How to Start a Business in Florida in 7 Easy Steps

Starting a new business in Florida can be easy if you set everything up the right way. Take the stress out of the process with our detailed 7-step guide.

When you have an idea for a new business, laying a strong foundation helps ensure your spark of inspiration can lead to a sustainable company. On the other hand, delaying the required paperwork can stall the process of starting a thriving business in Florida.

We've done the due diligence about rules for registering new companies in the Sunshine State so you can stay focused on building your business. By following these steps to starting a business in Florida, you'll be ready to open the doors to your new location, accept online payments from your customers, and realize your dreams of becoming a business owner.

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7 Steps to Start a Business in Florida

When starting your new business, you can complete many of the forms to register and legally operate your Florida business on the state's online SunBiz portal, run by the Department of Corporations. You can also access PDF versions if you prefer to print and mail in your business documents. 

1. Research Types of Business Entities

When you register a new business with the state, you can select from several common structures for your company. Each legal business entity has distinct benefits and potential drawbacks, so it's important to review each option closely before committing. Basic choices include:

  • Sole proprietorships, which means you own and operate the business by yourself. You report your income for this type of business on your individual income tax return, which can potentially save you time and money compared to corporate taxation. However, sole proprietors don't have liability protection. That means if someone sues your business and wins, the court could order you to sell personal assets to pay the legal judgment. 
  • Partnerships, in which you own and operate the business with one or more other people. Partnerships in Florida have the same beneficial tax structure as sole proprietorships. Unlike sole proprietorships, this entity provides personal asset protection if you create a limited liability partnership (LLP).
  • Limited liability companies (LLC), which combine aspects of partnerships and corporations. You benefit from the advantageous tax treatment of a partnership while enjoying the personal asset protection provided by the corporate structure.
  • Corporations, in which your business exists as a separate legal entity owned by a group of shareholders, who receive a portion of the profits. Corporations shield your assets from liability for business debts and legal judgments. However, you'll have to pay taxes on corporate earnings twice, at the individual and business levels, unless you opt for S corp taxation.

You can review the state's official business information portal, Open My Florida Business, for more details about each of these structures along with guidance about which works best for your business idea.

2. Choose and Register Your Business Name

You'll need to choose a unique name for your Florida business. If the name you select is too close to the name of an existing company, the state will reject your business registration. 

If you have a few names in mind for your new company you can search these possibilities on the Florida Department of State business name database. You'll also want to check for federal trademarks that use a similar name through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Corporation names must include one of these words or abbreviations:

  • Corporation
  • Incorporated
  • Company
  • Co.
  • Inc.
  • Corp.

An LLC name has to include "limited liability company" or LLC.

3. Register Your Business With the State

The forms and fees to register a Florida business vary by legal entity.

Sole proprietorship

Florida doesn't require business registration for sole proprietors. However, if you want to call your company something other than your name, you'll need to register a fictitious name with the Florida Department of State. To take this step, complete the Registration of Fictitious Name form and pay the $50 fee. 

Partnership

Starting a partnership in Florida requires only a simple Partnership Registration Statement. This form carries a $50 fee. 

If you want to create an LLP, you'll need to also complete the Certificate of Limited Partnership For Florida Limited Liability Partnership. The fee for this entity is $965. LLPs must have an official registered agent, a Florida resident or business you designate to accept legal documents on behalf of your company. You'll submit the Registered Agent Designation form along with a $35 fee.

LLC

You can start a Florida LLC by submitting Articles of Organization along with a fee of $100. Required information for this form includes:

  • The name of your LLC
  • The LLC mailing address
  • The address of the principal place where you'll do business
  • The name, address and signature of your designated registered agent
  • The effective date of your registration
  • The purpose of your LLC
  • The name, address and signature of your authorized representative or manager

Like LLPs, LLCs must have registered agents. You'll complete the Registered Agent Designation form for LLCs, which carries a $25 fee.

Corporation

To incorporate your business in Florida, you'll need to submit the following information on the Profit Articles of Incorporation form:

  • The name of your corporation
  • The corporate mailing address
  • The address of the principal place where you'll do business
  • The name, address and signature of your designated registered agent
  • The names, addresses and signatures of your directors and officers
  • The number of shares your corporation will issue
  • The effective date of your registration
  • The purpose of your corporation
  • The name, address and signature of the incorporating party

It costs $35 to register a new Florida corporation and $35 to officially name your registered agent. 

4. Obtain Your Business License and Insurance

Depending on your professional area, you may need to register your new Florida business with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. This agency regulates industries such as accounting, real estate, cosmetology and construction. Most Florida counties also require businesses to get local licenses.

If your business has four or more employees, you'll need to purchase workers' compensation insurance under Florida law. These policies pay for health care and related costs if one of your workers gets injured on the job. 

You may also want to consider personal liability insurance, a smart buy for most business owners that protects your business assets from potential loss due to extreme weather, legal judgment, or other unforeseen circumstances. Professional liability coverage offers an added layer of protection for professional practitioners like accountants and attorneys.

5. Enroll With Federal, State, and Local Tax Authorities

New businesses need to pay state-level taxes through the Florida Department of Revenue as well as county taxes to your local municipality. You'll need to create a tax account for your business with the DOR and with the tax authority in your Florida county. 

If your business involves licensing, leasing, renting or selling goods, commercial property or certain types of services, the state charges sales and use tax. Florida also charges corporate income tax if you have a partnership, LLC or corporation.

To pay federal taxes, your business will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. You can complete a free registration form online to receive your EIN. As a sole proprietor, you don't need an EIN since you'll pay your taxes under your personal Social Security number.

6. Partner with a Payment Service Provider

Whether you'll have an in-person business location in Florida or an online presence only, you'll need a way to accept payments from your customers. You can simplify this process by working with Pay.com, which gives you access to our full suite of online payment solutions. 

Not only do we shield sensitive customer credit card data from fraud and identity theft, we also offer a wide variety of ways to pay. Customers can submit orders and pay right on your website, or you can send them a text or email link that lets them instantly purchase your products and services with a safe, secure transaction.

Now that you have your EIN from the IRS, you can use it to sign up for a business bank account. You'll need that information to set up your account and start accepting payments with Pay.com.

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7. Find a Physical Location

You can increase the chances of business success by choosing a physical location that supports your operational goals. Some of the factors to consider when looking for commercial real estate include:

  • The level of foot traffic in the area and the exposure of the property to potential visitors
  • The convenience, accessibility and safety of the location for your staff and customers as well as suppliers and vendors
  • The appearance of the property and how well it reflects the brand image you want to project
  • The presence or lack of competing businesses in the surrounding neighborhood
  • The availability of employees in the local community if applicable
  • Whether you'll be able to expand operations if the company grows
  • Zoning considerations depending on the neighborhood and type of business
  • The cost of the rent plus associated expenses that aren't included 
  • Available infrastructure, such as heating, air conditioning and internet service

These factors can influence your search for an appropriate warehouse, production facility, storefront, or any other type of industrial or commercial real estate. 

Even if you plan to open your Florida business from your home, you'll still need to let county tax authorities know about your new company..

The Bottom Line: Starting a Business in Florida

When you're ready to get your Florida business off the ground, using this guide can help the process go smoothly. If you invest the time to complete the necessary steps, you can avoid fees and other issues once your business is operational. 

When you sign up with Pay.com to accept customer credit and debit cards, you'll be able to launch your new ecommerce business as soon as you've submitted the registration paperwork. Our intuitive platform allows you to manage everything from an easy-to-use dashboard, where you can see your transactions and even send links to request payments. Click here to get started now!

FAQs

How can a business in Florida accept credit card payments?

Your Florida company can easily accept credit card payments with Pay.com. Our easy-to-use platform provides comprehensive payment services, including the ability to send a secure link to collect credit or debit card information. Click here to sign up now.

How much does it cost to start a business in Florida?

Fees for Florida business registration vary by the type of entity. For example, you'll owe $100 for Articles of Organization to start an LLC and $25 to designate a registered agent, for a total of $125. It costs $50 for a corporate registration fee and $35 to designate a registered agent for your corporation. Partnership registration costs $50.

Do you need an LLC to start a business in Florida?

You don't need an LLC to start a Florida business. However, creating an LLC can provide liability protection for your personal assets in case your company loses a legal judgment.

How long does it take to get LLC approved in Florida?

It usually takes three to four weeks to receive approval for a new Florida LLC. You can potentially speed up the process by applying online rather than through the mail. You should also make sure your application doesn't have any mistakes that could result in rejection, which would mean you'd have to apply again.

Meet the author

Andrea Miller

Andrea Miller has been a writer and editor for more than two decades. Specializing in business and finance, she has written for some of the major websites in the financial sector. Outside of work, she spends most of her time with her family and enjoys hiking, yoga, and reading.

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