starting a business in washington

A complete step-by-step guide to start your business and get on the fast track to financial success.

Doing Business In Washington

Business Facts

Washington businesses attracted nearly $1.6 billion in venture capital last year, the sixth-highest total in the nation. Focusing on the aerospace, agriculture/food manufacturing, clean technology, information and communication technology, forest products, life science/global health, maritime, and military/defense sectors, Commerce’s Sector Leads work closely with the governor, industry and government leaders to forge and promote public-private partnerships, enhance the workforce for the 21st century in targeted, high-growth industries, and advance broad stroke strategies that support small business growth and expansion statewide.

Small Business and Startup Environment

Washington has 529,863 small businesses, according to the most current federal data available. Of those 529,863 small businesses in Washington, 194,951 have employees. The remaining 334,912 are Washington small businesses that have no employees.

Step 1: Choose A Business Structure

The most common business structures are sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and a few different types of corporations—the standard corporation (often called a C corporation or “C corp”), the small business corporation (often called an S corporation or “S corp”), and the benefit corporation (often called a B corporation or “B corp”).

The most common business structures are:

The same thing as a Sole Proprietorship, but just with 2 or more people. Like a Sole Proprietorship, a Partnership doesn’t create a separate legal entity and the partners are responsible and personally liable for any business activity or wrongdoing.

A more complex legal structure that requires a board of directors, corporate officers, and shareholders. Corporations don’t usually work for most small business owners since they face double taxation. Corporations can be beneficial to companies that are looking to raise capital investment, take the company public, or have large healthcare expenses for their employees. The most common types of companies that form Corporations are high-growth technology and startup companies.

Unlike a Sole Proprietorship or a Partnership, a Corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners (called shareholders). It provides them with personal liability protection.

A legal entity that combines the benefits of a Corporation and a Sole Proprietorship/Partnership.

An LLC in Washington is a separate legal entity under the law. And like a Corporation, it provides personal liability protection for the owners. If the LLC is sued, the owner’s personal assets – like their home, cars, and bank accounts – are protected. And like a Sole Proprietorship/Partnership, an LLC has pass-through taxation (so there’s no double taxation).

A Washington LLC is the most popular option and a good choice for people who want to run a small business for two reasons:

  • Personal liability protection (personal assets are kept safe)
  • No double taxation

Unlike a Sole Proprietorship (and a Partnership), your Washington LLC’s assets are separate and distinct from your personal assets. In the event your LLC gets sued, your personal assets are protected.

And unlike a Corporation, your LLC is not subject to double taxation. Instead, your LLC’s profits will “pass-through” to your personal tax return and federal taxes are paid just once.

Step 2: Choose The Right Business Name

Choosing a business name is important, you want to make it easier for your customers to remember it, here are some tips:

  1. Avoid hard-to-spell names.
  2. Don’t pick a name that could be limiting as your business grows.
  3. Conduct a thorough Internet search.
  4. Search and purchase a domain name.
  5. Use a name that conveys some meaning.
  6. Conduct a trademark search.

Step 3: Register Your Business

Depending on the business structure you chose you will need to register your business.

Resale license 

Department of corporations 

Step 4: Obtain an EIN Tax Number

With limited exceptions, most businesses require an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Tax ID Number. An EIN is used to identify a business in its federal tax filings. Without an EIN, you can’t hire employees or open a business bank account.

Click Here to Apply for EIN number online

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Step 5: Open A Bank Account

– Open a business bank account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company’s assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.

– Get a business credit card:

  • Helps you separate personal and business expenses.
  • Builds your company’s credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.

Step 6: Licenses & Permits

Now that you’ve registered your business name you need to obtain a business license for your company – this authorizes your company to do business in your city or county. Typically this also involves registering for state taxes and permits (the city may require them as part of the business licensing process).

Here are some links for Washington Businesses:

Selling products? Check Washington Resale Permit

Business Licensing for the State of Washington

Step 7: Branding & Marketing

Your brand is the image customers have of your business, so it’s important to determine who is your audience and what is the message that you want to project. That way, your company’s image will be what you intend it to be. It should be strategic and intentional.

Step 8: Establish a Web Presence

Creating an optimized website helps you to gain important visibility for the right terms. A website is a powerful sales tool and one that allows you to address your customers’ concerns, give them the information they need to make a decision and create compelling calls to action.

In addition to a website, you should also consider other avenues for promoting your business online:

Join Local Networks

Center for American Entrepreneurship