Start an LLC
Limited Liability Companies: Everything You Need to Know
Learn how to start your Limited Liability Company (LLC) the right way! Whether you want to learn how start your LLC yourself or hire us to form your LLC for you, you’ll find the easiest path forward with our pro tips and choices all outlined below.
3 Ways to Start Your LLC
No matter how you start your LLC, Northwest can help. Hire us and get everything you need: registered agent service, Privacy by Default®, free mail forwarding, and local Corporate Guides®. Choose our VIP Service for monthly financing—and start out for less than the cost of state fees.
Or, do it yourself. Our free account has tools to walk you through first steps. Our state pages give you all the state specific LLC info you need. And our LLC guide below goes over all the basics.
How to Start an LLC
1. Designate a Registered Agent
You”ll list your registered agent and office in your formation paperwork. Your registered agent must be regularly available to accept your LLC’s state and legal mail at a physical location in the state (a registered office). This means that if you opt to be your own registered agent, your name and home or office address will become part of your LLC’s permanent public record. Hiring a registered agent service can help you keep your personal information more private.
Find everything you need to know about Registered Agent Service for your LLC.
2. Name your LLC
Before you can form an LLC, you’ll need to find the perfect business name—and make sure it’s not already taken. Fortunately, every state has an online database where you can search for available names. When choosing a name, you’ll also need to avoid restricted words or phrases and include a business entity identifier, such as “L.L.C.,” “LLC,” or “Limited Liability Company.”
Check your name’s availability with a Free Business Name Search.
3. Submit LLC Articles of Organization
Now that you’ve made the big decisions, it’s time to file the LLC state form, typically called “Articles of Organization.” In most states, LLC formation documents are processed by the Secretary of State. Requirements vary, but at minimum, you’ll generally need to include your LLC’s name, your registered agent, and a signature.
We offer a free template for your LLC Articles of Organization.
4. Get an EIN
After starting an LLC, you’ll likely need a federal tax ID from the IRS. This Federal Employer Identification Number (known as a FEIN or EIN) is much like a social security number for your LLC. Every LLC that will pay taxes or hire employees needs an EIN. Apply for an EIN with the IRS by filing Form SS-4. Applying online on the IRS website typically takes just a few minutes.
Everything you need to know about getting an EIN.
5. Write an LLC Operating Agreement
Your operating agreement is the governing document of your LLC. How the LLC distributes its profits and losses, who owns what percentage of the company, how management structure is defined, everything—it’s all in the operating agreement. Your operating agreement is an internal document, so you don’t need to file it with any state agency. However, it’s not something you want to be operating an LLC without.
We have free templates for your LLC Operating Agreement.
6. Open a Bank Account
To maintain your new LLC’s limited liability, you’ll need to keep your personal assets separate from business assets—so you’ll want to open a business bank account. Opening an account typically requires a few key business documents: your Articles of Organization, operating agreement and EIN. Depending on the bank—and how clearly powers are defined in your articles and agreement—you may also need an LLC resolution to open a bank account.
Make sure you have everything you need. We offer a free LLC resolution to open an LLC Bank Account.
7. Fund the LLC
Your business bank account doesn’t do much good empty—your new LLC needs to be funded with capital contributions. Let’s say your business needs $10,000 to start. Each member would pony up a portion of that $10K from their personal money or assets to put into the new business account. In exchange, members receive a proportionate percentage of membership interest. You can change the percentages at any time if people want to contribute more later on.
Need to document all this money changing hands? We offer free LLC Forms, including capital contribution agreements and membership certificates.
8. File State Reports & Taxes
After you form an LLC, your state may require you to update or confirm your company information with a business renewal or report, such as an annual or biennial report. Occasionally, these renewals or reports are combined with other state requirements. For instance, Arkansas pairs its annual report with an annual franchise tax. Some states, like Washington and Nevada also require LLCs to file an initial report. This is a report due upon or shortly after starting your business. And of course, states have their own LLC tax requirements, from informational filings to franchise taxes.
Learn about Business Renewals & Reports.
Why Have a Registered Agent Form Your LLC?
Professionals hire registered agent services like Northwest Registered Agent to form their LLCs — but why?
Pros want their LLCs formed fast and they don’t want to pay extra for speed and competence. As a registered agent, we have offices in every state. It’s our job to know the fastest filing methods in every state. We’re on a first name with the people who work in every state’s Corporation Division. When you hire us to form your LLC, you inherently leverage our operational logistics for fast, professional service.
As your registered agent, our registered office is listed on your LLC’s formation documents. We never sell your data. We don’t list your personal information on filings if we don’t have to. It’s all part of our commitment to Privacy by Default® and achieving a level of privacy you can’t get when you file yourself or hire a standard filing service.
Free Mail Forwarding & Business Address
As part of our standard service, we include limited digital mail forwarding in every state. Plus, you can list our address as your business address. Combining business address and mail forwarding ensures an increased level of security and service unmatched in the LLC formation industry.
Knowing the in’s and out’s of every state doesn’t just help us provide faster, better service—it also helps you. We’re invested in a national team of Corporate Guides®, more than 200 local business experts you can call or email to answer questions about your LLC. No sales, no quotes, no call time maximums—our Corporate Guides® sole purpose is to provide the help you need.
Select a State:
How Our Service Works
At Northwest, we offer two different payment options for LLC formation service to choose from:
LLC Formation Service
With our regular formation service, you pay the state fees and our service fees upfront. This includes a full year of registered agent service, free limited mail forwarding, an operating agreement, and loads of free forms and tools.LLC FORMATION
This service includes an EIN plus all the same benefits as our regular formation service—registered agent service, free limited mail forwarding, operating agreement, free forms and tools. With VIP, however, you pay a small monthly fee instead of a larger upfront fee.VIP SERVICE
Once you’ve decided on your service option, hiring us to form your LLC is fast and easy. Here’s how it works:
Just choose one of the buttons below, answer a few easy questions about your business and submit your payment.
We’ll prepare your Articles of Organization and send them to the appropriate state agency for approval. In the meantime, you’ll have immediate access to your online account, where you can find useful state forms, pre-populated with your business information.
Once the state approves your filing, we notify you that your LLC has been legally formed. You can now take any necessary next steps, like getting an EIN and opening a bank account.
What is an LLC?
An LLC is a business structure much like a corporation—but with more flexibility regarding management and taxes. Like a corporation, an LLC is formed at the state level and has limited liability. This means that the debts and assets of the business belong to the LLC, not you. So if the business is sued, damages are usually limited to the LLC’s assets (not your house or car).
When it comes to taxes, LLCs are typically taxed like partnerships or sole proprietorships (but can elect to be taxed like a C or S corporation). LLCs can also self-manage, much like a partnership (but can choose to appoint managers to operate more like a corporation).
What’s the difference between an LLC and a corporation?
The major differences between an LLC and a corporation boil down to ownership, management and taxes. LLCs are owned by members. Members can manage directly or appoint managers, giving LLCs the flexibility of operating like partnerships or corporations. Corporations (except for non-stock corporations like nonprofits) are owned by shareholders. Shareholders elect a board of directors to make business decisions. The board of directors appoints officers to execute those decisions.
When it comes to taxes, LLCs are taxed as partnerships unless they choose to be taxed as S-corps or C-corps. Corporations are taxed as C-corps unless they choose to be taxed as S-corps. Corporations can’t be taxed as partnerships, meaning LLCs have greater tax flexibility.
Learn more about these differences on our LLC vs Corporation page.
How much does it cost to start an LLC?
Typically around $100. Each state sets its own fees to file LLC articles of organization, This tends to be flat filing fee, ranging from $40 (Kentucky) to $500 (Massachusetts). Tennessee, however, bases their LLC formation fee on how many members your business has, so their fee can be anywhere from $300 to $3,000.
At Northwest, we can form your LLC for just $100 plus state fees. Or, with our VIP service, you can pay a low monthly fee and get started today for a fraction of the cost of state fees.
Can a sole proprietor be an LLC?
No, but a sole proprietor can become an LLC. A sole properietorship and an LLC are two different kinds of business structures. If you’re a solo business owner that has never registered with the state to form a business entity, you have a sole proprietorship.
A sole proprietor can easily become an LLC by filing articles of organization with the state. An LLC typically has increased reporting requirements but receives benefits that are out-of-reach to sole proprietors, such as limited liability and tax flexibility.
Can an LLC be an S-corp?
Yes, an LLC can be an S-corp. An LLC is a business entity created by filing articles of organization with the state. An S-corp is simply an IRS tax classification that LLCs (and corporations) can choose if they meet the requirements. In many cases, an S-corp election can save LLCs money on employment taxes.
Learn more on our S-corp vs LLC page.
Can an LLC help me live more privately?
Yes, forming an LLC can help you reduce your public footprint. Living publicly—and giving away your data to be sold and resold—has been normalized. It’s possible to take back control of your own information in a number of ways, and in some cases, forming an LLC can help. Note that this will require taking certain steps, like hiring a registered agent service, to keep your personal information off public filings.
Learn more about how to Live Privately with an LLC.
What are the different types of LLCs?
There are several different types of LLCs that can vary depending on how you set up your business, and the state and industry in which you operate. Some common types of LLCs include:
Single Member LLC (with only one owner)
Professional LLCs (for state-licensed professions, like doctors and lawyers)
Series LLC (for LLCs needing separate liability protection for different parts of their business)
There are also LLCs taxed as S-corps and C-corps. LLC management is another way to categorize LLCs. There are member-managed LLCs and manager-managed LLCs. It’s even possible to form a nonprofit LLC in a handful of states.
Do LLCs pay taxes?
Yes and no. For an LLC with default tax classification, the company itself doesn’t pay federal taxes. Instead, profits are distributed to owners (members) who then report those earnings on their personal filings. This is known as pass-through taxation.
However, LLCs might be required to pay various state taxes, such as franchise taxes. LLCs can also elect to be taxed as corporations—in which case, the LLC itself may owe taxes.
For a deep dive into LLC taxes, see our LLC Taxes page.
Can you file an LLC yourself?
Yes, you can file articles to form your LLC yourself. However, there are a few downsides to doing so.
First, any information you list in your articles becomes a part of the public record—permanently. There’s no going back and erasing your home address or other personal info once it’s out there. When you file yourself, you are the “organizer” of your LLC and usually need to list your name and address. In most states, you can avoid putting your personal address (and in a few states, even your name) on this public doc by hiring a service like Northwest to be your registered agent and organizer.
Second, when filing on your own, it’s easy to make expensive mistakes that can cause your filing to be rejected or that can require pricey amendments down the road. At Northwest, we form LLCs across the nation every day. We know the ins and outs of every state from Alabama to Wyoming.
Why choose Northwest to form my LLC?
Maybe you prefer to keep your personal address off your public filings.
Maybe you need a registered agent, operating agreement, business address and mail forwarding—all of which is included with our LLC formation.
Maybe you have a lot of business questions our Corporate Guides® can answer for you.
Maybe you’re tired of companies selling your data.
Maybe you want to spread your fees out over time instead of shelling out for steep state fees upfront.
Or maybe you just don’t want to have to file more paperwork.
Whatever your reasons are, Northwest is here to help you start your LLC the right way.