Forming your own business is a big step. It can mean more stress, more risk, and more paperwork. But it can also mean financial security, it can mean more time for you and your family. And that should be your focus. Stay positive, check all the boxes, and focus on your product.
Our goal here is to help you start your own LLC in Louisiana so that you have one less thing to worry about. Getting yourself off to the right start can save you a lot of headaches in the future. If you do all the careful preparation ahead of time, it will free you up to focus on growing your business, building clientele, and benefiting from all the good that should come from owning your own company.
There are six steps to forming your own limited liability company, or LLC. We’re writing this specifically for people in Louisiana, but much of this information can be applied to other regions. We need to point out, right up top, though, that wherever you file your LLC is where your physical business needs to be located. Anytime you’re conducting business in another state, you’ll need to register there, too.
For all specific information we’ll be referring to the website for the Louisiana Secretary of State, sos.la.gov, specifically their geauxbiz page. We recommend writing out a checklist from the beginning, starting with Step One.
The Six Steps are:
- Chose your Name
- Chose a Registered Agent
- File paperwork
- Write an Operating Agreement
- Open for Business
- Comply and File
Step One: Chose your Name
Picking the right company name can make all the difference. No pressure, but if you plan on being in business for a long time, whatever you pick now will be the name people know you by for years.
Your company name should say something about you, and your business. You don’t want to be the nineteenth Baton Rouge Boiled Crawfish business. But you also don’t want your company’s name to simply be your own first and last name, with no indication of what you do.
If you’re starting a business in LA, then you already know there’s a flavor to every part of the state. New Orleans isn’t the same as Shreveport, isn’t the same as Baton Rouge. So take your local expertise and find a company name that fits you, your business, and your customers.
You should also be flexible. Maybe come up with one or two names. After you’ve brainstormed your ideas, you’ll need to check your business name with a national database and with the LA Secretary of State.
At this point, having a professional on your side can be a huge help. We’ll talk more about registered agents later, but they can help you form your LLC from the very beginning. The two best registered agent companies we’ve found are ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent Services.
Both registered agent companies can help you pick your LLC name, and help you check that name against the database in Louisiana and at the national level.
Last notes on picking a company name:
- Check to see if the name you want is already trademarked (use the official US Government website to check, here).
- Do some internet searches; just because someone hasn’t trademarked or registered a name with the government doesn’t mean they haven’t already purchased a URL with that name; you’d hate to get your ideal company name, but never get to use it as a website name.
After you’ve picked your name, and found out if it’s available in your state, it’s time to find a Registered Agent.
Step Two: Chose a Registered Agent
You shouldn’t skip any part of this checklist; every step is important. But choosing the registered agent is absolutely essential. The registered agent is the person who the state will contact if there’s ever any problem with your LLC.
It’s also the person who will be contacted with any legal paperwork that’s ever filed regarding your LLC. If you’re sued, or if you’re entitled to damages, all paperwork will go to your registered agent.
This step is so important that we recommend hiring one. This gives you the peace of mind to focus on your business, your clients, and your product. We recommend the registered agent services provided by Northwest Registered Agents and ZenBusiness.
Using a service for your registered agent needs can kill a lot of birds with one stone, because a service like ZenBusiness can take care of all your filing needs. They can assist with selecting a name, they can put your paperwork through the Louisiana website, and even make sure you’re compliant with paperwork in the future.
Northwest Registered Agents can even help you file in multiple states for a flat fee. That way, if you’re in Baton Rouge and need to do a job in McComb, Alabama, you’re covered. Or if you’re in Shreveport and have clients in Texas or Arkansas, you don’t have to worry about violating any laws.
In addition to all the benefits of having a registered agent, we need to point out one more time that they are mandatory in the state of Louisiana. In fact, you need a registered agent in any state your LLC will do business. The very next step, Filing Paperwork, will require that you have the name of a registered agent ready.
While you are able to list yourself or any other Louisiana resident as your registered agent, we do suggest you go with ZenBusiness or Northwest Registered Agent Services. For a small fee, they can get you one on one assistance with absolutely every step of starting your LLC, from choosing a name to keeping up-to-date with filings in the months and years to come.
Having an agent service gives you the peace of mind that you’re doing everything you need to, so you can do what you love. After all, no one goes into business for themselves because they want to file more paperwork. So go with the professionals.
Step Three: File Paperwork
These days, everything is done online. Filing for your LLC in Louisiana is no different. We’ve got some screenshots, based on our fake company, Jax’s Fiery Crawfish to show you what to expect. (If you’re Jax, you can have the name. We just used it for a placeholder.)
After you sign up for an account at geauxbiz, and confirm your email address, the first thing you’ll see is this:
Fill out the information for yourself: your name, your address, etc. After that, you'll see this screen:
From here you need to sign in as an individual or an organization. You want to be an organization.
Next is the first time you’ll see a page that will become very familiar to you for the next several days. It’s the “Dashboard” for all your filings.
Here you can see the progress you’ve made on any filings you saved in-progress. You can also see alerts, like if you have a filing date due, as well as any documents you’ve uploaded.
To get going filing your paperwork, the first thing you want to do is click the “GET STARTED” button at the top right.
The next screen you’ll see is the “What would you like to do?” page.
You can only select one thing at a time, and after you chose one and do your research, you can always come back to this page to make different selections.
If you click on the first selection, “Find resources to help plan…” you’ll be directed to this page:
Filling out this information can lead to more questions and more answers. If you want the direct route, go back to the “What would you like to do?” page, and click “Register a Louisiana business just starting up.”
On the next page:
Select “LLC (Limited Liability Company) and “Domestic (Louisiana)”. Right away at the bottom you’ll see that your filing fee is going to be $100. That’s without any expedited turnaround.
After that you’ll need to fill out some tax and employer information.
At this point, you may already be lost in the web pages, the questions, and the different information that the government needs before you’re even a business. This is where having a registered agent or service can come in such handy.
A company like Northwest Registered Agents or ZenBusiness can handle everything like this for you. There is an associated cost, but there’s also a lot of time saved. And at this point you may rightly start to ask yourself how much money your time is worth.
We’ll leave off the webpage tutorial, here, because the rest of the information is going to be unique to you. But here’s a quick checklist of some of the rest of the information you should have handy when it’s time to file paperwork:
- LLC’s name
- Physical address of the business
- Name and address of the Registered Agent
- Type of business
- List of Managers and Members
- List of Organizers (who’s involved in the ownership/founding of the LLC)
- The dates your company will be in business for (date of founding and closing, or being in business “in perpetuity.”)
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Step Four: Write an Operating Agreement
The State of Louisiana does not legally require that you have an Operating Agreement. However, it is a great idea to have one in place, even if it’s a placeholder. That way, down the line, if you need to fill it out in more detail, you’ll at least have a template.
You can go online and get some blank Operating Agreements, some even pre-filled with basic information. If you want to use one of those, you’re totally free to do that. It’s your business, literally.
If you’re forming your LLC by yourself, with no partners or other investors, then the Operating Agreement is largely straightforward. But if you’re partnering with other people, especially if they’re investing real money or equipment, you need to have an ironclad Operating Agreement.
A good operating agreement can protect you and your partners from infighting, disagreements, and headaches that might bring your company down. Things you should look for in an Operating Agreement include, but shouldn’t be limited, to:
- Deciding who can open bank accounts and handle money for the LLC.
- What to do about adding partners or letting them go.
- How to delegate property and assets.
- How to settle disagreements between partners.
- How to layout documents and business processes.
A registered agent can handle all of your Operating Agreement needs, and tailor one to your specific situation.
Step Five: Open for Business
This part is where you get to shine. Here is what you’ve been waiting for. On this step, swing that hammer, get that oven cooking, or spin those tires. When you open for business, try to keep all the paperwork and planning you just did out of your head.
When you deal with customers you don’t want to be thinking about the Secretary of State. You don’t want to worry about whether you got your EIN filed.
These are also great reasons, again, for getting a registered agent or a trusted partner.
Step Six: Comply and File
Step Five is the part no business owner can get around. It’s filing for licenses to perform certain jobs (construction, liquor licenses, etc.), it’s making sure you’re bonded if you’re in certain industries, and other paperwork.
A registered agent can help you stay on top of these things, and so can a dedicated office staff, if you’re large enough to be able to afford one.
The main thing to look out for are annual and quarterly filings. Like paying personal taxes revolves around key dates, so does owning and operating an LLC. Keep track of that Dashboard on geauxbiz and make sure your filing system in the office is airtight.
And now you have your LLC. So what’s next? Well, we don’t have space for a full tutorial on owning and operating a business. And besides, we’d never tell you how to run your Po’ Boy shop. The important part is getting the paperwork dialed in, and after that, doing what you do best—whatever it is.
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