Structure is the backbone of business, especially one in its infancy. If structure is the backbone, legal compliance forms the vertebrae.
The rest of the skeleton’s formation comes from limited liability protection, understandable taxation options, business credibility and more.
With an LLC as joints that hold the bones together, there’s little that can go wrong with the best LLC service for your business.
The best LLC services are:
LLC: What Is It?
To the new entrepreneur, the idea of an LLC may sound vaguely familiar or completely foreign. It’s not easy to understand for the less business-minded and less experienced.
Putting it as simply as possible, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a state law-authorized entity resembling a corporation but lacking the stifling and ambiguous formality.
In an LLC, each owner of the business possesses limited personal liability in the event the company goes under. Meaning, none of your assets—property, vehicles, personal finance accounts—can be touched in a lawsuit.
With regular corporations, your assets may be at risk in the event of a lawsuit, unpaid debt or bankruptcy.
There are also laws in some states that enforce meetings and reports for shareholders of a corporation, annually. Some states also had rules about how many parties it took to own and operate a corporation. Again, LLCs are a workaround to any such laws that still remain.
In a nutshell, with an LLC, you get the perks of being a corporation but without as many rigid rules. On top of that, as an owner of the business, you’re protected from non-personal pitfalls.
What Can an LLC Do for Your Business?
Now you know the basics of an LLC and how it differs from a corporation, what are the benefits? We’ve touched on the limited liability aspect, but does that really make much of a difference? Plus, is it the only benefit?
LLCs Protect Your Assets
Hypothetical: You own an eCommerce store with your friends. You guys aren’t rich or famous, but you each have a skill lending itself to the production of handmade, hand-painted ceramic mugs and other crockery.
The mailman messes up and drops the package, but delivers it anyway. The mug was wrapped enough to avoid visible damage, but there’s a tiny chip on the rim. It’s unnoticeable but sharp.
The customer takes a sip and… boom. Cut lip. Blood everywhere. Emotional distress. Hospital bills.
Small company that lacks the funds for a lawsuit? Sued. But since the company has nothing, the angry customer goes after your house and 401K.
Alas, the customer fails because your company was set up with an LLC service, protecting you. You, the person, are not liable for the mishap. You hide behind a “corporate shield” and only the company suffers.
LLCs Allow Ownership Flexibility
Hypothetical: You run the business from above alone, making and supplying everything yourself. You can register as a single-member LLC and get the perks of a corporation without being one—meanwhile, some states used to require three or more shareholders to qualify as a business.
Then one day, your friend from overseas, who has a similar business, wants to team up. That’s fine too. You can share an LLC called a Series LLC or become partners and merge your businesses under your LLC. You can do this despite your friend’s overseas residence.
LLCs Make You Look Legit
Hypothetical: You’re not business-minded, you’re not big and fancy. You’re just a person sitting in a basement, making and selling mugs.
You don’t seem professional; your brand is weak and too mingled with your product. People see you as Jerry the mug guy.
Setting up your business as a legal entity separate from yourself adds some legitimacy to what you’re doing.
If you prove your LLC status, your customers know you’re not Jerry the mug guy.
You’re Jerry, the sole owner and operator of Cool Brand Name Inc., providing custom goods for a wide array of loyal customers.
LLCs Help Separate Finances
Personal and business PayPal accounts are a decent starting point, but it all goes into the same personal bank account in the end.
An LLC gives you the opportunity to open a business checking account and even a business credit card. This helps you buy materials in bulk and pay them off over time while also building credit for your business rather than yourself.
It’s also vastly easier to track your business expenses when it’s not mingling with your personal funds.
LLCs Provide Tax Advantages
We all want to save money when Uncle Sam comes knocking. With an LLC, it’s easier to hold on to a few more pennies.
LLCs aren’t taxed on their income. They’re what’s known as “pass-through” entities in the world of taxes.
If your business were registered as a C-Corporation, you’d be paying out business and personal income tax. With an LLC, you just pay the personal income taxes, and of course, the dreaded self-employment tax… at a potentially reduced rate.
LLCs allow you to pose as an S-Corporation, which leads to a possible reduction in what you pay in self-employment tax. This isn’t for sure and varies by state, though, so you’ll need to talk with an accountant with experience with LLCs.
Having a trusted accountant will also help with an LLC’s tax downsides. Tax bracket variance means you may have to pay even more than you would as a C-Corporation. Ensure you have regular meetings with an advisor and accountant to ensure you stay on top of what you owe.
How to Set up an LLC
Nothing in life is simple, and in business, it’s worse. There are several ways to set up an LLC and most are tedious, and require an attorney or expertise yourself.
If you dislike the idea of dealing with an attorney, or you just don’t have the funds as a budding business, there’s thankfully an easier way to go about it: an LLC service provider.
An LLC service provider takes care of much of the work for you, is inexpensive and can be done online.
There are lots of perks that come with these service providers, too, which we’ll take you through as we examine the companies and what they provide.
Best LLC Service: Top 7
After scouring the web for the best deals and services entrepreneurs recommend, we’ve compiled a list of the best LLC services around today.
ZenBusiness is at the top of everyone’s list, so who are we to argue?
The top-ranking status isn’t all that sets this one apart, though. The services on offer live up to the hype.
This is a company situated in Texas, which has high state fees for forming an LLC. The inexpensive packages make this a fantastic LLC service for Texas natives not wanting to spend too much after that hefty fee.
Of course, the services aren’t Texas-exclusive, and ZenBusiness has helped thousands of businesses across the nation since the company started its operation in 2015.
One area of focus is on helping people out of poverty. ZenBusiness is partnered with Kiva.org, allowing the provision of small-business loans aimed towards women and minorities often left behind in the business world.
So, affordable and good-natured, it’s an LLC service to consider.
Packages start at $49 and include everything you need for your basic setup. This includes registered agent services for no added fees for one year. After that, the registered agent service is $99 annually, which is pricey but lower than many competitors.
Customers rave about how affordable ZenBusiness is, with communicative staff and quick responses. Part of the speed comes from the high-tech operation that lets ZenBusiness set up your LLC faster than many competitors.
- Track and manage filing deadlines and annual reports—$110 annual fee.
- Article amendments if required—$100 per amendment.
- Publication of forming the LLC, if required by your state—$200.
- Provide an EIN—$70.
- Low prices.
- Ethical, do-good business.
- Free registered agent for one year.
- The company is only five years old at the time of writing—there’s plenty of time for the service prices to skyrocket with increasing popularity.
IncFile deserves a tied #1 spot with ZenBusiness, as they’re similar services but with a small difference that put the former over the edge.
With IncFile, there’s no opportunity for a small-business loan, and the overall price of your services with Incfile may be higher than with ZenBusiness.
That last point may seem strange, as IncFiles packages start at nothing. Pay your state fee, and IncFile will set up an LLC for free.
Since 2004, over 250,000 businesses have benefited from this generous offer. At the low price of nothing, you even get a registered service agent for a year and alerts for filing in time for deadlines come tax season.
If you have a wider budget and want to tackle the Gold Package at $149, you’ll get:
- An EIN.
- Operating agreement.
- Express document shipping.
- A banking resolution.
- Personalized company binder.
- S-corporation taxation election application.
The $149 package seems a drastic price jump from free, but that’s one downside of IncFile. The free package means the other services are notoriously upsold, along with a range of third-party offers being pushed by the company.
- Registered agent for $119 after the first year.
- Apply for your foreign LLC status in any additional states you wish to operate in—$149.
- Research and provide all the required permits and licenses needed for compliant business operation—$99.
- Trademark your business name with USPTO—$199.
- Incredibly affordable if you don’t want extras.
- Fantastic array of additional services, even if you merely upgrade to the Gold Package.
- The company has over 10,000 mainly positive reviews online.
- Upselling due to free entry (Silver) package.
- Pricier registered agent service than ZenBusiness.
NorthWest packs a pricey punch, but the customer service is second to none. As the company has been in operation since 1998, it’s not shocking the customer service is as close to perfect as you could reasonably expect.
On the other hand, it comes with a price. A price tag of $225, to be exact.
If budget is no issue for you, then, by all means, look at NorthWest. The services the company provides warrant it—there are no upsells here, and all processes are as straightforward as agents and customer service reps can make them.
It’s very much a customer-focused organization, and despite having additional services on offer, nobody will try to push them on you.
One of these additional services is a registered agent for $125 annually. This is higher than the previous contenders on this list, yes, but lower than many other competitors.
Something else NorthWest does better than competitors is document scanning. Where most LLC services will scan everything legal, NorthWest will scan everything, period. You never have to worry about losing physical documents, and it’s not on you to keep copies. Although, scanning documents yourself would be a smart move too.
- Filing your reports on time, for an annual fee of $100.
- Your own virtual office complete with secretarial services on-demand to add efficiency and professionalism to your operation—$49 monthly fee.
- A unique business address at a NorthWest location for use wherever you need it, with mail forwarded—$40 a month.
- Best customer service in the industry, according to customer reports.
- Your very own business address, perfect for work-from-home businesses.
- Easy-to-use virtual office to help you stay on top of everything.
- Pricey package.
As the name would suggest, with Rocket Lawyer you get legal services on top of LLC formation. Since LLCs are often set up by attorneys and can get complex, you have both services in one.
The legal services may be part of the reason a decade-old company has a customer base of over 20 million and a business client base of 7 million.
Another attractive element is the money-back guarantee on the initial $99 setup fee if you have unfixable issues in the first 30 days of your operation.
But along with those positives, some customers report disappointment at a lack of advanced features and also feel some of the services are overpriced. We see this in the $150 fee for a registered agent after the first year.
On the plus side, you get a 25 percent discount on that if you also opt in to the legal surfaces add-on.
Anyway—with so many millions of customers, despite customer feedback, it’s safe to say people don’t mind the prices since the services seem to live up to the hype. There’s a ton of customer feedback online, and it’s mainly positive, too.
One area Rocket Lawyer excels in is customer service, but it’s not quite as high-quality as with NorthWest. Something that is high quality is the ease of use of Rocket Lawyer’s services—always a plus when dealing in business and law.
With all that said, there are better LLC services out there for a more affordable price. What sets Rocket Lawyer apart is the incorporation of legal services.
There are two legal services available at $40. The first is a monthly fee, the second is a per-document cost.
- Legal Services—You can consult with attorneys for a discounted attorney fee, get unlimited legal documents, and new members can obtain the free incorporation service. This is a small selection of what the legal services offered are.
- Legal Documents—Although with the legal services monthly subscription you get unlimited documents, you can get legal documents on a per-document basis. This is more cost-effective if all you need is the occasional contract or NDA.
- After so many millions of customers, it’s a well-experienced company.
- Legal services are excellent, particularly the reduced rate attorney consults.
- Excellent customer feedback on a variety of things, including customer service.
- No standout features other than legal services.
- Lack of advanced services—like EID, filing, etc.
LegalZoom is one of the more well-known LLC services due to the aggressive and effective advertising campaigns. Thanks to this, it’s another one that’s served millions of customers over the years.
However, customer feedback is mixed in terms of reviews. They feel the services aren’t worth the price, although they can’t deny the customer service is excellent. You can avail of help from 10 am–8 pm Monday–Friday, and 10 am–7 pm on Saturdays. The company’s timezone is ET.
But can the long hours make up for the upsells? There’s roughly $1,000 worth of upselling services on the incorporation service order form. Luckily, there’s a money-back guarantee on all of it for up to 60 days.
Any issues, and the company provides question-free refunds. Based on all the upselling, it’s likely they’ll throw in bribes and offers to get you to stay but won’t invade your privacy or force you to.
So you could try out the base plan with no risks, but consider if it’s really worth it. LegalZoom doesn’t even have a registered agent service, like considerably cheaper LLC services do.
It’s a company worth checking out if you work long evening hours though. For example, if your business is a side hustle you can only take care of after the normal workday is at its end.
- LegalZoom will register your trademark with the USPTA for a whopping $399.
- One excellent, low-cost service is $55 annually for filing your annual report.
- For $31.21 per month, you get a business advisory plan, which includes contract reviews, tax advice, attorney consults and other helpful related services.
- Great customer service hours.
- Lots of experience.
- Well-priced annual report filing service.
- Fixed customer feedback.
- Some services are lackluster or lacking.
For one of the oldest and most inexpensive LLC services in the business, consider IncAuthority.
What is it with Inc names and free services? Here’s another of our best LLC service where the basic package is free, excluding the state fee.
Since 1989, IncAuthority has helped get 130,000 businesses up and running. That number seems low compared to less-experienced companies, but it may be down to the mediocre website platform. It’s not the most user-friendly of the bunch, but it works.
The free package aspect should outweigh the user-friendliness, though, right? That package includes a registered service agent for a year.
If you want to upgrade from the free package, there’s another marker indicating why the business has had less custom than newer ones. The cheapest package is $399!
The largely positive customer feedback hints that despite the hefty fee, it’s worth the cost. You’d better hope so anyway, because IncAuthority won’t authorize a refund regardless of the reasons behind the request.
As far as we can find, there are no additional services on offer with IncAuthority. The company covers everything in the packages, ranging from the $399 “starter” to the $799 “Tycoon.”
The Tycoon plan includes:
- LLC operating agreement.
- Record book and company seal, basically just symbolic.
- Certificates for every owner of your LLC.
- A protection advisor for a year.
- Website domain.
- Business license report.
- Dun and Bradstreet credit bureau registration.
- Business credit coach for 90 days.
- Multi-tiered credit building system.
- Business credit LaunchPad.
- Free package possible.
- Great customer feedback.
- Experienced company.
- High prices.
- No refunds, ever.
MyCorporation is another one of the oldies, having served over a million customers since its inception in 1998. Thanks to its vast client base, the company is well-reviewed online with detailed feedback on each.
If you’re wondering why the company’s experience level and age-brought reliability doesn’t warrant a higher spot than #7, there’s a reason. Where none of the companies above have shipping fees, MyCorporation does.
MyCorporation’s shipping fee costs almost as much as ZenBusiness’s basic plan fee, at $34. Worst of all, the fee is hidden and not stated in advertisements.
Perhaps the fee would seem fair if MyCorporation shipped boxes of materials for your business, but no. It’s a few pieces of paper at most.
Although, if your desire for an experienced company outweighs your budget-cares, the company’s vast experiences salvages its worth. Most reviews of MyCorporation online are four stars and above, too, with many showing appreciation for the company’s advanced features and customer support.
The cheapest plan starts at $99, but unlike many others, doesn’t include a registered agent. You’ll have to pay for this service separately, and while you’re at it, you can browse some of the company’s other outstanding and unique additional services.
- Create a custom logo for your business—$39.99.
- Register and monitor your trademark—$450.
- For the $250/year MaintainMyBiz plan, you get 16 options for four filings for your business across a 12 month period—options include foreign qualifications, annual reports and an operating agreement.
- Unique additional services.
- Primarily positive customer feedback.
- Decades of experience in the industry.
- Basic plan is pricey for what it is.
- Shipping fee.
Frequently Asked Questions
With those services in mind, there are a few lingering questions you may have about LLC services as a whole.
Are LLCs Free to Create?
If you’re really struggling, IncFile’s most basic package is free, but you’ll still need to pay state fees. You may get lucky and only have $40 in state fees, but other states charge up to $500 to set up an LLC.
As of November 2020, the $500 fee is exclusive to Massachusetts and the $40 to Kentucky, with most states still charging under $200. The most common low fee is $50, a small price to pay for a startup.
The $50 fee is charged in:
- New Mexico.
Should I Start My Business in a Cheaper State?
You should start your business and register your LLC in whatever state you live in. It’s simpler and more law-abiding than state-outsourcing your setup.
Be wary, as some LLC services may recommend you start your business in a certain state of their choosing. This is well-meaning, as some states may be friendlier for small businesses, but it’s still not a good idea.
How Fast Can I Get My LLC Set Up?
You can get an LLC set up in a matter of days, but be warned, it’ll be an additional fee. A more budget-friendly option would be to get it down to just a few weeks of setup.
Generally, there’s no need to rush to set up your LLC, but it’s worth it in emergencies.
Operating Agreements: Worth Paying More?
This agreement or service is nothing more than a document for all intents and purposes regarding your business setup. And honestly? You can find a template for free online and alter it to your liking.
If you’re beyond clueless—so clueless that this FAQ confuses you, ask customer service at your LLC service provider and see if it suits your business needs.
If this sounds like something you require, go ahead and pay extra for it. It’s better to let an expert deal with it than to save some cash bluffing your way through making your own.
Is a Registered Agent Service Required?
A registered agent service is another optional variable, like the operating agreement, and will cost more.
While legally you need a registered agent, you don’t need to pay extra to get one. You or a partner in the business can serve as the business’s registered agent.
If you have a trusty accountant or attorney on hand, they could be your registered agent instead. Although, the latter will be pricier than going through your LLC service provider for an agent.
But it may be worth paying for if you’re new to the legal side of business—cut costs by selecting a registered agent service with the LLC service, rather than going to an attorney.
Can You Buy Stock in an LLC?
Unfortunately for large LLC businesses, you can’t buy or sell the business’s stock. This is a luxury left for corporations. If stock is important to you—after all, it can attract investors—then consider registering as a corporation over an LLC.
In this regard, small businesses are better off registering as LLCs than large ones. Your little eCommerce store or similar operation probably won’t become the next Amazon, so you’re safe from this LLC-con.
How Important Is a Refund Policy?
With the companies above, it’s unlikely that you’ll need a refund. It’s difficult to find reasons that warrant a refund in this line of work as it is, unless the customer service is terrible and the company isn’t fulfilling promises.
That said, a refund policy shows integrity and confidence in a company’s work. Even though you’ll probably never need it, choosing a company with a refund policy is a smart move as it may indicate a moral code of conduct that companies without a refund may lack.
Is Using an Online LLC Service Risky?
Absolutely not—letting a service take care of your LLC formation reduces risks as well as cost. Doing it yourself or choosing the wrong attorney to help can have disastrous consequences.
LLC services do this all the time and have likely dealt with every business in the book.
The fact that you can take advantage of services online doesn’t automatically make the service risky. It shows the company has adapted to the ways of the modern world and can fulfill modern needs—this is especially evident for companies that formed before the digital age.
At the End of the Day
At the end of the long business day, you should choose a business route that works for you. When going with an LLC, you’ve narrowed it down but still need to find a suitable provider.
The best LLC service will cater to your needs as a business of any size in any field. Although you need to find one for your needs, ZenBusiness is one to consider. It’s the most reasonably priced here, excluding the two with free packages.
Despite the low price, the quality of the service has thousands of positive reviews. It’s a clear sign that ZenBusiness knows how to keep customers satisfied.