1. Choose an Original Business Name
2. Register a DBA (Doing Business As) Name If Needed
3. Determine Your Registered Agent, Depending on Your State
4. File Your LLC's Articles of Organization
5. File Any Additional Documents and Statements

Filing an LLC application is one of the wisest decisions you can make as a business owner. The implementation of an LLC (Limited Liability Company), which is one of the most commonly encountered entity types, is a popular choice among businesses. Because an LLC offers a flexible business structure, it allows your personal assets to be free of any financial pitfalls your company might fall into.

Better yet, an LLC can be made by an unlimited amount of members from a company, not just one affiliated individual. All states boast different guidelines that need to be met before starting an LLC. Be sure to review your state's business bureau and other related agencies to uphold compliance.

Choose an Original Business Name

Coming up with a solid name for your company is a step you'll want to do with confidence, as this will be the official government name associated with your LLC. Establishing a well-thought-out name is crucial for marketing and business purposes, such as helping you create and foster brand identity.

  • Any LLC business name must comply with the rules of your state's LLC division, so it's wise to double-check those before brainstorming a name from scratch.
  • Be sure your ideated business doesn't have a name that steps on the toes of any existing LLCs or trademarks. Use WHOIS as a tool to help determine whether the logical domain for your preferred LLC name is already taken.
  • You'll actually need to use the abbreviation "LLC" or its expansion, "Limited Liability Company," in your business name
  • Your legal name, in addition to any words that your state has restricted, can't be used in an LLC name.

Register a DBA (Doing Business As) Name If Needed

The vast majority of LLCs run under their government-approved operating names. However, should you plan to operate your LLC under a name that differs from the business name you originally selected, you'll need to register that specific DBA (Doing Business As) name with your state's business bureau. This step can be done when you file your LLC documents.

Determine Your Registered Agent, Depending on Your State

The majority of states will require a registered agent to be associated with your LLC before it can be officially formed. A registered agent — who is also known as an agent for the service of process — is the individual who will be the go-to for government correspondence and slotted to receive any compliance-related documents on behalf of your LLC. Thus, one must be designated before filing your LLC application.

For most instances, the registered agent must be a physical resident of the state you are forming in but does not need to be an owner or member of the LLC itself. Just make sure the proposed agent is responsible and timely.

File Your LLC's Articles of Organization

Your business's address, business name, ownership scale and structure, and the name of the registered agent who will receive official legal documents for your company — all of these details make up your LLC's Articles of Organization, which must be filed before laying claim to your LLC. The documents themselves are easy to complete, and they can be acquired from any state's filing office or even online in some states. It's also wise at this point to make sure you have acquired any permits or license needed for your LLC to operate legally.

You'll need to determine which state you'll be conducting business in, generally determined by considering where the physical location of the operation will be and where the majority of the business's income will be generated. Generally speaking, most states only charge fees around $100 or so for filing such paperwork, but larger states like California and Washington can charge upwards of $800.

File Any Additional Documents and Statements

As part of LLC formation documents, a few states like California require a Statement of Information form that may need to be filed along with your LLC's Articles of Organization. Simply put, this is just another document that states the company name, who the partners are, and what the business address is.

After you file, you may find that your state will require you to make an official company statement, one that's published in a local newspaper or another form of local media. Some states will also require a drafted operating agreement — a document that explains how the LLC's profits will be allocated, what the voting rights of members will be, etc. — to be submitted after filing. However, not all states require this.

If you need help with your LLC application, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.