1. Choose a Structure for Your Business
2. Choose a Location
3. Choose a Name
4. Secure a Domain Name
5. File Formation Papers
6. Launch the Company Website

To register my business online, I need to follow the same steps as registering any business type, like choosing a structure, location, name, filing with the state, and launching my website. 

Choose a Structure for Your Business

The first step in starting a business is deciding on the type of business you would like to run. Your choices include:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Limited liability company (LLC)
  • Corporation (C corporation or S corporation)

Smaller-run businesses will likely choose a sole proprietorship, especially when operated by an individual or couple. This is the simplest of the business structures and requires the least amount of paperwork. The main downside is the lack of liability protection should the business run into legal issues. 

LLCs and corporations tend to be more popular with business startups. They offer protection from liability and the opportunity for growth. One of the biggest differences between LLCs and corporations is the regulations. LLCs offer quite a bit of flexibility under state rules and requirements. There is less paperwork and annual filing required to run an LLC versus a corporation. 

Corporations are usually the best setup for companies who hope to build a large network of investors. 

Choose a Location

One of the first things you'll need to do to start your business is file paperwork. This means contacting the state in which you plan to do business, so you'll need to choose a location for your company. 

You can run a business as a foreign LLC or corporation, meaning that you are registered to do business in a state outside of where the actual company is located, but this can be a bit of a hassle and require extra paperwork. 

Choose a Name

You'll also need to choose a good name for your business during the process of startup. Give careful consideration to this particular task as this is how future clients or customers will find and know you. 

Watch out for the following potential issues when choosing a name:

  • Trademark infringement
  • Name availability
  • Domain name availability
  • State name requirements
  • Marketability 

The best way to be sure that your desired business name is available is to conduct a business entity search on the Secretary of State website where you plan to do business. 

Secure a Domain Name

Once you've decided on the perfect name for your business and found that it is available for use in your state, you'll want to reserve or register a matching domain name. It is a good idea to check the availability of the domain name before registering with the state because you want to be able to have a domain name that matches your business name for easy searching for customers. 

A domain name is the name of your business' web address. One way to check the availability of a domain name is to type the name that you're hoping to use into the search bar in your browser and see what comes up. If there are no existing websites with your desired name, it's likely available for use. 

There are several companies available online that offer domain name reservation and registration. Typically, you can reserve a domain name for a set period of time. This is helpful if you're starting your business, but aren't quite ready to launch the company website. 

File Formation Papers

Every state has different requirements for business registration. Usually, entrepreneurs need to file some kind of formation papers with the state. There is often a filing fee required as well, which is also different depending on the state. 

After you've successfully registered your business, you'll get a confirmation of the entity's existence. 

Launch the Company Website

Finally, if you want your business to have an online presence, you'll need to launch a company website. The same company that provided you with domain name registration will probably also offer web hosting for your site. This is basically the place where your business's website will live online. 

There are plenty of resources available for do-it-yourself website building, but it can be a huge help and benefit to the business to hire a professional web designer to handle the task. A web designer can help you make sure that your business is well-represented online. Many times, the first impression that clients or customers will get of your business is the company website, so you want it to impress. 

If you need help with registering your business online, 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.