How to Start a Business in 20 Minutes

I’m not even kidding. You actually can start a for-real business in 20 minutes.

In order for your business to operate legally, it has to be registered with your state and federal government. Specifically, with your Secretary of State and the Internal Revenue Service. Depending on where you live, this entire process takes up less of your time than Sunday night dinner.

In Iowa, for example, you don’t even have to talk to a real person. Just go to Iowa’s Secretary of State’s .gov web site and use their Fast Track system to register your business. Most states have a similar system in place for online registration.

Different types of businesses require different forms and filing fees, so make sure you’re registering the kind of business you want. If you’re doing this on your own, you’re probably looking to establish a limited liability company (LLC). As of 2019, it’s exactly $50 to register an LLC in the state of Iowa.

In addition to the fee, you’ll have to file your entity’s Articles of Organization. For an LLC in Iowa, you are required to list exactly three items:

  1. the name of the company,
  2. the name of the registering agent (you), and
  3. the address of the company’s registered office – that is, a physical location with its own mailings address.

In other words, your Articles of Organization should look something like this:

So that’s Step 1. It takes about six minutes.*

Step 2 takes longer because of course it does – you’re dealing with the IRS. You have to get an Employer Identification Number for your business so you can do your taxes. Yes, you have to get it even if you don’t plan to employ anyone except yourself.

You can do this online, too, through IRS.gov, where it’s totally free.**

If you search for this same information via Google, several .com sites claim they’ll do it for you. Odds are, you don’t need them. As I’ve mentioned before, 99% of all businesses are small and/or sole-proprietorships. In many cases, the process has been simplified so anyone can do it on their own without the benefit of an advanced law degree. Source: I went to art school, and I figured it out.

*Again, every state is different. In Illinois, for example, there’s an actual form you have to fill out.

**I’ll upload another post with screenshots that details the process of obtaining an EIN. Update 7/12/19: that post is here.

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