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Have you finally decided to start your own limited liability company (LLC)? Perhaps you’ve got a great idea waiting to get out into the world, or maybe you just need a change of pace from the daily grind. Either way, starting a Texas LLC can help you be your own boss, create your own schedule, and enter the world of commerce.
They say everything’s big in Texas, and that’s true of the Shopify community in the state. Thousands of businesses there are using Shopify to sell their products and services, in a wide variety of industries including apparel and accessories, home and garden, and health and beauty. But there’s still plenty of room for your own business ideas, from the Texas Panhandle to the Rio Grande. Ready to get started? Let’s look at some resources for starting a Texas LLC.
Start Your Texas LLC in 12 Steps
- Choose an idea for your LLC
- Name your Texas LLC
- Create a business plan
- Get a federal employer identification number (EIN)
- File Texas certificate of formation
- Choose a registered agent
- Obtain business licenses and permits
- Understand Texas state tax requirements
- Prepare an operating agreement
- Examine business insurance options
- Understand financial considerations
- Market your LLC
What is a limited liability company (LLC)?
An LLC is a business structure that gives you some of the advantages and protections offered by a corporation, without the associated administrative hassle and cost. While a sole proprietorship can be easier to set up, it doesn’t protect your personal assets from liabilities like lawsuits and debt collection. LLCs are designed to keep your personal assets separate from your business assets. However, it’s not as easy to transfer ownership of an LLC as it is with a corporation. Additionally, your tax advantages may not be as comprehensive as with a corporation, so it’s important to understand the differences between business structures in Texas.
Is an LLC right for you?
If you're planning to start a business that includes employees, an LLC may be just the right business structure for you. It’s also a good option to consider for early-stage startups that may not have the time or resources to devote to setting up a corporation right away.
1. Choose an idea for your LLC
Before you get too far ahead of yourself, it’s good practice to take a step back and examine your business idea. Is there demand? Can it generate sustainable profits? Is it likely to be successful long-term? Spend some time developing your idea to help you understand the type of business you want to operate and what kind of business owner you want to be.
2. Name your Texas LLC
One of the first things you’ll want to do is name your business. Most registration steps on this list require you to have a business name that is unique to your enterprise.
The Shopify Business Name Generator can help you come up with a name that sticks in the minds of potential customers. Assemble a short list of business names, then search online to see if any businesses are already using them. Next, consult the United States Patent and Trademark Office database to see if any of your preferred names have been trademarked. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, use the Shopify Domain Name Generator to see if a corresponding domain name is available.
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3. Create a business plan
You’re not required to write a business plan by the State of Texas. But that doesn’t mean you should skip this step. Most business loan officers will want you to submit one as part of funding applications, and business plans are also a handy document to keep your LLC startup process on track and organized. They can also help you envision the future of your business and plan for it accordingly.
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
Writing a business plan does require some effort up front, but it’s worth it in the long run. If you need help getting inspired to write your own, you can review some business plan examples and use a business plan template as a foundation.
4. Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
When starting your LLC in Texas, there are federal tax requirements to follow, like applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Supplying this tax information number is necessary throughout many of the steps in the LLC registration process. It functions similarly to your Social Security Number (SSN) except it’s for your LLC business. Before going to the IRS website to register via their interview-style application process, make sure you have your personal SSN or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) ready. You can also register by fax, phone, or mail.
5. File Texas certificate of formation
In Texas, filing a certificate of formation, also known as a statement of information or annual report, is the step that registers your LLC with the Secretary of State’s office. A certificate of formation provides details about your company, such as the official name, contact information, address, and more. You can file your certificate of formation online via SOSDirect. Information is also available on how to file using alternate methods
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6. Choose a registered agent in Texas
A registered agent is an individual or corporation that is designated to receive court documents on behalf of your LLC, in the event that you are served with a lawsuit or pursued by debt collectors. This is one part of the LLC business structure that is designed to protect your personal assets from liabilities incurred by your business. You cannot serve as your own registered agent in Texas. More information on registered agents can be found in the Texas Secretary of State Registered Agent FAQ.
7. Obtain business licenses and permits
Businesses in many industries throughout the country are required to obtain business licenses and permits in order to operate legally. Common licenses and permits include:
- Alcohol sales
- Weights and measures
- Waste discharge
You may not need a general business license to operate in Texas, but you may need specific ones. For example, any business selling liquor needs to have a license from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The licenses and permits you need for your LLC may vary depending on where your business is located.
Complete information on which industries require licenses and permits is available in the Texas Business Licenses & Permits Handbook. Licensing and permits are administered by the Texas Economic Development Business Permit Office and applications can be made through the Governor’s Small Business Resource Portal.
8. Understand Texas state tax requirements
Your LLC may be required to pay an annual franchise tax to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. It is calculated using a revenue threshold and defined percentages, so you may not be required to pay this tax if your earnings are below the threshold.
Additionally, most sales in Texas are subject to a flat rate sales tax. Depending on where your LLC is located, you may also be required to pay an additional local sales tax. Make sure you understand your tax obligations long before you make your first sale.
9. Prepare an operating agreement
An operating agreement is a document that outlines details about your LLC, such as:
- How your business operates
- How it is managed
- How profits are shared between stakeholders
You are not required to submit an operating agreement to the State of Texas as part of the LLC registration process. But it’s still a good idea. Without one, Texas State default operating rules will apply to your enterprise, which could make it difficult to achieve your vision for the company. For help writing your own, operating agreement templates are available.
10. Examine business insurance options in Texas
Though your LLC does afford you many protections against certain types of liabilities, the protection is not comprehensive, so it’s a good idea to look at your insurance options to make sure you understand what is covered and what needs additional policies. The Texas Department of Insurance provides a substantial amount of information on your insurance options, including:
11. Understand financial considerations
By now you understand that an LLC is meant to separate business and personal assets. As part of that separation, you can open a business bank account, apply for a business credit card, and even contract a business accountant. Hiring a business accountant can be a good way to ensure your personal finances are protected and your business finances are solvent and profitable.
If you find that your LLC needs additional capital, either during startup or regular operations, you may want to apply for a bank loan, so be sure that your business plan is complete. Shopify Capital may also help you access funding.
12. Market your LLC
Determining how you’re going to raise the profile of your business and start driving awareness and sales is an important step in the LLC startup process.
Brand your LLC
There’s a good chance your branding will be the first touchpoint your audience has with your LLC. You’ll need a brand that is recognizable, memorable, unique, and attractive while showing what makes your products or services different from the competitors.
Brand elements include:
- Your company logo. Try Shopify’s Hatchful tool for easy logo creation.
- Official brand colors and imagery. Paletton is a great way to coordinate colors.
- A catchy slogan or tagline. Check out the Shopify Slogan Maker for some inspiration.
- Official fonts or typefaces for consistency across your website and marketing materials.
- The official tone and voice of your company communications.
- Your company’s brand positioning and persona.
If you need some assistance building your brand, there are helpful resources available. And don’t be afraid to bring your personal sense of style and creativity to every brand element you develop.
Build a business website
One of the most visible and far-reaching elements of your brand is your website. Many potential customers will head to your website as soon as they hear about your business, so you need to be online to greet them. Happily, building a website is not the difficult task it once was thanks to modern technology and platforms like Shopify that don’t require you to have any design or development experience to create something beautiful and functional. 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
- 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’re not sure where to begin, you can check out some marketing plan examples for inspiration.