Starting Your Business in California | A Step-by-Step Guide

Start a Business in California

If you want to start an LLC in California, there are numerous factors to consider. Starting your own business is one of the most exciting and profitable things you can do in California. But where do you start? Follow our comprehensive guide on How to Start a Business in California. We will assist you in removing doubt from the process and investigate your success chances. It will begin with defining your business idea and progress to establishing, launching, and expanding your business. Webinarcare Editorial Team will help you every step of the way!

What Business to Start in California?

If you’re looking to start a business in California, consider starting a limited liability company (LLC). LLCs offer personal liability protection for their owners while also providing the flexibility of a partnership or sole proprietorship. Beyond that, here is the list of businesses to consider in California.

  1. Gasoline Station
  2. E-commerce
  3. Cosmetics and Beauty Services
  4. Health and Fitness Center
  5. Car Wash Business

Whatever business you choose to start, it’s important to conduct thorough market research and create a solid business plan before diving in. We reviewed some of the Best LLC Services and provided features as an add-on with their packages for you to check out.

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Starting a business can be a challenging but highly rewarding endeavor. By taking the time to research and plan, you can increase your chances of success. Whether you choose to form a corporation or start an LLC in California, it’s important to surround yourself with a strong team that will guide you. Don’t let fear hold you back, take that first step towards turning your business dreams into a reality.


How to Start a Business in California?

To form a business in California, you must follow a few steps that include creating a business plan, choosing a business entity type, determining your business costs, naming your business, registering a business, and lastly, marketing your business.

Please continue reading to learn more about the overall procedure and what new small business owners should keep in mind as they complete each step.

Step 1: Creating a Business Plan

When developing a business plan, many factors should be considered during the decision-making process. Your business plan in California serves as a road map for your company’s success.

A business plan should take into account the specific goals of your company. You should know the product or service you will provide in California. A well-thought-out business plan is essential for determining how your company will make a profit. If the purpose of the business plan is ambiguous and unrelated to the service you provide, it will impact the business you are forming. Make sure your business goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound). Also, researching your competitors’ services will help you determine your strategy for your state business. Finally, you should consider your company’s funding.

With this article’s assistance, you can better comprehend your business’s essential components and success strategy. You can apply for California Small Business Loans from banks and investor funding to help support your company in California.

Once you have the entire plan in your hands, you can work on the legal framework of your company. Legally, you can form an LLC for your ideal business.

Step 2: Choose a Business Entity in California

Selecting a business entity for your California company. When starting your own business, you must choose a business structure. How well your personal assets are secured, how much tax you pay, and how much paperwork you have to deal with will all be significantly impacted by the type of corporate entity you choose. Consider setting up a corporation, LLC, LLP, or sole proprietorship as your business entity in California.

Sole Proprietorships

Consider a sole proprietorship if you want to start a business in California by yourself. A sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure in which a single individual owns and operates the entire business. The owner and the business are considered the same legal entity in a sole proprietorship. There is no legal distinction between the owner and the business, meaning that the owner has complete control over the business operations, profits, and losses.

Sole proprietorships are best suited for California small businesses with low risks and for individuals who want to maintain complete control over their business without the complexities of establishing a separate legal entity.

Limited Liability Company

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a business structure that combines features of both partnerships and corporations, offering limited liability protection to its owners (called members) while allowing flexibility in management and taxation. An LLC is a separate legal entity from its owners, meaning the members are not personally liable for the business’s debts, obligations, or liabilities.

It is a popular choice for small to medium-sized businesses that want the liability protection of a corporation while maintaining management flexibility and simpler tax treatment. It’s essential to consult with a legal or financial professional to determine if an LLC is the best choice for your specific business situation.

Limited Liability Partnership

A limited liability partnership (LLP) is comparable to an LLC. However, it is usually used by licensed business professionals like attorneys or accountants. A partnership agreement is necessary for this kind of business entity. You can form an LLP in California if you are planning to.


Forming a Corporation in California reduces your personal liability for business debts as an LLC does. A corporation is a legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners, known as shareholders. It is created under the laws of the state it is incorporated in and is considered a separate “person” under the law. The corporation can enter into contracts, own property, sue and be sued, and pay taxes separately from its owners.

A corporation can be taxed as an S-corporation (S-Corp) or a C-corporation (C-Corp). If a small corporation satisfies certain Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standards, then S-corporation status is available, providing pass-through taxation. However, most larger businesses and startups seeking venture financing are taxed as C-corps.

To choose the right business structure in California, consider personal liability protection, taxation, management flexibility, administrative requirements, and setup costs. Consult a legal or financial professional to help you make the best decision.

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Step 3: Determine your California Business Cost

In California, you should determine the cost of your business. You should consider paying the Articles of Organization fee, business licenses fee, office supplies and equipment, payroll, rent, utilities, transportation, and taxes.

Usually, filing an initial California Articles of Organization fee costs $70, while the LLC annual fee costs $10, $20 every 2 years in California. In terms of filing California Articles of Incorporation, the costs usually range up to $100 for filing online and by mail. $115 for in person filing.

If forming an LLC is your ideal business, consider knowing the LLC Cost in California.

Step 4: Name your Business in California

Naming your business doesn’t take a lot of time. With the help of California Business Name Search, you can acquire a name for your business. If you form an LLC in California, you must follow the below rules while naming your business-

  • The name should not be confused with a government entity.
  • The name should be unique.
  • The name should be available to use.
  • Any other business does not use the name.
  • The new name must include “LLC” if it is a limited liability company.

In California, if you do not wish to file your business right away but want to hold the name that you have decided on, then you can reserve your business name. You must file a name reservation application in the California Secretary of State to keep the name.

If the business name is available, you may choose to reserve it for a specific period of 60 days. The online name reservation fee is disclosed and the mail name reservation fee is $10. If your business plans to operate under a name other than its legal name, you may also need to register a fictitious or “doing business as” (DBA) name.

The DBA filing can be done in two methods, online and by mail, which you can file in California Secretary of State. You can check out how to file a DBA in California for clearer understanding.

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Step 5: Register California Business

To register a business in California, you need to file it with the California Secretary of State. Before that, you must have a California Agent for Service of Process for your business. The Agent for Service of Process is a person who is responsible for receiving important legal documents on your behalf.

You can serve as your own Agent for Service of Process, or you can appoint a friend or family member, or you can check the Best Agent for Service of Process Services in California.

Apply For Articles of Organization

After you have a Agent for Service of Process, you need to file the California Articles of Organization, if you want to have an LLC structure, or you need to file the California Articles of Incorporation if you want to have a Corporation.

Request For an EIN

In addition to the paperwork, your Agent for Service of Process should apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) in California. An EIN will serve as the tax ID for your professional corporation. EIN can be obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is a 9-digit number similar to Social Security Number. EIN, however, is distinct from SSN. It is only used for business-related activities, particularly for submitting general taxes. The form must be completed and uploaded to the IRS website. You can obtain the EIN for free from the IRS.

The application of an EIN in California can be through the following:

  • Apply Online- The online EIN application is the preferred method for customers to apply for and obtain an EIN.
  • Apply by Fax- Taxpayers can fax the completed Form SS-4 application to the appropriate fax number), after ensuring that Form SS-4 contains all of the required information.
  • Apply by Mail- The EIN application Form SS-4 can be filed via mail. The processing time frame to receive the mail is four weeks.
  • Apply by Telephone (for International Applicants)– International applicants may call 267-941-1099 (not a toll-free number) from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday to obtain their EIN.

After you have your EIN number, you can benefit in several ways. It will give your LLC the absolute advantage necessary to operate at full capacity without encountering legal or judicial issues.

Recommended: Professional services have the EIN included in their LLC formation package. We recommend using –

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Step 6: Apply for Business License and Permit

Business licenses and operating permits are necessary to run any business in California. Before launching your new business, request any required business license or permission. Most California businesses need licenses or permits to operate. Federal, state, and local governments may all require businesses to have licenses and permits. The business license fee depends on the type of license you are applying for. It can start from $25 till going up to $100+. However, in California, the business license fee ranges from $50 – $300.

Step 7: Obtain a Bank Account

Your business dealings in California might be simpler with a US business bank account because it boosts your company’s legitimacy and liquidity. Opening a separate bank account for your California business is essential for maintaining a clear separation between your personal and business finances.

You can check out the Best Banks in California, which offers the best fees, services, and convenience for your business needs.

Step 8: Market your Business in California

Now that your California business is registered, you can market it with an ideal marketing plan. An ideal marketing plan can help a start-up business to become known. Making a comprehensive social media network like META, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube falls within this category. While creating an SEO campaign for your company website, you may also look at specialized communities on Facebook and LinkedIn.


What forms must I fill out to register my business in California?
You will need to fill out the Articles of Incorporation or the Statement of Information, depending on your business structure.
What are some common business structures in California?
Some common structures are sole proprietorships, limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships, and corporations.
How long does it typically take to form a business in California?
It can take between two and four weeks to form your business in California from the time your documents are submitted.
What agencies should I contact to get a permit or license for my business in California?
You will need to contact various state and county agencies depending on your type of business. Some examples include the Bureau of Cannabis Control for marijuana businesses and the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration for sales tax permits.
Do I need a business license to conduct business in California?
Yes, you are required to have a California business license if you generate income in the state or operate a business from a physical location in California.
How do I know if I need to obtain a seller’s permit in California?
If you are going to be selling, leasing, or renting tangible personal property in California, you will need to obtain a seller’s permit.
How do I calculate the income taxes for my business in California?
You will report your earnings on California’s state tax return form and use tax brackets to calculate your income tax.
What is the minimum wage in California for employers with 25 or fewer employees?
The minimum wage in California for employers with 25 or fewer employees is $13.00 per hour.
Can I get financial assistance to start my business in California?
Yes, there are grants and loans available for small business owners in California. You can check out resources like the California Business Investment Guide for additional information.
Are there any regulations I should be aware of in starting an ecommerce business in California?
Yes, ecommerce businesses in California must comply with state laws pertaining to online consumer protection and related privacy issues.
What is required to register and form a business name in California?
You need to conduct a search on the Secretary of State website to make sure that the name you want for your business is not already taken by another business in California.
Are there any hidden business taxes in California?
There is a gross receipts tax that some businesses in California must pay. This tax is calculated as a percentage of your business’s total income for any given quarter.
How do I pay my business taxes in California?
You can pay your business taxes online via the California Tax Franchise Board’s website.
What is the state sales tax rate in California?
The state sales tax rate in California is 7.25%, not including local sales tax rates that can make the total sales tax range from 7.25% to 10.5%.
How do I obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for my business in California?
You need to apply for an EIN number through the IRS website.
Can I use my home address as my business address in California?
Yes, you can use your home address as your business address in California; however, a PO box is typically preferable to maintain privacy.
Does California allow for businesses to self-insure for workers’ compensation?
California permits businesses of a certain size, typically larger ones, to self-insure upfront or through bond or other financial assurance arrangement with the state.
Is it legal to hire an independent contractor in California?
Yes, it is legal to hire an independent contractor in California, but it’s important to meet certain contractual requirements to avoid being fined for misclassification.
Can I work with a virtual office address in California?
Yes, you can use a virtual office address as a registered address for your California business.
Do I need to file an annual report for my California business?
California Secretary of State requires LLCs and corporations to file annual reports.
Am I taxed twice if I want to benefit from California tax rates without being a resident of California?
A California source income would incur California tax, but if the income is nontaxable, it wouldn’t. You can take California tax as a credit on your resident state’s tax return.
How do I complete and file a California Schedule R in my business tax return in California?
California Schedule R is only needed if you have gains/losses from real estate or rental income sources.
Do unlimited auto-unsubscribe links on an email campaigns remain California requirements?
Yes, California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act sets these requirements limiting email marketing to healthcare services providers to have clear disclaimers on links or attachments that allow receiving parties to easily unsubscribe-en masse-if needed.
When picking a business location, is there a size cap for home offices in California?
Starting January of 2022 CEQA will change allowing small building projects with initial investment up to $15 million to be approved directly with city of county, currently each jurisdiction or enforcement body operates differently.
Does having a low income in California equate to other state’s high income since the State has one of the highest income taxes in the US?
An H&P figure in 2018 shows that Calif patrons on average bear high mean LLC, however, it also shows higher-than-average salaries pay highest California taxed, others who earns and earns over $2,000,000 pays the highest tax rate in California which could reach 13.3%.
How can Californians target federal research and development funds?
California companies has various innovation programs and other material sources. State funds these firms via the Innovate Around initiative which mainly prioritizes tehnalytics and biomechanics-focused. SBIR provides $122mm matching small companies connected with university research labs, regardless of whther benefiting DOD, HHS, NSF, or DOED services.
Can the California business taxes be paid quarterly?
Yes you can choose to pay these taxes annually or, alternatively, every four months for required estimated payments.
Can pesticides and herbicides put California farmers at risk?
Yes environmental hazards in farming communities. Nearby agricultural installations pollution make a potentially dangerous and stressful environment for workers, They are regular workers considered by state or federally productive by eligibility rules for labor with minimal health and safety reporting or regulations.
What are the basic steps to start a business in California?
The steps include choosing a business structure, registering your business with the state, obtaining necessary licenses and permits, registering for taxes, and creating a business plan.
How do I choose the right business structure in California?
Your options include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to consult with a professional and consider your specific needs.
What licenses and permits do I need to start a business in California?
Your business may need city or county permits, zoning clearance, state licenses, and permits from government agencies depending on the type of your business.
What is a California Seller’s Permit?
A California Seller’s Permit is a permit that allows you to make sales in California and collect and pay sales tax.
How do I register for a Seller’s Permit in California?
You can register online, by mail, or in person by completing and submitting the proper form through the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
What business taxes do I need to be aware of in California?
Some of the taxes you need to be aware of include sales tax, use tax, employer withholding tax, and business income tax.
Are there any incentives for new businesses in California?
California offers a variety of tax credits and incentives to eligible businesses based on certain criteria such as job creation and investment in specific industries.
How long does it take to register a business in California?
The processing time varies depending on the type of registration and workload of the registering agency, but it typically takes several weeks.
Is it necessary to have a business plan to start a business in California?
Having a well-crafted business plan can increase your chances of success, but it is not a requirement to register your business in most cases.
Can I register a fictitious business name in California?
Yes, you can register a fictitious business name by filing a form with the county in which your business is located.
What are the state laws regarding hiring and employing workers in California?
California state law includes regulations on minimum wage, paid leave, discrimination and harassment, and worker safety, among others.
What is workers’ compensation insurance, and is it required in California?
Employers in California are typically required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which provides benefits to employees in the event of work-related injuries or illnesses.
How do I file for workers’ compensation insurance in California?
You can purchase a policy from a private insurance company or the State Compensation Insurance Fund, or you can file a self-insurance plan with the Director of Industrial Relations.
Is there a minimum wage increase on the horizon for California?
Yes, California has incremental minimum wage increases scheduled through 2024, with the current baseline minimum wage set at $13. More details about the minimum wage can be found in the California Department of Industrial Relations website.
What labor laws should I be aware of to avoid legal troubles?
Some of the most important laws to consider include overtime pay, required meal and rest breaks for employees, anti-discrimination and harassment policies, and proper classification of workers as employees or independent contractors.
Can I have employees for my business without a workers’ compensation insurance policy in California?
California law requires most businesses, regardless of size and industry to carry workers’ compensation insurance, certain exemptions may apply.
Is it important to distinguish between employees and independent contractors when hiring?
Properly classifying workers as employees or independent contractors is an important legal distinction and can have significant impacts on your responsibilities for taxes and benefits.
What is a DBA, and do I need one in California?
A DBA, or “doing business as” name, is a name that you operate your business under. While it’s not always a requirement, it can help establish your brand and it may also be a requirement at local and state levels.
How much does it cost to register a business name in California?
Costs vary depending on the county in which you’re registering your business name, but it can generally range from $25 for filing a DBA to several hundred dollars to form an LLC or incorporate a business.
What are the consequences of not registering my business with the state of California?
Operating a business in California without registering properly carries legal and financial risks, including possible fines or penalties for noncompliance.
Can I operate a home-based business in California?
Yes, but you may need to obtain a home occupation permit or comply with zoning restrictions.
Do I need a business tax ID number to conduct business in California?
Your business may need a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is used to identify your business in tax and banking transactions.
How do I get a state tax ID for my business in California?
Most businesses in California automatically get a Tax ID, also called a Permanent Account Number (PAN), after registering with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
Do I need a business license in California to do business?
Depending on the type of business you operate, you may need a state and/or local business license.
How can I register a trademark for my business in California?
You can file for a federal trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark office or register with California’s state trademark registry by filling and correctly submitting a trademark application form.
Do I need a business consultant or lawyer to start a business in California?
While it’s possible to start a business without professional assistance, obtaining advice and guidance from professionals like business consultants and lawyers may lead to mitigated risks or overall faster business growth.
When are state business taxes due in California, and can I file online?
Business tax due dates will depend on the type of tax, and yes, many state business taxes can be filed and paid online through the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
Can I operate as a for-profit social enterprise in California?
Yes, and there are several legal entities that could be shaped specifically for this situation. You may also consider nonprofit formation if the overall organization aligns more with the social benefits under advocacy aspects preferred by California nonprofit law.
How can I find resources and support for my small business in California?
Options for resources and support includeCalifornia’s Office of Small Business Advocate, the California Small Business Development Center network, small business associations, and other available professional and community networking groups.

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Why You Should Start Business in California

One of the key reasons why you should consider starting a business in California is its diverse economy. From agriculture to technology, entertainment to finance, California offers a wide range of industries and markets to tap into. This diversity creates a fertile ground for innovation and collaboration, enabling businesses to thrive and grow in ways that may not be possible elsewhere. Whether you are starting a tech startup in Silicon Valley or a fashion brand in Los Angeles, California offers unparalleled opportunities for entrepreneurs to turn their dreams into reality.

Furthermore, California’s forward-thinking policies and regulations make it an attractive destination for businesses of all sizes. The state has been at the forefront of many progressive initiatives, including environmental sustainability, worker rights, and healthcare reform. These policies not only reflect the values of the state’s residents but also create a business-friendly environment that encourages companies to prioritize social responsibility and long-term sustainability. By choosing to start a business in California, entrepreneurs can align themselves with these values and contribute to positive change in their communities and beyond.

In addition to its diverse economy and progressive policies, California’s global connectivity sets it apart as a premier destination for businesses looking to expand their reach. With access to international markets, a diverse and multicultural workforce, and a thriving network of investors and collaborators, California provides a strategic advantage for businesses looking to go global. Whether you are seeking to establish partnerships in Asia, Europe, or Latin America, California’s vibrant economy and diverse population make it an ideal base from which to launch and grow your business on a global scale.

Moreover, California’s vibrant lifestyle and cultural amenities make it a desirable place to live and work. From the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica to the culinary delights of San Francisco, California offers a high quality of life that attracts talented individuals from all over the world. By starting a business in California, entrepreneurs can enjoy a healthy work-life balance, access to world-class education and healthcare, and a vibrant cultural scene that inspires creativity and innovation. Whether you enjoy surfing, hiking, or dining out at Michelin-starred restaurants, California has something for everyone.

In conclusion, California offers a unique blend of economic opportunity, progressive values, global connectivity, and quality of life that make it an ideal destination for entrepreneurs looking to start and grow their businesses. With its diverse economy, forward-thinking policies, and vibrant lifestyle, California provides the perfect environment for businesses to flourish and succeed. Whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur or a first-time business owner, starting a business in California can be a rewarding and transformative experience that opens up a world of possibilities. So why wait? Start your business in California today and join the ranks of successful entrepreneurs who have made their mark in the Golden State.


Starting a business in California has unique advantages and challenges since it offers a large and diverse market, access to skilled talent, and numerous networking opportunities, making it an attractive location for entrepreneurs. However, business owners must also contend with a high cost of living, intense competition, and potentially complex regulations.

Ultimately, whether starting a business in California is the right decision depends on the entrepreneur’s specific needs, goals, and industry. It is crucial to conduct thorough research and consider factors such as taxes, regulations, workforce availability, and target market when choosing a location for a new business. By carefully weighing the pros and cons, entrepreneurs can make informed decisions and set themselves up for success in the competitive California business landscape.

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