Setting Up a Small Business


One good way to achieve financial success (i.e. make lots of money) is to do business. This is a view shared by one of the (few) millionaire forummers at Forums:

– If I want to be rich, what’s your advice for me?
It seems to me that the only way to be rich for most who aren’t suitable for the corporate ladder is a business…”

Kudos to the government, it’s extremely simple to register for a small business in Singapore.

It’s extremely cheap too.

If you think you can offer certain products and services that can generate money for you, you should consider setting up a sole proprietorship.

Yes, you can also be a freelancer, but you will be limiting yourself to smaller projects. Customers and suppliers may also insist on dealing with registered businesses and ask for official invoices, POs and such.

To assist you in your business registration, there are some comprehensive guides in ACRA and EnterpriseOne.

The guides are good, but I would summarize and extend the info with the following recommended steps:

  1. Get a new gmail account. It’s free and offers lots of space. Why use your personal email for your business when you can have a new and dedicated one?
  2. Get a new prepaid mobile number. It costs about $10 and you get to keep your personal number, well, personal.
  3. Get a Virtual Office address. For as low as $100/yr, you can “rent” a virtual office address space from one of several VO providers such as and All business communications will be sent to the rented address and you can either ask them to forward the mail to you or self-collect at their premises. By having a VO, you avoid paying hefty rents for an actual shop or office space.
  4. Login with your SingPass at BizFile and register a for a sole proprietorship. You need to provide a proposed business name, start date, description of activities, a business address (use the VO address you rented in step 3), and some personal details. Costs are $15 for “name approval” and a further $50 for the actual business registration.
  5. Open a current account with a bank. I recommend using DBS. As almost everyone here has either a DBS or POSB account, you can easily collect payment via DBS funds transfer, which is effected immediately (other interbank transfers take at least a day).

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  1. Additional tips:
    -If you are staying in HDB, there are couple of businesses that can be registered to your HDB address, thus saving the virtual office address.
    -OCBC has enterpreneur account that waive the monthly administration fee for the first 6 months, which is equivalent to 6 x SGD 20

  2. I agree with the concept of setting up business to achieve financial success. However, there are few things to take note. Setting up a business in Singapore is cheap and efficient, but the cost of failure is high. The market is too small and the opportunity cost is way too high for most Singaporeans. High Risk, Low Reward (small market). You need to keep trying or make sure you have enough captial to keep going until you find the right model. So think carefully before trying in Singapore. However, I am saying that you shouldn’t set up a business. However, I advise Singaporeans to venture abroad, and market your skills, experience and work abroad for a few years. Find a place (china, india, south america etc) that you are comfortable and try setting a business there. Setting up business in those countries are difficult but the large markets make up for the risks. I would say that the cost of failure is lower. Good luck!

  3. agree that market may be small in sg, but in general a small biz targets only a small group of customers, or a niche segment.

    even in a big country like USA, small businesses usually operate in a city like boston or nyc and thus target customers in those areas, especially so for retail type of biz. and more often than not, a profitable small biz attracts hordes of competitors and copycats from all over the country.

    on a different note however, with the increasing use of technology, the world is becoming smaller. if you leverage the internet and world wide web, it’s much easier now than before to be a regional player or even an international one. a good example is the facebook game “battle stations” developed by a local group. i heard it’s making usd1000 every single day. not bad at all for a small biz!

  4. i believe you will be required to have a local resident to be your business partner. you can try contacting the virtual office operators for more advice.

  5. I am on an employment pass working for company..I was thinking about setting up distributor company..will it work if I simply follow your steps for registration?

  6. Hi Dewi,

    With EP you can register a company but after having it you cannot work for your new company and your old company at the same time. You can apply an EP for yourself from your company and continue to work for your business.

    Search for it in internet, if not convinced, consult MOM. They are very helpful.

  7. Pingback: Setting Up a Small Business « Sitting on Boundary

  8. virtual office solutions on

    My lease states that I can only use my apartment for residential activity, so I can’t use it as my business’ physical address when registering my DBA (doing business as) or BPT (business privilege tax) licenses, among other forms.

    I don’t need a full permanent office and I can’t afford to rent one, but I need an address and obviously can’t use a PO Box.

    Can I use a “virtual office” address for this purpose, as long as they have a physical location.

    Is my best bet to find an office share or shared office space?

    I will be doing all my business from home or remotely anyway, and have no real need to actually use any office space, I just need an address.

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