How to Register Your Small Business

You came up with a great idea for your small business, made your business plan, and picked a name, now what? First, celebrate a little! You’re taking important steps to make your dreams a reality, so give yourself a high five or do a happy dance.

Welcome back! Now, it’s time for the next step in your small business journey — registering your business. Registering your business means that your company is a separate legal entity from yourself. You don’t have to register if you’re a sole-proprietorship where you’re the only employee. Registering requires some planning and preparation, so we’ll walk you through the necessary steps.

1. Choose your business structure

How you register your small business depends on your business structure. You’ll need to register with a local state government if your company is a(n):

  • LLC
  • Corporation
  • Non-profit
  • Partnership

You don’t need to do that if your business is a sole proprietorship that uses your legal name. If you don’t use your legal name for your sole proprietorship, then you’ll need a Doing Business As (DBA) name.

2. Register your small business with your state

You can register with the Secretary of State’s office, a business agency, or a business bureau. Here are the links to the Secretary of State’s office in every state.

Get a registered agent

If your small business isn’t a sole proprietorship, you’ll probably need a registered agent to receive government notices and official and legal documents on behalf of your company. You can do this yourself or use a third-party, like a registered agent service.

File for foreign qualification

Keep in mind that if you conduct business in more than one state, you might have to file for foreign qualification, which is also known as filing as a foreign entity. You’ll have to do this in addition to registering your business with your local Secretary of State.

For example, let’s say your company is based in California and you have remote workers in Texas, New York, and Georgia. You’ll need to form your business in California and file for foreign qualification in the states where your remote workers reside if you want to avoid fees and penalties.

Get a federal tax ID

You need a federal tax ID — also known as an Employer Identification Number (EIN) — so you can hire employees, pay federal taxes, and open a bank account. Applying for an EIN is a straightforward process. You can apply online or via phone, fax, or mail.

And there you have it, you’ve registered your business!