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10 of the best UK small business ideas

5-minute read

10 of the best UK small business ideas
Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling

19 January 2022

Looking to start your own business in 2022? At Simply Business, we've delved into our customer data to reveal the latest trends among small businesses and the self-employed.

What are the most popular small business ideas, and how has Covid-19 affected entrepreneurial behaviour? Read on for inspiration and ideas.

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Despite a challenging period, 68 per cent of small businesses are confident for the year ahead, according to research by Starling Bank.

Meanwhile, more than three quarters are planning record financial investment in their companies in 2022.

So, if you’re looking to launch a small business this year, what are the trends you need to be aware of?

Top 10 small business trends

Top 10 small business ideas

We analysed all new business insurance policies taken out in 2020 and 2021 to find the fastest growing small business sectors.

Here are the top 10 most popular ideas for a small business:

Pandemic shapes the small business landscape

As we approach two years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new group of entrepreneurs have emerged from a turbulent two years.

Many of the most popular and creative small business ideas have been shaped by the pandemic, from selling online or turning a hobby into a business, to operating outside or providing services for a rising number of pets.

Craft stall

Craft stalls were the fastest growing small business trade in 2021, with growth of 237 per cent compared to 2020.

Alongside the rise of the side hustle, more people have turned hobbies into full-time business ventures since the start of the pandemic.

Whether you’re a candle maker or knit your own clothes, the demand for craft businesses continues to rise.

Read our guide to starting a craft business for tips on how to enter the market.

Market trader

Due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions and people feeling less comfortable in crowded indoor spaces, outdoor businesses have thrived since 2020.

Market traders were the second fastest-growing small business trade in 2021, rising by 113 per cent year-on-year.

If you’re thinking of starting an outdoor business, read our guide on how to start a market stall in the UK.

Online retailer

While UK high streets have struggled in recent years, online retailers have boomed.

The ease of selling through platforms like Etsy and eBay means new retailers can get their businesses up and running quickly. As a result, we saw a 62 per cent rise in the number of new online retailers between 2020 and 2021.

Read our guide to starting an online shop for an overview, and if you’re not sure what to sell, take some inspiration from our article on how to find the right product to sell online.

Self-employed service sector to remain strong

There are many benefits of going self-employed, including a better work/life balance and more creative freedom.

Our data shows that the number of freelancers and tradespeople offering services to clients continued to rise last year.

Photographer

Between 2020 and 2021, the number of freelance photographers increased by 56 per cent, making it the fourth fastest growing small business trend.

And 2022 could be a bumper year for photographers who specialise in weddings – the number of weddings is expected to surge by 205 per cent between July 2021 and June 2022, according to Truly Experiences.

If you’re thinking about becoming a freelance photographer, our article covers 10 key steps, including registering with HMRC and marketing your photography business.

Handyman/handywoman

Another impact of the pandemic is that homeowners have spent more money upgrading their properties.

This has led to a sharp increase in demand for handymen and women, and our data shows a 44 per cent year-on-year rise of this type of business.

Despite record demand, trades businesses have experienced problems with rising costs and supply chain issues.

Caterer

The number of new catering businesses increased by 39 per cent between 2020 and 2021, according to our data.

In recent years there’s been increased awareness of food safety, with new measures introduced such as Natasha’s Law.

On top of this, demand for sustainable packaging is growing – so it’s something all catering businesses need to be aware of. We’ve got some top tips from food sharing company Olio on how to make your business more sustainable.

Home businesses continue to thrive

As flexible working looks set to stay for the long-term, it’s no surprise that businesses that can be run from home were some of the most popular new trades in 2021.

Running a business from home can be cheaper and more convenient than hiring a premises, but there are rules you need to follow such as registering with HMRC and checking if you need to pay business rates.

Teaching/tutor

If you’re thinking about starting a teaching or tutoring business this year, you could be on the right track as the number of new businesses in this sector increased by 21 per cent year-on-year.

Read our guides on starting a business from home and second job tax for more information.

Home baking

With people having more time at home as a result of the pandemic and the popularity of TV shows like The Great British Bake Off, there’s been huge growth in the home baking sector.

The number of home baking businesses increased by a further 24 per cent between 2020 and 2021, following a 157 per cent rise between 2019 and 2020.

Read our guide to starting a cake and baking business for the key steps you need to follow.

Watch our how to start a bakery business video

Dog walkers

We’ve long been a nation of dog lovers and since the start of the pandemic 3.2 million of us have bought pets, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association.

This means demand for dog walkers is higher than ever, so it’s no surprise to see that the number of new dog walking businesses increased by 22 per cent year-on-year.

Read our guide to starting a dog walking business for everything you need to know.

Accountant

Our research shows a 21 per cent rise in the number of self-employed accountants between 2020 and 2021, making it the tenth fastest growing small business idea.

The average freelance accountant salary in the United Kingdom is £52,650 per year or £27 per hour, according to UKtalent.com.

Read our guide to becoming a freelance accountant for tips on how to get started.

“A new wave of entrepreneurs seizing the opportunity”

Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, commented: “Thankfully small business owners have shown resilience, innovation and creativity at every stage of the pandemic.

“As a wave of challenges persist – from staff shortages to supply chain issues – it’s incredibly encouraging to see UK entrepreneurs leading the way when it comes to our recovery.

“Put simply, our economy and communities need small businesses to bounce back, so it’s heartening to see a new wave of entrepreneurs seizing the opportunity to start up.”

What are your top small business ideas?

The small profitable business ideas in this article are designed to give you inspiration. If you want to explore an idea, make sure you treat it as a business, carrying out the right research and planning – writing a business plan is a great place to start.

Once you've decided on the type of business you want to start, it'll need a name. If you're looking for small business name ideas, why not use our free Business Name Generator?

What are your favourite easy small business ideas for 2022? Let us know in the comments below.

Photograph 1: amenic181/stock.adobe.com

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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