Articles of Organization California

The Articles of Organization is the legal document you file with the California Secretary of State in order to officially form your limited liability company (LLC).  

In this guide, we’ll give you the links to the form and we’ll help you fill it out. You can also have a professional LLC service do the work for you.

Recommended: Northwest will form an LLC for you for just $29 plus state fees.

Woman excited that she just filed her articles of organization.

How to File the Articles of Organization in California

You can download Form LLC-1: Articles of Organization from the California Secretary of State website to file by mail or in person OR file online using bizfileOnline.

In order to file your LLC’s Articles of Organization, you will need to fill out the following information:

Section 1: LLC Name

Your LLC’s name needs to be both creative and legally compliant. 

You will need to make sure that your business name:

  • Satisfies California’s naming guidelines
  • Is not already taken by another business in California

There are certain guidelines that you will need to follow when naming your LLC:

  • You must include the words “limited liability company” — or any abbreviation (e.g., LLC, L.L.C, etc.). If this is not included, it will be added for you. 
  • You cannot use any words that suggest that your LLC is a government agency (e.g., FBI, State, etc.). 
  • You cannot use words that imply that you are offering professional services which you are not licensed to offer (e.g., lawyer, doctor, insurer, etc.). 

For a full list of naming guidelines see the California naming statute.

Check Name Availability:

Do a name search through the bizfile Online website to check your LLC name’s availability.If you are unsure about what to name your LLC, use our business name generator to brainstorm business names.

Register Your Domain Name:

You’ll want to check that your business name (or something very similar) is available as a web domain.

Find a Domain Now

Section 2: Business Addresses

You will need to provide the initial address of your designated business office. This cannot be a P.O. box. 

You will also need to provide the initial address of your LLC, but only if this is actually different from your designated office address.

This is the address that will be used by the Secretary of State for sending tax information and correspondence to your LLC.

Section 3: Agent for Service of Process

Your California agent for service of process, known as a registered agent in most states, can be either an individual or business entity, like a registered agent service.

If it is a business entity, it can be both a domestic entity or a foreign entity, as long as they are registered to do business in California.

When it comes to individuals, keep in mind that they are legally required to be California residents in order to act as your business’s registered agent. 

This means that your LLC’s registered agent can be:

  • Yourself
  • Another LLC member
  • A specialized registered agent service

Recommended: Get a year of free of registered agent services when you form your LLC with Northwest ($29 + State Fees).

Section 4: Management

You must state whether your LLC will be member or manager-managed. You can do this by clicking on one of the three options that are provided (i.e., one manager, more than one manager, or all LLC members.). 

Section 5: Purpose Statement

The following statement is pre-written in this section:

“The purpose of the limited liability company is to engage in any lawful activity or activity for which a limited liability company may be organized under the California Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act.”. 

You should not alter your statement of purpose.

Section 6: Organizer and Execution

Finally, you will need to print your full name and sign the Articles of Organization before filing them with the Secretary of State. 

How to Submit the Articles of Organization

You can mail the Articles of Organization form to:

Business Entities
P.O. Box 944260
Sacramento, CA 94244-2600

In-person filings can be dropped off at:

Business Entities
1500 11th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

Note that an additional $15 filing fee is levied on businesses that deliver their LLC’s Articles of Organization in person. 

To file online, use the bizfileOnline website. You will need to create an account.

File Online

Steps After Filing the Articles of Organization

After you have filed your Articles of Organization, we recommend taking the following steps:

1. Get an EIN

An Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number, can be thought of as your business’s Social Security number. It is used by the IRS to identify your business and ensure that it is operating legitimately. 

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an LLC is required to obtain an EIN if:

  • It hires employees
  • It is required to file excise tax forms
  • It is a multi-member LLC
  • It withholds taxes for non-wage income paid to nonresident aliens

That being said, we recommend that all LLCs get an EIN so that they can open a business bank account.

You can apply for an EIN for your LLC by filing Form SS-4.

2. Create an Operating Agreement

LLC operating agreements are legal documents that outline the responsibilities, duties, and rights of all members of your LLC.

Unlike most states, California law requires all LLCs to draft an LLC operating agreement. However, your operating agreement does not need to be filed with the Secretary of State. 

Recommended: Use our free LLC operating agreement template to create your very own LLC operating agreement quickly.

3. Apply for Business Licenses

After you have registered your LLC and applied for your EIN, you will want to ensure that your business remains “legitimate”. You can do this by applying for any local, state, and federal business licenses that you may need.

For a more in-depth overview, see our guide on how to get business licenses in California

4. Create a Business Website

Now is a good time to build a business website. A business website adds to your credibility, branding, marketing, and customer experience.

Your website can also be a gateway to your other platforms, including your LLC’s social media accounts, online stores, and contact information. 

Recommended Service: Check out the GoDaddy Website Builder to get started. 

5. Get a Business Bank Account

Next, you will want to open a separate bank account. This can offer both legal and financial benefits. 

Choosing to open a business bank account can allow you to:

  • Build your business credit
  • Access larger business loans
  • Allow you to accept credit card payments
  • Offer high-yield savings accounts

Most premium online banks also come with third-party integrations, including accounting and ecommerce tools. These can help you manage your budget, automatically detract a percentage of your revenue for your LLC taxes, and expedite your online payments. 

Besides the financial benefits, opening a business bank account can allow you maintain your LLC’s corporate veil by separating your personal and business finances.

Recommended: Interested in getting started? See our in-depth review of the best banks for startups and entrepreneurs in 2023.  

6. Build Business Credit

When you are just starting your business, you will need to build your business credit from the ground up. The fastest way to do this is by opening net 30 accounts and getting a business credit card:

  • First, you will want to open at least five net 30 accounts that report to business credit bureaus. 
  • Then, you can apply for an easy-approval business credit card from a company like BILL.

Taking these steps will help you increase your business’s cash flow and build business credit fast, which will be essential when you are applying for higher-end business credit cards and large business loans in the future. 

See our How to Build Business Credit guide for more information. 

7. Find a Business Phone System

You will also likely want to invest in a business phone system. This can go a long way in improving your credibility and can ensure that you have placed yourself in a position that always allows you to provide adequate customer service. 

Most high-end business phone systems will include the following features:

  • Unlimited calling
  • Conference calling
  • Voicemail transcription
  • Toll-free and vanity phone numbers
  • Team collaboration tools
  • Hold music

Recommended: Check out our review of the best business phone systems to get started. 

8. Get Business Insurance

As a business owner, you will also want to consider whether you will benefit from purchasing business insurance. 

This will be highly dependent on your industry, amount of risk, and business operations. It can also depend on the existence — and number — of employees in your LLC.

There are several business insurance policies that you may want to consider, although this can be highly situational. Below we have provided an overview of the most common small business insurance policies:

See our Small Business Insurance article for more information. 

9. Taxes and Accounting

Next, you will want to learn everything you need to know about how LLCs are taxed. This is important because LLCs are a very flexible business entity, and — depending on the situation — can choose to be taxed as:

  • Pass-through entities
  • C corps
  • S corps

Generally speaking, we recommend talking to a professional attorney or law firm if you are in need of the most up-to-date tax advice (e.g., whether you need to pay sales tax, etc.).

Working with an accountant can help you manage all your business expenses and taxes effectively and on time, and ensure you do not face any penalties or back taxes when starting out. 

Need help with accounting? Check out our review of the best accounting software