Step 1) Verify & Secure Your LLC Name
First things first, you’ll need to choose the perfect name for your LLC. Choosing a unique name isn’t just a legal requirement, but a key component of brand recognition. If your name is too similar to that of an existing Georgia business, people could have difficulty differentiating between you and your competition.
Legally, Georgia requires your LLC name to:
- Be distinguishable from any other registered business name in Georgia
- Contain the words “Limited Liability Company” or “Limited Company,” or the abbreviation “LLC” or “LC”
- Not exceed 80 characters
- Not contain any of the following words, unless you’re granted approval: “bank,” “credit union,” “savings & loan,” “trust,” “college,” “university,” “insurance,” “assurance,” “surety,” “fidelity,” “reinsurance,” “reassurance,” or “indemnity”
See Georgia business name statutes Code 14-11-207 for more details on LLC name requirements.
What To Do:
Before filing your Articles of Organization, I recommend running a quick business name search through the Secretary of State website to determine whether or not your desired name is available. (You might want to bookmark this link now, so you can get back to it without combing through the entire website.)
While you’re at it, this is also a good time to search GoDaddy to make sure there’s a decent domain name 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 Georgia-- 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 Georgia Registered Agent
Now that you’re almost ready to form your Georgia LLC, you’ll need to find a registered agent to act as the go-between for you and the state. Your registered agent may be a resident of Georgia, or a company that’s authorized to represent businesses in the state.
Georgia does allow business owners to act as their own registered agents, but there are a couple of things to consider before signing up for this task:
- 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
Because of all this, we think appointing a professional registered agent is key to running a successful LLC -- if only to be sure that no important documents go missing or unnoticed.
What To Do:
If you’re considering acting as your own registered agent, I recommend reading our guide for a more detailed look at what this job entails. If it sounds like something you have time for, then by all means, sign yourself up!
If you’re not up for the commitment, the easiest (and cheapest) way to get a professional registered agent is 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.
Important note: Instead of providing your registered agent’s information on your Articles of Organization, you will notify the state via your first annual registration. Make sure to file your annual registration between January 1 and April 1 of the year following your formation date! (Filing fee = $50.00)
Step 3) File Articles Of Organization
Congrats, this is a huge moment for your company -- once you’ve filed the Articles of Organization, you’ll be a legitimate Georgia business entity.
Georgia has a very streamlined approach to the Articles of Organization. All the form asks you to provide is:
- Your proposed LLC name
- The name and signature of an organizer, member, manager or attorney-in-fact of the LLC
- The date of submission
It’s worth noting that using the form above is optional -- you may draft your own Articles of Organization, as long as they’re in line with O.C.G.A. § 14-11-204. Either way, once the document is completed, you can mail or deliver it along with the $100.00 filing fee (made payable to the Georgia Secretary of State) to the following address:
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SE
Suite 313 West Tower
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
What To Do:
Filing in Georgia is pretty painless, but it’s still a good idea to work with an online filing provider for this step -- if only to get free registered agent services and other perks. They can help with every step of the formation process and make sure your Articles of Organization are filed promptly and correctly. Take a look at our top 7 online filing services to learn about our favorite providers in the industry!
Step 4) Get An EIN
An EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is the federal government’s way of monitoring your business activity. You can think of this as a social security number for your business.
While acquiring an EIN is a pretty simple process, I’d recommend reading through the requirements before applying. Unlike corporations, some LLCs aren’t actually required to have EINs.
You will need to apply for an EIN if:
- You plan on hiring employees
- Your business has more than one member (i.e. you’re not 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 the easiest one is to simply do 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 out all the required fields. However, there are plenty of other ways to get an EIN for free -- have a quick peek at our guide to learn about other application options.
Step 5) Draft An Operating Agreement
An operating agreement is a document that outlines the ownership/management structure of an LLC. Especially when working with partners, having an operating agreement in place can be a huge help in settling disputes and maintaining control of your business in the face of challenges.
Georgia 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, you’ll save yourself a lot of grief down the road by creating a formal, written document that defines:
- Each member’s title and responsibilities
- The company’s profit and loss distribution
- What percentage of the LLC each member owns
- What happens if a member decides to leave
… and any other important logistical details about how your LLC will run.
What To Do:
When it comes to drafting your operating agreement, we recommend two different approaches:
- 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
Far too many entrepreneurs have made the mistake of running their businesses out of personal bank accounts. Regardless of how you choose to run your LLC, 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 your business expenses is a crucial first step to smart financial management.
What To Do:
Do your research on what various banks have to offer in the way of online banking features, national ATM access, customer service, etc. It’s important to choose a bank that lines up with your priorities!
Shop around local options like Fidelity Bank and Georgia Credit Union. You’ll often find that local banks offer small-business incentives on top of top-notch customer service. That said, we also recommend checking out some national banks that operate in Georgia, such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo. To get started on your research, check out our favorite business bank accounts!
Step 7) Handle Licensing & Permits
The final step is figuring out exactly what’s required of your 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, so you’ll need to do a fair amount of research for each.
Here are some resources to get you started:
- Federal: You can find a ton of information on federal licenses and permits on the Small Business Association website. As far as federal taxes go, head straight to the IRS business taxes page.
- State: The SBA has a helpful guide to Georgia business taxes and licensing, although you can also head straight to Georgia’s state website. (Keep in mind that you may need to secure a state tax identification number before moving forward.)
- Local: For information on municipal business requirements, contact your local chamber of commerce.
What To Do:
Depending on the nature of your business, this step could be quite complicated. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may want to look into using a business license service. These companies will handle all of the research on federal, state, and local compliance requirements for you and send the necessary applications right to your doorstep (or inbox)!
Need Help Forming an LLC?
If you’ve got the time and energy, you may be able to handle the Georgia LLC formation process DIY-style.
However, many entrepreneurs choose to bring in professional assistance to make sure everything is handled correctly. If you do choose to go with a professional LLC formation service provider, here are two solid options we highly recommend: