How to buy shares in a company
Follow these 6 steps and you'll be a share owner.
Buying shares in a company is actually pretty simple. Even you can do it! Follow these steps:
- Find the right broker
- Open an account
- Fund your account
- Check you’re happy with your company
- Buy your shares
- Monitor over time
1. Find the right broker
First thing’s first, you’ll need to find a broker to buy and sell shares. Most people go for online brokers these days (though you can still find ones that work face-to-face or over the phone).
The right broker for you will depend on how confident you are when investing, whether you just want to DIY or would like a bit of hand-holding.
Ask yourself these questions to help you choose a broker:
- Are you happy to buy and sell on your own?
- Would you prefer someone at the end of a phone?
- Do you want someone who gives you ideas or are you happy to find them yourself?
- How much research and information do you need?
You should also look at the pricing structure. Some brokers offer tasty deals for regular traders which can make it cheaper to buy and sell. However, it may not be as efficient for those who want to buy and hold.
It will also depend on what else you want to trade. Will you be buying funds alongside individual shares, for example? Do you use investment trusts? Check that the broker you pick can meet your needs.
You can use our table below to help you find the right broker for you.
2. Open an account
Most brokers will have a choice of accounts and almost all will offer an ISA account and a normal fund/share account.
An ISA account will usually be your first port of call. You have a £20,000 limit each year, and it will shelter any income or capital gains on your investment from tax.
If you plan to invest more than this in one tax year, then it’s worth opening a standalone dealing account as well.
Luckily for you, we’ve got a whole other guide on the account opening process that you can check out.
3. Fund your account
You should be able to top up your account directly from your bank account. Only invest money that you are willing to risk. Owning single shares is risky.
No matter how much research you’ve done on a company, it can be difficult to see what’s around the corner. If that company gets into difficulty then you could lose some or all of your money.
A bit about dealing charges
Typically, you will pay a one-off charge for buying and selling shares. If this is a fixed amount (say, £10), it becomes more economical on larger share purchases.
Some brokers charge a percentage of the assets you hold on the platform. You will need to crunch the numbers to work out which one is likely to suit you best.
You should also factor in 0.5% of the value of the trade for Stamp Duty Reserve Tax (SDRT).
For a bit of light reading, you can check out our guide to investment fees – which will explain all the terms you’re likely to come across.
4. Check you are happy with the company
Has the share price changed since you first looked at it? If so, are you happy to buy it at the new price? It is worth checking the headlines or recent company announcements to make sure no new risks have emerged. In general, if you’re starting out, invest in companies you understand. The latest technology stock may look really good, but do you understand how it makes its money?
Equally, make sure you’re buying for the right reasons – is it because you want exposure to a fast-growing company rather than because someone has told you it seems like a good idea.
5. Buy your shares
This is usually the easy bit. If you’re online, you’ll get offered a price and you just click a button to “deal now”. You’ll receive a contract note shortly afterwards. The same is true if you buy over the phone.
6. Monitor over time
There are two ways you make money from investing: one is from an increase in the capital value of the shares, the other is when they pay dividends. You may want to set limits on the trade. For example, you could set an automatic sell if the shares lose more than 10% or gain more than 50%. This will limit how much you can lose and may prompt you to sell out when the shares get ahead of themselves.