Registering a business is not a complicated process, but it does take some time. First, you should be sure to find out if you even need to register your company. Your location and the nature of your business will determine if you need to go through the registration process. If you are a one-person operation, your state may not require that you register, so check with your state and local regulations to find out the specific details.

How to Register a Business 

How long does it take to register a business? The short answer is, it varies based on a number of factors. If you’re creating business under your legal name (for example, if you’re Jane Doe the copywriter and will only go by Jane Doe for business purposes), you do not need to register at all.

If you have a business name that you work under (such as JaneDoeWrites), then you do need to register. Even if you are doing a job yourself, you may want to register your business to gain personal liability protection, tax breaks and other legal benefits. Oftentimes, the easiest way is to register as a DBA, which stands for “doing business as.”

Registering a Business Online

If you want to get your business registration completed quickly, many states/municipalities offer “e-filing.” These online services are designed to make registering your business cheaper and to take less time than filing over fax or by mail.

Once the system accepts your forms and ensures all needed parts of your paperwork are filled out, your business is automatically registered with the local/state jurisdiction that you’ve filed in. When going through this process, you should anticipate spending at least 10 to 15 minutes to submit information.

There may be complex business structures that you will not be able to organize online. In these cases, you will have to make an appointment and walk through the needed forms at a government business office or fax or mail your forms. This process will, on average, take at least 30 and up to 90 days.

State-by-State Examples

Each state has a Department of Corporations or similar bureau that oversees all business legal filings for that state. The time that your business’ application will take to process is predicated on the business structure you will be using. The entire process of gaining a registered status for your business can vary, spanning from one day to over six months.

Example: Registration in Ohio

Ohio makes it easy for an individual to register their business. There are various forms that you can find easily online. Each form has a different cost and includes instructions. To file for a Limited Liability Company, for instance, articles of organization cost $99 and the form is number 533A.

All other forms for your LLC are located in the same place on the state’s website. To file online in Ohio, you need only to submit the forms and make the payments. It is fastest and cheapest if you choose to file them online.

Example: Registration in California

California also allows you to file online when you want to register a business. The state also has a form site that will allow you to access the documents you need to complete, all in one place. The cost of filing articles of organization in California is $70.

Example: Registration in Mississippi

Mississippi requires business owners to file in a specific area and also requires login IDs if you will be completing forms online. The cost for some of these forms is upwards of $200.

The length of time that it takes to get your business fully registered depends on the type of business that you have. In addition, depending on the agencies that need to look at the paperwork, every form takes a different length of time for approval.

Major Types of Businesses

Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP): LLPs need to have full registration with both their home state and the federal government to operate legally in the United States. The major advantage of an LLP is that it mitigates your liability for business debts. All owners of an LLP have limited personal liability for any accrued business debts.

Limited Liability Companies (LLC): LLC owners (members) can manage their businesses or select agents to manage operations. LLCs are allowed to have as many members as they like, including appointing corporations as members. LLPs, by contrast, are not allowed to have corporations as acting members and instead requires individuals to be partners.

Corporations (S/C classification): Whether you choose an S or C corporation, your state’s department of revenue is responsible for all tax registrations for new corporations. If you have employees, your business must have a state tax ID number. This means that before you register your corporation with your state, you will need to get the correct EIN and other tax ID information from the federal government first.

Other Types of Businesses

Nonprofits: Nonprofit entities are a bit different than other businesses because they require applying for a Federal nonprofit designation. That application process can be expedited for a fee. Typically, the federal application process for a nonprofit can take anywhere from three months to one year.

Sole Proprietorships

In most states, there isn’t a specific timeframe or regulation for registering a sole proprietorship. The Small Business Administration considers any business whose entire ownership belongs to one single person to be a sole proprietorship. Sole proprietorships commonly operate under a DBA or a single-member LLC.

Because there is no corporate structure in a sole proprietorship, many states do not require legal registrations. Registration and business licenses are two different things, however. So, Jane Doe would still need to register her business if she wants to operate legitimately.

Home businesses are typically required to register with the state in which they are located. You will also have to make sure that you can legally operate a business out of your home. To verify this, read about your local zoning codes, parking and emergency codes and industry-specific regulations, such as cottage industry laws for producing food products.

How to Register a DBA

A DBA is only necessary if your company conducts any business under a name that is not your legal name. This means that Jane Doe would not need to get a “doing business as” to use her own name, but would need one if she is doing business as JaneDoeWrites instead of under her legal name.

“Conducting business” is a broad umbrella that includes anything you would give a name that is not your own as the acting business entity. Letterhead, business cards and marketing materials all count as official business documentation. As a result, a DBA is for more than just monetary business transactions.

DBAs are essential when you are a sole proprietor who does business as your business name. However, corporations and LLCs can also use a DBA when they are doing business under any name that is different than the business name that the business was registered as.

Business Licenses

How long does it take to get a business license? You may need to obtain licenses to operate your business, depending on the industry in which you work. In addition, your industry can play a role in how long it takes to register a company. Some filings also need to go in front of local or state departments for investigation before approval.