How to start a business in South Africa

how to start a business in South Africa


You may thinking about how to start a business in South Africa and that it is really hard, and it is true that many people struggle to get started, especially if you are strapped for capital and have never been in business before.

But it does not have to be a long, drawn out, uphill battle.

The advent and access to digital technology makes it possible to get your business up and running in less than 72 hours, at a very low cost.  

In this post, I am going to show you exactly how to start a business in South Africa step-by-step.

The steps are designed for you to follow in the sequence that they are written, and it is thus important that you complete them in this order if you want to launch your business as fast as possible.

If you have already completed some of the steps prior to using this format, just skip to the next item.

As a new entrepreneur, you can easily fall into the trap of thinking that you need to first have an office, a Telkom landline, a website, a logo, business cards and produce expensive presentations.

I will show you how to either get around having any of the above, or the really fast and inexpensive way to get it done.

The only thing it is required from you is to have your business idea ready. If you do not have your business idea ready, you can easily research and find one of the many business opportunities in South Africa that are on offer on the Internet.

Who is this post for?

Any entrepreneur that wants to start one of the following businesses:

A service, coaching or consulting business

Any business that does not require a shopfront or retail outlet

Any product that can be sold online via an eCommerce store

A technology startup

Technology startups – make sure you visit the Microsoft Bizspark page. You may qualify for up to $120K worth of Azure Cloud credits.

How to Start a Business in South Africa

This post will help you to learn how to start a business in South Africa:

Start your business within 72 hours

Provide you with an execution plan for the first 30 days of your business

Run your business from anywhere, without having an office

Create your startup assets

Create your sales presentation

Validate whether your business idea will work

Get your first client meetings

Make your first sale


How Much Will this Execution Plan Cost Me?

Many startup businesses are low on starting capital and I often get asked: “how do you start your own business without any money”?.  Well, with the method I will show you in this post, you can get started with less than R1000.

Sound good? Ok then let’s get started.


How to Start a Business in South Africa

Part One: The Groundwork

Time to get the initial groundwork out of the way, by the end of this section you will have:

  • Named your business
  • Registered a website domain name
  • Set up your business bank account

Naming Your Business

What’s in a name? Well, it turns out,  quite a lot actually.

It is beneficial to give your business a name that adequately describes what the business does.

This will help you with people remembering your name easily, and very importantly, it will make your business easier to find on the Internet because it means prospective customers can search for your business by the exact function it performs.

Thus, if you are starting a business that sells 8 ball pool tables, then it would be better to call it Pool Table Distributors, than for instance calling it Crazy 8 Pool Tables, the latter may sound better but the first will perform better overall in Internet marketing terms.

However, Crazy 8 Pool Tables still has the term “pool tables” in it and will perform better than for instance just Crazy 8.

Having a descriptive domain name like will provide you with much better search engine optimisation too.


Finding a Domain Name

You will need a domain name for your business at some stage, it is well worth checking if the domain name that matches your business name is available.

The easiest way to lookup your domain name availability is to go to and see if it is available.

You should consider registering the name for now, just so you know that you own it for later on when you build your website.

Domain registration will cost you R75 for the year, hosting is extra depending on the package you choose.

Please note: for the purposes of the implementations in this article, you do not need a domain name but it is good to have it.

Should you require a corporate email address ie., you can set that up via the hosting platform.

For more information on officially registering your business you can visit the CIPC website.


Get a Business Bank Account

The easiest and fastest way to get your bank account set up is to ask your bank for a “trading as” account, this is used for sole proprietors and means you will have an account in your business name to start making deposits into.

Most of the large South African banks offer this service.

Also try to get a credit card account as soon as you can, in order to open up a PayPal account for your business, and to purchase goods and advertising space online, when you need to.

You do not need to ask for a credit facility, just request a zero facility credit card.

The bank may take a few days to create this account for you and thus I suggest you do this as soon as possible.


How to Start a Business in South Africa

Part Two: Your Communications and Virtual Office

At the end of this section you will have:

  • Created a Google account with an email address
  • opened a Google Adwords account for keyword research and future marketing purposes
  • Set up a business telephone account or virtual office

Get a Google Account and Gmail Address

Setting up your Gmail account is important, as it allows you to easily use any of Google’s other services, which we will discuss a bit more in-depth later. Also, this will means that you can have an active email account that can easily be set up on mobile too.


Open a Google Adwords Account

Next, you are going to open a Google Adwords account, this will help you in 2 big ways.

Firstly, you will be able to use the Google Keyword Tool to evaluate the demand for your business and under which search terms people are actively searching for your product or service.

Secondly, to launch your business, you can take advantage of Google’s first-time advertisers’ vouchers.  

Sometimes Google has these voucher adverts on the Adwords homepage, and you can activate it immediately if one is not showing, I will show you how to find one a bit later in the article when we set up your campaign.


Set Up a Business Telephone Number or a Virtual Office

The fastest way to get a business phone number is by setting up a Skype telephone number.

Your number will start with the prefix area code of the Province you reside in and it looks totally professional.  It will cost you $18 for 3 months of membership, you can get the number here.

Skype calls can be answered on your desktop computer and it is available on your mobile device too, so you can answer calls from clients wherever you are and still create the impression that it is a landline.

In addition, you won’t lose your number when you change location or have to wait forever for a landline to be installed and have it, moved as your business grows.

The second option is to get a virtual office or part-time office, it has many benefits but can be a bit costly.

Regus offers a variety of options including:

A package with professional address and telephone answering service, in your company name (cheapest option).

A package with professional address and telephone answering service,  in your company name, plus access to their global network of business lounges.

Their virtual office plus package offers all the above plus five days office space for around R1600.

The other major benefit of using any virtual office package is access to renting boardrooms and meeting rooms.

If you do not require any of these then just use your current mobile number and make yourself personally available (use your name) on all your advertising and marketing.


How to Start a Business in South Africa

Part Three: Creating Your Corporate Identity

At the end of this section you will have created the following:

  • Your company logo for free
  • Your business cards created and a way to print them quickly and at low cost

Create a Free Logo Fast

Head on over to and create a free logo.

They have many free templates to choose from, you can just adapt one of the templates or start your own design from scratch.

Just look for the logo templates, you will find it by clicking the more+ button under the “create a design” section.

Canva is really easy for anyone to use, you do not need any graphic design skills. When you are done simply download the design to your desktop as a jpeg.

Create a Business Card Fast

Download your logo as a jpeg and then look for the business card design section in the Canva ‘create a design” templates section.

Again you can choose a template and design your card.

Download the card as a PDF with crop marks.Canva Business Card Design


Notice the crop marks – not my best design ever, I’m sure you can do better.

You can take this file to any Jetline Print, Minute Man or similar and ask them to lay it up on a 300g  piece of A4 board paper, it should fit at least ten cards.

Let them print and cut it for you and you will have your first business cards within no time and probably for about 30 bucks.


How to Start a Business in South Africa

Part Four: Create Your Sales Presentation and Irresistible Offer

On completion of this section you will have:

  • Created your sales and product positioning
  • Produced your sales presentation
  • Compiled your irresistible offer

Write Your Sales Page First

Writing your sales page will help you see your business or product from the customer’s perspective.

Entrepreneurs far too frequently get caught up in their own world of perfection and endlessly tweak products but often it is just unnecessary procrastination.

In order to launch fast, you need to have a minimum viable product (MVP) ready to take to market. Once you see that it is going to be successful, you can improve on it and add the bells and whistles.

By writing your sales page, you will see exactly what you are going to offer your client, and thus you can focus on making those things great.

You will use the contents of your sales page as the basis for your landing page that will be built later.

Your sales page can be in the format of a presentation (up to 4 pages) this you can use for selling to customers face-to-face. For landing pages, you can trim it down to 1 page as required.

Let’s write some sales copy

Remember when you write copy it is always about the customer and not about you.

What will they get, how will they feel using it, and what is their before and after state, when they use your product.

One of the best ways to write copy or sales pages is by using the AIDA principle as if you are writing an advert.

Attention – Your Big Idea and its major benefit – why your client needs it – why buy it from you – Get their attention.

Interest – Keep them engaged with interesting facts.

Desire – Create the compelling reason and desire for them wanting to buy your product.

Action – Use a call to action to get them to do exactly what you need them to do.

If you find the AIDA principle a bit challenging then I recommend that you try Bob Stone’s Gem, the article by Hubspot will guide you through the copywriting process.


Turn Your Sales Page into a Presentation & PDF

Here again, I would recommend using Canva, like before, the platform has great templates for laying out presentations in A4 format.

Keep it down to short paragraphs, where possible, use awesome visuals and photos and make it easy to read and use as a presentation.

The layout should be in the exact sequence you would use it to sell your product in a sales presentation.

Practise your sales technique by using the presentation and going through it page by page, explaining your product and selling it.

Usually, when you get to the last page, you could have an order form visible or anything that makes it clear that you are now at the transaction stage of the presentation.


Make an Irresistible Offer

You are launching and every new customer is worth gold. You only have one attempt in most cases to convince the client to take action or purchase, so make it a good one.

What’s important to remember is that 90% of your offer should be based on the before and after state, the customer will enjoy from using your product, and 10% about how you will deliver the outcome.

One way to make an irresistible offer is by stacking the deal, think in terms of what can you add on to make the deal much better for the buyer.

Build your own irresistible offer and include it in your sales presentation and other marketing.


How to Start a Business in South Africa

Part Five: Setting Up Your Web Sales Platform

Some serious work to be done here but at the end, you will have:

  • Set your Internet marketing objectives
  • Decided what your primary web marketing platform will be
  • Set up a landing page or website for the marketing or sales purposes of your business

Decide on Your Objective for Your Web Marketing

Before we go on to establish your web presence and whether you should choose the landing page method or the website method, you first need to decide what it is that you want to achieve by visitors coming to your web pages. The 3 best options are:

1) Sell your product or offer

2) Arrange a free consultation to see the prospective client

3) Capture their email address for a follow-up series of emails

Once you have made your decision, it becomes the complete focus of what you will do from here onwards, all your marketing messages need to be focused on achieving this objective.


What Will your Primary Web Marketing Platform Be?

There are two choices that you need to evaluate, a landing page or a website, they both have advantages and disadvantages.

The Landing Page

What is it used for?

A landing page has one function and that is to get the page visitor to take a desired action. It has no further navigation and the visitor either takes up your offer (call to action) or leaves the page.

Advantages of a landing page

Landing pages are quick to set up and you can put all your energy into just one page to make sure it looks trustworthy and visually appealing. You can rely heavily on your copywriting to sell the product or call to action.

It is direct targeting via your marketing and advertising campaigns and works well for converting visitors.

It can be very focused and speak directly to the pain or problem that you are solving for the visitor.

Disadvantages of a landing page

Your conversion copywriting and elements need to be spot on, which can be a bit of a challenge at first. Because it is only one page, visitors that are not used to landing pages may be a bit sceptical and prefer to have more info on your product or company.

The Website

What is it used for?

All your online transacting can be done from your website.

In addition, it provides in-depth detail about your company, products, track record, staff and operational capabilities.

Advantages of a website

You can go into great detail about each of your product or services. You can add a blog post section to your website and continuously add new articles and information related to your offerings.

A website provides better organic traffic via the search engine results pages. It can look more trustworthy and visually appealing than a landing page if you put real effort into it.

Disadvantages of a website

It takes a long time to create and sometimes you will require expert assistance to get it done perfectly. It is less focussed and visitors can often jump around from page to page to find more and more info but in the end, leave without considering your offer or call to action.

In the end, the choice is yours, if you want speed to market, use a landing page. If you want to deliver heaps of information use a website or set up an eCommerce store.

How to Set Up Your First eCommerce Store

The easiest way to start and test your eCommerce store is to take a free 14 day trial with Shopify South Africa. You are taking no risk and they do not require a credit card to start your trial. With a little bit of effort, you can have your store up and running within a few hours.

How to Set Up a Landing Page for Sales

The best way is to use landing page software.

GetResponse offers you one free landing page when you sign up for their email software marketing automation and landing page software on the basic package, which is $15 a month.

You can get a 30 day free trial here, without having to provide any credit card information, so if you do not wish to carry on, they cannot and will not bill you. 30 days gives you more than enough time to find out if your business will work.

Take the following steps:

Sign up and go to the landing page templates section (there are many templates for a variety of business categories).

Select your landing page and modify it using the copy you have written for your sales page.

Add visual elements like photos and trust elements.

Ensure that you include your irresistible offer.

Make your call to action loud and clear, exactly what do you want the visitor to do.

Do not over complicate your form fields or have too many, stick to your objective.

Add the email capture software in order to integrate with the GetResponse email system.

Publish your landing page and make sure you have the page url at hand for further use.

If you get stuck with any of this, GetResponse has excellent help and support files. Tech startups can also apply to for a free $600 landing pages package.


How to Set Up a Website for Sales

You may prefer to go the website route as the web presence for your company, many people do so because they believe that it represents a more complete profile of their company and its offering. This may be true, but it will take you a much longer than setting up a landing page.

There are some excellent free website builder platforms around, I recommend one of the following:

WIX or Weebly or WebStartToday has a wide variety of free and professional looking, industry-specific, website templates to choose from.

Before you start building your website consider the following:

What are the objectives of the website as a whole, is it to make sales, provide information or capture leads and email addresses, or all of the above. The reason I mention this is that from there you need to decide the objective of each page on your website.

What will be the function of your home page? Is it to help visitors navigate to your product pages or is it to sell your product right from the start.

If it is to navigate to other pages, make sure each of those pages has their own objectives too.

Remember that you will use your marketing to drive prospective customers to a specific page and offering, thus that page must be your sales page and perform the functions of a sales page, as discussed above.

Ensure you apply the copy from your sales presentation to your website and that the corporate branding and look and feel is similar to all your marketing visuals.

Some quick tips for building your website

Ensure that it displays well on mobile and desktop.

Place your telephone number and contact details at the top of your homepage and preferably the other pages too.

Your “about us” page should not be about you, but more about why you do what you do, and how you do it to satisfy the customers’ needs.

Be specific with your page title url’s so that the search engines can easily determine what is on the page.

Make sure the top part of your homepage is very specific as to what you do and what your big idea is ie. We deliver and install international standard pool tables to private residences and pool clubs.

Make your pages visually appealing and use photo’s of your work or products where possible.

Make sure your pages load fast, otherwise visitors will leave.

Focus on making your website and company look trustworthy.

Use testimonials from happy clients where possible.

Add links to your social media pages.

Add a blog page and post worthwhile articles related to your products regularly.

If you are going to go through the effort of building your own website, you may as well consider hosting it on your own domain.

Some of the free website builders will charge you for hosting on your custom domain but if you host on their servers, with their sub-domains, it is free.

Ok, now you have covered the basics of how to start a business in South Africa, let us move on to the marketing and sales aspects.

How to Start a Business in South Africa

Part Six: Building Your Local Leads Platform

Right, now it’s time for the rubber to hit the road. In the following section, we are going to create your system for getting local leads, this means phone calls and sales call-outs from people with the immediate vicinity of your business address.

This is one of the first steps anybody trying to figure out how to start a business in South Africa should take to get their marketing wheels rolling.

This set up is also called local SEO and accurately implementing the steps below will go a long way to ensuring you get regular local leads.

During this section you will set up the following:

  • The correct name, address and telephone structure to be used for your business
  • Citations in online directories
  • Your Google My Business page

It’s NAP time

No, I don’t mean it’s time to nod off, there are lots to do here.

NAP stands for name, address and phone number.

In order for search engines to verify your business across the Internet, your NAP must always be written exactly the same way on your website, social media accounts, local directories and everywhere else.

It’s best to type it down once and copy and paste it, to be the exact same everywhere else it is used.

If you write it like this:

Pool Table Distributors

12 Triangle Street


+2711808 8888

Then don’t change it at all anywhere else.

Set Up Citations in the Local Business Directories

You need to set up about 6 directory listing in order to spread your company name across the web a bit and for Google to be able to track these listings when you set up your Google My Business page next.

I suggest you do about 3 national directories like Bizcommunity, Yellow Pages, Cylex or Braby’s and 3 directories in your area of business (just Google – your area + business directories). Remember to use your NAP correctly.

Include your website address wherever you can.

Your Google My Business Page

Setting up a Google My Business page is a must, it allows your company to display in search results, on maps and it is mobile friendly, which allows customers to call you directly from their mobile phones.

Most importantly, it is a valuable source of ongoing leads for your company.

Google provides local search results for the area in which you operate from, and if you do the page set up correctly, there is no reason why you cannot feature first in the search results in your immediate business area.

Find out more about Google My Business here.

How to Start a Business in South Africa

Part Seven: Free and Paid Advertising


Start the Validation Process

Now it is time to start your business validation process. Once implemented, you will soon discover whether you are on a winning idea or not.

We will go through the following steps in order to get you the maximum market exposure:

Free advertising

Paid advertising leveraged with discounted and promotional coupons

Social media

Leveraging your current contacts

Creating a sales funnel follow up series that continues to promote your business


Free Advertising

There are many free classifieds websites in South Africa, try to place free adverts in as many as you can.

Here are some of the best classified sites:



All the web


Junk Mail

Facebook has also recently launched their classifieds marketplace, perhaps try that too.

Remember to be specific about what your offer and the benefits thereof, use images wherever you can.

You could also consider selling your physical products on sites like Takealot and BidorBuy.

A good idea here is to also read the reviews on the product to see what customers like or don’t like about the product and build it into your sales copy. To this end, the Amazon website is a good resource for reviews.

If you get good responses from these ads or perhaps even make some sales, it will be a great early indicator that you are onto a winning idea.

In addition, you should also search for industry or profession specific websites on which to list your company or yourself, for example, Behance is excellent for graphics and creative professionals.

At a later stage, you could consider joining your local chamber of commerce and related industry associations, these memberships can be expensive but their badges are great for building trust on your website, landing pages, sales presentations and other corporate documents.

Paid Advertising Leveraged with Promotional Coupons

Now it’s time put your Google Adwords to work.

Firstly, have you found a voucher yet or may’be Google emailed you one?

If you have opened your Google Adwords account earlier, you should have been targeted with a voucher by now.

They usually have two types available, one that offers you R600 free if you spend R200 or one where if you spend R600, they will match it.

The first one is obviously better. You could try searching on some of the classified sites above for a banner advert that provides the link. I found one on Vottle.

Pro tip: If you do use the R200 voucher with R600 free, make sure you set your budget to more than R200 because the voucher only kicks in after you have spent more than R200.

Setting Up your Google Adwords Campaign

You will want your Google Ads to appear in the top three result wherever possible, second place or even third place will do just fine.

In order to achieve the results, you need to pay attention to the 3 major factors Google uses to determine where they will rank your advert. These are your bid, quality score and ad extensions.

Your bid – try to keep it just high enough to get into the top 3, you will see your advert average rank in your Google Adwords dashboard and can adjust it as required.

Your quality score –  by far the most important, Google evaluates the relevancy between your advert and the content of the page to which your advert links, be sure to have the same words and terms that appear in your advert, appear on your landing page too. Google rates your quality score out of 10 and a good benchmark to try and achieve would be a score of 5 or above.

Ad extensions – these play a big part nowadays too, ad extensions make it easier for searchers to interact with your advert, these include options such as site link extensions, location extensions, call out extension and more.

The Google Adwords platform is fairly easy to use and with a bit of experimentation, you will soon figure out how it all works. Here is a brilliant article to assist you with setting up and optimising your Google Adwords campaign.

What results can you expect?

If your total budget is R230 and Google provides R600, that will amount to a spend of R830. If you pay R12 per ad click, you should get around 69 clicks on your ads. If your adverts are well set up and relevant to the clicker, you should be able to make a few sales from these enquiries.

How to Start a Business in South Africa

Part Eight: Using Social Media to Promote

Social media is very important part of your marketing mix and it provides fantastic opportunities for free and paid advertising. The more active you are in social media, the better your results will be.

On social media, you should also think in terms of providing lots of value to your prospective client, not just about your products but about the problem or pain that is at the source of the purchase too.

Try using media options like explainer videos, Facebook live, Facebook messenger, Infographics and products pictures.



You can set up a Facebook page in 10 minutes and then start marketing.

Once your page is ready, you need to attract attention to it, use the “invite friends to like your page” function to get your first followers.

Don’t be scared to ask your friends, if they would kindly ask their friends, to like your page too.

Keep posting daily and grow your community, insert links to your pages in your posts, this will lead to more visits to your website or landing page.

Facebook advertising is also very much an option to consider because it allows you to target people with a specific interest, instead of waiting for them to search Google and find your Adwords advert.

A good option to consider is Facebook Lead Ads.



Linkedin is also another good option and you should certainly consider setting up a Linkedin Business Page.

In addition, you can connect with people on Linkedin, that are by default purchasers of your product and thereafter they will be exposed to the articles you publish and you can also start establishing a relationship with them.

However, don’t just inbox them with an offer to buy your product. Take it slow and play it cool. Rather send them a link to an article (yours or someone else’s) and say “hi, I thought they might enjoy reading this”.

Linkedin has free advertising vouchers and free trials of their premium products available, like sales navigator, be sure to make use of them. You could also consider using other social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.


How to Start a Business in South Africa

Part Nine: Sales Ideas


Other methods to make your first sales and get referrals

There is an old saying in sales,”if you don’t have the phone in your hand, you aren’t making any money”.

So start off your day by phoning prospects or emailing interested parties.

Here are some things you can do to get started:

  • Search Google and compile a list of at least 60 companies you can sell your product to, then start calling them.
  • Email everybody in your email address book and let them know what you are doing, ask if they can refer you to people that may be interested in your product or service and ask if they would be interested themselves
  • Let your family and friends know that you have started a business and ask them for referrals, you could even offer incentives for referrals
  • if you have any existing customers, ask them for referrals too. Ask for referrals during your sales calls to prospective clients
  • Join Facebook groups where your prospective customers might hang out
  • Go to networking events and meet people
  • Consider doing a free seminar or webinar about your offering
  • Write useful and value-packed articles about your product or industry and submit it to publications or online news site and blogs related to your industry, as a guest post or consider doing press releases
  • Join a local BNI group (Business Network International), they usually meet once a week in groups of around 40 people, here you get a chance to pitch your product and get to know other business owners who might refer you to people and help you in other ways too.

That covers the initial sales and marketing ideas on how to start a business in South Africa. Just a few admin and technical thing to sort out still.

How to Start a Business in South Africa

Part Ten: Admin, Accounting and Getting Paid

BEE Certificate

Companies with less than R10 million turnover do not need a BEE Certificate as such, you can use an affidavit, get the full details here.


Accounts and Invoicing

To start off there are two financial documents you will have to be able to send clients:

1) A quotation for services

2) An Invoice for services

The rest of your bookkeeping is also important and you should keep excellent records of your income and expenditure but it is not “client facing”, with this I mean clients won’t see it, so it does not matter if you keep a record on Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets or in a paper-based cashbook.

You can easily create a full accounting platform once your business is going. For now, you just need professional looking invoices and quotes.

Your invoices and quotes need to contain all your business information, name, address, telephone number, logo and your banking details.

There are several free and cheap online accounting software solutions that you can get started with, some are just for initial invoicing and quoting and others will allow you to capture all your transactions right from the start.

Here are some suggestions:

Wave accounting – full-service free solution, it even connects to your bank account to help you reconcile your balances at all times.

Nvoice – a South African company with really easy to set up invoicing and quoting, with electronic mailing built in, cost R99 per month.


Taking Online Payments

There are several payment gateways in South Africa that you can use to get direct online payment or to use on your website or eCommerce store.

PayPal has an easy solution where you can simply send a request for payment to a persons email address and they can pay into your PayPal account. Even better try PayPal.Me for fast payment.

Payfast is easy for taking EFT payments and to make price-based payment buttons on your website.


I hope you have found the information in this how to start your business in South Africa article useful and wish you all the success in your business journey.

Once your business is up and running, you might want to take advantage of using tax havens in countries like the UAE.


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