For over a century now, the American economy has been an unstoppable juggernaut. It’s home to the world’s largest GDP ($21.2 trillion), a fact that’s made the US market enticing to both foreign and local investors.
This success can be attributed to several factors, but, undoubtedly, the leading factor is the country’s ability to attract top talent across numerous fields from all over the world.
According to recent numbers from the Statistics of US Businesses- Census Bureau- in 2019, nearly 32.5 million businesses were operating in the US. That’s more businesses than the citizens of Ireland, Slovenia, Switzerland, Finland, and Austria combined!
Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the US economy. Each year, millions of individuals venture into the entrepreneurial world, hoping to attain the American dream. Like most countries, any person looking to operate a business in the country needs to register with the local state and federal authorities.
The steps and processes involved in this endeavor tend to be involving and time-consuming, not to mention expensive. Back in the day, you had to seek the services of an attorney for legal advice. They helped you draw up necessary legal documents, operating agreements, apply for an employer identification number (EIN), set up a registered agent service, and much more.
Considering most lawyers bill by the hour, retaining them for their legal advice was very expensive. Fortunately, things have changed a lot over the past two decades. Currently, there exist multiple online business incorporation service providers like ZenBusiness, Swyft filings, Corpnet, LegalZoom, MyCorporation, LegalNature and IncFile, and many more.
Popular Online LLC Services
As a small business owner, you can now form a limited partnership, sole proprietorship, professional LLC, nonprofit corporation, etc., at a fraction of the cost required by an attorney and in record time. These company formation service providers have made it easier for everyone to open, run, and grow their business.
In this article, we shall be taking a look at the best online incorporation service provider. I will let you know what I think about the firm, what I love/hate about them, and so on. Fair warning, it’s going to be a lengthy piece, packed with tons of useful insight and advice. Without further ado, let’s dig into it.
Any business owner- small, medium, or large- looking to register their business entity, whether it’s an LLC, corporation, nonprofit, or DBA, needs to do two things before approaching an internet-based business formation company.
It isn’t necessarily a must, but it will make things easier on your end, resulting in a smoother application. The first thing you need to do is to conduct a name search on your desired business name, which virtually ensures that not only is the name available, but you can reserve it, thus guaranteeing you access to it.
Secondly, think about the State you wish to incorporate your entity. Make sure you look at their filing fee, franchise tax, annual fees, legal and court system, state corporation income tax, and other businesses incorporated in the State compared to others.
Once more, this is not necessary, but I found that this makes for a flawless registration process. I followed the same procedure and picked on Delaware, which has some of the nation’s best court systems and judges. Their bipartisan political consensus provides an added advantage to the businesses, which keep the states’ corporation statute modern and up-to-date.
Thanks to this, the State of Delaware is home to a significant fortune 500 companies. And for the reasons stated, I settled for a Delaware LLC.
Why Form An LLC/Corporation
If you operate a business, from small to large, you should consider registering it as an LLC or Corporation (S-Corp & C-Corp). There are countless benefits to registering your business under either entity. They include:
Without a doubt, the most apparent benefit to opening an LLC is the protection of your privately owned assets by limiting the liability of the company from yourself.
Additionally, there are tax benefits to an LLC, where you can avoid double taxation similar to operating a C-Corporation. Lastly, forming a Limited Liability Company makes you appear more official and substantiates the business as a legal entity.
Whether you are just about to start a new business or currently have one operating as a general partnership, upgrading to a corporation comes with lots of perks. The process is just as affordable and straightforward as forming a partnership.
Like an LLC, corporations offer limited liability by separating your assets from the business’ liability and loans. Another benefit to operating as a corporation is the tax advantages. Often, you can avoid double taxation.
A corporation establishes your business’ credibility, allows you to raise capital quickly, facilitates the smoother transfer of ownership, and quickly establishes retirement plans, including 401(k).
When It’s Wise to Use LLC/Incorporation Services
Building a business from the ground up is involving and time-consuming, especially if it’s your first ever business.
There’s a lengthy learning curve filled with potentially costly pitfalls. Hence, if you can partner up with business registration experts and delegate parts of opening the business to them, by all means, go for it.
These business formation service executives have the necessary know-how needed to effectively register your s corporation, foreign LLC, general partnership, and so on, which takes a significant load off your shoulders, giving you ample time to focus on other aspects of the business, like getting inventory and marketing.
When Not to Use LLC Formation Services
Did you know you can register a business by yourself without having to rely on any third party for the most part? You may require a bit of legal advice, but you can cover a good portion of what goes into the overall process.
For those that love DIY projects, you will find forming a limited liability company satisfying. Not only that, but you stand the chance of saving a bit of cash as well. Most business registration companies like Swyft filings, LegalZoom, Legal Nature, and CorpNet charge for services you can freely access.
The services include applying for a Federal Tax ID Number, also known as Employer Identification Number (EIN), Registered Agent, and so on. All these can be done for FREE. As rosy as this may sound, please note that it could lead to trouble later on if you wrongly file the necessary legal documents.
Thus, if registering a business is your first rodeo, it’s always best to let the professionals handle it. Cutting corners in an attempt to save a bit of cash may end up costing you money and lots of sleepless nights down the road.
Steps to Forming an LLC/Incorporation
I had previously covered the steps involved in registering a business entity using seven leading professional LLC firms, i.e., Swyft Filings, ZenBusiness, MyCorporation, LegalZoom, Legal Nature, CorpNet, and IncFile.
I take you through my entire experience setting-up my LLC business with all seven firms in those articles. You will also learn about what I love and hate about them, what their past clients have to say, and more importantly, how much they charge for the process.
So, please feel free to go back and read those individual pieces as they are filled with volumes of useful information.
Back to the story at hand. The entire process of registering an LLC involves the following steps:
State and business name
You need to pick a state for the formation and a business entity, i.e., Limited liability partnership, Nonprofit, Corporation, Doing Business As (DBA), or Incorporation.
Registered agent service
Any business operating within the US needs to have a registered agent. The individual or business is designated to receive legal documents on behalf of a business, including summons and lawsuits. They need to be available throughout official business hours.
LLC operating agreement
As part of the multiple legal documents, you will need to register your business to prepare and file an LLC operating agreement. It establishes the rights and responsibilities of each LLC member.
It also highlights details about the LLC’s internal management, such as how decisions are made, how new members are admitted, when meetings are held, and more.
File the relevant business formation paperwork with the State
All 50 states require formation documents, commonly known as “Articles of Organization,” for an LLC. Visit your State’s Secretary of State website to learn more about the requirements.
Gather all the necessary information for filing. Prepare to answer questions concerning your LLC’s organization and purpose. Complete the form and attach a cheque for the entire process to the Secretary of State. You can also submit the documents electronically.
Obtain your certificate from the State
Assuming you have correctly attached and filed the necessary paperwork with the State and are approved, you will receive your certificates and licenses from the State via mail and email.
Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Think of this as your business’s Social Security Number. The Federal tax ID number is used to identify the business, pay taxes for the business, open an account under its name, and much more. You can apply for an EIN for free by visiting the official IRS website.
Opening a business account
Throughout my experience with most LLC formation firms like Swyft filings, I noticed the Bank of America has affiliated with these business formation companies. They offer up to $450 as an incentive to open an account with them.
As part of the LLC formation package, if you choose to go with Swyft filings or Legal Nature, an executive from the bank will call you to take you through the process of opening an account with the lender. You can always opt to bank with a different lender.
Top 3 Leading LLC Formation Companies in 2020
My top 3 LLC formation company picks ZenBusiness, IncFile, and Legal Zoom. But ultimately, there can only be one winner, and my choice is ZenBusiness. Later on, I will briefly take you through my experience with their business formation service.
That being said, other notable firms include Swyft filings, MyCorporation (though it’s more like LegalZoom), Corpnet, and Legal Nature.
What to Look for In A Great LLC Formation Company
As you seek out to retain an online business formation company’s services, it’s always best to look at the firm’s rating. Among the leading independent third-party rating agencies include TrustPilot, Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Business.com, ConsumerAffairs, etc.
These guardian angels are a rich source of genuine, vetted customer reviews. No one is paid to post on these sites. Most present and past clients also use these platforms to reach out to the relevant businesses if they have issues.
As such, the websites mentioned above will help paint a clear picture of the company. This way, you can make an informed decision before getting into a contract that could end in tears.
How is the company perceived within the industry speaks volumes about its products and services? Tools such as Glassdoor allow current and recent employees of different companies to rate their employers.
Looking at what these employees have to say regarding their employer is of equal importance as what you as a business owner have to say about a business registration company. At times, they may spill insider secrets not available to the general public.
Some of the information may be vital to your decision-making process. For instance, if most employees complain about an LLC formation service provider, they won’t be motivated enough to do their job.
In turn, they could end up making errors and mistakes- whether intentional or not- ultimately affecting your business registration process.
Unless you won a lottery or come from a wealthy family, starting a business requires money, in some cases, lots of it. Thus, as a small business owner, you will be working on a shoestring budget. You can’t afford to deviate from the allocated amount.
Consequently, you need to ensure that you get the best LLC formation firm with the most competitive LLC formation package, though this doesn’t mean you need to be tight-fisted. You simply need to find the perfect balance between value and cost.
The ideal firm needs to blend business tools and services needed to register your business and run and potentially grow with the firm. If you can locate a provider that offers a suite of products and services tailored to this, then that’s the right partner for your business.
Having everything handled by one firm is ideal as it lessens the friction and lowers any chances of making a mistake. Moreover, you have peace of mind as you don’t have to always keep up with several partners and service providers. For example, if you choose ZenBusiness to handle your incorporation, let them provide you with legal service.
The importance of having access to reliable, 24/7 customer support can’t be overemphasized enough. Believe me when I say, while running your business, you will run into problems requiring legal advice and so on.
If you had the misfortune of liaising with an LLC formation company with an unreliable, unresponsive customer support team, you’d live to regret it. Hence it’s essential to do your research on a particular company before making your final decision.
Tying in with the product features, the right incorporation firm needs to have tailored services to your specific needs. The most important features include offering registered agent service, business structure documents, LLC operating agreement filing, and EIN application. However, you can’t conclude that other features aren’t important.
Such a partner will make the business registration process a walk in the park. Similarly, the services need to be competitively priced, considering some of these services are available for free, i.e., applying for an Employer Identification Number.
How many other corporation registration firms are there? How is their performance against your current provider? Never settle on the first business formation company you come across.
Always take your time to compare the various industry players. This way, you end in a better position when it’s time to pick one.
When it comes to business, two things form the cornerstone to any relationship’s success: trust and reliability. Considering you will potentially spend thousands of dollars over your businesses’ life-span, it’s paramount that you work with a reliable Incorporation/LLC formation service provider.
Like everything else on this list, it all starts with you taking your time to dissect a company. Do this in a rush, and it will cost you.
Top LLC/Incorporation Formation Company- My Pick.
Through the comparison table, you may have learned of my pick as the top business registration service provider- ZenBusiness. As the name preludes, the opening process of an LLC, Corporation, Nonprofit, and Doing Business As (DBA) is full of zen.
The firm uses technology that significantly reduces the overall cost of opening your first, second, third business. At $49 + State Fees, the firm offers the most competitive products and services. Note that the state fee varies in the different states.
If you wish to have a detailed report on my experience opening an LLC with the firm, please check the specific article’s blog. In the ZenBusiness review piece, I go far and beyond to ensure you understand what the firm is all about.
But, if you lack time to do so, here’s a recap on the top LLC service provider.
Ease of use
As soon as I had logged onto the website, I was impressed with the business’s user interface. It’s simple and straightforward. You are not bombarded with lots of information, making it easy for you to get started.
The subsequent pages are neat and feature less noise and clutter, while animations and icons are pleasant. All these go into creating a conducive, seamless process. Despite having add-ons, they are not as saturated as with other competitors. Something I appreciate.
Unlike Swyft filing, Legal Zoom, IncFile, and the rest, ZenBusiness enjoys unrivalled success. A fact that’s evident by its high ratings across industry leaders BBB and TrustPilot. Despite being one of the youngest kids on the block, it has managed to prove its worth within a short period, and below is how the firm has performed:
With such a rating, ZenBusiness is undoubtedly the industry’s envy and pacesetter in quality service.
Just as they are successful with the rating agencies, the Incorporation/LLC service provider scores high on customer support. A fact that’s led to the firm accumulating thousands of positive reviews from its customers.
Here’s what some of the thousands of happy clients had to say:
ZenBusiness has some of the most competitively priced LLC formation packages. As a small business owner, you have the option to choose from the entry-level package- “Starter,” the mid-range option “Pro,” and the best option, “Premium” packages.
You can register your business for $49 + State Filing Fees. You get FREE registered agent service for the first year, standard filing speed, an operating agreement template, and 100% accuracy guaranteed.
If you are in a rush and require quick service, the Pro and Premium packages offer to expedite and rush filing services, respectively.
Products & features
ZenBusiness offers a multitude of products and services that make running a business easier. Whether it’s a sole proprietor, s-corporation, c corporation, LLC, or Doing Business As (DBA), you are sure to get all the necessary help with setting-up. The top products and features include:
Business Formation Plans
ZenBusiness offers essential filing services and support across all three options. These services offer varying options depending on your business needs. You can always upgrade and build on your basic “starter” package once the formation is completed.
Registered Agent Service
The registered agent services act as a point of contact between the State and government. The business or person will receive service of process, correspondence, and any other essential legal notices.
As a business, you need to ensure you remain in good books with the government. With this product, you can save time and avoid costly errors through prompt annual filings.
Employer ID Number
Also referred to as a Tax ID Number, the secure 9-digit EIN is used to report business taxes, hire employees, and open a bank account under the business’ name.
Operating Agreement Template
This legal document clearly outlines actions that are acceptable to the business if the owner leaves the business. It protects the owner’s personal assets from the LLC.
Market your products and services, share your business story, build credibility, and provide an easy means of contacting you by running a business website.
Using in-house experts and automated technology, you can rest assured that all your annual reports will be filed promptly, thereby avoiding costly mistakes.
Domain Name Registration
Take the advantage to secure and register a unique domain name that you can use to create an online presence for your business. You can use it for your website, email address, and web hosting.
Business Name Reservation
Do you have an incredibly catchy name that clients can easily relate to? Why not reserve it as a business so no one else can take it as you get ready to open your business.
Business Bank Account
ZenBusiness has partnered up with a local lender (Radius Bank) to offer its clients unlimited transactions, debit cards, online banking, and a discounted bank account.
Free Business Insurance Quote
Enjoy an all-in-one coverage that saves you money and adapts to your growing business’ needs. The policy includes general liability insurance and commercial property insurance.
Business Credit Card
As a small business owner, you can access flexible funds that allow you to build and grow your business. Build your credit and track your expenses all under one roof.
$150 Google Ads Credit
Grow your business with Google, starting with a $150 ads credit, find new customers, and only pay for the desired actions from your ads.
Business License Report
Permits and licenses are a must for your business to continue to operate legally. This product ensures you have all the necessary permits, thus remaining compliant with the law.
Business Document Template Library
Get unlimited access to the over 25 most essential document templates needed to run your business. Conduct business with vendors and protect your intellectual products today!
Domain Name Privacy
Prevent your personal contact information from public access. This shield replaces your data with the details of your domain registrar; hence your information is secure.
Free Accounting Consultation
Get access to free accounting consultation at no obligations. Determine effective bookkeeping methods, accounting, and tax filing. This option is available on all three packages.
Certificate of Good Standing
Also known as a “certificate of existence” or “certificate of authorization,” this state-issued document indicates that you have met all the requirements to operate a business within the State.
Banking Resolution Template
Acts as the most efficient means of authorizing someone to open a bank account and provide a business signature. You can customize the template according to your unique needs.
New-York is among the very few remaining states that mandate newly created LLCs to publish a formation announcement in two separate newspapers. Under t la 206(b)(4), this has to be done once-a-week for six consecutive weeks.
ZenBusiness has the lowest business formation rates in the industry. Unlike their competitors, they don’t charge any filing fee- apart from the state fee, which has opened doors to new and upcoming entrepreneurs.
The exemption, among factors along with others, we shall look at, has helped raise the young business to great heights of success, beyond older, more established firms like LegalZoom. Moreover, the firm prides itself on transparent pricing. There are no hidden costs.
While other LLC/Corporation service providers charge for the essential services, as a registered agent, operating agreement, and Employer Identification Number- ZenBusiness offers these services as part of the package.
This simple act of sincerely assisting client’s set-up their businesses is appreciated by the thousands of clients. Like me, they speak positively about the company. The firm offers a business website and email through its Premium package.
ZenBusiness has an interactive map you can use to check and compare the state filing fee across all 50 states. You can also keep track of all your relevant documents stored on the cloud through your personalized dashboard. ZenBusiness offers free accounting consultation across all plans.
It is yet another admirable character of the company. As a business, the firm is socially conscious. It has helped hundreds of Americans award grants- totalling $100K+- to small businesses, which has brought several families and individuals out of poverty.
By incorporating the use of technology in their operations, the business has a short turn-around period. You are also notified via email and text as soon as your business is officially created; This is important in getting your business up and running.
ZenBusiness has one of the best customer support teams. A quick scroll through BBB and TrustPilot paints a picture of a firm that’s in sync with its customers. Like with any other LLC forming company, it has its share of complaints, but most are resolved amicably.
I believe this is one of the businesses’ strongest suits. By listening and taking care of its clients, the firm, in turn, enjoys unfathomable admiration from its peers and clients.
Unlike their counterpart- LegalZoom, which introduced online business registration services, the company is relatively young, making larger clients question their expertise. However, the firm is on a winning streak.
What I Love About
I love ZenBusiness because they make it affordable for any entrepreneur to start a business, remain compliant, and grow their venture with them. They are prompt in resolving customer complaints and are out to make a name for themselves.
They include most of the essential business registration services such as registered agent and operating agreement for free. The firm also has tons of useful legal documents offered at a reasonable price, compared to its competitors, including Swyft filing and LegalZoom.
We live in a technologically driven society. The use of technology to provide faster, effective, and reliable services to businesses is admirable.
The other six LLC formation service providers have useful products and services, but no doubt, non-can top the services, price, value, and experience as ZenBusiness. Hence, the company is my personal favorite.
I would recommend the company to any start-up and individual looking to venture into the business world. Partnering with the company has so far been smooth sailing, though with an occasional hiccup.
In my opinion, I would rate the company 9/10 due to all the information I’ve shared with you. I hope that this lengthy piece has shed a bit of light regarding starting a business and that you have found value. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. HAPPY FILINGS!
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.