Starting a Business in Georgia: The Ultimate Guide

georgia peaches on pink background

Starting a business in GA is a great idea, but you might be wondering how to start a business in the first place. It can be daunting to think about everything you need to do to get your business up and running the right way. Operating by the book when you first start is key to avoiding any issues down the line, so check out this guide on how to start a business in GA. We’ll explain the first steps you should take so that you can set your business up for success.

Choosing Georgia as the home of your new business is a smart move, since it’s one of the best places in the country to start a new business. Georgia was ranked the number one state for small business climate in the entire country and has been consistently ranked as a friendly place for small businesses according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.[1][2]

There’s a lot to work-through when making decisions around your new business, and if you’re new to the Peach State, you probably already feel like you have a lot to get used to. Hopefully our guide to starting a business in GA can help you feel a little more prepared for what’s to come. 

How to Start a Business in Georgia in 6 Simple Steps

Step 1: Decide on Your Business and Its Name

If you’re looking for tips on how to start a business in GA, you probably already have some idea about the type of business you want to open. Hopefully it’s something you’re passionate about, since starting a new business will require a lot of dedication. If you like the business you’re opening, it will be far easier to spend your time building it.

Once you know what type of business you want to start, it’s time for a brainstorming session about potential names for the business. When starting a business in GA, or anywhere for that matter, you’ll want to make sure your business name isn’t too similar to any other businesses out there.

Since you’re starting a business in GA, you can look up the names of businesses that already exist there by using an online business search tool from the Secretary of State’s office. The tool is fairly simple and just requires that you type in the business name. If there’s no business under that name, the search will return a “no data found” message. Keep in mind that while this is a good way to check whether there’s already a business with the name you want, it’s also a good idea to consult a legal professional or business attorney as well.

You’ll be able to reserve a name later on, but try to generate a few ideas in case one is unavailable.

starting a business in ga business search

Source: Georgia Corporations Division

Step 2: Decide on a Business Entity and Formulate a Plan

There are many business entity options for you to choose from. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, so, when starting your business in GA, you’ll want to learn about the different types of business entities before choosing one.

Three of the most popular business entities include:

  • Sole proprietorship: This is a business that is unincorporated and owned solely by you, or by you and a spouse.
  • Limited liability company: This is a registered business with limited liability for all of the members of the business. 
  • General partnership: This is an unincorporated business with a minimum of two owners. 

It’s important to read up on the pros and cons of each entity. For example, limited liability companies come with certain advantages, like reduced liability and less complexity. But there are also some drawbacks to LLCs when it comes to taxes and investor preferences. Sole proprietorships are easier to set up, but you share more liability. General partnerships are similarly easy to set up between multiple owners, but generally there’s no liability protection. Keep in mind, there are other entities you can consider if none of the above suggestions work for you.

Once you decide on your business entity type, you can formulate a business plan and write it up. It sounds intimidating, but a business plan is basically a roadmap for your company that outlines your purpose and resources now, and how you expect to grow in the future. This is a key step in starting a business in GA, since it will be useful later on when you need funding, and can be a guiding path to return to when necessary.

There is some key information you’ll want to include when writing a business plan. Your plan should include a summary of your market research and list what needs your new business will fill, along with an overview of your company’s mission, organizational structure, products and services, and marketing strategy. You should also outline any market analysis you’ve done, a financial plan, and any projections about income, cash flow, and expenditure budgets. Everything should be written in a digestible manner, since not everyone who reads your plan will be familiar with all the lingo.

This may sound like a lot, but you can always use a template or planning software to get started. Don’t feel too daunted by the task, you can always revise your plan as you nail down more details about your business.

Step 3: Register Your Business and Name With the State

Once you’ve decided on your name, entity, and have a good idea about your business plan, you can reserve an available name. When starting a business in GA, you can do this by filling out the name reservation request form from the Secretary of State’s office, which will cost you $25. You can submit three options.

starting a business in ga register name with state

If your name is available, you’ll receive an email with a name reservation number that’s good for 30 days, which you can use when registering your business. If the name isn’t actually available, you will be notified via a rejection notice that will detail how you can submit a new request free of charge.

When you’re starting a business in GA, you have to file corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships with the Corporations Division. You can file online or by mail. You’ll have to file slightly different paperwork depending on the entity you choose, but generally you’ll either be filing articles of incorporation, articles of organization, or articles of partnership, along with a transmittal information form and a $100 filing fee.

When you fill these out, you’ll be able to use your reservation number to secure the name of your business. These forms are the minimum requirements of starting a business in GA, but there may be other forms you have to register with your county.

Note that if you operate your business as a sole proprietor or general partnership under a business name other than the official name of your business in Georgia, you’ll need a DBA, or a “doing business as” name. This will allow you to open a bank account under a name different that you business’s name, as well as accept payments, draft contracts, and more. You can file this through a simple form with the county court of the county your business will operate in.

After filing your articles of incorporation and your DBA, you’ll usually have to publish a notice of intent to incorporate and notice of registration of a trade name in your county’s paper for two weeks. The specifics, as well as related fees, vary by county. 

Step 4: Get an Employer Identification Number and Register to Pay Taxes

If you’re starting a small business in GA, the next step is to register your business to pay taxes. The Georgia Tax Center website has an option for you to “Register a New Georgia Business.” When you click that you’ll be able to work through a form to register your business with the state’s department of revenue. That same website is where you can make payments, verify returns, and more.

You’re going to need an employer identification number, or EIN, if you plan on registering your business to pay taxes as pretty much anything other than a sole proprietorship.

If you’re confused about whether you need an EIN or not, the IRS has an online tool to help you figure that out. This IRS page asks a series of questions to evaluate your need for an EIN. Those questions include, “Do you have any employees?” and “Do you operate your business as a corporation or a partnership?” If you answer yes to any of them, you’ll need an EIN to operate your business.

An EIN is essentially your business tax ID number. It’s a nine-digit number, unique to your business, that you’ll use to pay taxes. It can offer you some protection against identity theft, help you speed up the application for business loans, help you hire employees more easily, and more.

You’ll want to get this number before you register to pay taxes in Georgia. Luckily, it’s free to apply for an employer identification number through the IRS. You can complete your application either by mail, online, by fax, or by phone. When applying online you can get your EIN instantly, though other methods may take a bit longer.

starting a business in ga ein

Source: IRS

Step 5: Register Licenses and Permits at the Local Level

Depending on what type of business you’re starting in GA, you may need to get special permits or licenses for your business. The state of Georgia itself doesn’t issue business licenses, so some counties and cities, like Atlanta, require small business owners to apply for a business license through them.

The permits and licenses you’ll need will vary from business to business and county to county. Typically, businesses that involve professional training, like a legal practice or dentist’s office, will need special licenses and permits. You may have to apply for some practical permits, too, like building permits, liquor licenses, and seller/reseller permits. To find out what licenses and permits you may need, check in with your county’s key contact.

The licensing section of the Secretary of State’s website has a place for you to apply for a license or renew an old one, and you can also check your application status online. 

Step 6: Fund Your Business

Now’s the time to figure out what funding you’ll need, and start working to get it. It will likely take you quite a while to turn a profit, so keep in mind that to make ends meet at first, you’ll probably need to lean on savings or seek out seed money to get going.

You’ll need to open a business bank account to separate your personal funds from your business funds. Plenty of banks—maybe even the one you already use for your personal banking—offer business bank accounts. Feel free to shop around, though, since there are plenty to choose from. Some even come with no fees or very low fees.

You might also need a business credit card for purchases you make for your business. You can use your business credit card to make any business related purchases. If you pay it off on time, or early, you’ll build a good business credit score. A strong business credit score can help you get financing and loans down the line.

This is also where you’ll get to flex that business plan you’ve been working at. Whether you’re looking for funding from a bank or from an investor, they’ll want to see that you have some sort of plan for making money and growing your business. Presenting a solid business plan and demonstrating good business credit will help you when trying to get business loans.

If you’re unsuccessful getting a loan from a bank, there are some other ways you can go about getting some funding. There are term loans, lines of credit, and startup business loans for you to explore. 

Starting a Business in GA: The Final Word

Deciding on an entity, naming the business, registering it, and getting initial funding are all key to getting your new business off the ground. But the steps listed above are just some of the preliminary steps you need to set yourself up for success if you’re starting a business in GA.

You’ll get to move on to progressively more exciting tasks, like getting small business insurance, hiring any other employees you might need, putting a marketing plan into action, and more. Starting a business in GA, like any entrepreneurial venture, does involve some work—but if you follow these steps, you’ll rest easy knowing you have a solid framework to build your business on.

Article Sources:

  1. “An Oasis of Opportunity
  2. “Small Business QuickFacts
Nina Godlewski
Contributor at JustBusiness

Nina Godlewski

Nina works to help make complicated business topics more accessible for small business owners. She’s written on topics ranging from payroll management to launching a business. She was previously a staff writer at Newsweek covering technology, science, breaking news, and culture. She has also worked as a reporter for Business Insider and The Boston Globe.

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