A Clear and Comprehensive Guide to Starting Your Business the Right Way.
Starting a new business is one of the most powerful and exciting things you can do. You’ve got a great idea, unique products and valuable services that you want to share with the world. There’s just one small problem — where do you begin? There seems to be an almost endless list of tasks to get your business o the ground and money in the bank.
Relax, we’ve got you covered. We’re experts at incorporating LLCs and corporations, and we’ve learned a thing or two about starting and running businesses. That’s why we put together this complete and easy-to-understand business checklist — to make it faster and simpler for you to get stuff done.
Whether you’re a new entrepreneur or a business veteran, use our start a business checklist to bring your ideas to life.
We’ve even got specialized guides depending on the type of business you’re building.
Choose a Business Name
The perfect business name can be elusive! We have a complete guide to choosing the right business name. You will want to choose something that best represents your product or services while appealing to your customers and being memorable enough to stand out. You should also check that the business name isn’t used by anyone else in the state(s) where you want to conduct business. If you’re not ready to start your business yet but have the perfect name, you can normally reserve it with the business formation authority in your state.
Make Sure No Other Business in Your State Has Your Name
States do require that every incorporated business has a unique name that’s not used by any other formal business in the state. You will need to check if your business name is available by searching the company name database for your state. We’ve got links to all the information you need, and we’ve also got a specialized tool for searching your business name in the popular incorporation state of Delaware.
Get Social Media Accounts
Social media marketing and accounts are vital for any online business, so make sure you can get social media accounts in the name you choose before settling on a business name. The most important social media accounts are probably Facebook and Twitter, but depending on your field you may also want to get set up on LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit or other social media platforms. Namechk, Namecheckr and Check Usernames will all allow you to see whether social media accounts are available across various networks. If they are available, you should sign in and get the accounts as soon as possible.
Get a Website Domain Name and Email
Most businesses need a website, even if they’re not selling online. Even if you don’t have a website, it’s still worth securing your domain name so no one else can use it. You can search for and register your domain name through various domain and hosting services like Google Domains, Web.com, GoDaddy or another domain service. At the same time, you can set up your email account. Services like GSuite from Google or your web hosting provider will often allow you to use your domain name as part of your email address.
Register Your Fictitious, Assumed or “Doing Business As” Name if Necessary
You might want to conduct business under a different name from your legal entity name. For example, your official business name might be “Northwest Restaurant Holdings LLC,” but you might run a restaurant called “Portland Plants and Whole Foods.” If that’s the case, you may want to register the new name as your assumed, fictitious or doing business as name.
This can be much easier than setting up a new business since there’s much less bookkeeping and administration, and you’ll have fewer challenges with bank accounts, nances and tax returns. We have a fictitious names service and are happy to register your assumed business name on your behalf.
Formation of Your Company
Choose the Right State to Form Your Business
Before you form your business, you’ll need to choose what state you want to incorporate in. For most business owners, incorporating in your home state is the best idea. Although Delaware and Nevada are both popular states for incorporation due to legal and other bene ts, many of those advantages won’t apply to most small businesses.
Typically, you will register in your own state as a “Domestic” business, and in other states where you want to operate as a “Foreign” business. We’ve got helpful, state-by-state information that guides you through starting an LLC or corporation in every state.
Legally Incorporate Your Business
Although you can go into business as a sole proprietor or as part of a partnership, we recommend legally incorporating your business. Incorporating will give you liability protection and some tax advantages while helping suppliers, partners and customers take you more seriously.
Fortunately, incorporating your business is fast and easy. You can use services like Incfile to legally incorporate your business as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), Corporation or Nonpro t. You can gather all the information and file for your new business in a couple of hours. If you’re not sure what type of business is right for you, Incfile support team can help you choose.
Here’s how long it takes to form a business and the filing fees for each state. When you’re ready to start, we’ll guide you through every step of incorporating your business.
Get a Registered Agent for Your Business
If you’ve incorporated your business, you must have a “Registered Agent.” They’re chosen by you and can accept legal notices and other correspondence for your business on your behalf. If you’ve chosen a person as a Registered Agent, they must live in the same state where the business is incorporated. If you’ve chosen a business, they must be able to conduct business in that state. They must also have a physical street address and not a P.O. Box.
At Inc le, we provide a comprehensive Registered Agent service that’s free for the first year if you incorporate through us. Our Registered Agent service includes a dashboard where you can review documents received, get automatic notification of correspondence and get free forwarding of all official, legal correspondence.
Note that you can act as your own Registered Agent, but many business owners choose to have a professional Registered Agent service for privacy, availability or other concerns.
Obtain a Federal Employer Identi cation Number (EIN)/Tax ID Number
Whether you intend to employ people or not, we recommend getting a Federal Employment Number (EIN) from the IRS. This unique number allows LLCs, corporations and sole proprietors to identify themselves for tax purposes.
Think of your EIN as a social security number for your business. You use it when paying wages, ling taxes and paying any money you owe to the IRS. Your state government may also use an EIN for certain tax-related administration or payment. Although you can get an EIN directly from the IRS, it will probably be easier for us to get an EIN on your behalf. For a single low fee, you can get your EIN when you’re incorporating your business with us.
Trademark Your Business Name
Incorporating your business means that other businesses can’t incorporate with the same name in your state. If you want more protection than that, you can register your business name as an official trademark. We provide a complete trademark search and registration service — we’ll check if your name is already registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and then we’ll register it on your behalf if it’s available.
Satisfy All Business License and Permit Requirements
Depending on the type of business you run, you may need certain licenses from the city, county, region, state or federal government. These requirements do vary between industries. For example, to run a restaurant you will need food and hygiene certications, and if you want to sell alcohol, you will need a liquor license.
The world of permits and licensing can be complex. While the Small Business Administration website is a useful resource, there are likely to be more local and regional licenses you’ll need. Here at Inc le, we provide a Business License Research Package service to help. We’ll research all the permits and licenses you’re likely to need and tell you how to register for and obtain each one.
Create an Operating Agreement or Corporate Bylaws
Most businesses have internal rules that state how they are run. This helps avoid confusion and makes sure that all the members, managers or directors understand how decisions are made. LLCs typically use a document called an “Operating Agreement” to define how the business should run, while corporations use “Corporate Bylaws.”
Although this might sound complicated, it’s not. We can provide you with Operating Agreements or corporate bylaws that you can tweak to your exact needs. For corporations, after the corporation has been led with the state, the directors of the corporation are required to have a meeting to take care of things such as issuing shares of stock, adopting bylaws, appointing officers, etc. You should also keep minutes of directors’ meetings and corporate resolutions so you stay compliant with state rules.
Establish a Company Address or Virtual Mailbox Address
You will need to list a company address when you form your business. If you work from home, this could be your home address, or it could be your main o ce address if you have a business headquarters. In some cases, you might even choose to use a Virtual Mailbox as your address. We provide a Virtual Mailbox service across several states.
Get Business Insurance, If Needed
Most businesses should carry insurance to cover them in any unforeseen circumstances. Common types of business insurance include general liability, professional liability, business property, business vehicles, business interruption, product liability, and various profession-based insurance types. If you have employees, you will also need to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s insurance resource can help you understand the different types of business insurance and whether or not insurance is necessary for you. For comprehensive business insurance needs, you won’t go wrong with Cover Wallet.
For more information on how to form your business, see our specialized Business Formation Checklist.