How to Start a Business in Florida

Want to start a business in Florida but not sure where to start? Our guide on starting a business in Florida will tell you everything you need to know about the steps you need to take. 

Starting your own business can be both exciting and scary. While you’re probably eager about finally putting your idea to work, dealing with all the bureaucracy can present a stumbling block. But, if you think you’re the only new entrepreneur feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, think twice. Most new business owners go through the same exact thing you are experiencing right now. 

Of course, no one can guarantee that your product will sell like hotcakes. That’s something you’ll find out after going through all the legal procedures of starting the business. Until then, we can help you make the process of starting your own company less overwhelming and confusing. 

Read our guide, take one step at a time, and you’ll be on your way to successful small business ownership in the Sunshine State. 

Test your business idea

No one can tell you whether your business idea is worth putting your money into besides your potential paying customers. So, before you start going through all the legal procedures of forming your business, it’s best to test it. 

Start by conducting market research to find out how viable your idea is. Get to know your industry competitors in Florida first. Next, reach out to your target audience to get an idea of how many potential customers are interested in paying money for your product or service. 

Once you find that there are a lot of people there who would be interested in purchasing your product, you can move to the next step: writing a business plan. 

Write a business plan

No matter where you open your business, you need to turn your idea into a well-detailed business plan. Your business plan includes all the steps you intend to follow in order to find success with your idea, from an overview of your products or services to a description of your target audience and buyer persona, suppliers, business goals, and marketing strategy. A business plan also gives banks, investors, and even potential employees confidence in your new venture.

Choose the legal structure

Once you’re done writing your business plan, it’s time to turn it into an actual business. And, the first step in that direction is to decide on the entity structure. The type of entity you choose determines how your company will be taxed, how its ownership can be structured, and even the type of work you are able to do.

There are many business structures to choose from, but the most common include: 

  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Corporation
  • Nonprofit Corporation

To help you make an informed decision, we’ve gathered all the details of each structure, including what paperwork they require, the cost of formation, and how much time it will take. 

Florida Limited Liability Company

To open an LLC in Florida, you’ll need to have the following paperwork: 

  • Form CR2E047: Articles of Organization for Florida Limited Liability Company
  • Operating Agreement
  • IRS Form SS-4: Obtain an EIN
  • Form 2553: S-Corp Election, if desired
  • Form DR-1: Florida Business Tax Application

The fee to form an LLC in Florida is $125. It’s possible to form an LLC online in Florida, which results in a fairly quick turnaround time of just a few days. If you prepare a paper form and mail it in, you can expect to wait a few weeks.

Florida Corporation

To create a corporation in Florida, you’ll need the following paperwork: 

  • Form CR2E010: Articles of Incorporation for Florida Profit Corporation
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Obtain an EIN
  • Form 2553: S-Corp Election, if desired
  • Form DR-1: Florida Business Tax Application

The filing fee to incorporate in Florida $70. If you also want a Form DR-1 for sales tax registration, expect to pay $5 more. Like LLCs, corporations can be formed online in Florida, which is usually much faster than mailing in paper forms.

Florida Nonprofit Corporation

If your goal is to provide charitable programs in your community and obtain 501(c)(3) status, the nonprofit corporation might be the right entity structure for the job. To create a nonprofit in Florida, you must prepare the following paperwork: 

  • Form CR2E006: Florida Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • IRS Form SS-4: Obtain an EIN
  • IRS Form 1023: 501(c) Tax Exempt Application
  • Form DR-1: Florida Business Tax Application
  • Form DR-5: Florida Application for Consumer’s Certificate of Exemption
  • Form FDACS-10100: Solicitation of Contributions Registration Application, or Form FDACS-10110: Exempt Charitable Organizations/Sponsors Application

When it comes to the costs of starting a nonprofit here, expect to pay $70 for incorporation. The 501(c) application has a $275 or $600 IRS fee. You’ll need to pay an extra $5 for the Florida sales tax license if applicable. And, the cost for Florida charitable registration is usually $0 or $10 in the first year, but can grow to as much as $400 annually depending on how large your organization becomes.

While the time it takes to incorporate a nonprofit in Florida is the same as it is for starting an LLC or corporation, the 501(c) exemption application can take between two weeks to six months. 

Think up a name for your business

Your business’s name says a lot about your brand and the services or products you offer. However, before you start using the first name that comes to mind, it must be available for your new business to use. In general, you cannot use the same name, or too similar a name, as a business already registered in Florida.

As part of your planning process, do a quick search on the Florida Department of State website. While final approval is reserved for when you actually submit documents to form your business, you will have a rough idea of what names you might or might not be able to use. Once your new business entity is approved, the name becomes yours (in that state) for as long as you keep your company active and in good standing.

Register with the Florida DOS

To register your new business with the Department of State, you’ll need to have several things:

  • Properly prepared and signed articles of incorporation or articles of organization
  • A business name, available for use
  • The street address of the location of your business
  • A Florida registered agent‘s name, address, and signature- the details of an individual who will accept service of process on behalf of your business
  • The corporate purpose of your business

Once the Florida Department of State approves your business, you will receive confirmation by email (if you filed online), or by mail (if you originally mailed in your forms). Keep the official file-stamped documents in your permanent records and give yourself a pat on the back – your company now exists!

Register for an Employer Identification Number

Once the entity is formed, you will also need to obtain an EIN in order to do business. If your company has a US address, and you have a valid social security number, you can easily obtain an EIN online in minutes. The IRS does not assess a fee to issue an EIN. International applicants typically must file an actual paper Form SS-4 with the IRS. 

Open a business bank account

Once you have obtained the EIN, you can open a business bank account. This will help you keep business and personal finances separate and reduce confusion during tax season. When it comes time to open a bank account, you will usually need your business’s articles of incorporation or articles of organization and EIN. The bank may require additional paperwork, such as bylaws, or your proof of identity. Either way, calling your bank before your visit will save time and help ensure you open your account then and there.

Overall, the time it takes to start earning initial revenues and providing your product depends on how smoothly you can take the steps to establish your company. While every company is unique, these steps are common to most new organizations in Florida. But, the process doesn’t need to be scary. For help with your specific situation, an attorney or accountant can provide advice on how to proceed. And, when it comes to forming your business, there are professionals to assist along the way. In no time, your business will be up and running and achieving profitability!

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