Step 1) Verify & Secure Your LLC Name
First things first, you’ll need to choose a great business name. Choosing a unique name isn’t only important for state requirements, but also for brand recognition. If your name is too close to another established business, people could have difficulty differentiating between you and your competition.
Legally, Florida requires your LLC name to:
- Be “distinguishable” from any other registered business name in Florida
- Contain the words “Limited Liability Company” or the abbreviation “LLC” or “L.L.C.”
See Florida business name statutes section 605.0112 for more details on LLC name requirements.
What To Do:
Before filing your Articles of Organization, run a quick business name search through the Florida state website to determine whether or not your desired name is available. You may want to bookmark this link, as the Florida state website isn’t the easiest to navigate.
It’s also recommended that you search for a domain name on GoDaddy at this time to make sure there’s a decent URL available for your business. Having a business website that’s easy to find will be very beneficial to your brand!
Remember, this isn’t optional in Florida-- it’s mandatory.
Quick Note: Before you commit 100% to a name, you may also want to check that there’s a decent URL available for your business. Use Weebly to search your options. If there’s a quality domain name for purchase, we advise buying it right away. Even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, it’s going to be soon, and you might as well nail down a domain name that’ll make it easy for customers to find you!
Step 2) Appoint A Florida Registered Agent
Before officially forming your LLC in Florida, you’ll need to find a registered agent to act as the go-between for you and the state. They may be a resident of Florida, or a company that’s authorized to represent businesses in the state.
Florida does allow business owners to act as their own registered agents, but make sure to consider what it’ll entail before you sign yourself up:
- You’ll have to keep normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm) at your home or business address.
- If you run your business from home, you’ll have to make your home address public.
- There’s a possibility that you could be served in front of customers, family or friends.
Appointing a professional Florida registered agent is really in your best interest, if only to be sure that no important document goes missing or unnoticed. Keep in mind that you’ll have to provide the name and address of your registered agent on the Articles of Organization.
What To Do:
If you’re considering acting as your own registered agent, head over to our guide for a closer look at what this job entails. If it sounds like something you can handle and have the time for, then by all means, appoint yourself on your formation documents!
Otherwise, the easiest (and cheapest) way to get a professional registered agent is going through an online filing company. Some providers, like IncFile, offer a year of registered agent services for free when you form your LLC with them.
Step 3) File Articles Of Organization
Congrats, this is a big day for your company! Once you’ve filed your Articles of Organization, you’ll be a legitimate Florida business.
Florida has streamlined their formation process for businesses by allowing you to file everything online. However, filing in-person or by postal mail is still an option, too. Either way, their LLC formation documents ask for:
- The full name of your company
- The effective date your business will be formed (can be up to 5 business days prior to the date of submission/90 days after the date of receipt)
- The mailing/street addresses of your LLC’s principal office
- The name, street address and signature of your registered agent
- The name and signature of every authorized member and manager
- Your name and email address for confirmation and additional communication
What To Do:
Filing in Florida is pretty painless for many LLCs, but we still highly recommend using an online filing service for this step -- if only to get free registered agent services and other perks. They’ll take the reins on the formation process and make sure your Articles of Organization are filed correctly. Head over to our top 7 online filing services ranking to learn about what our favorite providers have to offer!
Step 4) Obtain An EIN
An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is the federal government’s way of monitoring your business activity. Think of it like a social security number for your business.
While it’s a pretty simple process, I’d recommend looking over the requirements before applying. Unlike corporations, some LLCs aren’t actually required to have EINs.
Your LLC is required to have an EIN if:
- You plan on hiring employees
- Your business has more than one member (i.e. you’re not starting a single-member LLC)
- You plan to be taxed as a corporation
Refer to this IRS page for other conditions that require an EIN.
What To Do:
There are several ways to obtain an EIN, but I’d most recommend simply doing it yourself directly through the IRS. Their free online application is the most efficient approach, as you’ll get your 9-digit number as soon as you’re done filling it out. However, there are plenty of other ways to get an EIN for free -- check out our guide to learn more.
Step 5) Draft An Operating Agreement
An operating agreement is an LLC’s governing document that outlines the ownership/management structure of the company. Especially if you’re working with partners, having an operating agreement in place is essential for settling disputes and maintaining control of your business in the face of obstacles.
Florida does not legally require LLCs to have operating agreements, so it’s up to you to pull this document together on your own. Trust us, it’s in your best interest to have a formal, written document that defines:
- Each member’s title and responsibilities
- The company’s profit and loss distribution
- What percentage of the company each member owns
- What happens if a member decides to leave
… and any other important logistical details about how your LLC will be run.
What To Do:
We think the two best approaches to creating an operating agreement are as follows:
- If you’re already using/planning to use an online filing service, add a custom operating agreement to your formation package.
- Use an online operating agreement template. Most of these services charge a monthly fee, but some offer free trials. Check out our top 3 operating agreement templates for our recommendations.
Step 6) Open A Business Bank Account
Too many entrepreneurs have made the mistake of running their business out of a personal bank account. Whether you’re starting a single-member LLC or working with partners, it’s incredibly important to keep your personal and business finances entirely separate. Otherwise:
- You’ll find yourself in a mess of trouble when tax time rolls around
- Your personal assets may be put at risk
- You won’t be able to take advantage of business banking perks
Opening a bank account designated for business expenses is a necessary first step to smart financial management.
What To Do:
Before you commit to a bank, make sure you fully understand the details of what they have to offer. Think about what your top priorities are, whether it’s online banking, easy ATM access, customer service, etc.
Depending on your location, you may shop around local banks like First Bank or credit unions like Community Credit Union. Local banks often offer small-business incentives and top-notch customer service.
That said, we also recommend checking out some national banks that operate in Florida, like Chase or Wells Fargo. To get started on your research, have a read through our top business bank accounts.
Step 7) Handle Licensing & Permits
The final step is to figure out exactly what’s required of your Florida LLC in the way of licenses, permits and taxes. Compliance requirements vary quite a bit from business to business on a federal, state and local level. That said, here are some resources for each:
- Federal: You can find a ton of helpful information on federal licenses and permits through the Small Business Association website. As far as federal taxes go, head straight to the IRS business taxes page.
- State: The Florida Department of Revenue put together a short guide to business taxes that’s a great place to start your research. Additionally, you can head over to the Florida business license portal for information on state licenses and permits you may need to obtain.
- Local: For information on municipal business requirements, contact your local chamber of commerce.
What To Do:
If the nature of your business requires you to get quite a few special permits and licenses, you may want to look into using a business license service. These companies will handle all of the research on federal, state, and local business requirements for you and send the necessary applications right to your doorstep (or inbox)!
Need Help Forming an LLC?
If you’re up for it, you may be able to handle the Florida LLC formation process on your own.
However, many new entrepreneurs choose to bring in professional assistance to make sure everything is handled correctly. Of all the resources we’ve mentioned throughout this guide, here are three we recommend:
– IncFile ($49 + state fee) = Best Price & Overall Value
– LegalZoom ($79 + state fee) = Best For Brand Recognition