How to start a security company in the UK

Security guard monitoring an outdoor premises

With crime rates front of mind for lots of people, now could be a good time to set up a business that makes the public feel safer. Starting a security company is one way to do that.

The number of crimes recorded in the year ending September 2022 reached 6.6 million, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This figure is 10 per cent higher than the one recorded in the year ending March 2020, before the pandemic when crime rates dropped due to lockdowns.

With a stretched police force, there’s more and more demand for private security to help tackle crime.

Whether you’re already working in security and want to start your own security company, or are starting from scratch, this guide should help.

How to become a security guard

The security industry is tough, in more ways than one, and it’s important to build experience before setting up your own company.

This means you should have a very particular set of skills to deal with whatever comes your way, as well as the contacts needed to give your business a head start.

In this section we talk about what it takes to become a security guard if you don’t already have experience. If you just want to know how to set up your business, skip to our step-by-step guide.

What does a security guard do?

There are different aspects to running a security business. If you’re new to the industry, you might start by getting employed as a security officer.

According to the National Careers Service this could involve:

  • patrolling premises, or monitoring or securing them, often with the aid of CCTV
  • guarding and securing cash or other valuables that are being transported
  • working security at an airport and power stations
  • door supervision for organisations
  • responding to alarms

Do you need a qualification to become a security guard?

The National Careers Service says the qualification you’ll need will depend on the type of security work you want to do. For example:

  • guarding cash and valuables in transit
  • public space surveillance (CCTV)
  • front line security
  • close protection

They also say that previous experience in the armed forces or the police would be useful. You may need an SIA licence (you’ll definitely need the SIA licences when you’re starting your own security company, so there’s more on this below).

Find out more about licence-linked training courses and approved providers.

You could also look into general business courses, for example bookkeeping.

What is a security guard salary? lists the average security guard salary in the UK as £29,595, but this is for employed security guards.

Naturally this will be different if you’re running your own business, plus it depends on the type of security business you eventually set up. You also need to factor in your costs, including hiring staff and training.

In terms of rates, what you charge clients will also depend on the type of job required. Most basic security services are charged out at between £10 and £20 an hour.

Make sure to keep your profit margin in mind and create (and stick to) a business budget.

It’ll be a good idea to do your market research, speaking to local security firms to find out what they charge before deciding what rates to set. This research will also inform how much you pay any employees you end up hiring.

How to start a security company – step-by-step

So you’ve already acquired the skills you need over a very long career, and now you want to start your own security company. Here are five steps to get going:

1. What area will you specialise in?

As with any business, it’s important to have a niche – and the first place to look when deciding on a specialism is your own experience. You’ll know first-hand how that particular type of security should be run. Plus, you’ll have contacts in the field that already know you give a great service.

These are just some of the niches you could consider:

  • door supervision
  • bodyguarding
  • manned security guarding
  • event security
  • providing and handling guard dogs
  • monitoring CCTV

Is there a gap in the market or can you solve an existing problem with your business?

Your business’s location should also play a part in your eventual decision, because as with any business, it needs to meet an existing demand.

For example, if there’s no need for door security in your region, that niche might not be worth pursuing. Carry out some research into existing security businesses and the needs of your potential clients in the area.

This kind of research will likely form part of your business plan. Every new business needs a business plan, so you should write one before you set out. Here you can explain your vision and what you hope to achieve, adding information like a financial plan and market research.

It can also be useful to do a SWOT analysis to note particular strengths and weaknesses for your business.

2. Understand the legal rules and regulations

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is a good place to start when getting to grips with legalities.

As they’re the people responsible for regulating the private security industry, you’ll need the relevant training and licensing.

There are different licences available for front-line and non front-line staff so it’s worth spending time on their website, researching the options available and what you’ll ultimately need to apply for.

When setting up your own company, it might also be a good idea to look at the SIA’s Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS). The SIA say the scheme aims to “raise performance standards and assist the private security industry in developing new opportunities”. For micro security businesses with up to 10 licensable staff, it costs £400 to apply for the scheme and there’s an annual registration fee of £15 “per licensable individual deployed”.

You can also get other certificates and accreditations, including the NSI, ISO 9001, SafeContractor scheme, and CHAS (Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme).

You should also choose a legal structure for your business. Will you set up as a sole trader, partnership, or a limited company? There are pros and cons to each. Our guide explains the difference between sole trader and limited company.

You also need to register as self-employed with HMRC.

What about security industry insurance?

With the day-to-day risks involved in running a business, getting the right insurance policy is important. Here are some of the key covers that will make up security company business insurance:

  • public liability insurance – this covers the cost of a claim if a member of the public suffers an injury or loss because of your business
  • employers’ liability insurance – this is usually a legal requirement if you have employees. It covers the cost of a claim if an employee is injured or gets sick as a result of working for you – you could be fined £2,500 a day if you need it and don’t have it
  • professional indemnity insurance – this covers mistakes made in the advice or service you give to clients

Being able to tailor your insurance policy means you only pay for the cover you need. For example, here at Simply Business we also offer specific insurance for security guards as well as self-employed door supervisors and CCTV installers.

3. What equipment do you need for your security company?

This depends on the type of service you’re giving. But essential equipment can include:

  • two-way radios and smartphones
  • first aid kits
  • notebooks and pens to record incidents and information
  • torches
  • cameras and recording equipment
  • alarms for lone security guards (there are also apps and smart technology that can protect your staff)

And keep in mind that if you do hire staff, they’ll need specialist clothing. Uniform helps show your professionalism and can include your logo. Make sure you’ve thought about things like protective vests, durable footwear, and high-visibility jackets.

What about tool and equipment insurance?

You might struggle to carry out your day-to-day work and fulfil commitments to clients if your tools and equipment get lost, stolen, or damaged.

That’s why it’s a good idea to think about adding protection for your equipment to a business insurance policy. It can help you get back on your feet quickly should anything happen.

Read more: The UK’s tool theft hotspots revealed

4. Hiring staff for your security company

You might not need employees when you start out but they could come in a number of guises as your company grows, from front-line security guards to someone helping out in your office. But regardless of the type of employee, it’s important to hire the best people.

When it comes to attracting potential recruits, you can post on your website, social media accounts and both general and specialist job boards. You can also call on existing contacts, who might be suited to the role or know someone who fits the bill.

Keep in mind that security guards need the right licences and training. You should ask about their experience in interviews, carrying out due diligence. This will involve running background checks to make sure potential employees don’t have a criminal record. Being thorough at the start of the hiring process could save you hassle down the line.

You’ll also need to know how much to pay your staff, factoring wages into your financial plans. Research will be key. And when you’re starting out, hiring temporary employees or subcontractors could be a better option financially than hiring full-time employees.

5. How to market your security company

You’ve chosen your niche. You’re up to speed on all the rules and regulations. You’ve gone ahead and set up your company.

Now, you need to find clients.

This is where your experience comes in handy, because your existing contacts may be eager to hire you. Beyond that, read on for how to get a security contract and ways you can market your business.

Your brand

  • create a brand – choosing the right brand will influence a lot of your marketing. A good place to start is a logo, which you can use on things like your website, leaflets and even your vans
  • name your business – it’s important that your name is unique, memorable and stands out. Why not use our business name generator for some light-hearted inspiration?
  • create a website and social media presence – make it easy for your clients to find you. Your business website should list the services you offer and your contact details and be optimised so people can find your website in Google. Plus, social media is a good way to interact with your clients (and potential clients)

Your customers

  • define your ideal client and target them – you might have specified the type of clients you want to attract in your business plan. If you haven’t, this is a useful exercise, because it will inform your message and how you go after them – whether that’s through traditional print advertising, leafleting, or email marketing
  • bid on and apply for contracts – while it’s a competitive arena, you should keep an eye on online portals where you can find, bid on, or simply apply for security contracts. For example, the government has its own contracts finder website, and there are other websites you can use to find contracts, like Tenders Direct
  • contact potential clients – talking to people is still a good way to win new clients. You can speak to individuals or bigger companies who might need security services, letting them know what you’re offering and why they should choose you over anyone else

Your reputation

  • ask existing clients for referrals – once you’ve won a client, don’t be afraid to ask them to refer you to their contacts if they’re happy with your services. Referrals are a powerful way to win new business – and only enhance your reputation in the community
  • build your Google reviews – another way to grow your reputation and get noticed is to encourage happy customers to leave you a positive Google review
  • manage fake online reviews – if you’re unlucky enough to get a fake review online, there are things you can do to tackle it

Read our expert guide to marketing for more tips.

Not sure if starting a security company is for you? Here are the best small business ideas for more inspiration.

More useful articles for starting a business

Are you thinking about starting a security company? Let us know in the comments.

Insure your security business

You can build a tailored security industry insurance policy choosing from a range of expert cover options, starting with public liability insurance. Run a quick quote to get started.

Andrey Popov/

Sam Bromley

Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.

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