How to Start an LLC in Washington

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Businesses with LLC structures enjoy various benefits in Washington state. By starting an LLC in Washington, you can also enjoy easy registration, quick tax preparation, affordable starting costs, and other incentives and small business program assistance. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the step-by-step process of starting an LLC in Washington:

Name Your LLC

Like many other states, Washington also has rules and regulations for naming businesses. Among all the rules for naming a business in Washington, the following are the most important ones:

  • Your business name must be distinct from all other business names in the state.

  • Your business name cannot include State Department, Treasury, FBI, or other terms used for government agencies. Additionally, you cannot have words like bank, attorney, union, etc., unless your business operates in a related industry.

  • Your business name must include Limited Liability Company in any form, such as LLC, L.L.C, L.C., etc. 

It is best to brainstorm more than one business name idea, as specific names you come up with may not be available. You can check the availability here before moving on to the next step.

Reserve Your Business Name

It is best to secure the business name you came up with so nobody else can take it. Washington State reserves business names for LLCs for a small fee of $30. You can also expedite this service for an additional $50 only if you want to start an LLC in Washington quicker.

Choose a Registered Agent

A registered agent is a person authorized to deal with your business documents and represent it on its behalf. You can name any person or professional agent service as your business’s registered agent as long as they fulfill the following criteria:

  • They must have a Washing physical street address.

  • They must be available during business hours to receive and handle documentation.

File Certificate of Formation

Certificate of Formation is a form submitted to the Washington State Corporate Commission. Filing this form is a vital step to starting an LLC in Washington. To file it successfully, you need to submit the following information in the certificate:

  • Business name, address, and purpose

  • Registered agent name and address

  • Business date of formation and dissolution (if any)

  • Business management structure

  • Name, address, and signature of the person filing the certificate

You can file a certificate of formation online or print it from the provided link, fill it out by hand, and submit it through the mail. You must note that filing a certificate of formation online establishes your LLC much quicker. 

The Washington Secretary of State reviews this certificate. Once it is approved, your LLC becomes a legal entity.

Get a Certificate of Establishment

You and your LLC’s registered agent will receive the following three documents upon the approval of a certificate of formation:

  1. A letter of congratulations

  2. Copy of certificate of formation you submitted

  3. Copy of approved certificate of formation you submitted

The last document will allow you to open a bank account for your business, file it for taxes, get business insurance, and acquire an Employee Identification Number from Internal Revenue Service (IRS). EIN is essential for hiring employees. But even if you don’t plan on hiring employees for your small business, it can help make the tax filing process smoother and quicker.

Acquire Washington Business License

Starting an LLC in Washington requires a state business license. The business licenses are acquired from the Washington Department of Revenue. Like certificates of formation, business licenses can also be filed online or through the mail.

An approved Washington business license also gets LLCs a UBI or Unified Business Identifier. This number is vital as it helps LLCs file annual reports and taxes.

Draft an Operating Agreement

As the name suggests, an operating agreement outlines the operational framework of a business. While Washington State does not require LLCs to form an operating agreement, making one can prove highly advantageous for your business. In case of a lawsuit against the company, the state reaches conclusions and decisions based on the business’s operating agreement. Hence, preparing an operating agreement can help protect you and your business.

Generally, operating agreements include information on the business, business members, and registered agent. It also includes voting rights, profit sharing, business members’ contributions, roles and responsibilities, business meeting rules, processes to add or eliminate business members, procedures to hire employees, and business dissolution and asset division terms. However, you can add any other information and business processes per your preference or business requirement.

Submit Initial Report

Washington State requires LLCs to file an initial report within 120 days of its formation. This initial report is similar to an annual report and can be filed online. While filing this report isn’t a primary step to starting an LLC in Washington, your business can face severe consequences if you ignore it.

That’s it! Your small business in Washington will be established by completing the above steps. However, you cannot really start an LLC in Washington without the final step:

Get a Website and Market Your Business

Registering a business on paper is essential, but it doesn’t bring any clients. You must get a website and market your business to reach your clients.

Audiences search for everything they need online. Hence, websites play the role of physical shops in the online world. Since you want to make a good impression on your audience and convert them into customers as soon as they get to your website, you must put effort into building it. You must choose a suitable color theme, design an easy layout, write tempting copy, and add high-res images. Moreover, you will need to create social media accounts, mark your business’s presence on platforms like maps, Yelp, etc., and run ads on local websites, newspapers, and magazines. But that’s not all – you must also manage and update your website and social media accounts frequently to actively attract the right audience.

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