You’re probably wondering why you should incorporate online into your merchandising strategy.
It’s a fair question as the benefits of incorporating online is not always easy to see.
In fact, if you want to keep up with this rapidly evolving space, you need to understand what businesses are doing on the internet and how it can benefit your bottom line.
How to Incorporate Online
If you’re wondering how to incorporate online into your business, the first thing you need to do is explore.
You won’t find answers in a book or by reading articles like this one; you need to see for yourself what’s out there.
The best way to determine if incorporating online will work for you and your company is to log on and see what the possibilities are.
While your best plan of action may be to check out what other businesses are doing online, you can’t just look around and hope that inspiration strikes.
The key is to put yourself in a situation where you’re likely to find answers, no matter how cryptic or confusing they may seem at first glance.
Where to Register Your Corporation
Incorporating online doesn’t necessarily mean that your business has to be completely virtual.
However, if you’re planning on running your business from a home office, the internet is probably going to play an important role in how you conduct business and operate within the industry.
In other words, where you register your corporation depends on the nature of your business. For small businesses doing most of their work online, it may make sense to incorporate in Delaware.
If you’re going to be driving around meeting with potential customers, it makes more sense to incorporate in Texas where most automobile industry companies are located.
Choose Business Structure
Once you’ve decided where to register your corporation, the next step is to choose a business structure. When it comes to incorporating online, there are three basic choices:
- sole proprietorship
Sole proprietorships tend to be less expensive than corporations, but they have much more stringent legal requirements.
Partnerships are slightly more restrictive than sole proprietorships, but they’re not as restrictive as corporations.
Corporations are the most expensive choice and have many legal requirements, but they offer a great deal of protection from personal liability exposure.
You can choose also between S corporations, C corporations, and LLCs.
S corporations are limited liability corporations.
C corporation is a regular corporation established under state law and by default it has [limited] liability for its business owner.
LLC is Limited Liability Company, which is also a business entity type but unlike the other two (S Corp & C Corp), it has more advantages than disadvantages.
Corporate Name Check and Reservation
Regardless of where you incorporate your corporation, there are some things you’ll need to do first.
You’ll need to check the availability of a corporate name and reserve that name for your business.
No matter how small or large your company is, it’s important to protect yourself from legal liability by reserving your corporation’s name ahead of time. There are two different ways to go about this.
- With a traditional attorney, you’ll have to pay for the privilege of reserving your corporate name.
- You can also do it online at no charge when you incorporate online. The downside is that you don’t get to choose from the names available on state databases; they’re random and not always what
After you’ve reserved your corporate name, you’re ready to register your corporation.
Again, depending on where you incorporate and how quickly you need to be up and running as a business, there are several ways to go about this registration.
Online incorporation is the fastest way to get registered. Just fill out some basic information, including:
- Legal Name
- Business Type (SB, limited liability company (LLC), S corporation, C corporation, etc.)
- Corporate Information
- Filing State Fees
Once you complete this simple form, your corporation is officially registered.
Advantages of Online Incorporation
- Online incorporation is a great way to incorporate online because you can do it on your own time. If you have some extra time at the end of the day, you can sit down and fill out your form without feeling like you’re being rushed or pressured by an attorney.
- Another advantage is that many states require a contractor’s permit for businesses that provide services, such as construction and repair, to individuals. However, many online incorporation sites offer contractor’s permit application forms and filing assistance for their clients.
Disadvantages of Online Incorporation
While there are plenty of advantages to incorporating online, there are a few disadvantages you should be aware of before starting your business.
- When you incorporate online, you’re handing over some of the control to a third party.
- While that may not be such a big deal when you’re starting an online business, it might be more problematic if you run into problems with your company down the road.
- There’s something to be said for picking up the phone and hearing actual human beings talk on the other end of the line.
How much does it cost?
Depending on the state and what services you choose, online incorporation can be very affordable.
When incorporating online through IncorporateNow.com, for example, your total registration fee is only $29 – half of what it would cost to file in-person at a corporate office!
How long does it take?
Online incorporation saves you time, too. When you file online, it takes only a few minutes to sign your documents.
Most states allow you to incorporate your business online in less than 24 hours, and some can even get the paperwork done for you in as little as five minutes!
You’ll also save time by registering in person; once that’s done, you have a lot of legwork to do.
Online Business Incorporation Services
If you’re thinking about incorporating online, consider any of these services.
ZenBusiness is for established businesses that want to incorporate. When you register with ZenBusiness, you’ll receive personalized assistance from a helpful online team that will help you through the incorporation process.
Other services include:
- Contractor’s Permit and Business License Application Assistance
- Online Corporate Maintenance
The fee for the ZenBusiness service is $95; you can also add on a contractor’s permit for an additional $65.
- Simple, streamlined service
- Personalized customer support
- Expensive when compared to other online incorporation services
- No in-state filing assistance
Incfile is an affordable option for small businesses that need to incorporate. This service offers a range of formation services, from business formation and consulting to payroll services.
If you’re just starting out as a one-person operation with no intention of growing your business into a major corporation, Incfile may be able to help you through the business formation process without breaking your bank.
Other services include:
- Online virtual office
- File blank legal forms, online and print-ready, with your company information included
- Corporate formation guide for each state – which includes filing fees and business name availability – is calculated on the site so you know exactly what to expect to pay before you begin.
- Tax planning assistance – helps you plan your tax structure.
- Online corporate maintenance – helps you keep up with the latest amendments and filings for your business
The fee for Incfile’s incorporation services is $99.95, but this can be reduced if you purchase multiple products from their website. Additional fees are charged to file in person with state governments.
- Great starter service
- Convenient and affordable
- Does not file in-person with state governments, but can file online with the Secretary of State
- Additional fees beyond state filing
Northwest Registered Agent
Northwest Registered Agent promotes itself as an affordable service that makes filing incorporation documents online more convenient.
There is no fee to use their free secure document storage, and they offer 24/7 customer service with emails answered within a few hours. They also provide additional services, including:
- Online document storage
- File government legal forms online
- Business formation guidance – lists the steps needed to begin your business, including fees and name availability.
Their state locator helps you find out what to do after forming your company in each specific state.
- Low fees
- Convenient service
- Does not personally file documents
- State formation assistance is limited to information on each state’s requirements.
Can I incorporate it on my own?
Yes. You can start your business the old-fashioned way, by filing incorporation papers in person with state government offices – but it’ll be hard to beat the convenience of doing it online.
While you don’t have to use an online service as one of those mentioned above, you will need basic information about state incorporation procedures and about additional paperwork you’ll need to complete after starting your new business.
Should I hire a lawyer to form my company?
It depends on your circumstances. You can do it yourself, and you likely don’t need an attorney to incorporate – professional legal services are only necessary for those who run larger businesses or have complex business needs.
But if you’re not sure what to do after forming a new company, hiring an attorney may save you from some costly mistakes.
Do I need to be a United States citizen to form a corporation?
No. Anyone can form a corporation and the opportunity to do so is open to all.
This includes the opportunity to issue stock, which can make financing your business much easier, even if you don’t have a long credit history.
Do online incorporation services include ongoing compliance assistance?
It depends on the online service you use. Many services, including Incfile and Northwest Registered Agent service, offer some level of ongoing compliance assistance.
However, these companies have not been vetted by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or any government association for trustworthiness or reliability.
What is a corporate filing fee?
Corporate filing fees are fees charged by government business entities to file your business papers and forms.
The fee is usually paid only once but varies depending on the state in which you incorporate. Some states also charge franchise taxes, capital taxes, or other charges.
This is a one-time fee that must be paid in order for your corporation to legally exist as such – it does not apply to annual taxes or other ongoing costs.
Aside from the cost of hiring a service, are there any other fees associated with incorporating?
There are additional fees for filing your documents, but the incorporation process itself is straightforward and should not take long.
You will usually be required to pay a franchise or excise tax on your corporation in addition to corporate filing fees, as well as by-laws or other paperwork costs associated with meeting state requirements.
Incorporating online is a relatively easy way to start your own business and is the best choice in many cases for small business owners.
It’s also an excellent backup measure for sole proprietorships and other non-incorporated businesses if you have too much income to be otherwise eligible for tax deductions but not enough to bring yourself over the threshold when filing as a “business.”
If you determine that you do need to incorporate, the better online services offer an easy way to manage this task.
The companies themselves can help save you time and money by providing informational resources as well as by filing your documents for you so long as they meet certain requirements.