have one or more children, and if I haven't already done so, I will join a family allowance fund.
  • I will find out about and get advice on supplementary insurance policies so that I have more protection (guaranteed income, supplementary pension, hospitalisation, etc.).

Read more 

Practical sheet: what social protection for the self-employed?


Good to know

  • The startmybusiness platform makes it possible to set up a limited liability company (SRL, SA or SC) and other legal forms (general partnership, non-profit association, etc.) entirely online, with the virtual assistance of a notary. 

Find financing

 I know what my financing needs are, and now it's time to find the money I need to launch my business. I can: 

  • bring a personal contribution (savings, a helping hand from friends and family). 
  • Raise funds via a crowdfunding platform. 
  • Borrow from a bank or microcredit organisation like microStart
  • Benefit from subsidies and other forms of public assistance for business financing offered by the Regions.

Read more 

Practical sheet: How do I cost my business project? 


Good to know


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