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Are you ready to seize the day and finally start that LLC you’ve been thinking about? Starting your own business can be a great way to get out of the daily race and be your own boss, and Florida is a great place to make it happen.
The Sunshine State has a tropical and business-friendly climate, from the Florida Panhandle to the Everglades. There’s already a community of thousands of Shopify store owners there, with businesses ranging from apparel and accessories to food and beverage, furniture, and sporting goods. Here are some ways you can start setting up your LLC in Florida.
How to start an LLC in Florida
- Choose an idea for your LLC
- Name your Florida LLC
- Create a business plan
- Get a federal employer identification number (EIN)
- File Florida articles of organization
- Choose a registered agent in Florida
- Obtain business licenses and permits
- Understand Florida state tax requirements
- Prepare an operating agreement
- Examine business insurance options in Florida
- Understand financial considerations
- Market your LLC
What is a limited liability company (LLC)?
A limited liability company (LLC) is a hybrid business structure that is an excellent option for many business owners. It offers some of the simplicity of a sole proprietorship balanced by some flexibility and protections from liabilities, similar to a corporation. LLCs often demand less administrative work and cost during startup and management than a corporation, but an LLC can still help protect your personal assets from legal proceedings and debt collectors. However, because LLCs may pay both federal and state tax, some additional paperwork may be required, and if your exit strategy involves selling your company, corporations can be easier to sell.
Is an LLC right for you?
If you’re planning on starting a business that will hire employees, an LLC could be a great option for your business. This structure can also be ideal for entrepreneurs founding early-stage startups who want to get off the ground quickly without the administration and cost of a corporation. If you’re not sure which business structure makes the most sense for your operation, be sure to review the differences between sole proprietorships, LLCs, and corporations.
1. Choose an idea for your LLC
Whether your LLC is based on a fully realized concept or just a dream in the back of your mind, you’ll want to develop your business idea before you get too far into the process. Working through these steps can help give you confidence to move forward with the knowledge that there is a market for your product or service, that your idea has potential longevity, and that the business suits the type of owner you would like to be.
2. Name your Florida LLC
A business name is the first piece of information you’ll need, in order to fill out the other registration forms on this list. If you already have a name in mind, great! If not, you can try the Shopify Business Name Generator for inspiration around catchy business names. The State of Florida does have some naming requirements, which you can find in the Fictitious Name FAQ.
Next, perform searches to see if anyone is already using your preferred names. This may include:
- Doing a simple online search using a search engine, such as Google
- Searching the United States Patent and Trademark Office database
- Searching the Florida Division of Corporations
When you’ve narrowed down your list, you can check the Shopify Domain Name Generator to make sure there is a corresponding web address available.
3. Create a business plan
The State of Florida does not ask you to file a business plan as part of the registration process, but it’s still a recommended step. A business plan is a great way to keep the startup process organized, define goals, and envision the future of your LLC. In addition, if you need to apply for a bank loan, the loan officer will likely want to see your business plan.
A business plan is a document that outlines:
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Management and organization
- Products and services
- Customer segmentation
- Marketing plan
- Logistics and operations plan
- Financial plan
4. Get a federal employer identification number (EIN)
LLCs in Florida are required to register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is also a federal tax requirement. This tax information number functions similarly to your personal Social Security Number (SSN) except it’s for your business. You’ll need your personal SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to complete the straightforward interview-style application. You can also register by fax, mail, or telephone.
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5. File Florida articles of organization
Articles of organization is a document that provides and makes public certain information about your LLC, such as official name, contact information, address, etc. Documents like this are sometimes referred to as statements of information, certificates of formation, or annual reports in other states. Submitting your articles of organization is the principal step in registering your LLC with the state.
6. Choose a registered agent in Florida
A registered agent is the person or corporation that you designate to receive court documents on behalf of your LLC, and is sometimes called an agent for service of process. This is one of the facets of an LLC that separates and protects your personal assets from your business activities. You may be able to serve as your own registered agent in Florida, or you can contract one of the many registered agent services available in the state. This information must be included in your articles of organization.
7. Obtain business licenses and permits
You do not have to obtain a general business license in Florida, since this is accomplished by filing your articles of organization. However, depending on your industry and location, you may need a business license for specific commercial activities. Common licenses include:
- Alcohol sales
- Firearms sales
- Weights and measures
- Waste discharge
There is no unified licensing system in Florida, so you’ll need to consult four different databases to see if any licenses apply to your LLC:
- Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- Florida state agencies
- Other licensing agencies
Try to be as thorough as possible when combing through these lists to be sure you’ve found any licenses that apply.
8. Understand Florida state tax requirements
As an LLC in Florida, you may be required to pay a state corporate income/franchise tax administered by the Florida Department of Revenue. It is a flat-rate tax that varies year over year, so be sure to check the current rate.
There is also a sale and use tax administered by the Florida Department of Revenue as well. LLCs are required to collect this tax on most types of sales in the state. There also may be a discretionary sales surtax levied by the county where your business is located on top of the sales and use tax.
As a business-friendly state, Florida does offer many tax incentives to encourage growth in the commerce community.
9. Prepare an operating agreement
An operating agreement is a document that describes the management structure of your LLC, who the main stakeholders are, and how profits are allocated. While you do not have to submit an operating agreement to the State of Florida as part of the registration process, you should know that if you do not write your own operating agreement, the State’s default laws apply, which may not be ideal for your enterprise. To get started writing yours, you can use an operating agreement template.
10. Examine business insurance options in Florida
The main point of an LLC is to protect your personal assets from liabilities incurred by your business. However, there are still some situations where insurance may be a good idea to ensure that you and your employees are protected as much as possible. Common insurance types for companies include:
- General liability
- Professional liability
- Worker’s compensation
Private insurance is available from a wide variety of firms in Florida and the marketplace is managed by the Office of Insurance Regulation. The State of Florida does require that LLCs purchase worker’s compensation insurance. More information is available from the Florida Department of Financial Services.
11. Understand financial considerations
An LLC is meant to help legally protect your personal assets from business liabilities. But it can also be a good idea to separate business and personal assets by creating a set of financial tools especially for your business:
- Open a business bank account
- Apply for a business credit card
- Hire or contract a business accountant
The accountant is likely to be a particularly useful addition to your team, providing you with valuable financial advice that can help your LLC stay solvent and profitable.
If you find yourself in need of additional funding during the startup or management phases, you can apply for a bank loan at a financial institution, or consider Shopify Capital.
12. Market your LLC
All the registration forms and online applications won’t help your LLC be a success if no one hears about your business, so the last step on the list is to market your business. Be sure to set aside time to make it happen.
Brand your LLC
If you want your LLC to get noticed, you need a recognizable, memorable, and unique brand that shows off the competitive difference your products and services make for consumers. Branding includes:
- Your company logo. Try Shopify’s Hatchful logo maker for a quick logo creation.
- Official brand colors and imagery. Paletton is a tool that can help coordinate colors.
- A catchy slogan or tagline. Check out the Shopify Slogan Maker for inspiration.
- Official fonts or typefaces.
- Your business tone and voice.
- Brand positioning and persona.
This is your opportunity to demonstrate your singular personality and creativity to your audience. Experiment, try new approaches, then refine it all into a brand that speaks to your ideal customer.
Build a business website
These days a business needs a website, even if your business doesn’t sell online. For many customers, your website will be the first place they go to learn more about your products and services. Now, building a website is easier than ever. You don’t need design or coding experience, and with a reliable platform like Shopify, your online store can be up-and-running quickly, without frustration.
To get started, you’ll need:
- Digital logo files in different sizes that suit your front page, footer, and anywhere else you want to brand your new website
- Brand colors, so you can personalize your website theme and match it to your products, services, print materials, and more
- Attractive product photos and imagery that engage users visually
- Coordinated fonts to create a consistent look and feel across all of your promotional materials
- A site map that outlines the page structure and makes it easier for you to organize all of the information you want to communicate to your customers
- Your public contact information
Promote your LLC
A marketing plan can help you effectively promote your LLC. This is a document that can help you define your promotional strategy, find an audience, and keep you on track and focused on your goals so that you can sell more products and services.
Marketing plans often include:
- An executive summary that summarizes your overall plan
- A mission statement that outlines your overarching goals and business philosophy
- Objectives that detail the specific things you want to achieve through your LLC
- A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis that can help you identify what you’re doing right and what needs to be refined
- Market research that helps you understand your industry, potential customers, and competitors
- A market strategy that details your plan of attack
- A budget that keeps your finances under control
If you need a little inspiration, there are some wonderful marketing plan examples available. And when you’re ready, it’s time to launch your LLC!