Start your business

How to Start a Business in Florida

How to Start a Business in Florida

Ranked #2 nationally for best states for business, Florida is seeing a rise in entrepreneurship. From 97,127 business applications in the third quarter of 2019, Florida entrepreneurs filed 176,201 applications in Q3 of 2020. Once you use this guide to learn how to start a business in Florida, you can be on your way to becoming a Florida company owner, too.

Benefits of Opening a Business in Florida

It’s no wonder entrepreneurs flock to Florida. Streamlined regulations can ease startup, and some business owners don’t need licenses to get up and running.

Florida’s 21+ million residents also enjoy no personal income tax. Plus, the state’s GDP of nearly a trillion dollars makes Florida’s economy the nation’s fourth-largest. 

With a large work force and innovative business climate, Florida also encourages high levels of private equity investment, workforce training, and women-owned companies. Plus, with over 2 million small companies, you can find your path to profits in this state and find your tribe of fellow entrepreneurs to network with.

How to Start a Business in Florida Checklist

From the Panhandle to the Keys, Florida’s 67 counties are open for business, and many areas are trying to make it easier for entrepreneurs to get started. For example, in 2016, Tallahassee became the state’s first municipality to eliminate their small business license mandate.

Make no mistake, though. Before you can work in your business, you’ve got to do the work to get things going. The checklist below can help you find your way to the day your doors open.

Checklist for How to Open a Business in Florida
 

1Create a Business Plan

2

LLC vs Sole Proprietorship: Choosing a Business Structure

3
Determine Your Florida Business Costs
 
4
Create a Florida Business Name
 
5
Register Your Business and Open Financial Accounts
  
6

Market Your Florida Business 

1. Create a Business Plan for Your Florida Company

When starting your Florida business, a good first step is writing a business plan.

Your business plan can help you refine your idea, such as examining exactly what product or service you’ll offer, who your competitors are, and how you’ll find and market to your target customers.

Also consider what operational and financial metrics you want to track. Over time, setting and tracking SMART goals can help you understand your business’s health, evaluate potential problems, and make decisions about services, hiring, and more.

Whether bootstrapping from your savings or seeking outside investment, funding your company will be key to covering your startup and ongoing costs. As you plan your startup, examine incentives that may lower your business taxes or offset costs.

Different companies may have different licensure and taxation requirements. As you navigate your planning, you can also check with the resources at the Small Business Administration (SBA) offices throughout the Sunshine State.

Some localities may help with funding, too. For example, Pasco County offers EDC small business microloans, as well as loans for improving commercial property. Or, nonprofit BBIF Florida offers loans up to $250,000 to small businesses, focusing on Black and minority owners, and companies in underserved areas.

2. LLC vs Sole Proprietorship: Choose a Business Structure

While Florida companies can be set up as one of many different business entities, two of the most common are the sole proprietorship and the limited liability company (LLC).

Depending on the type of company, a sole prop can be a good choice. For starters, sole props may have only one owner (but they can have employees). Sole props also can have simpler taxation, but those taxes may be higher. In the event of business financial troubles or litigation, your personal assets may be vulnerable.

By contrast, starting an LLC in Florida has an up-front filing cost. But investing in an LLC can provide a shield for your personal assets from operational liabilities. An LLC can also have multiple owners, officially known as members.

When crafting your LLC, it’s a good idea to create a Florida operating agreement. While not required by law, an operating agreement can set out how owners will work through problems, differentiate business and personal assets, and outline duties and responsibilities for day-to-day operation, long-term planning, and management. You don’t have to file your agreement with the state, but it can be handy during legal disputes.

Ready to Start Your Florida Business?

Get the fastest formation, worry free services, and expert support you need to get started today.

Have you already formed your business?

ZenBusiness can help you run and grow your Florida business!

3. Determine Your Florida Business Costs

Whether fixed or variable, startup or day-to-day, every company has costs to cover. Part of starting your business is estimating your costs to get going, and the expenses you can expect on an ongoing basis. Some costs will be one-time, such as filing your LLC with the state of Florida. Others will be recurring, such as insurance premiums, rent, raw materials, or fuel.

A potential cost to keep in mind is your fictitious name, or DBA (short for “doing business as”). If your company operates by any name other than its legal name (such as your first and last name), your DBA is your official record that you’re allowed to do business under that name. Florida DBAs need to be filed with the Florida Division of Corporations.

Other costs may include:

  • Licensure or zoning permits
  • Sales tax
  • Equipment and supplies
  • LLC filing fees
  • Office supplies and equipment
  • Marketing assets, such as a business website, business cards, and stationery
  • Transportation
  • Payroll, payroll taxes, and/or fees for independent contractors

Your Florida business will need insurance, too, such as liability, property, business interruption, and employee insurance. Here’s a breakdown of recommended Florida coverage to consider.

4: Create a Business Name

Just as every person has a name, your company needs one, too. Consider names that:

  • Make a good first impression with colleagues and potential customers
  • Explain your services
  • Relay your brand’s values

You can also leverage different names for your business. For example, you could have a primary company name, then get DBAs that you use for marketing.

Before you commit to a name, know that it can’t be in use by another organization in Florida. As you evaluate different names, also search state resources for other companies using them, such as the Division of Corporations’ record search.

Once you’ve identified an eligible business name that reflects your services or products, you can start any necessary filings or registrations. As part of securing your business name, also see what available domain name you can register for your website and email address. If social media platforms such as Pinterest or Facebook will be part of your marketing and customer outreach, now’s a good time to check them to see if anyone else is using your company name or handle.

5. Register Your Florida Business and Open Financial Accounts

How you register your new business depends on industry, entity, and locality. For example, while you’ll file your LLC with the state, some sole props may not require any state registration. Regardless of entity, Florida’s cities and counties may have their own individual requirements, so check with your city or county government offices.

The state’s online wizard, via the Department of Business & Regulation, can help you figure out what licenses your business may need. You can also check Florida law, or a registered agent can take some of this work off your plate.

Sorting out a taxpayer identification number will help you with everything from payroll taxes to opening bank accounts. For a sole prop, this could be the owner’s social security number. Other types of businesses will need to apply to the IRS for an employer identification number (EIN), and sole props can apply for one, too.

Along with permits and licenses, finalize your business insurance, register your company’s domain name, and reserve any social media handles.

Separate company and personal bank accounts will help you keep track of your company’s income and expenses. Open business bank accounts — such as a checking account and business credit cards — and you’ll be taking good first steps to securing your firm’s financial health.

6. Market Your Florida Business

For starters, cover the basics: A website can explain your services and have ways for customers to purchase, ask questions, or set up appointments. Print marketing materials such as business cards, brochures, and postcards can get your brand and message in front of people.

Word of mouth never goes out of style. As you work with customers, ask them to pass your name on to someone else. And consider setting up a rewards program as a way to show gratitude to customers who spread the word.

Also reserve your business in online directories such as Google My Business. Using social media? Develop a content and engagement plan for sharing online and engaging with people. You don’t have to go it alone. You can partner with one of the best marketing firms in Florida for help.

Examples of Good Businesses to Start in Florida

From tried-and-true companies to innovative industries, many new businesses can succeed in Florida. Here are some ideas to consider as you plan your path to entrepreneurship:

  • Cleaning (commercial and/or residential)  
  • Food truck
  • Handyman
  • Non-emergency medical transport
  • Companion care
  • Catering
  • Landscaping and lawn care
  • Pool cleaning
  • Watercraft rental

Your Business Can Shine Bright in the Sunshine State

While Florida is home to millions of companies, there’s plenty of room for yours, too. With the right business plan, an understanding of your industry, and a willingness to do the work to arrange to finance and set up shop, you could be on your way to your first day of business in Florida.

Do-It-Yourself (DIY)ZenBusiness Pro Plan
Starting Price
state fee$199 + state fee
Average Filing Time
2-3 weeks5-8 business days
Registered Agent
+$99/yr Check
Operating Agreement
+$35 Check
State Compliance Help
$119/yr Check
EIN
+$70 Check
DOMAIN NAME
+$25 No
DOMAIN PRIVACY
+$10 No
BUSINESS WEBSITE
+$100 No
BUSINESS EMAIL ADDRESS
+$25 No
SHOW ALL DETAILS
First Year Price
LegalZoom $1017
ZenBusiness $199
SAVE 80%
excluding State Fees3
Second Year Price
LegalZoom $529
ZenBusiness $199
SAVE 62%
TOTAL TWO YEAR PRICE
LegalZoom $1,546
ZenBusiness $398
SAVE 74%
First Year Price
LegalZoom $1017
ZenBusiness $199
SAVE 80%
excluding State Fees3
Second Year Price
LegalZoom $529
ZenBusiness $199
SAVE 62%
TOTAL TWO YEAR PRICE
LegalZoom $1,546
ZenBusiness $398
SAVE $1,148
Do-It-Yourself (DIY)ZenBusiness Pro Plan
Starting Price
state fee$199
Average Filing Time
15 business days5-10 business days
Registered Agent
+$249/yr Check
Operating Agreement
+$99 Check
State Compliance Help
$280/yr Check
EIN
+$60 Check
DOMAIN NAME
+$25 No
DOMAIN PRIVACY
+$10 No
BUSINESS WEBSITE
+$100 No
BUSINESS EMAIL ADDRESS
+$25 No
SHOW ALL DETAILS
1 All prices and services presented above were reviewed and verified as of 11/2/19.
2 The Starter plan is $49/year the first year and increases to $119/year after that
3 This chart does not include state fees because those will vary in each state.
LegalZoom Standard PackageZenBusiness Pro Plan
Starting Price
$329$179
Average Filing Time
15 business days5-10 business days
Registered Agent
+$159/yr Yes
Operating Agreement
+$99 Yes
State Compliance
$280/yr Yes
EIN
+$60 Yes
SHOW ALL DETAILS

FAQs

What business should I start in what part of Florida?

A good business can thrive throughout Florida, but some industry/location combos to consider include:

  • Beauty salons and barbershops in Hialeah or Boca Raton
  • Retail shops in Miami Beach or Lake Worth
  • Contractors in Orlando or Fort Lauderdale

What kind of business should I start in Florida?

Trending business ideas in Florida include:

  • Car repair concierge
  • Translation services
  • Disaster consulting
  • Multicultural marketing
  • Wheelchair repair
  • Healthcare consulting
  • Organic beauty products
  • Senior care services

What is a good city to start a business in Florida?

There are 15 large business-friendly metro areas that call Florida home:

  1. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford
  2. Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent
  3. Punta Gorda
  4. Cape Coral-Fort Myers
  5. Port St. Lucie
  6. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island
  7. Gainesville
  8. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton
  9. Homosassa Springs
  10. Jacksonville
  11. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater
  12. Lakeland-Winter Haven
  13. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach
  14. Sebastian-Vero Beach
  15. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville

What is a Florida Certificate of Status?

Also called a Certificate of Good Standing, a Certificate of Status is a state verification that your business is active and has paid required annual report or filing fees.

Get Everything You Need to Create Your
Florida Business

ZenBusiness provides the fastest formation, worry free services, and expert support you need to get started.