Step 1) Verify & Secure Your Brand Name
To secure and register your brand name it must be unique, not too similar to another registered name, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording. To check, conduct a Business Entity Search through the Sec. of State, and if there are potential trademark issues conduct another quick search using the TESS System through the U.S. Patent Office.
Keep in mind your LLC name should contain words like ‘Limited Liability Company’ or ‘Limited Company’. Abbreviations for these words like ‘L.C.’ or ‘L.L.C.’ are also acceptable. If needed/available, you can file an Application for Reservation of Name to reserve for 60 days.
Filing Fee: $30.
Remember, this isn’t optional in Massachusetts-- 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) Choose A Registered Agent
A Massachusetts Registered Agent is the person or organization that receives and helps process important documents (state filings, tax forms, legal notices, etc.) on behalf of your business. They must be a Massachusetts resident or registered business entity with the state and be available during all regular M-F office hours.
You can hire an outside professional service and expect to pay up to $160/year, or get a MA Registered Agent free of charge when you form an LLC through services like IncFile.
Step 3) File An Official Certificate Of Organization
To officially register an LLC, download, fill out and submit the MA LLC Certificate of Organization with the Secretary of the Commonwealth Corporations Division. Read it carefully and don't take this step until you're ready to set up shop, ideally.
The filing is a declarative document that announces to the state the nature of your business, your operating hours, ownership information, brand name and address, your registered agent, and other basic details for the public record.
LLC Filing Fee: Online - $520, Mail - $500
Step 4) Get An EIN
Your EIN/FEIN, or Federal Employer Identification Number is used to identify your LLC and to track your business activity. Think of it like a social security number for your business.
Step 5) Open A Business Bank Account
The next step to is to a) set up a completely separate and branded business account with a great bank/credit union, then b) sync it with your business accounting software. And be sure to shop around at different banking institutions, don't just assume where you bank personally is the best fit!
These days there are a ton of perks for business accounts, both savings and checking. Banks have expanded their services by a pretty large margin so take some time. Where you build your brand's financial persona is an important decision. If you're interested check, out this brief breakdown article on Small Business Checking Accounts to see the basics of what major banks offer.
Step 6) Draft An Operating Agreement
This is a highly recommended internal document to draft for your protection as well as the brand's new LLC status.
It should outline the basic operational as well as financial rules and responsibilities. This way any relationships or partnerships related to your business will be clearly outlined so no toes are stepped on (among other reasons).
To get started, consider checking out an online template for an LLC Operating Agreement which you can customize yourself.
Step 7) Handle MA Business Taxes & Licensing
How complex this step is and how much paperwork is involved, along with fees, depends on the nature of your business. Other things to consider are whether you're going to work with the public and your specific location.
To get started, bookmark the Boston district office of the Small Business Administration and Mass.gov’s Business Services portal because they’re likely going to be go-to sources. If you need additional help, there’s a Business License Service we recommend. They determine everything required on Federal, State, County and Municipal levels, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.
Need Help Forming an LLC?
If you'd like help forming a Massachusetts LLC, feel free to read our reviews of the two most popular services.