Whether you’re taking on side projects or freelancing full time, establishing yourself as an independent business in the United States can set you up for even greater success. And it’s a lot easier to do than you might think.
Even if you’re “just moonlighting,” setting up a formal business can be beneficial for you. As a business entity, you’ll look more credible and more attractive to bigger—and higher paying—clients. Larger companies are more inclined to engage an independent contractor who has a formal business structure to reduce potential misclassification risks.
Ready to take your entrepreneurship to the next level? Here are three steps to get your business established.
1. Choose a business structure
From a sole proprietorship to a limited liability company (LLC), there are several types of business entities. For more help finding the one that’s right for you, consult a lawyer, an accountant, or an incorporation service (check out Upwork’s Business Resources partners for contacts).
2. Register your business
Depending on the type of business structure you select, you may need to register your business with the state where you’re operating it. Visit the Secretary of State’s website for your state to learn more—you’ll find the link in the table below.
3. Apply for a business license
The type, size, and location of your business will determine whether you need any licenses or permits. Refer to your state’s small business guide for more information (see below) and check with your county or municipality to see whether any local registrations are needed.
Two more considerations
Employer Identification Number: You may need to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It’s a nine-digit number used for tax filing purposes. It’s free and you can apply online. Consult this questionnaire to see if you need one.
Insurance: Having insurance can always protect you if something goes wrong with one of your contracts. Plus, if you’ll be driving, hiring employees, or working for clients that require you to carry liability insurance, additional insurance coverage might be a must-have. Contact your insurance agent to see what your current policies cover—or check out the options from Upwork’s Business Resources partners.
Resources by state
Requirements for businesses vary state by state, county, and city, so be sure to review the resources specific to where you’ll be doing business.
At the state level, the Secretary of State is a government agency that oversees business registration and records, among other duties. Visit your state’s website to learn more about the requirements and process for setting up your business. Many states enable you to file online.
The “Guide” links go to more information on how you can establish a small business in your state.State Secretary of State’s Website Small Business Start-Up Guide Alabama Website Guide Alaska Website Guide Arizona Website Guide Arkansas Website Guide California Website Guide Colorado Website Guide Connecticut Website Guide Delaware Website Guide Florida Website Guide Georgia Website Guide Hawaii Website Guide Idaho Website Guide Illinois Website Guide Indiana Website Guide Iowa Website Guide Kansas Website Guide Kentucky Website Guide Louisiana Website Guide Maine Website Guide Maryland Website Guide Massachusetts Website Guide Michigan Website Guide Minnesota Website Guide Mississippi Website Guide Missouri Website Guide Montana Website Guide Nebraska Website Guide Nevada Website Guide New Hampshire Website Guide New Jersey Website Guide New Mexico Website Guide New York Website Guide North Carolina Website Guide North Dakota Website Guide Ohio Website Guide Oklahoma Website Guide Oregon Website Guide Pennsylvania Website Guide Rhode Island Website Guide South Carolina Website Guide South Dakota Website Guide Tennessee Website Guide Texas Website Guide Utah Website Guide Vermont Website Guide Virginia Website Guide Washington Website Guide West Virginia Website Guide Wisconsin Website Guide Wyoming Website Guide
Freelancing can offer independence, opportunity, and huge growth potential. By registering your business, you’ll not only position yourself as more professional but can also open the door to bigger and higher-paying projects.