Company Formation Guide

The multi-step process of setting up a limited company

This guide is about the formation of Private Companies Limited by Shares, more commonly referred to as Limited or LTD companies. Registering a limited company in the UK is a straightforward process and can be completed in a few hours.

In this guide we will cover the main areas that you need to know about before you start. If you are completely new to limited companies, or are unsure if a limited company is right for you, then take a look at our guide to the benefits of forming your own limited company. If you have already fomed a limited company then take a look at our guide to the next steps.

Forming a limited company involves five main steps:

Step 1 - Limited Company Names

Your company name needs to accurately reflect your business while being memorable and concise enough for your customers to remember. No two limited companies are allowed to have the same name in the UK so you need to ensure that your company name is completely unique. Your company name will be the beginning of your business branding and will represent your business across all platforms, including the web.

Company Name Search

Your company name is an important business decision that you need to think long and hard about. As well as being unique your company name cannot be offensive or suggest a connection to the government or local authorities. Having a company name which includes 'sensitive words' can also cause problems but our Company Name Search tool can detect and highlight these for you.


Domain Names

You are almost certainly going to want some form of online presence for your business. In order to run business website or email you will need to purchase a domain name. Use our domain name search to tell you if someone else is already using your business name online.


Trade Marks

Even if your company name is available and the domain names have not been taken you may not have the right to use your chosen company name. If your chosen company name is covered by a trademark you can be stopped from using it so you need to do a trade mark search.


Step 2 - Limited Company Structures

Before you set up your Limited Company it is important to know what the structure of your company is going to be. We can help you to understand the different types of Limited Company and how to inform Companies House of your business structure.

Types of Limited Company

The most common type of limited company is a Private Company Limited by Shares - if in doubt this is what you should choose. However, there are other types, such as limited by guarantee, which can be a good choice for non-profit or community organisations.


Memorandum and Articles of Association

The Memorandum and Articles of Association set the rules and structure for every new company and are sent to Companies House as part of the formation process. Most people use a template for their Articles of Association but it is possible to write your own. Find out more about what is included in Articles of Association here...


Step 3 - Limited Company Directors and Shareholders

Once you have decided what business structure is best for you, then you should ensure that you understand what each of the company roles entails. Limited companies have Directors, Shareholders and Shares and you need to understand what each of these are and what their role in the company is.


When you set up a limited company you will need at least one director. This can be just you or you can get other people involved if you like. Directors are legally responsible for making sure the company is run properly and are the ones who are likely to end up in court if things go wrong.



While the directors run a limited company it is the shareholders who own it. They have all the power and can vote to fire or appoint the directors. Shareholders are also entitled to receive dividends, which is one of the most tax efficient ways to take money out of a limited company.



The number and value of shares you hold in a limited company dictate how much say you have in how the company is run and how much you are liable for if the company goes under. Shares can be issued in different classes with different dividend and voting rights.


Step 4 - Registered Addresses

UK limited companies need to be registered to a UK address. The company address will be made public on the Companies House website and has to feature on your website, stationary and invoices. There are some things regarding business addresses that you should consider when beginning your business.

Registered Office

In order to keep personal details separate from the company, many people choose to use a Registered Office Service rather than their home address to register their company. The Company Warehouse offers a professional registered office service that will handle your company’s important mail for you.


Scottish Limited Companies

Companies registered with Companies House for England and Wales (based in Cardiff) have to have an English or Welsh registered office. Companies registered with the Scottish Companies House (based in Edinburgh) have to have a Scottish registered office address.


Service Addresses

As well as making your registered office address public, Companies House will also list the addresses of Company Directors and Shareholders. Although this information is slightly harder to discover it is still available for anyone who wants it. Some company directors therefore choose to use a service address to keep their home private.


Step 5 - Companies House

Companies House is the official registrar of new limited companies and limited liability partnerships within the UK. It is an executive agency which handles the official companies register while also dealing with the submission of annual company accounts and returns. You should know all about Companies House before setting up your company to ensure you are familiar with their processes.

Who are Companies House?

Companies House keep the official UK government register for Limited Companies. In order to use Ltd or Limited in your company name you have to be registered with them. Our limited company formation packages look after this registration process for you.


Certificate of Incorporation

Once your company has been formed at Companies House you will receive your Certificate of Incorporation which shows your company number. This proves that your company exists but does not show who owns it. Find out what your Certificate of Incorporation includes here...


How long does it take?

Company formation in the UK is pretty quick. From the point where a company is submitted to Companies House it typically takes 3 to 5 hours for the company to be formed. However the company can be rejected for a number of reasons. We check all companies before submitting them to flag potential problems and, in most cases, will re-submit them for free.


company formation step 1 - choose company structure
company formation step 2 - manage your company via our control panel
company formation setp 3 - get help and support for your new company
company formation step 4 - grow your business