A limited liability company (LLC) is an excellent way to structure a legal business entity in Georgia.
While the end goal of running your business is appealing, many new entrepreneurs are intimidated by the paperwork, compliance, and legal requirements of launching an LLC.
Fortunately, starting an LLC in Georgia is much easier than it appears.
This guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of forming an LLC in Georgia so that you can focus more on running your business without getting buried in administrative tasks.
The Easy Parts of Starting an LLC in Georgia
The LLC formation process in Georgia is a breeze. While there are some formal documents and steps you need to follow, you can just use an LLC formation service to handle this for you.
You can definitely file all of the papers on your own and save a few bucks. But it’s much easier to let someone else handle it for you. The cost is marginal, and you can rest easy knowing that your Georgia LLC is getting formed the right way.
There are tons of online formation services on the market, but ZenBusiness is ideal for starting an LLC in Georgia.
The LLC formation packages from ZenBusiness start at just $49 plus Georgia state filing fees. It’s a small price to pay for a smooth LLC filing process.
Plus, ZenBusiness offers benefits like operating agreement templates, EINs, annual report services, worry-free compliance, and more. And all plans are backed by a 100% accuracy guarantee.
It’s essentially everything you need to start an LLC in Georgia, all under one roof. So if you’re looking for the fastest and easiest way to form your business, this is the best way to go.
The Difficult Parts of Starting an LLC in Georgia
While the formation process itself might be easy, there are still uphill challenges you’ll likely face along the way.
With any business, compliance is always a top concern. There are certain tasks you need to complete to remain in good standing with the state of Georgia. You’ll need to obtain business licenses, appoint a registered agent, file an annual registration, and do things of that nature.
These tasks aren’t necessarily difficult. But ignoring them or forgetting to do something could be bad news for your LLC.
Even after you’re up and running, fully compliant, and ready to operate, there’s still a long road ahead of you. Finding office space, purchasing equipment, hiring employees, managing employees, attracting and retaining customers—all of this is easier said than done.
Running a business has its perks, but expect your fair share of headaches along the way.
Step 1 – Choose a Name For Your Georgia LLC
Before you do anything else, you need to name your business. This name will be on all of your formation documents, so you can’t file anything or get started without it.
Some of you might already have a name in mind. Others might need to do a little bit of brainstorming. But there are a few things you need to keep in mind while you’re completing this step.
Georgia LLC Name Requirements
Each state has its own specific rules about LLC names. In Georgia, LLCs must contain one of the following:
- Limited Liability Company
- Limited Company
You can abbreviate “Limited” with “Ltd.” and “Company” may be abbreviated as “Co.” The full name of your Georgia LLC must not exceed 80 characters, including spacing and punctuation.
The LLC name must be unique and recognizably different compared to existing business names registered with the Georgia Secretary of State Corporations Division. So you’ll need to check the state database to verify the name’s availability.
For example, your name will get rejected if the only difference between your name and an existing business’s name is “a,” “an,” or “the.” Punctuation as the only difference or plural forms of the same word won’t be approved either.
You must check the database of company names to ensure yours is unique. If you’re using an LLC formation service like ZenBusiness, they will automatically check your chosen business name in the database on your behalf.
All you have to do is enter the name, and you’ll instantly see if it’s available.
LLC Name Reservations in Georgia
If you have a name in mind, but you’re not ready to proceed with the following steps quite yet, you can reserve the name for up to 30 days.
Just fill out Georgia’s name request reservation form. You can file online or send it by mail.
I recommend the online filing for an LLC name reservation in Georgia. The processing time is seven business days, and the fee is just $25. If you file by mail, the fee is $35, and the processing time jumps to $15 days. You can send mailed forms to:
Office of Secretary of State, Corporations Division
Name Reservation Request
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SE
Suite 313 West Tower
Atlanta, GA 30334
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of reserving a name on your own, ZenBusiness also has a name reservation service.
It’s an extra $50 on top of the state fees. But this is one less thing you’ll need to handle on your own.
Trade Names (DBA)
The legal name of your LLC in Georgia doesn’t need to be used for other purposes. Instead, you can register a trade name in Georgia, also known as a DBA (doing business as) name.
This is not a requirement. But there are some scenarios where it makes sense to have a DBA.
If you’re planning to operate multiple lines of business, you can create a single parent LLC and use individual DBAs for your other branches. Then you just need to file for a single business entity. You could also use a DBA that appeals to different audiences.
For example, let’s say you’re opening a laundromat. The legal name of your LLC might be “Clean Clothes Holdings LLC.” But you could register DBAs for different locations like Atlanta Laundry, Athens Laundry, and Savannah Laundry.
ZenBusiness also has an online DBA registration service that you can use for your Georgia trade name.
Step 2 – Appoint a Registered Agent
Every LLC in Georgia must have a registered agent. The registered agent’s responsibility is to accept service of process and government correspondence on behalf of your business.
Technically, you can appoint yourself as the registered agent for your Georgia LLC, but I advise against that. This isn’t for you unless you want to be available in person during all regular business hours. This could also mean you get served court documents in front of employees or customers.
ZenBusiness offers registered agent services in all 50 states, including Georgia.
In addition to the basic registered agent services, ZenBusiness also offers worry-free compliance. This includes two yearly amendments, state annual reports, and notifications about other important deadlines.
The service starts at $149 per year when you use ZenBusiness to form your Georgia LLC.
Registered Agent Requirements in Georgia
If you’re looking elsewhere for a registered agent, make sure you appoint someone who meets the following criteria:
- If you appoint an individual, they must be a Georgia state resident.
- A domestic LLC or corporation in Georgia is acceptable.
- A foreign company is acceptable if they have a certificate of authority to do business in Georgia.
- The registered agent must have a Georgia street address (no PO boxes accepted).
- They must be available during normal business hours at that address to accept in-person delivery of legal documents and government correspondence.
Failing to abide by these requirements can create serious compliance issues for your Georgia LLC.
Step 3 – Prepare and File Your Formation Paperwork
Next, you need to file the official forms so the secretary of state office can formally recognize your business as a legal entity in Georgia. Unlike other states, Georgia has two documents that need to be filed. I’ll explain each one in greater detail below:
Articles of Organization
You can file your articles of organization online, in person, or by mail. Each option has different processing times and fees.
For example, you can file online for $100 and get everything processed within seven business days. Georgia charges an additional $100 if you want to expedite the online filing for two-day processing. If you submit online before noon on a weekday, you can get it processed the same business day for an additional $250.
But if you file by mail or in person, you can get the documents processed within one hour for an additional $1,000.
ZenBusiness can handle your Articles of Organization for you, file with the state on your behalf, and expedite the documents as well.
ZenBusiness offers rush filing with the Premium package and expedited filing speeds with the Pro plan.
Georgia’s Articles of Organization form is very straightforward. It’s just the name of your LLC, the effective date, and signatures.
Everything else about your LLC will be on the Transmittal form:
- LLC name reservation number (if applicable)
- LLC name (exactly as it appears on the articles form)
- Name of the person filing
- Address of person filing
- The principal mailing address of LLC
- Registered agent information
- Name and address of each organizer
Once the articles of organization and transmittal forms have been processed, your Georgia LLC will be official.
Step 4 – Draft Your Operating Agreement
The operating agreement is an essential but often overlooked step in the LLC formation process. That’s because you don’t need to file this with the state, and it is not a requirement for forming a business.
But an operating agreement defines your management structure, voting rights, meetings, percentage of ownership, profit distribution, buy-out rules, and other crucial details about how your business will operate.
It helps clear the air and put everything in writing. So if there’s ever a dispute between members, you can just defer to the operating agreement for a resolution. If you don’t have an operating agreement, any disputes will default to Georgia state law, which may not yield a favorable outcome for you and your business.
Every ZenBusiness formation package comes with an operating agreement template, making this process much easier for you.
Step 5 – Prepare to Operate
Now that your LLC is officially registered with the state, there are still a few additional tasks you need to complete before you can operate.
Obtain an EIN
First, you need to get an EIN (employer identification number). This is basically like a social security number, but for your business. You’ll use it to file your taxes, open company bank accounts, hire employees, and more.
Sometimes vendors and clients will request an EIN before they do business with you. So this is definitely something you need to have.
You can get an EIN directly from the IRS for free. But if you’re using ZenBusiness to form your LLC, an EIN comes standard with the Pro and Premium plans. This is the easiest way to get an EIN for your business.
Get Required Business Licenses
The exact permits and licenses required to operate will vary based on your industry and business type.
For example, there are licenses to run restaurants, bars, or grocery stores that sell alcoholic beverages in Georgia. You’ll also need a separate liquor license if you fall into this category.
If you’re charging a membership fee for the public to access, you need to have a buying service license in Georgia.
Use the official Georgia state website to browse for applicable licenses and permits. Use this SBA resource for federal permit requirements. Contact your local city, county, or chamber of commerce to learn more about required local licenses.
Prepare For Annual Registration
Every Georgia LLC must file an annual registration. This needs to be submitted between January 1st and April 1st each year.
There’s a $50 fee associated with the annual registration, and it’s easy to file online.
Failure to file your annual registration will automatically dissolve your LLC. This is another reason why it’s so helpful to have ZenBusiness as your registered agent. The worry-free compliance service will remind you of this deadline to ensure you remain in good standing with the state.