Register Your Business

To register your business, you will choose a name, file paperwork, and pay necessary fees. You also have to publish a notice of intent and acquire all permits and licenses necessary to operate your business. Depending on the business structure you create and the state in which you operate your company, your steps may differ slightly.

Register the Business Structure

Registering the business structure is the most direct way to register a business name at the state level. This ensures that the company name is officially owned by you and that you can use that name to do business. To register this name, the owner has to register the type of business structure he or she plans to operate, such as:

  • An LLC, or limited liability company

  • An LP, or limited partnership

  • A corporation

  • A nonprofit

Registering the Business Structure: LLC or LP

Steps for registering an LLC or LP include:

  • Choosing a business name

  • Filing paperwork, including your articles of organization

  • Paying fees

  • Publishing your notice of intent

  • Acquiring permits and licenses

Select a business name that complies with the rules in your state. When you register an LLC, the company name has to include a term like "L.L.C.", "limited company", or something similar.

Next, you'll file necessary paperwork and pay any required fees. This usually includes writing the Articles of Organization, a document that includes descriptions of your business purpose and your company's operating agreement. Not every state requires an operating agreement, but it's still a good idea to have one. These agreements give your company an opportunity to protect itself as well as make sure it's governed by its own rules, including those relating to management structure and ownership percentages. This way, you're not subject to the default general rules of your state.

Then, you'll publish your notice of intent. Not every state requires this notice to create an LLC, so check the regulations in your state to see if it's necessary.  

Finally, you'll get all the permits and licenses required for you to legally operate your business.

Registering a Nonprofit

Steps for registering a nonprofit include:

  • Filing the articles of incorporation

  • Applying for tax-exempt status

  • Registering with the specific state(s) where you plan fundraising activities

Your articles of incorporation will include basic information about your nonprofit business, such as:

  • Business name

  • Purpose

  • Planned business location, plus more

You'll likely file your articles at the Secretary of State online portal.

When you apply for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, it can take up to 12 months for your application to be approved. Because of this time frame, apply as early as you can. You can find the application on the IRS website.

When deciding on the states you plan to raise funds in, you must consider if you'll use internet platforms for any fundraising activities. If this is the case, this part of your registration can be tricky, but it's important to adhere to all rules and guidelines concerning this. You can get more information at the National Association of State Charity Officials website.

Registering a Corporation

Steps for registering a corporation include:

  • Choosing a name

  • Picking your board of directors

  • Filing your articles of incorporation

Your business name must comply with state regulations. Just like with LLCs, you'll need to include designations like "Corporation", "Corp", or something similar in the name. You can't select a name that's already being used by another business. If you need additional information, you can check with your Secretary of State's office or website regarding specific regulations in your state.

You'll have to choose a board of directors. Your state may require you to have multiple directors or you might be allowed to have only one. Owners may serve as directors, but directors don't have to be the company's owners.

You'll have to file articles of incorporation, which includes basics about the company. Your filing fee will usually be between $100 and $800.

Incorporation is a term that covers a variety of options you have available for legally structuring your company. This includes LLCs, S-corps, C-corps, partnerships, or cooperatives. It's not legally required to incorporate. The majority of businesses in the U.S. — over 70% — are successfully run as sole proprietorships who aren't incorporated.

If you need help or information on registering your business, 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, Stripe, and Twilio.