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10 Ways to Create a Successful Small Business Brand

One of the key steps to starting a business is creating a strong business brand. Do it right, and you’ll have a memorable brand that customers line up to do business with. How can you get your brand off on the right foot? Here are 10 steps to creating a business brand.

 1. Understand brand basics 

To craft your brand message, start by asking yourself (and answering) these questions:

  • What does your company do? Can you distill that down to a few sentences or bullet points?
  • Why does your company do what it does? The “why” is the passion for your company that you want your brand to convey.
  • What’s your unique selling proposition (USP)? Your brand should convey what your business does and how you do it differently than anyone else.
  • Who is your target market? What are their interests, passions, characteristics and needs?
  • How would you describe your product or service? List the features in order of importance.
  • What are the benefits of your product or service? What needs does it fulfill for consumers?
  • What is the “personality” of your business? Fun? Serious? Caring? Strong?

The answers to these questions will form the foundation of your brand.

2. Choose a domain name to enhance your brand

Your business’s name should express the value and uniqueness of your product or service. Equally important to branding is getting the right domain name. According to the Domain Name Association, choosing one of the new top-level domains available can boost your branding while making it easier to get the domain name you want. Names such as Explanatory.Video, Winelist.Consulting, Whitehat.Video, Really.Social or Sundance.Studio can make your business memorable while quickly communicating what you do.

3. Tap into emotional branding

Feeling an emotional attachment to a brand can motivate customers to purchase. According to the FIT 2017 Millennial Consumer Expectation and Brand Perception Survey, 48 percent of millennials are more likely to buy from a brand if they know the people behind it. When you’re starting a small business, use your entrepreneurial story to give your brand an edge. Include an “About Us” or “Our Story” page on your website to share your passion for your business, the story of how you started, and the people behind your business.

4. Focus your brand by choosing a business niche

Sometimes when entrepreneurs are looking for businesses to start, they try to be all things to all people, which can lead to branding problems down the road. The more narrowly you can define your niche, the more specific and memorable your business’s brand will be. Dig into your market research to find the best niche. You may want to concentrate on customers in a specific geographic region or age group, or look at your competitors’ target market and choose a market they aren’t serving.

5. Brand your business on social media

Maintain a consistent brand message across all your social media platforms, and seek out social media influencers to help spread the word. An influencer is someone on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry, has access to a large audience and has extensive persuasive reach. Acknowledge and reward customers who act as brand advocates, and reach out to influencers in your industry to let them know about your brand. Search hashtags and keywords relevant to your business or industry to find influencers; use Klout and Buzzsumo to quantify social influence.

6. Use the power of color to brand your business

Choose the right color scheme to use in all your branding materials. Consider:

  • Bright, vibrant colors can cause headaches; use these shades sparingly and combine them with neutrals.
  • High-contrast colors are easy to see from a distance. Use them in your store signage, outdoor advertising and presentations to large groups.
  • If you’re not sure what color combinations work well together, look at color schemes used by other businesses. Search online for websites you like and note what colors get your attention.

7. Put your product in the perfect packaging

If you start an online business, your packaging needs to stand out online, whether on a computer, tablet or smartphone. If you are packaging a product for sale in brick-and-mortar retail stores, it needs to attract attention on a shelf full of competitors. Make it appealing to pick up and touch. Get ideas by looking at your competitors’ packaging and assessing what you like and don’t like about it. The more competitors you have, the more distinctive your brand must be.

8. Know the difference between B2B and B2C branding

While B2B purchases are motivated mostly by facts, statistics and numbers, B2C purchases are motivated primarily by emotion. For B2B buyers, the emotional factor is a fear of making a poor decision. You’ll need to sell your expertise and experience to overcome this fear. Because B2B buyers are typically driven by need to solve a problem or do something better, try presenting your product or service as a problem solver.

B2C customers may also be driven by need, but just as often, they’re motivated by wants or impulses. To craft effective B2C branding, learn what motivates your target customer, such as the desire to appear younger, more successful, have more fun, save time or save money, and incorporate that motivation into your brand message.

9. Use employees to convey your brand message

From their words and their appearance to their actions, employees embody your brand to your customers. Educate employees about your brand and set standards for how you expect them to convey it. You may have them follow specific procedures on the job, use certain words when talking to customers or even dress a certain way, such as wearing a uniform or a business suit.

10. Protect your brand

Once you’ve created your brand, do everything you can to protect it (including incorporating your business). A registered trademark protects your brand name, your logo and your business’s slogan. You can search for existing trademarks here. Get acquainted with the trademark process at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. The site guides you all the details of applying for trademark protection. Once you have your trademark and are using it, make sure to maintain and renew it as necessary.

By taking these 10 steps, you’ll be well on your way to developing a valuable brand that attracts customers for years to come.

By | July 19th, 2017|Small Business Branding|0 Comments

Filing an Amendment – FAQs

July marks the middle of the year and a great time to make changes within your company! This month, we answer all your thought provoking questions about filing an amendment.

Q: When do I need to file an amendment?
A: Articles of Amendment are required if any of the information included in your incorporation or foreign qualification paperwork changes. For example:

  • Changes to the company name
  • Changes to the Registered Agent Information
  • Company Business Address
  • Director or Member Information
  • Number of Authorized Shares
  • Business Activities of the Company

Q: Do I need to notify the state if the nature of my business changes?
A: If you used a general purpose clause in your incorporation/foreign qualification documents, such as “All lawful business,” then you won’t need to notify the state if you changed your business activity/purpose. Likewise, if your state didn’t require business information listed, then you won’t need to update anything. But, if you did provide a specific business purpose and this purpose changes, you will need to file an Articles of Amendment.

Q: What if my company relocates its offices?
A: Generally speaking, the address on record with the secretary of state’s office is the registered office address of the company. As such, your company may be required to file Articles of Amendment to change the address of the company if the address that is on record with the state is no longer valid.

Q: What if I would like to authorize more shares for my company?
A: Since your total authorized shares are most likely listed on your Articles of Incorporation, you will need to file an amendment to make this change.

Q: If I am foreign qualified to conduct business in another state, do I need to amend these documents too?
A: Yes, you need to file an amendment if you change information that’s included in your foreign qualification document. Typically speaking, this is a similar process to filing an amendment to your incorporation document. But, the state of qualification may require that you show a Certificate of Good Standing from your state of incorporation. We can help you obtain this document.

Q: I didn’t set up my company through CorpNet. Can you still help me file an amendment?
A: Absolutely. We can prepare and file the necessary amendment documents, whether your formed a business through us or not.

Q: What if I want to change my company’s name?
A: If you want to change your company name, you have two options. First, you can keep your official name (the name filed in your corporation/LLC paperwork) as is and then file a DBA for the new name. In this case, you’ll still use your original business name for all official activities with the state, such as filing your taxes and your annual report. But, you can use your new name for all other activities – such as marketing, opening a bank account, etc.

If you want to abandon the original name altogether, you can file Articles of Amendment (also called Certificate of Amendment) with the state to officially change your company name. Keep in mind that if your business is registered in other states as a foreign entity, you will also need to file Articles of Amendment in each one of those states.

We’ll help you create the documents needed for either option and file it with the state.

Do you need help filing an amendment or have any questions regarding the process? Call the CorpNet.com team today for a free business consultation at: 888.449.2638

By | July 17th, 2017|FAQ|0 Comments

How to Legally Structure Your Business To Secure Financing

All the pieces of your entrepreneurial dream are finally falling into place. You have a name for your business, a product or service that makes you super excited, and you’ve even started noodling designs and logos. Before you can go much further, however, you’re going to need funding. And in order to get funding, you will need to decide what type of structure is best for your business: a sole proprietorship DBA (doing business as); a C corporation or S corporation; a professional limited liability company (PLLC) or a limited liability company (LLC).

Let’s take a look at the available types of small business funding, and for which entities they are most appropriate.

SBA Loans, Microloans, Grants

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides a variety of loans to businesses that fit the government’s definition of “small.” The most common loan program, the 7(a) loan program, stipulates certain other criteria: the business must also be for-profit, operate in the United States, and have reasonable invested equity; in addition, the proprietor must have already used personal financial resources before seeking SBA assistance.

The SBA’s microloan program is another option for qualified borrowers. Microloans, which must be administered through intermediary lenders, provide loans up to $50,000, although the average microloan is closer to $13,000.

While the Small Business Administration does not provide grants, some state and local programs, as well as non-profit organizations, do offer grants to small business owners. Usually these grants require either a matching contribution or a concurrent loan; they are not necessarily “free money.”

These financing options are appropriate for all types of business structures. It doesn’t matter whether your company will be a sole proprietorship, a PLLC or LLC, or a corporation.

Crowdsourcing and Kabbage

The rise of online funding opportunities, like Kabbage, OnDeck, or crowdfunding sites, means that entrepreneurs have more options for funding than ever before. These may be good choices for sole proprietorships DBA (doing business as), since they represent a path to funding that doesn’t involve one’s personal savings.

Kabbage and OnDeck are both considered short-term business lenders — the terms range from one to 12 months for Kabbage and three to 36 months for OnDeck — but can be easier to secure than a bank loan. If you are starting a business that simply needs a quick infusion of capital, an online lender can be a good choice, but make sure you read up on the conditions. Kabbage, in particular, comes with a fairly high interest rate.

Crowdfunding is another way to go. Sites like Indiegogo, RocketHub, peerbacker, and a whole host of other, niche-focused crowdfunding platforms make it easy to get word out about your business as you raise capital. Of course, hitting up friends and family members to help get your venture off the ground is nothing new — but the proliferation of social networks (and the sharing they make possible) helps entrepreneurs cast an even wider net.

As with SBA loans, crowdfunding and online lending can be viable options for all business structures. They are also particularly useful ways to drum up some cash for a business that is already established, but that has faced financial hardship (such as a storefront fire, a theft, or other unexpected occurrence). Without the money, the business might not be able to keep running, but once it gets back on its feet, it will be able to funnel profits into paying off the short-term debt.

Equity Financing

This type of small business funding, which entails selling shares of the business to raise capital, comes with distinct advantages and disadvantages.

With equity funding, there’s no worry about personal credit issues, and no debt to repay. Furthermore, by establishing a partnership (either limited or general) — for which equity funding is the most common and popular type of financing, you will reap intangible rewards, too. Partners who are experts in your industry, or more experienced as business people, can serve as mentors and advisors, even if they are technically considered limited or silent partners (meaning that they bear no liability).

Some entrepreneurs may have to think long and hard before diving into a partnership – particularly a general partnership, in which they will share responsibilities and decision-making. Giving up full control over one’s business can be a difficult pill to swallow, and tensions can arise if the partners differ too widely in their management style or vision for the company.

Additionally, an equity funding or partnership arrangement means that when the profits start to roll in, you’ll be sharing the rewards as well as the responsibilities. Most small business owners are comfortable with the profit-sharing aspect of equity financing. They realize that without the initial investment and business acumen provided by the partners, they might not have made a profit — or as much of one — at all.

For obvious reasons, your company can’t be a sole proprietorship and a partnership. As a corporation, however, it is certainly feasible, not to mention desireable, to attract investors.

Angel Investors & Venture Capital

Some types of funding require that your company be incorporated, as either an S or a C corp. These are angel investors and venture capital investors.

Venture capital (VC) and angel investor financing options are usually only available to corporations. These savvy investors invest in your business in exchange for stocks in the firm. As with equity funding, one advantage of both angel financing and VC is that you won’t be expected to pay any money back, as you would with a loan. Instead, you are “paying back” the investors with shares.

It can be difficult to secure this kind of funding, however. Shows like Shark Tank may be giving would-be entrepreneurs the false notion that you can easily catch the eye of an angel investor or VC firm. While angel investors offer their contributions at the seed stage, they don’t tend to do so until the business owner herself has already pitched in her own capital. At that point, the investor may feel the risk is worth taking.

Venture capital firms tend to step in later, once seed funding has been established; they don’t tend to invest in startups, either, but rather in businesses that, while still too small to raise capital in public markets, are nevertheless poised to disrupt their industry and offer profitable payouts.

Choosing your legal business structure and getting business financing are two large aspects of starting a business. When you get these ducks in a row you will be well on your way to a successful new venture!

By | July 14th, 2017|Business Finance|0 Comments

Employer Identification Number: What is an EIN and How to do I Get One?

At CorpNet, we field a lot of questions centered on what aspiring entrepreneurs need to do from an IRS-standpoint to start a business. Almost daily, I see inquiries arrive about obtaining an EIN (Employer Identification Number). I’m glad people ask about that because it is indeed an important item to check off a startup’s to-do list.

What Is An EIN?

You may see EINs also referred to as “Federal ID number,” “Tax ID Number,” or Federal Tax ID Number.” It is a nine-digit number used for tax filing and reporting and for other business documentation purposes. Rather than using your Social Security Number, your EIN can be used to obtain business licenses and permits, apply for business credit cards, and set up business bank accounts.

An EIN helps establish a separation between your business and your personal self—which can help provide some liability protection for your personal assets. It also offers some privacy protection. If you work as a contractor, sharing your EIN rather than your SSN with everyone you do business with minimizes the risk of identity theft. The fewer people that see your SSN, the less open your identity is to being stolen. Be aware, however, that if you’re operating your business as a sole proprietor or a single-member LLC that’s considered a “disregarded entity,” the IRS requires you use your personal tax identification number on any W-9 forms that you issue to customers. This is because your business’s profits and losses flow to your personal tax returns. A way to protect your identity in this situation is to obtain an EIN for yourself as an individual, and use that rather than your personal SSN on your W-9s and income tax filing forms.

Do I Need An EIN?

Great question! Depending on your circumstances, you may have no choice but to obtain an EIN for your business.

The IRS requires an EIN if:

  • You have employees.
  • Your business operates as a partnership or corporation.
  • You have a Keogh plan (tax-deferred pension plan for the self-employed).
  • You withhold taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien.
  • You’re involved with any of the following: estates, most types of trusts, farmers’ cooperatives, plan administrators, non-profit organizations, and real estate mortgage investment conduits.
  • You file certain types of tax returns, including Employment, Excise, or Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

How To Get An EIN?

I think you’ll be happy to know that, unlike some aspects of starting a business, getting an EIN is quite easy.

  • Online

If your business is located within the United States (or U.S. Territories) and you have a valid taxpayer identification number (e.g., Social Security Number, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), or other EIN), you can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website. However, note that the IRS cannot process your online application request if your business’s responsible party is an entity that previously obtained an EIN via the Internet. In that situation, you’ll need to apply using one of the other available methods. They include:

  • By Fax

Fax the completed Form SS-4 application to the appropriate IRS service center fax number for your state.

  • By Mail

Complete Form SS-4 and mail it to the IRS at the address they provide.

  • By Phone

If you’re an international applicant, you may call the IRS at 267-941-1099 to obtain your EIN. If you ask someone to call on your behalf, that person must be authorized to receive the EIN and answer questions regarding Form SS-4.

While it’s simple enough to apply, you can avoid the hassle of “yet one more thing to do” by asking CorpNet to complete the application for you as we’re handling your other business registration filings.

What Information Must I Provide To Get An EIN?

On your application for an Employer Identification Number, some of the information you’ll need to provide includes:

  • The legal name of the business entity or the individual for whom the EIN is being requested (and the trade name of the business if it’s different than that entity)
  • The name of the executor, administrator, trustee, or “care of” entity
  • Mailing address
  • Physical street address
  • Name of responsible party and that person’s SSN, ITIN, or EIN
  • Type of legal entity
  • Reason for applying for an EIN
  • Date your business was started or acquired
  • Closing month of your accounting year
  • Maximum number of employees expected within the next year
  • Principal activity of your business and main line of products sold, work done, or services provided
  • Third Party Designee (if you want to authorize someone else to receive your EIN and answer questions about your application)

For more information about what you need to provide to the IRS when requesting an EIN, see the detailed instructions included with the SS-4 form.

What Is the Cost Of An EIN?

I’m happy to share more good news; the IRS issues EINs at no charge. Asking an online business document filing service, like CorpNet, to apply on your behalf will cost you a little something. But the peace of mind that it will be done correctly and on time can be well worth the nominal fee.

How Long Will It Take To Get My EIN?

By applying online, you can usually get an EIN within 24 hours. If you complete IRS Form SS-4 and fax it to the IRS, you will typically have your EIN in less than one week. For applications sent by mail, expect to wait up to four weeks for your EIN.

Realize that any mistakes in your paperwork could delay the process, so be extra careful to have all of your i’s dotted and t’s crossed!

What’s Next?

As you’re starting your own business, don’t leave your business formation registration and other important filings—like applying for your EIN—to chance. There’s far too much at stake! Contact my team at CorpNet.com for a free business consultation. We’re here to help you obtain your EIN and handle all the other paperwork needed to launch your business now and position it for great things in the future.

By | July 12th, 2017|Business Filings|0 Comments

5 Inspiring Small Business Quotes from Top Olympians

We all have hurdles to jump and far distances to go. This is true of every business owner. Oftentimes, the grind is tough and it seems too difficult to go on, like our goals are unreachable. However, it’s important to remember that a little inspiration and plenty of determination can take us farther than what we’ve even dreamed. While the determination is up to you, you can find inspiration anywhere. We’ve compiled 5 quotes from top Olympic athletes to keep the torch of motivation burning inside you.

  1. Every champion was once a contender that didn’t give up. Gabby Douglas [ Gymnastics ] – Sometimes, we fall victim to the pressures of stress and negativity. There will be times, especially when you face many challenges, that giving up seems like the best option. Do not believe this! You have to keep trying to be able to achieve what you’re meant to. You are a contender in a world full of competition, and this may be discouraging especially when figures are down. But always remember this: there is a champion that lies within you; you just have to keep going to realize your potential. When you keep going, you can achieve anything you put your mind to, even starting a new business.
  2. I am building a fire and everyday I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match. Mia Hamm [ Soccer ] Are you living your life in a way that sets yourself up for greatness? You have to remember that every day is just another stepping stone to success, and you have to ready yourself for when that success comes, as you are building your own fire. Time things accordingly, especially when making big decisions or closing deals. Do not forget to fuel your fire. Do things that will directly benefit both you and your business. Set it up to be the best that it can be, and you will shine your brightest at the most opportune moments. Success will come to you only if you are working towards it. Dreams don’t work unless you do. Keep this in mind and you’ll be ablaze with confidence, happiness, and prosperity. If you find yourself ready to light the match and start that new business, then you also have to stay on top of the work. You need to train yourself in business just as you would in sports, and having access to the right resources to help you start and run your business is key.
  3. Failure I can live with. Not trying is what I can’t handle! – Sanya Richards Ross [ Track and Field ] How often are we so taunted by the fear of failure that we find ourselves in a slump of inaction? It happens to the best of us. It’s important to remember that when we stop trying, we resign ourselves to a fate of nothingness—a failure that happens no matter what. Maybe you’re anxious about starting that new business, or making the next big decision for your company. Remember that when faced with hesitation in taking your first step, you bring yourself closer to success. This is far better than staying in one place because you are afraid of failing! Having a solid plan can help you make sure you’re on the right path. In business, having a plan will decrease the chance of failure, making the venture less risky.
  4. If you want to be the best, you have to do things that others aren’t willing to do. Michael Phelps [ Swimming ] Are you afraid of taking risks? All of us have been at some point. However, it’s taking risks that separates the wheat from the chaff. You have to think of things that can set you apart from your competition, and then take the leap of faith and do it. It might be frightening at first, but you’ll find it rewarding, and your business will be very likely to benefit from it. Taking risks and doing what other people don’t want to do is just part of the journey to becoming the best that there is. Don’t be afraid, because your fear will hinder you from achieving great things.
  5. When anyone tells me I can’t do anything, I’m just not listening anymore. – Griffith Joyner [ Track and Field ] At the beginning of our journey, many of us have had naysayers who worked hard to make us lose motivation. When we’re surrounded by people who don’t believe in us and the power of our dreams, we’re surrounded by unneeded toxicity. Distance yourself from people who discourage you. Welcome advice, welcome critique, but stop listening to people who tell you that you’re not capable of something that you are striving towards. You’ll find that you’ll be living a lighter life, and your ventures will thank you for it.

While you may not be an Olympic athlete, there’s no reason you can’t take inspiration from them and use it to fuel your vision for starting your new business. Outrun and outlast the competition with an unbeatable spirit and the right tools for keeping your business in tip-top shape!

By | June 28th, 2017|Motivation|0 Comments

Credit Cards vs. Short-term Business Loans 

Big plans come with a big price tag.

As most entrepreneurs and small business owners know, there are times when the cash you have on hand can’t cover the expenses essential to growth. It’s at this point that you’re confronted with the question of funding: Do you go with an SMB lender, or do you try credit cards?

The Case Against Lenders

SMB lenders know that you’re in a jam and that you want your money as fast as you can get it. This is why you’ll see many lenders emphasize the amount of money you can get from them and the supposedly lightning-fast time between filling out your application and the money showing up in your checking account.

But unless they’re acting as the middleman for government-backed SBA loans, there’s a good chance you’ll be charged incredible interest rates that will tack on big fees to your weekly or daily repayment schedule. Some companies use factoring, which is a technical way of saying you pay points every week or day on the money you lend. Others use merchant-based charges that take a cut of your daily sales to pay back your loan. In many cases, the rates you pay, when extrapolated out over one year, range from 40 to 120 percent.

The Case for Small Business Credit Cards

Now, I understand that there are situations where your business needs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy inventory for an upcoming season or to cover your day-to-day operational expenses.

However, if you don’t find yourself in that position, then business credit cards can be an excellent option for funding. The reason I like credit cards instead of small business loans is that they tend to give you something in return for your business, and their interest rates can be relatively low for customers with excellent credit scores. Most business credit cards offer two types of rewards: cash or points. Both rewards vehicles are based on per-dollar rewards rates. Here are a few of the best credit cards for small businesses right now.

  • Chase Ink Business Preferred’s Points — The Chase Ink Preferred gives you a 3:1 rate on social media/search engine advertising, phone/internet/TV services, travel and shipping. These categories are the essentials of a modern business, so there’s a tremendous opportunity here for rewards. This 3% rate is capped at $150,000 in spending across all categories, at which point the rate drops to 1%. Consider this: $150K equals 450,000 rewards points that can be transferred to Hyatt, Southwest, United, Marriott and other travel partners within the Chase rewards network. Any employee cards that you request will also earn points for you, too.
  • Spark Cash for Business’ Cash Back — Capital One’s Spark Cash for Business card gives a 2% cash-back rate on all purchases. There are no limits on the rewards here, so if you spend $150,000 in a year, you’ll get $3,000 back in cash. Capital One’s Spark Miles card works the same way, except the cash rewards you earn are only applied to travel purchases. Perhaps the only knock on Chase and Capital One cards is that they have credit limits.
  • American Express Business Gold’s Limitless Spending — The AmEx Business Gold has no credit limit, but you have to pay off your balance in full every month to avoid high-interest repayment plans. This no-limit functionality is why the AmEx is known as a “charge card” and not a traditional credit card. If you’re anticipating that you’ll spend more than $50,000 a month, you may want to consider this card as an option. The no-cap spending gives you the freedom to make big purchases on a moment’s notice. The card also gives you a 3x/2x/1x tier of rewards that can be redeemed across 17 airline partners, four hotel partners or redeemed for cash back. The AmEx Gold also has a certain swagger to it, but all this is meaningless if you don’t have the discipline (or the cash) to pay off your balance every month.
  • Wells Fargo Business Platinum — This card allows you to choose between earning 1.5% cash back on every purchase or 1:1 rewards points on every purchase. The advantage to this card is that it boasts an APR of the prime rate plus 7.99% which, at the time of publishing, equates to an 11.99% APR that’s virtually unbeatable by other business credit cards or SMB lenders. It does come with a max credit limit of $50,000, so keep that in mind if you decide to apply for the card.

Final Thoughts: Credit Cards Offer Rewards, Lower Rates

As I mentioned earlier, the fact that lenders can send you hundreds of thousands of dollars in a matter of hours or days may be the only suitable solution for certain companies that are in certain financial situations.

However, there are a majority of us who can benefit from the rewards programs that business credit cards offer. You’ll have the luxury of only paying once a month as opposed to the daily or weekly payments that most SMB lenders require you to pay. Whether it’s free travel or cash, credit card issuers are willing to put money in your pocket in order to get and keep your business.

By | June 21st, 2017|Business Finance|0 Comments

Professional LLCs – FAQs

Happy June! Summer is fast approaching and with new beginnings, we bring you a new post in our FAQ series! This month, we discuss the Professional LLC, or “PLLC” and the ins and outs of filing them.

 

Q: What is a PLLC?

A: A Professional Limited Liability Company is a special type of LLC that’s designed for licensed professionals, such as accountants, lawyers, and doctors (typically, professions that require a license). Some states do not allow licensed professionals to form an LLC since they don’t want them to escape personal responsibility for professional malpractice by “hiding behind” the personal liability protection of an LLC. Instead, they allow professionals to form an LLC. But, specific rules vary by state.

 

Q: If I’m a licensed professional, how can I find out if my state allows me to form an LLC, PLLC, or something else?

A: The LLC and PLLC are state constructs; as such, rules vary widely by state. For example, professionals in New York cannot form an LLC, but may form a PLLC. Professionals in California cannot form an LLC or a PLLC, but can form a RLLP (Registered Limited Liability Partnership) or PC (Professional Corporation). And professionals in Arizona can choose between an LLC or PLLC. And the specific rules within a state may also depend on the type of profession as well.

The easiest way to determine your business entity options is to give us a call at 1.888.449.2638 and we’ll discuss which entities are available for your profession in your state.

 

Q: How do I form a PLLC?

A: As expected, the process to form a PLLC is more involved than forming an LLC. You’ll typically need to have your state licensing board approve your articles of organization first (again, this requirement varies by state). As a result, it takes longer to form a PLLC than an LLC. After the proper state licensing board has approved your articles of organization, then you will need to file the articles of organization and other formation paperwork with the state. Most states require a signature and license number of a licensed professional to form the LLC.

Our small business experts can help you with each stage of the process. First, we’ll ensure that your particular business needs to file a PLLC in your state. Then, we’ll help obtain the necessary approvals and file your paperwork.

 

Q: Who can be an owner/member of a PLLC?

A: While specifics vary by state, many states limit who can be an owner/member of an PLLC. In some states, only licensed professionals of the specific service can be members in a PLLC.

 

Q: How does limited liability work with a PLLC? 

A: Like an LLC, the PLLC creates a separation between the individual owners and the business. But there’s a very important distinction. You will still be personally liable for malpractice claims related to your own actions. For this reason, you’ll need to have a good malpractice insurance policy even if you form a PLLC. However, a PLLC will typically protect you from personally liability for the business debts, as well as the malpractice of other owners within the company.

 

Do you need help registering a PLLC or have a questions regarding the process? Call the CorpNet.com team today for a free business consultation at: 888.449.2638

                               

How Much Does It Cost To Incorporate Your Business?

So you’ve decided to either form an LLC or incorporate your business?

Kudos to you for thinking about the benefits of liability protection and possible tax advantages that come with formally establishing your company as a separate legal entity.

Like many small business owners, you may now be wondering in what state you should register your company?

Some entrepreneurs opt to incorporate or form an LLC within the state they live. Others look around for a state with the most cost-effective fees. For example, Delaware has become a popular place for corporations because companies formed in the state pay minimal state tax if they do not actually conduct business there.

Formation and annual report filing fees sometimes sway the decision of which state a business will register. Those fees can vary a good deal from one state to the next. I advise you not to make your choice based solely on lowest cost. While those initial costs and ongoing annual report filing fees may look attractive, that doesn’t mean you’ll save a whole heap of money by registering your business in a different state.

Realize that when a business incorporates in one state but physically maintains an office or conducts business in another state, the business may need to register in that other state, too. And yes, that means the business must pay those state filing fees, annual report fees (if applicable), and taxes.

In most cases, small businesses benefit most by incorporating or forming an LLC in the state where they’re located. But it’s helpful to have some idea of the prices in other states, as well. After all, if your business grows and expands, you could likely be doing business in more than only your home state!

For your convenience, I’ve compiled a list of the current formation and annual maintenance fees for each of the 50 United States. These rates reflect what is presently true in June 2017. Keep in mind that they are subject to change by the states:

Alabama: LLC filing fees: $165; LLC Annual Report; $0, Incorporation filing fees: $165; Corporation Annual Report: $0

Alaska: LLC filing fees: $250; LLC Initial Report: $0; LLC Annual Report: $100; Incorporation filing fees: $250; Corporation Initial Report: $0; Corporation Annual Report: $100

Arizona: LLC filing fees: $85; LLC Publication fee: $299 (required); LLC Annual Report: $0; Incorporation filing fees: $60; Corporation Publication fee: $299 (required); Corporation Annual Report: $45

Arkansas: LLC filing fees: $50; LLC Annual Report: $150; Incorporation filing fees: $50; Corporation Annual Report: $150

California: LLC filing fees: $75; LLC Initial Report $20; LLC Annual Report: $20; Incorporation filing fees: $105; Corporation Initial Report: $25; Corporation Annual Report: $25

Colorado: LLC filing fees: $50; LLC Annual Report: $10; Incorporation filing fees: $50; Corporation Annual Report: $10

Connecticut: LLC filing fees: $175; LLC Annual Report: $20; Incorporation filing fees: $455; Corporation Annual Report: $100

District of Columbia: LLC filing fees: $220; LLC Annual Report: $300; Incorporation filing fees: $220; Corporation Annual Report: $300

Delaware: LLC filing fees: $140; LLC Annual Report: $300; Incorporation filing fees: $140; Corporation Annual Report: $225 (based on min number of authorized shares)

Florida: LLC filing fees: $155; LLC Annual Report: $138.75; Incorporation filing fees: $78.75; Corporation Annual Report: $150

Georgia: LLC filing fees: $100; LLC Annual Report: $50; Incorporation filing fees: $100 Corporation Publication fees: $150 (required for Corps); Corporation Initial Report: $50; Corporation Annual Report: $50

Hawaii: LLC filing fees: $50; LLC Annual Report: $15; Incorporation filing fees: $50; Corporation Annual Report: $15

Idaho: LLC filing fees: $100; LLC Annual Report: $0; Incorporation filing fees: $101; Corporation Annual Report: $0

Illinois: LLC filing fees: $500; LLC Annual Report: $305; Incorporation filing fees: $175; Corporation Annual Report: $155

Indiana: LLC filing fees: $90; LLC Annual Report: $30; Incorporation filing fees: $90; Corporation Annual Report: $30

Iowa: LLC filing fees: $50; LLC Annual Report: $45; Incorporation filing fees: $50; Corporation Annual Report: $45

Kansas: LLC filing fees: $160; LLC Annual Report: $55; Incorporation filing fees: $90; Corporation Annual Report: $55

Kentucky: LLC filing fees: $55; LLC Annual Report: $15; Incorporation filing fees: $55; Corporation Annual Report: $15

Louisiana: LLC filing fees: $100; LLC Annual Report: $30; Incorporation filing fees: $100; Corporation Annual Report: $30

Maine: LLC filing fees: $175; LLC Annual Report: $85; Incorporation filing fees: $145; Corporation Annual Report: $85

Maryland: LLC filing fees: $155; LLC Annual Report: depends on revenue (min fee $300); Incorporation filing fees: $155; Corporation Annual Report: depends on revenue (min fee $300)

Massachusetts: LLC filing fees: $520; LLC Annual Report: $520; Incorporation filing fees: $295; Corporation Annual Report: $135

Michigan: LLC filing fees: $50; LLC Annual Report: $25; Incorporation filing fees: $60; Corporation Annual Report: $25

Minnesota: LLC filing fees: $160; LLC Annual Report: $0; Incorporation filing fees: $160; Corporation Annual Report: $0

Mississippi: LLC filing fees: $50; LLC Annual Report: $25; Incorporation filing fees: $50; Corporation Annual Report: $25

Missouri: LLC filing fees: $50; LLC Annual Report: $0; Incorporation filing fees: $58; Corporation Initial Report: $45; Corporation Annual Report: $45

Montana: LLC filing fees: $70; LLC Annual Report: $15; Incorporation filing fees: $70; Corporation Annual Report: $15

Nebraska: LLC filing fees: $120; LLC Publication fees: $150; LLC Annual Report: $26; Incorporation filing fees: $65; Corporation Publication fees: $150; Corporation Annual Report: $26

Nevada: LLC filing fees: $75; LLC Initial Report: $325; LLC Annual Report: $325; Incorporation filing fees: $75; Corporation Initial Report: $325; Corporation Annual Report: $325

New Hampshire: LLC filing fees: $100; LLC Annual Report: $100; Incorporation filing fees: $100; Corporation Annual Report: $100

New Jersey: LLC filing fees: $125; LLC Annual Report: $50; Incorporation filing fees: $125; Corporation Annual Report: $50

New Mexico: LLC filing fees: $50; LLC Annual Report: $0; Incorporation filing fees: $100; Corporation Initial Report: $25; Corporation Annual Report: $25

New York: LLC filing fees: $210; LLC Annual Report: $9; LLC Publication fees: Starting from $425-$1200; Incorporation filing fees: $145; Corporation Annual Report: $9

North Carolina: LLC filing fees: $125; LLC Annual Report: $202; Incorporation filing fees: $125; Corporation Annual Report: $20

North Dakota: LLC filing fees: $135; LLC Annual Report: $50; Incorporation filing fees: $100; Corporation Annual Report: $25

Ohio: LLC filing fees: $125; LLC Annual Report: $0; Incorporation filing fees: $125; Corporation Annual Report: $0

Oklahoma: LLC filing fees: $104; LLC Annual Report: $25; Incorporation filing fees: $52; Corporation Annual Report: $0

Oregon: LLC filing fees: $100; LLC Annual Report: $100; Incorporation filing fees: $100; Corporation Annual Report: $100

Pennsylvania: LLC filing fees: $125; LLC Annual Report: $0; Incorporation filing fees: $125; Corporation Annual Report: $0 Incorporation Publication fees: $299

Rhode Island: LLC filing fees: $150; LLC Annual Report: $50; Incorporation filing fees: $230; Corporation Annual Report: $50

South Carolina: LLC filing fees: $110; LLC Annual Report: $0; Incorporation filing fees: $135; Corporation Annual Report: $0; Incorporation Attorney Signature fees: $100

South Dakota: LLC filing fees: $150; LLC Annual Report: $50; Incorporation filing fees: $150; Corporation Annual Report: $50

Tennessee: LLC filing fees: $325; LLC Annual Report: $310; Incorporation filing fees: $125; Corporation Annual Report: $20

Texas: LLC filing fees: $310; LLC Annual Report: (depends on gross annual revenue); Incorporation filing fees: $310; Corporation Annual Report: (depends on gross annual revenue)

Utah: LLC filing fees: $72; LLC Annual Report: $15; Incorporation filing fees: $72; Corporation Annual Report: $15

Vermont: LLC filing fees: $125; LLC Annual Report: $25; Incorporation filing fees: $125; Corporation Annual Report: $35

Virginia: LLC filing fees: $104; LLC Annual Report: $50; Incorporation filing fees: $79; Corporation Annual Report: $100

Washington: LLC filing fees: $200; LLC Initial Report: $10; LLC Annual Report: $73; Incorporation filing fees: $200; Corporation Initial Report: $10; Corporation Annual Report: $73

West Virginia: LLC filing fees: $132; LLC Annual Report: $25; Incorporation filing fees: $82; Corporation Annual Report: $25

Wisconsin: LLC filing fees: $130; LLC Annual Report: $25; Incorporation filing fees: $100; Corporation Annual Report: $40

Wyoming: LLC filing fees: $103; LLC Annual Report: $52; Incorporation filing fees: $103; Corporation Annual Report: $52

Whether you form your LLC or incorporate in your home state, in a different state, or in multiple states, remember CorpNet can save you time and alleviate hassle by handling the registration and ongoing compliance filings for you. Get the peace of mind that your paperwork is done accurately and on time; contact us today to get started!

Local SEO for Your Local Business: Get Listed Where It Counts Most

Local SEO, the art and science of optimizing your business website for local search, has a few more steps to it than your general SEO practice. After you’ve identified your general keywords and optimized your content for them, you still need to take a few more steps to make your local business stand out from your competition.

Most local search is performed with the intention of an immediate visit, so you want potential customers to be able to find you as they drive around town and in emergency situations, if that is relevant to your product or service.

Let’s take a look at the finishing touches to your SEO strategy, so you rank highly and are easily found by your target prospects.

Standardize Your Business Display

By standardizing your business display, we are talking about making sure your NAP information is the same from place to place on the web and across your website.

  • N = Name
  • A = Address
  • P = Phone

You want the exact same details formatted in the same way when other websites display your business. First, decide exactly how your information should be presented, then use Schema.org markup, so it will display correctly no matter where it appears online.

Claim Your Google My Business Page

Your Google My Business page is an important factor in your Google search engine rankings. When you claim your page, it is critical that you fill out all information, especially your categories, to get the edge on your competitors.

  • Use a correctly formatted, unique description that includes links.
  • Select the correct categories for your business.
  • Upload as many photos as you can.
  • Add a local phone number to the listing, not just the toll-free number.
  • Upload a high-resolution profile image and cover photo.
  • If relevant, enter the days and times you are open.
  • Get reviews from real customers.

Get Local Reviews

A local business needs local business reviews; they have a direct impact on your local search rankings. Although Google Reviews are important, don’t neglect other review sites such as:

  • Yelp
  • Trip Advisor
  • Angie’s List
  • Merchant Circle
  • Local directories

Encourage your current customer base to provide reviews by giving out an incentive, such as a discount on products or services. Make it easy for them to know where to put the review by placing instructions on your website, a good thing to do if your customers are not familiar with the online review sites.

Understand Local On-Page SEO Factors

On-page SEO content weighs heavily in local search listings. Make your business stand out by optimizing your website pages for your city or region. On your landing page add the name of your city plus a relevant keyword, for example:

Houston Tax Attorney

Place the city-keyword combination in the following areas of your landing pages:

  • Title tag
  • H1 tag
  • URL
  • In the content
  • Image ALT attributes

One more thing you can do to get to the top of the Google search engine page rankings is to embed a Google Map with your business marker into the landing page. Users will know immediately where you are located, making them more likely to select you.

Build Local Links and Citations

Simply put, a citation is an online reference to your business’s NAP. It does not have to be linked to your website as long as your NAP is in the same format as on your website, across citations, and around the web. (See why standardization and markup are so important?)

Links refer, of course, to links from other websites to yours. Make them count. Build links from high authority websites, preferably local to you, that talk about similar topics as you. Search engine rankings rely heavily on relevant, high-authority links so beware; don’t accept a bunch of spammy, non-relevant links. Google will penalize you.

Where should you have citations? Find out where your competitors have theirs and add yours. You can build citations through top national directories (besides Google My Business), including:

  • BBB (Better Business Bureau)
  • YouTube
  • Bing Places
  • Yelp
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Manta (especially for small businesses)
  • YP Yellow Pages
  • Merchant Circle

Don’t forget industry directories depending on your niche. You can find these by searching with your keywords. An example of an industry directly is Findlaw.com for attorneys.

Finally, local directories should have your information:

  • Chamber of Commerce
  • City directory
  • County directory
  • Local business listings

As a local business, local SEO is imperative to your business’s existence in today’s online society. More searches are performed for local products and services than any other. Don’t miss out; make sure your NAP information is correct, and you are listed in every relevant directory.

Take the few extra SEO steps for local listing and search engine rankings and get prepared for the traffic.