Creating an LLC is one of the best ways to start your entrepreneurial journey and get the right legal structure in place for your new business. And luckily, getting an LLC for free is easy(outside of those pesky state fees)!
Now, setting up an LLC yourself is a fair amount of work. If you want to streamline the process, work with Incfile and we can file for you. But if you want to go the DIY route or learn more, we've broken it down into six easy steps so you can get started as soon as you're ready.
Learn how to get an LLC for your business in just six steps.
1. Get a Business Name
You’ll need to decide on a name for your LLC that’s not used by another business in the state. Each state does have specific business naming rules, and we have a guide to choosing the right name where you can also search to see if the name you're choosing is unique. As a general rule of thumb, your LLC name needs to meet the following guidelines:
It must be unique (meaning it's not already taken by another business).
It must end with some version of "Limited Liability Company," "Limited Company," or the abbreviation "LLC" to indicate that it is indeed an LLC.
The name needs to be easy to understand and free of ambiguity.
It needs to meet the state law requirements in which you're going to operate as a business.
All LLCs are required to have a Registered Agent — a person or business that receives official notifications and correspondence about your business. You can choose to be a Registered Agent yourself, appoint another LLC manager as a Registered Agent or use a professional Registered Agent service. You will need to provide details of your Registered Agent in your company formation document.
At Incfile, all of our business formation packages provide a free Registered Agent service for the first year.
3. Get Your Formation Document From the Secretary of State's Website
You’ll need a copy of the official company formation document from the Secretary of State for your location. Depending on the state you’re filing in, this document is known as your “Articles of Organization,” “Certificate of Formation,” or something similar.
We’ve got a complete guide to forming your LLC in each state, where you’ll find links to the relevant websites for states that will allow you to file online.
You will need to provide certain information in your document, including your business partners (if any), your business name and address, details of your Registered Agent, the purpose of your business, and the name of the incorporator.
4. Explore Other LLC Formation Options
Did you know there are other options available to businesses than just a traditional LLC? Some states will allow you to file a special type of LLC, such as a Professional LLC (PLLC) or a Series LLC. Make sure to do some more research into your options so you can make the best decision for your needs.
5. Create an LLC Operating Agreement
While creating an LLC operating agreement isn't required in many states, it is considered a best practice, especially if you're going to start an LLC with other members. Typically, an LLC operating agreement should indicate the following:
Responsibilities of all LLC members
Interest percentage of each member
Distribution of any profits and losses
Voting rights of each member
Management of the LLC
Selling and buying of members' interests
Operating agreements also outline how the management structure changes after a member leaves and how their profits are redistributed. If you are a single-member LLC, you can easily create an operating agreement on your own. If you're unsure of whether you need an operating agreement in the first place or not, seek the help of an attorney. It will be worth the expense, especially if you're going for a multi-member LLC.
6. File Your Formation Document
Once you have the formation document, you just need to fill it in, check it for accuracy, and file it with your state agency, paying the appropriate state fee.
Once you’ve filed the formal document with the state, you’ll need to wait for a notification that your LLC has been officially formed (processing times vary by state). Your state formation agency will normally provide this by mail.
What to Do After You’ve Formed Your LLC
Now that your LLC is a legal business entity, there are a few other areas you’ll need to take care of.
1. Get an Employer Identification Number From the IRS
2. Decide If You Want to Do Business Under a Different Name
Some businesses choose to trade under a different name from their official, legal name. This is known as an “assumed,” “fictitious,” or "doing business as" name.
You need to file the relevant form with your company formation agency, or we can file your assumed name for you. If you’re happy to do business under your legal business name, you don’t need to file this form.
3. Research and Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
Most businesses will need official licenses and permits to operate. These requirements may come from your city, county, or other official bodies for your sector or industry. You will need to check on all the compliance and requirements you need to meet.
Most state governments require you to file an annual report on your business every year, although this does vary.
Annual reports contain high-level information on your business, and you are required to file it and pay a fee to remain in good standing. Learn more about your ongoing filing requirements and how Incfile can help.
Other Areas to Consider
Finally, here are a few other areas you can explore to ensure your new LLC thrives:
Prepare, file, and pay your self-employment, state, sales, and federal taxes.
Trademark your business or brand name to protect it from infringement.
We hope you’ve found this guide to filing your LLC for free to be useful. If you want to set up your free LLC with Incfile, we can help. Our Silver Package won't cost you anything, aside from your state fee, and we'll even throw in free Registered Agent service for a year.
Paul is a freelance writer, small business owner, and British expat exploring the U.S. When he’s not politely apologizing, he enjoys hats, hockey, Earl Grey Tea, mountains, and dogs.