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Before you get started, build a website, order business cards and in general get pumped up about your business, make sure someone else doesn’t have it! For Florida, www.sunbiz.org is a great place to start. If you’re outside of Florida, just Google “look up legal business name” for your state.
A sole proprietorship is a great place to start (and where I initially started mine) because it can be a very easy way to start and report taxes (a sole proprietorship is tied to your social security number and requires a simple form come tax time). That being said, the right business type will depend heavily on what type of business you’re starting and the level of liability, partners, employees, etc you may have. Seek advice from your local Small Business Administration or a local trusted tax attorney if you’re not sure. I started with a sole proprietorship and later created S Corporation as my business grew.
An EIN number is not required for a sole proprietorship but it is helpful because most banks require it. I found this out the hard way when I received my first big check – in my business name of course – and couldn’t cash it! Fortunately, the online process at www.irs.gov takes about three minutes to complete. You can view and save a pdf document with your number immediately!
I share this experience not to serve as a checklist for you (because your circumstances and state requirements will vary) but to encourage you not to let the legal process discourage you from getting started! Once you have these steps behind you, you’ll be ready to conquer the world with your new – legally official – business!