Business licencing in Australia: The definitive guide

Starting a business requires more than just a solid business idea – You also need the right business licence. This isn’t just a bureaucratic formality. A business licence is a passport to credibility, safeguarding against unforeseen legal complexities and cementing your reputation in the marketplace. This article will guide you through the world of business licences, ensuring your venture doesn’t just survive but thrives.

Types of business licences

Each industry, be it real estate, food, or finance, carries its unique set of permissions and standards. Securing the correct business permit will safeguard your venture, while also elevating its credibility in the marketplace.


A construction venture may require a building licence, heavy machinery approval, land use permissions, or even a high-risk work permit. It would also be prudent to consider getting a Personal Accident & Illness Insurance to protect against unforeseen mishaps.

Food and beverage

When it comes to running a café, restaurant or even a food truck, different states call for different licencing requirements. For example, businesses in NSW should adhere to the Food Act 2003 and register for a NSW Food Authority licence. Meanwhile, food and beverage licences in Queensland are overseen by the Brisbane City Council.

Financial services

Businesses involved in the finance sector, whether it’s crowdfunding, offering financial advice or overseeing insurance claims, are required to have the Australian financial services licence. You can pair it with a Public Liability Insurance for a more robust safety net.


Managing a hotel involves overseeing various services and facilities within a single establishment. If you’re planning to launch your own hotel, it’d be a good idea to research local regulations to determine the types of licences required.

Real estate

Engaging in real estate activities? You’ll likely need a NSW Corporation License, which covers functions such as property sales, auctions, and management. You can add another layer of protection to your business with a Professional Indemnity Insurance.


Selling alcohol isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair. Whether it’s an on-premise, club, hotel, or special event licence, each has its requirements. Individuals serving alcohol will also have to complete the Responsible Service of Alcohol training (RSA).

Therapeutic goods

Businesses in this industry have to be registered with the Therapeutic Goods Association. Compliance with product standards and advertising guidelines as laid out by the TGA is also critical.

How to apply for a business licence

For your small business to function within the legal framework, you need to have certain registrations, business permits or licences. The ones you’ll need depend on factors such as your business structure, its location, industry sector, staffing considerations, and the business’s nature.

1. Identify the necessary business licence or permit you’ll need for your small business

The Australian business licence required is determined by your specific business needs. A food business, for instance, will require a different permit than a construction company. Resources like the Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) can guide you through what’s needed based on your business type and location.

2. Understand the application process

Each business licence or permit comes with its unique application process. Typically, you’d provide details about your business’s nature, location, and more. Some businesses might also require checks or inspections. If you find that your business doesn’t meet the criteria for a specific licence, you might need to consider adjusting your business activities or pursuing an alternative business permit.

3. Start the application process

Once you’re equipped with the required information and have ensured you meet the necessary criteria, it’s time to file your application for a business licence. Remember to double-check all details. Any oversight or errors might lead to processing delays or even rejections.

4. Stay up to date and renew when necessary

Your business licence won’t last forever. Keep track of expiry dates and ensure timely renewals. Any oversight can be detrimental, resulting in legal issues and a potential blow to your business’s standing.

How much does it cost to get a business licence?

The cost of a business licence in Australia depends mainly on two factors: the specific type of business licence you need and your business’s location.

The vast array of industries, from tech startups to eateries, means there’s a multitude of licence types, each carrying a different price tag. Add to that the influence of geographical location, where the business licence cost in Melbourne might differ from one in Brisbane.

For those seeking a more accurate estimate, the ABLIS website is a go-to resource. By entering your business details, the website will guide you towards the relevant business permits. Following this, a quick consultation with your local council will clarify the exact cost.

What if I have an online business?

The digital realm has its own unique set of rules. While your business type determines the business licence you might require, the online platform itself has additional legal considerations.

For starters, every online business needs to ensure it’s equipped with:

  • Terms and conditions
  • Privacy policy
  • Cookie policy
  • Data breach response plan

While these are the general requirements, your specific online business model might have added considerations. Seeking specialised advice is always a good strategy to ensure comprehensive compliance. Furthermore, consider fortifying your online operations with BizCover’s Cyber Liability Insurance. In a world where cyber risks are ever present, it’s a proactive step towards safeguarding your business, offering you peace of mind in the virtual space.

Why do I need a business licence?

In the business world, the right licensing is more than just ticking a regulatory box. It’s a testament to a company’s dedication to legal compliance, operational excellence, and most importantly, trustworthiness. Proper licensing prevents legal complications, while also building a bridge of credibility with stakeholders.

Ensures legal compliance

In the business landscape, the path of compliance is always the safest route. Operating without the needed business permit is a gamble, with high stakes like legal repercussions and hefty fines.

Builds credibility with stakeholders

In the business world, your reputation often precedes you. Proper business licensing speaks volumes about your commitment and professionalism. While customers appreciate quality, suppliers and investors value trustworthiness. Being licensed ensures you’re doing more than just ‘talking the talk’.

Improves financing opportunities

Thinking of scaling up or diversifying? You’ll likely need some financial backing. Financial institutions have a knack for details, and proper business licensing often tilts the balance in your favour. It shows you mean business, and you’re not cutting corners – a reassuring sign for those holding the purse strings.

Boosting business operations and safety

Having the correct business licenses in hand optimizes your business operations, while demonstrating your adherence to set regulations. It’s a commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of both your operations and employees.

Build trust with the right business licence

Australian businesses thrive not just on innovation but on trust—a trust fortified by the right business licensing. By getting the right business permit, you’re meeting a set standard while boosting your business’s reliability. And in a landscape where every detail counts, the right business license or permitcan set you apart, acting as a beacon of your dedication to quality, compliance, and most importantly, your stakeholders’ trust.

Setting up your business comes with its challenges, but safeguarding it should be hassle-free. BizCover offers instant business insurance quotes, letting you compare and secure your coverage with ease. Remember, in business, time is money. With BizCover, you can save on both.

This information is general only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording.
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