Starting your own business can be a rewarding-yet-challenging endeavor. Among all of the financial planning, business models, product considerations, marketing and employee management, the business also must be properly registered and operating legally. Although business-minded people tend to feel comfortable with the business side of opening a new company, the legality of registration can cause a great deal of stress. A competent business law attorney is a useful resource, but with enough research and preparation, you could register your own company.
Choose the business entity that is most appropriate for your goals. If you will be the only employee of your business, a sole proprietorship might be preferable. If you are going into business with others, a partnership is an option. If you would like to limit your personal liability if your company is sued, a corporation, limited liability company (LLC), or limited liability partnership (LLP) may be preferable. Make sure you are intimately familiar with the intricacies of each business entity before selecting the right one for your company.
Select an appropriate name for your company. Although your choice of business entity might impose some restrictions on your name—corporations, for instance, must include the suffix Corp., Inc., Ltd. or Co.—you are free to select almost any name as long as it is not intentionally misleading.
Ensure that you can conduct business under your chosen name. Although you might be permitted to register the name "Starbucks" in a state outside of Washington, if you then start using the name Starbucks in a coffeehouse, you would be violating copyright.
File all of the necessary paperwork with the appropriate agency, usually your state's Chamber of Commerce. The forms you will have to file vary depending on the business entity you select. Sole proprietorships require little paperwork—typically just a notice with your assumed business name—but corporations require a greater amount of filings, including articles of incorporation, corporate bylaws and an operating agreement.
Register your company in all states in which you plan to conduct business. If your company has a web presence that solicits orders—or, in the case of nonprofits, donations—you might need to register your company in every state in the U.S. Sending business mail or making phone calls to residents of a different state also might require registration in that state even if you have no physical presence there.
One of the most important considerations in selecting a business entity is determining your personal liability if something goes wrong. For instance, if you are a corporation, your personal assets probably are safe if the corporation is sued. If you are a sole proprietorship, however, your personal assets might be on the line.
Avoid company names that can be misleading. For example, if you are not officially affiliated with your state, you could not call your architecture company "Florida Government Architects." Similarly, if you are opening a law office partnership, you could not call the firm "Johnnie Cochran Law Firm" unless Mr. Cochran actually was a partner.