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Start & Run Your Business Right: Join Our Facebook Group and Partner Program

The process of starting a business is both thrilling and intimidating. There’s the exhilaration that comes from working through the details and making the dream a reality. And then, there are the business formation options and ongoing compliance requirements that often raise questions and sometimes cause confusion.

That’s why I’m hosting the “Business Formations & Compliance” Facebook group.

The group is a place where business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs can get insight on anything related to forming a business and complying with the rules to keep it in good standing. You can join for free, so there’s no reason not to take advantage of the expertise you’ll find there!

What Can You Expect?

We’ll cover a breadth of topics related to starting and maintaining a business that complies with federal and state requirements.

A few examples include:

  • Filing a DBA
  • Forming an LLC with an S Corp election
  • Incorporating as a C Corporation
  • Annual report obligations
  • Corporate minutes
  • Business name searches
  • Trademark filings

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. No matter what filing requirements you need more information about, I’ll be there to answer the questions you and other group members post.

You can also meet up with me on Facebook Live Fridays when I’m available in real time to offer tips and insight.

Also New: The CorpNet Partner Program

CorpNet has launched a Partner Program for accountants, bookkeepers, attorneys, business advisors, and other service professionals that wish to give their clients additional value. As our Partner, you can offer formation and compliance services to your customers—with all fulfillment and liability handled by CorpNet. Sign up for free today! Besides strengthening your client relationships, you’ll also get 50 percent of the profits from any formation and compliance services that you sell.*

Seize The Possibilities!

Join the Business Formations & Compliance Facebook group and check out our CorpNet Partner Program. Bringing insight, education, and the potential for additional income, these platforms offer opportunities for empowerment and growth.

*50% commission is based on our gross revenue – minus costs. The 50% profit sharing for partners is a limited offering for early birds. Please sign up now to be grandfathered and start earning right away.

How To Choose And Legally Use Your Business Name

The name you choose for your business will be one of your most powerful and valuable assets. As one of the primary ways customers distinguish you from your competitors, your business name wields a lot of power. The right name can help propel you to success; the wrong name can put you at a disadvantage.

Besides choosing a business name that:

  • Projects how you want people to view your business (e.g., edgy, professional, high-tech, academic, approachable, etc.)
  • Makes it easy for customers to identify what you do.
  • Is simple enough to be memorable.

I encourage you to have all your legal i’s dotted and t’s crossed when selecting a name.

How To Choose A Business Name That’s Yours To Use

Start on the right path immediately by making sure another company doesn’t already have dibs on the business name you’d like to use. If someone else has already claimed it, you could end up in legal trouble if you start using it online and printing it on business cards, checks, marketing materials, etc.

How can you know your preferred business name isn’t spoken for already?

Use a business name search tool or contact your state filing office to see if the name you want to use is currently claimed within your state. Also, I encourage you to use a trademark search application tool to see if the name is available in all of the United States. That will allow you to identify if anyone else has registered for, been granted, or abandoned a trademark for your name.

How To Make The Name Officially Yours

So, you say your name is available? Great!

Now it’s time to make it legally yours within the state you’ll operate your business. As I mentioned earlier, your name represents your brand. If another company offering similar products and services were to use the same (or a very similar) name, it could confuse customers and damage your professional reputation.

If you’re a sole proprietor or partnership, filing a DBA (“Doing Business As”)—also known as a fictitious name—to protect your name in the state doesn’t cost a lot of time or money. If you plan to use your own personal first and last name in your business name, you will not need a DBA. For example, Celia Washington wouldn’t have to register “Celia Washington’s Bookkeeping Services ” as a DBA.

By registering your business as a formal legal entity (Limited Liability Company or Corporation) in your state, your business name will automatically become protected in that state. Realize, however, that another business in another state could use your name there. Also, it’s legal for a sole proprietorship or partnership to use your name as a DBA in your state.

If simply registering in your state doesn’t put you at ease about your rights to your business name, I recommend you consider filing for a federal trademark. If the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants your trademark request, it will be illegal for others to use your business name in any of the 50 states.

Don’t Hesitate To Seek Expert Assistance

To avoid lost time and money when choosing a name and taking legal steps to protect it, I encourage you to consult with professionals who can guide and assist you. Consider seeking the input and feedback of branding experts with experience in zeroing in on a business name that will serve your company for the long term. Other helpful resources include attorneys who can advise you in making sound decisions and step you through the legal process of securing and registering your business name. And when you need to prepare the necessary documents to register your business with your state or file for a federal trademark, you might save a heap of time and money by using a reputable online business document filing service.

As you can see, choosing a business name demands more than just slapping words together. You need to devote some thought and time to it. But I assure you, it will be time and energy well spent. Remember, your business name has influence that could make or break your brand.

By | May 22nd, 2017|Naming Your Business|0 Comments

How to Use a Blog to Boost Your Business

Nowadays, a business website is considered incomplete if it doesn’t have a blog. Blogging started out as a mere hobby, an online journal where individuals would share their thoughts, feelings, experiences and opinions. However, businesses have found that blogging is also a valuable resource for lead generation, customer service, boosting search engine rankings, and brand marketing and promotion.

Today we give you a number of ways starting your own business blog could give your business a much needed boost in the right direction.

1. Get More Online Exposure

Businesses devote entire departments to marketing, where the only goal is to constantly think of the next big promotion, event, or advertisement that can lure customers in. Nowadays, instead of investing money in other online marketing tactics, more companies are opting for the creating a company blog.

According to a recent study, company websites with blogs get 55% more traffic, with 37% of marketers saying that blogging is the most important type of content marketing. A company blog, as long as it is carefully maintained, can be an infinite source of leads for the company. Engaging content will bring in interested viewers, who will then share your blog posts to other people who might need them. Free advertising at its best!

2. Cement Your Reputation as an Industry Professional

Customers are more likely to give you their hard-earned money if they can see that you, as a company, know what you’re talking about. Blogs are a great way to disseminate important information that your target audience might find useful. For example, if your company is a provider of loans, having a few articles on how to save money, raise one’s credit score and ensure loan application success gives off the impression that your company is knowledgeable in all matters concerning your field.

3. Promote More Customer Interaction

Before, customers could only reach a company through phone, or email. Customers felt that businesses were distant and uncaring of their needs. Blogging is a great way to close the gap between consumers and businesses. At the end of every blog post, consumers can share their thoughts about the post and the company as a whole through the comments section.

Businesses can place someone in charge of answering these comments to encourage interaction. This makes businesses seem more “human” in the eyes of a consumer, which helps convert leads. Existing customers are more loyal to companies who will take note of their suggestions and make changes in the company accordingly.

4. Boost Search Engine Rankings

Blogs make business websites appealing not only to visitors, but to search engines as well. Imagine, each blog you write is a separate page that can be indexed, giving you more chances of being found on search engines. Around 5-7 billion searches are made by people each day. Now imagine if even a small fraction of these people find their way to your website. Let’s say your company sells dietary products online and you have several blog articles on dieting. So the next time someone searches for “common diet myths” for example, if you have a blog post on diet myths, your blog post has a chance of showing up on the search engine results. The more blog posts you have, the more likely you’ll have something that someone out there is searching for.

Google’s algorithm keeps changing, but some of their basic rules don’t change. Search engines like Google favor pages with longer content (around 1,140-1,285) and value viewer retention more than number of views. So it matters less how many people view a certain page, and more how long they stay engaged with that page. Blog posts with interesting content, especially those with images and videos embedded on them, can sustain the interest of viewers for several minutes.

5. Get Extra Income For Your Company

While the main purpose of company blogs is to attract new customers, interact with old ones, convert viewership to sales and boost brand reputation, there’s nothing wrong with making a little bit of money on the side. There are a variety of ways for you to monetize your company blog, from well-placed ads to affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is basically earning commission for referring another business. For example, if your business provides renovation and repair services, you can apply as an affiliate for manufacturers of construction materials and fixtures. Then, on your company’s blog, you can write a review on these manufacturers, linking to their website in the process. Every time a viewer clicks on the link and makes a purchase, you make a commission from it.

Conclusion

Blogging can greatly affect a company’s reputation, online exposure, customer service, and income generation, making it a powerful tool that is accessible even to smaller and newer businesses. Being new and having fewer resources is no excuse to ignore the benefits of blogging. In fact, business with blogs experience 126% more lead growth compared to businesses without a blog. Who knows, blogging might just be the key to transforming your virtually unknown business into a thriving, influential powerhouse.

Registered Agents – FAQs

Happy May! This month, we will be going over the requirements for being or maintaining a registered agent and what the registered agent does for your business.

 

Q: What is the purpose of the registered agent?

A: The registered agent is the person named to receive important legal and tax documents on behalf of a business in a given state. This includes important mail sent by the state (annual reports or statements), state tax documents, as well as any Notices of Litigation. Virtually all states require corporations, LLCs, LLPs, LPs and nonprofits to appoint a registered agent in the state where the company is formed. And, if a company registers to transact business in another state (via a foreign qualification), it will typically need a registered agent in that state too.

 

Q: What are the requirements for a registered agent?

A: The registered agent can either be an individual or a company approved by the state to be a registered agent. The registered agent must be located at a street address – P.O. boxes are not acceptable. In most cases, the registered agent also needs to be located in the state where the company is incorporated or qualified to conduct business. Keep in mind that a P.O. box is usually allowed as the mailing address for the business.

 

Q: Can I serve as my company’s registered agent?

A: Yes, absolutely! However, states require that the registered agent must be available at all times during normal business hours to receive and sign for any important documents. That’s because the state needs to make sure a summons, lawsuit, or other official state documents are actually received by the company and not “lost in the mail.” If you’re confident that you’ll always be on hand during normal business hours at the designated address, you can be your registered agent. But most small business owners prefer to have a third party serve as the registered agent for the state.

 

Q: Will my business fall out of good standing without a registered agent?

A: Here’s one scenario of what can happen. Let’s say you fail to maintain a registered agent service, or you choose to serve as your own registered agent and either move or aren’t around to receive an official communication. If an official document from the state can’t be delivered to/accepted by your registered agent, then the state may put your business in bad standing until you update the state records with an active registered agent.

 

Q: What is Service of Process?

A: This refers to the delivery of legal documents such as a lawsuit, summons, subpoena for records, wage garnishment or any other official correspondence from the state. Your business is required to have a registered agent in the state who can receive service of process during normal business hours.

 

Do you have a questions regarding a Registered Agent? Call the CorpNet.com team today for a free business consultation at: 888.449.2638

 

                               

Share, Learn, Grow – Join The “Business Startup Experts” Facebook Group!

With a passion for helping entrepreneurs work toward fulfilling their dreams, it thrills me to welcome you to join the new Business Startup Experts group that I’ve started on Facebook. Its purpose is simple: To serve as a hub for startup experts of all types to exchange knowledge with one another and with new business owners.

I invite anyone who either has or is looking for insight on starting and growing a business. The following types of professionals and many others will find it an engaging place to showcase their expertise and make valuable connections:

  • Accountants
  • Business coaches
  • Tax advisors
  • Attorneys
  • Marketing and branding experts
  • IT consultants
  • Quickbooks advisors
  • Insurance professionals
  • Members of other business groups (like Business Rockstars, Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Secret Entourage, etc.)

The Business Startup Experts Facebook group is a free membership forum where you can ask or answer business startup questions. It is where you will have access to premium, moderated content that can help you move your business forward.

In addition to informative, interactive posts, the group also holds Facebook Live online streaming events hosted by various types of business experts who will share their tips and answer questions.

As you’re more active within the group, you may have an opportunity to become a moderator. In that role, you can gain additional exposure as an expert in your field. And of course, aspiring entrepreneurs will benefit from being a part of the group. Eventually, the group will have experts in virtually every aspect of starting a business. What a powerful resource it will be!

Let’s get down to business—together! 

The more startup experts and aspiring entrepreneurs we have in the group, the greater it will empower all of us. Please visit the Business Startup Experts group on Facebook and request to join it today. Together, we can all become savvier, stronger business owners!

National Small Business Week: What It Means For You And How To Make The Most Of It

Sunday, April 30, 2017, marked the start of National Small Business Week. From that day through Saturday, May 6, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has organized a variety of events to celebrate small businesses and the impact they have on our national and local economies.

According to the SBA National Small Business Week website, “More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.”

I say that’s reason to celebrate! Don’t you agree?

We’re celebrating at CorpNet.com by offering  10 percent off of the cost of any complete business formation package this week only! Visit the CorpNet website’s home page and click the “Get Started” button to view the formation packages for your state. At checkout, use code CNSBW to apply your discount.

Other highlights of the week will include: small business award ceremonies; a live chat over social media with SBA Administrator Linda McMahon and Facebook’s VP and Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan about how to start and grow a business; a road tour that kicks off in the Indycar town of Indianapolis and continues with stops in Arlington, Texas and ends in Fresno, California; and free webinars.

What Does This Mean For You?

In a word: Plenty!

As the SBA is promoting National Small Business Week, you can piggyback off the momentum and remind your customers about why supporting small businesses is the way to go.

  • Local small businesses typically hire local people from within their communities.
  • Local small businesses often seek to source raw materials from local suppliers, thus further stimulating the local economy.
  • Local small businesses tend to be vested in and give back to their communities in time, talent, and dollars to improve the lives of those around them.
  • Local small businesses build personal relationships with their customers and nurture a sense of community.

How Can You Get Involved?

For starters, check out the SBA National Small Business Week website for what’s happening each day from April 30 to May 6. Also, generate some buzz by posting about National Small Business Week on social media (hashtag #smallbusinessweek). And consider offering some special deals to draw people to your local small business. Even better, partner with other local small businesses in your area to cross-promote each other’s products, services, and special offers. That’s a powerful way to show your solidarity as small business owners.

A Time To Shine

SBA’s National Small Business Week is a perfect time to reflect on your business success and move onward to an even brighter future. And if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to move past kicking the tires and start your own business, what better time to take your first steps?

*Image from the National Small Business Week website*

What Can Employers Not Discriminate Against?

As a business owner, it’s exciting to hire employees and watch your company grow. But there are legal risks if you give job candidates and employees reason to believe your staffing decisions and policies are discriminatory.

The first step in avoiding a job discrimination lawsuit is to have a basic understanding of what you can’t discriminate against and the nature of the laws that prohibit employment discrimination.

You need to comply with all applicable federal and state (even some local) laws that protect people from job discrimination. So, in your employment ads, job applications, job interviews, background checks, social media account reviews, employment policies and anything else you do in your efforts to hire and maintain your workforce, you need to follow the rules. State laws vary, so make sure you do your research to find out which apply to you. Passed by Congress, signed by the President, and enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit various types of discrimination and affect employers everywhere in the United States.

Here’s a rundown of what you can’t discriminate against and the federal laws that protect individuals:

Race/color, national origin, religion, sex, and pregnancy Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers from denying employment based on the race, color, sex, religion, and national origin. It prohibits job discrimination against women because of pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical conditions. In addition, it makes unwelcome sexual advances and other verbal and physical harassment of a sexual nature illegal. The law also makes it unlawful to not offer equal pay and benefits based on sex, race, religion, sex, and national origin. Something else you should keep in mind is that employment policies or practices that apply to everyone might be considered illegal if they negatively affect the employment of people within the protected classes under Title VII.

AgeThe Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects individuals age 40 and older from being treated unfavorably based on age during hiring and employment by employers. It applies only to businesses with 20 or more employees, but some states have laws that apply to companies with far fewer employees.

DisabilityThe Americans with Disabilities Act protects qualified individuals with disabilities from being unfavorably treated in the workplace (including with regard to pay or benefits) and during the hiring process as a result of their disabilities. Discrimination protection also applies to applicants and employees who have a history of a disability (such as cancer that’s in remission) or because they may have a physical or mental impairment.

Genetic InformationTitle II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits discrimination against applicants and employees because of genetic information. It restricts employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, and certain other entities from asking for, demanding, buying, or disclosing individuals’ genetic information.

Standing Up Against Discrimination – Under all the laws that the EEO enforces, job applicants and employees are protected from discrimination and harassment as a result of them asserting their rights not to be treated unfavorably. Federal laws make it illegal to retaliate against job candidates and employees who take certain measures to protect themselves and others (for example: file a complaint, charge, investigation, or lawsuit; resist sexual advances or protect others from being sexually harassed; talk with a manager about discrimination or harassment, etc.).

Know The Rules And Follow Them

Besides knowing the laws and what they’re created to protect against, I suggest seeking the guidance of a trusted legal and/or human resources professional to ensure your employment practices comply. From making sure your job application doesn’t cross any lines to knowing the job interview questions that are illegal to setting salaries and benefit packages, you’ll find plenty of gray areas that may need specialized expertise. Having the peace of mind that your hiring practices are compliant with anti-discrimination laws is well-worth putting in a little extra time and attention when staffing your business.

Be Your Own HR Department with These 5 Tools

Small business owners wear many hats when running daily operations – especially when they are just starting to build their company. Their tasks include administrative work, client servicing, finance requirements and more.

One of the most tedious tasks of running a business is taking care of HR requirements. Unfortunately, your HR responsibilities don’t end when an applicant signs the employment contract. This part of the business plays an important role in keeping the company running smoothly on a daily basis. However, small businesses don’t always have the luxury of hiring a dedicated team member to focus on these tasks.

Fortunately, there are a lot of available resources to help small business owners with these functions without having to hire an HR manager. Below are 5 tools that you can use to be your own HR department.

1. Online Recruitment Tools

Online recruitment software organize a company’s hiring process by providing end-to-end solutions to their recruitment needs.

Features of online recruitment tools include being able to post job listings on multiple job boards, search for applicants that fit the company’s job description, review and rank candidates, schedule interviews and organize them based on the stage of their application. It also helps a company build a talent pipeline should a need to fill in a new role arises. All of which helps prevent a hiring manager from overlooking pending and ongoing applications.

While this tool helps in organizing the whole recruitment process, it is also important to have proper documentation and formalities once you get your new team member on board. Remember to accomplish all the necessary employee forms to help make employment agreements headache-free.

2. Online Payroll System

Using online payroll or accounting software is an efficient way to manage your employees’ compensation package in a timely manner. These tools are designed to help calculate monthly wages, apply deductions as necessary, file taxes, manage your accounts, and pay employees via direct bank deposits.

Employees are asked to fill out forms initially but once everything is set up, the tool will do most of the work moving forward, relieving an individual from accomplishing monthly recurring compensation tasks.

3. Employee Performance Review Software

One of the most important functions of HR is looking after an employee’s career growth in line with the quality of his performance within the company. The most effective way to do this is to conduct regular performance reviews with each employee to check if they are on track with the goals set from their last evaluation.  

Small businesses can use performance review tools to help them keep track of their employees’ performance documents. It’s a helpful and efficient way to see agreed upon targets and career plans without having to dig through physical files that sometimes get lost in piles of other documents.

4. Time Tracking Tools

Time tracking tools help managers oversee the time being spent by employees and freelancers on each project, client or tasks so that it’s easier to calculate their time worked at the end of each month. This is particularly helpful in determining whether a particular client is profitable based on the numbers that an employee puts into the project when measured against the amount of money that the client brings into the company.

Other uses of time tracking tools include prioritizing and reprioritizing employee tasks based on current client requirements. It also gives managers great visibility when assigning new tasks and avoiding giving more work to employees who already have a lot on their plate as they can see the projects each team member is working on.

Time tracking tools can be used on the go and have mobile app versions making it easier for employees to record their hours anytime, anywhere.

5. Perks and Reward Tools

Particularly useful for output driven professions, an employee reward system works by scoring an individual’s performance, calculating “earned points” and rewarding them for their great work.

Employers can customize their rewards package and input prizes a team member is eligible to claim should they reach a specific number of points. While this tool is more of a nice-to-have instead of a must-have, it’s a unique tool companies can use when looking for ways to motivate and give back to their employees on a regular basis.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to motivate your employees for their great work, read this article about using rewards and incentives in the workplace.

Bottom Line

While double-hatting as an HR manager and juggling operational roles is a tedious task, taking advantage of available and easy-to-use HR tools online can significantly relieve an individual from juggling all of the different functions related to HR.

Most of these tools are designed to help individuals organize HR functions especially when handling recurring tasks. Once you are done with the initial stages of setting up these tools, they will do most of the work for you so you can focus on more important things such as scouting for new clients and bringing in more money to your business!

Can An Employer Ask About Your Age?

If a job candidate is googling this question after a job interview at your company, you may be headed for trouble.

At both the federal and state level, anti-discrimination laws exist to prevent businesses from hiring or not hiring based on personal characteristics that are not relevant to an individual’s ability to do the job. Age is one of them. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects people who are age 40 and older from being treated unfavorably because of their age during the hiring process—and when employed. In 2016, 20,857 age discrimination charges were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the government agency that enforces ADEA.

For private businesses, the ADEA only applies to those with 20 or more employees, but why put your business at risk? If you intend to grow your business, doesn’t it make sense to establish policies and procedures now to help ensure you don’t become a statistic and possibly face a costly lawsuit?

You need to pay attention to every aspect of employment:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Compensation
  • Work assignments and responsibilities
  • Opportunities for career advancement
  • Training
  • Fringe benefits
  • Layoffs
  • Firing

Any other terms or conditions of employment are also subject to age-related discrimination scrutiny.

While the ADEA doesn’t protect younger individuals from discrimination in the workplace, some state laws do. So, you could put yourself in a tricky situation if you in any way let the age of job applicants or employees affect how you treat people. Also, just because your business falls below the 20-employee minimum for ADEA to apply to you, you might be subject to your state’s age-related anti-discrimination laws. For example, individuals in Arkansas can file a claim against employers with a minimum of 9 employees under state law. And in Colorado, all employers, regardless of number of employees, must comply with the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

What can you do to help keep your business from violating the laws protecting against age discrimination?

Below are a few tips that can help:

  • In your employment ads, avoid language that could land you in trouble. (For example, “Looking for a young, energetic professional…”) Generally, ADEA deems it unlawful to mention age limitations, preferences, and outright specifications in job advertisements.
  • Be cautious when asking an applicant to disclose her age or date of birth. While it’s not explicitly prohibited, that type of inquiry will be closely scrutinized to ensure it wasn’t asked in an effort to deter older workers from applying for a position or otherwise discriminate against them based on age. According to the EEOC, “If the information is needed for a lawful purpose, it can be obtained after the employee is hired.”
  • Don’t establish company-wide policies or practices if they will adversely affect applicants or employees who are age 40 or older. [Note that liability might not apply if a policy or practice’s impact is due to a reasonable factor other than age (RFOA)].
  • Make sure your business’s managers and employees understand that age-related harassment is illegal when frequent or severe enough to cause a hostile work environment.

Realize we’ve merely glazed over the tip of the iceberg with the considerations above, so I encourage you to consult with a human resource professional and/or attorney for guidance and feedback on your hiring and employment efforts.

While avoiding a job discrimination lawsuit shouldn’t be a concern that keeps you up at night, it is something you need to be vigilant about through having sound standards, procedures, and staff training in place. I know you’ve worked hard to bring your business this far; don’t let sloppy employment practices stand in the way of your success.

How to Start an Accounting Firm

If you’re a CPA or an accountant, the transition from working for someone else to being your own boss has probably crossed your mind. Self-employment offers an opportunity to have more control over your own schedule, allowing you to better balance your professional endeavors and personal life. It also enables you to manage your firm the way you want to manage it.

Here’s seven steps to start your own accounting practice:

1. Select a business name

Think about whether you want to market your business using your own name (e.g., “Jane Smith, Accountant”) or create a business name (e.g., “Accounting You Can Count On”). As a solopreneur accountant, you might opt to use your own name because you and your brand are one in the same. On the other hand, choosing a business name might help you be perceived as well-established and experienced.

If you go with a business name, make sure it is available to use before you start printing it on business cards and other marketing materials. Check to see if the name is available in the state where you’re planning to operate your business by checking with your state’s secretary of state office. We have a free business name search tool here at CorpNet that can help, as well.

Also check to see if the domain name for your business is available (e.g., accountingyoucancounton.com). Sites like GoDaddy.com will let you instantly find out if there’s a suitable domain, and they will offer suggestions for alternate names if the one you want is already taken.

No one in your state is using the name you want? Excellent! Next, you’ll want to search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to see if anyone has a pending request for or has successfully registered a trademark for the name. Don’t skip this step because you’ll land in legal hot water if you infringe on another company’s trademark.

2. Choose a legal structure and register your business.

The business structure you choose will affect your business from both legal and tax standpoints. Solo accountants and small firms often choose to register as an LLC (Limited Liability Company),  PLLC (Professional Limited Liability Company), or PC (Professional Corporation). As state constructs, these business entities are subject to different rules in different states. You can find the specific rules for accountants in your state via the CorpNet website or you can call the Secretary of State’s office in your state to get the details you need.

3. Obtain the licenses and permits you’ll need.

Regardless of which state you’re operating your business in, you’ll need some form of licensing to provide public accounting services. You will need to hold a CPA license and your firm may need a public accountancy license. To determine the requirements in your state, check with your State Board of Accountancy.

Besides CPA accreditation you may also need other state and local municipality permits, as well. They might include a general business operation license, a signage permit, and possibly a home occupation permit (if you’re operating your business from home. CorpNet can help you determine the license and permit requirements applicable to you, or you can check with your local government office.

4. Apply for a Tax ID Number

Also called a Federal EIN (Employer Identification Number), this allows the IRS to track your business’s transactions. LLCs and corporations are required to have an EIN and many banks will require that you have one before they’ll allow you to open a business bank account.

5. Open a bank account exclusively for your business.

It’s important to keep your personal and business finances separate—for both legal and tax purposes. In fact, that separation is mandatory for LLCs and corporations. After you’ve registered your business with the state and have your Tax ID number, you will have the information you need to open a business bank account.

6. Get insurance to protect your business.

Even though officially forming an LLC or incorporating your business will help to lower your personal liability related to business debt and lawsuits against associates, it will not protect your personal assets if action is brought against you due to your own actions. That’s why it’s a good idea to consider getting an insurance policy for peace of mind. Talk with a knowledgeable and trustworthy insurance agent who understands the needs of accountants and other businesses in the financial services industry. A reliable agent can guide you to the type of coverage that will best protect you, such as a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP), Professional Liability, Insurance, Data Breach Coverage, or others.

7. Know your business compliance responsibilities.

Registering your business is just the beginning. LLCs and corporations have ongoing requirements to keep their businesses in good standing. For example, most states require LLCs and PLLCs to file an annual report each year and show proof of a valid certification. Corporations have more corporate compliance responsibilities. Besides annual reports, they must conduct annual meetings, prepare meeting minutes, and meet other compliance requirements.

I know it can be tough to keep up with everything that’s required and when it’s due, so I recommend using the CorpNet B.I.Z. (Business Information Zone) compliance tool. It’s a free monitoring tool that can help you stay on top of your state filings and fees due throughout the year.

The steps to starting an accounting business aren’t overly complex. To make sure you launch your business on solid legal ground, you’ll want to make sure you do it right. Consider talking with a legal professional who can guide you and look to CorpNet to ensure your business forms and filings are done accurately and on time.