Guide
5 min read

How can I apply for an LLC online? Step-by-step guide

Published on
January 19, 2023
How can I apply for an LLC online? Step-by-step guide

Congrats – your hard work is paying off, and it’s about time for you to register for an LLC. While the fun of owning your business comes with its own rewards, the nitty-gritty of filing and paperwork might seem daunting. Calling your state’s government office just to ask a few questions? Nope – there’s definitely a better way.

Below, you're going to learn all about how to register your LLC online. Plus, with a team like doola, keep all the tasks in one place by starting your LLC formation quickly and easily.

1. Know the LLC requirements in your state.

When starting your LLC, there are a few options when it comes to where you file. Consider things like where you’ll be doing business the most, what the benefits are to filing in specific states, and what would make the most sense to you and your business.

Sometimes, business owners decide to file in a different state from where they’re located due to specific tax benefits or a specific business location need.

You can research the benefits and drawbacks of filing right in your own state versus another or let a tool like doola help you do it.

2. Pick your LLC’s name.

Now for the fun part: naming your business!

You’ve gotta be unique. No… really. It’s required to have a name that nobody else has, at least within your state. And real quick: let’s talk about an LLC name versus a business name, and the fun perk that you have when you create an LLC name.

Say you’re the business owner at Wordy Bird Content LLC. Initially, you were working as a freelance writer, but eventually, you started creating courses and offering programs to other writers looking to work freelance, and are using The Flying Writer Collective to publicly identify your business. In most cases, you can still use Wordy Bird Content LLC as the overarching business when filing taxes if it’s related enough to your LLC, even though your audience knows you as The Flying Writer Collective. So…

An LLC name: the legal name of your LLC that you’ll write on your taxes and legal documents. The same name you wrote down when you applied, with the “LLC” directly following it, i.e. Wordy Bird Content LLC.

A business name: the name of what you’re doing business as. This could be the same name as your LLC, or it could be different. Typically, it’s the name that others associate with you, at least in a particular setting. As long as you reference it through a DBA (or “doing business as”) on legal documents and other required spaces, then it’s good to go as the name that’s under your LLC, and you can likely use the income and expenditures from it to attribute to your LLC.

(Peep: as of this writing, you might find in our footer how we write out our company’s name versus our DBA. Can you spot it?)

3. File your “Articles of Organization.”

Consider the “Articles of Organization” a birth certificate for your LLC: without them, your state can’t technically recognize your LLC as an actual business.

So yes, this is a really important document to have. (If you want to make sure you remember it, file your LLC with doola. We’ll make sure you have all the required docs needed, so you’re never thinking, “wait, did I do that?” about your business.)

If you’re filing on your state’s website, then your Articles of Organization were likely a part of your filing process. You’ll want to keep it safe and handy with you; it helps if any legal issues ever come up, and it’s also a great token and reminder of your business’s start!

The “Articles of Organization” is typically made up of key details for your business, including

  • Your LLC’s name
  • Your LLC’s address
  • A business mailing address
  • Members or managers names
  • Registered agent’s details
  • Your LLC’s duration

Want this whole process all in one place? Work with a US company formation partner. Read our comparisons of the top three here: Zen Business vs. Legal Zoom vs. doola

4. Pay the filing fee.

If you’re paying to have your process streamlined like through doola, just remember the short-and-sweet step of setting aside some money to also pay your state’s filing feeds. It’s required for every LLC formation, and the cost varies by state. If you’re doing this online, then payment will be required before you receive your Articles of Organization.

5. Get a federal tax ID number.

Your EIN is your LLC’s federal tax ID number, a unique 9-digit code assigned to your business entity by the IRS. Depending on your state, getting a federal tax ID number is sometimes a separate process that you have to complete after applying for your LLC. You’ll likely be able to find this on the same site that you applied for your LLC.

6. Prep an operating agreement.

An operating agreement typically isn’t part of your LLC filing process, but it’s a hugely important step if you really want to treat your LLC as a business.

Some states require that you have operating agreements, while others are a little more lax. But either way, take control of your business and get it done, because it strengthens your legal ownership over your business.

Think about why you’re starting your LLC in the first place. Treat it as though you have a team of ten or twenty, even if it’s currently just you.

“But why would I need an operating agreement if I’m just working with myself?”

Yes, we’re going to get technical. Because technically, even your Articles of Organization doesn’t prove that you’re the owner of your LLC– just that you or someone else is a registered agent of that business. That’s why it’s vital to have all the necessary information in your operating agreement that proves your LLC is really yours.

You’ll find some of the same information on most operating agreements, including information about LLC membership (where you can ensure you’re listed as a member), profit and loss distribution, and account and record-keeping information (even if you’re the only one doing it).

If you don’t have an operating agreement, and something goes awry, your state will likely have a set of rules in order based on your current situation. But if you want full control over your business (and we know you do!) then create your own rules with your business, so you’re never caught off guard.

7. File for tax classification.

Another unique facet about LLCs is that you can pick how you want to file them. You can file them as a regular LLC, or as an S corp.

There are two forms you can pick from come tax time: IRS Form 8832, and IRS Form 2553.

IRS Form 8832

Form 8832, Entity Classification Election, allows you to pick how you want to file your LLC, with the choice between:

  • An single-member LLC, which will say something like a separate entity, or a “disregarded entity”
  • A corporation
  • A partnership

IRS Form 2553

Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation is used only if you want to file your LLC as an S Corp for taxation, and requires filling out an application and getting approved before becoming eligible to file.

There are several reasons why an LLC owner might want to file as an S Corp, including tax savings on profits and tax exemptions, but not all LLCs are necessarily ready for it. It could be a smart move for you, or it could make more sense to stick to Form 8832 until you find value in switching it over. If you’re trying to figure it out, you probably know by now that our team of experts at doola can help you along the way.

8. Register with the state for taxes.

Registering your LLC already sets you up to federal taxes, but we can’t forget about state taxes. Visit your state’s Secretary of State’s Office website or local government site to register your LLC so you can ensure you’re set up to pay state taxes.

9. Obtain business licenses or permits.

Some states require you to have a business license, and others don’t. It’s dependent both on where you live and what type of business you own. Take a look at this handy chart to see if your state requires you to have any licenses to legally operate in your area.

10. Open a business bank account.

It’s not required when you first start your LLC, but as you grow, you might start feeling like separating your work and personal finances is trickier than it was before you had your LLC. Enter a business bank account, which allows you to separate your personal and your business income with ease, so write-offs, budgeting, and more is limited to just one place.

Do you know about doola Banking? Easily open a business bank account, and use it to track, save and allocate your income with ease.

11. Grow, grow, and grow!

You’re just about done with those first steps to maintaining and building your LLC. Although registering your LLC is a one-time occurrence, there will always be regular maintenance like managing annual statements, keeping licensing up-to-date, and tracking income and expenses for tax day.

The good thing is that all the steps needed to start, manage, and grow your LLC is located right here on doola. When you form your LLC with us, you’ll get guidance on where to register, how to check off all the boxes, where to go for next steps, and even get added perks like a virtual mailbox based in the US and help setting up your bank account!

FAQs

Can you apply for an LLC online?

Yes! You can file for an LLC either through your state’s website, or through a supportive all-in-one service like doola.

Do I need an LLC for my online business?

Filing an LLC helps protect your personal property if you work for yourself. This means that if any legal issues ensue, a party won’t be able to go after your personal property like your house. So, it’s preferred to start an LLC for your online business as soon as possible.

Do all businesses have LLCs?

No, not all businesses have or are LLCs. There are different types of business structures that fit the needs of your work, including a sole proprietorship, partnership, C corp, S corp, B corp, or Nonprofit.

Can I open a business bank account without an LLC?

Some banks might let you open a business bank account without a business, but there’s little reason for it. You should have a registered business before opening a business bank account.

What is a registered agent?

A registered agent is someone– either yourself or someone else– who represents your LLC in the state that it’s filed in. (If you open your LLC with doola, you get a free registered agent for a year.)

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Doola's website is for general information purposes only and doesn't provide official law or tax advice. For tax or legal advice we are happy to connect you to a professional in our network! Please see our terms and privacy policy. Thank you and please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions.
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BIO
Arjun Mahadevan
CEO and Co-Founder
Co-founder at doola, previous Product Manager at Dropbox, and an alum of the Wharton School of Business. He’s personally processed over 100 applications and spoken to 500 customers.

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