Thinking of going "offline." Do I need a business license?

11 replies
I'm really thinking of taking a shot at the "Offline Gold" method of making money. In my area, there are tons of businesses that don't even have a decent business listing in the local search, let alone a website.

I know because I've gone online trying to find them before going out to their location, and I came up empty handed. It's really disappointing, and a bit discouraging when you can't find what you're looking for online. Plus, I'm not a fan of driving around town only to return home without having accomplished my goal.

Anyhow, before I venture out, I need to know a few things. I'd prefer answers from people in the U.S because that's where I'm located, and I know that you can relate.

The first thing I'm wondering is whether or not I need a business license?

I'm going to be working in my name, accepting payments in my name, but of course, there are laws about conducting business. And, I really don't want any trouble there.

Do I need a business bank account?

Again, I will be accepting payments in my name. But, because it is for a business transaction, do I need to deposit those funds into a business account or is personal fine?

When you approach business owners, what title do you designate for yourself?

I've heard many say that this is a type of consulting business. In all matters of professionalism, I'd like to present myself honestly while conveying the message that I do know what I'm talking about.

I've got more questions, and I'll be checking this thread often. For now, however, that is all.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter. Your responses are greatly appreciated!
#business #license #offline #thinking
  • Profile picture of the author IMChick
    You're probably going to want to give it a go with a business entity. Set up a sole proprietorship at your local county clerk's office under your name. (your name dba offline business name) This form is known as "Doing business as"

    It's easy to do and then you will gain a bit of professionalism as well as a layer between you and the business. There are several considerations here. If someone pays you with a business check, they need 'numbers' for their accountant. I mean a social security number, tax id number or employer id number. Do you really want your social security number out there when you can use a business format instead?

    Start up the business first and then decide where it needs to go. That means, keep expenses to a bare minimum. No glossy brochures, letterhead, imprinted pens, etc. (When it's time for some of that, though, make sure that you send it out to a printer and spend the money so it doesn't look cheap).

    If you have a corporate structure in place, you can make dba's for each of your separate entities that you develop into, or you can decide to do a corporation for each one. An "S" corporation is the easiest to set up and administer because the "S" is the IRS section that lets you pass income directly onto your personal tax returns rather than the double tax that both a "C" corporation and you would pay on the same earnings.

    Get the easiest thing going first--the dba from your clerk's office, and then actually start the business. Visit a local bank and find out what kind of paperwork they need to set up this kind of account so you are prepared. Then get some business and let the business take you in the right direction.
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    • Profile picture of the author dukeoferl
      Most cities or towns do require a home business permit,they're
      usually around $10 a year.

      I also have a dedicated phone line for business only (you don't
      want kids to answer a clients call).

      A room off limits to the family for business only is a must also.

      I've been offline marketing for a while and these are the 2 most
      important things to project a level of professionalism.
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  • Profile picture of the author Derek Pankaew

    Make money first. Then take care of the technicalities.

    There are so many business people that incorporate, worry about copyright, figure out legal and accounting all before they've made a single dollar. Three months of planning later, they go into business only to stop working at it a week later.

    Don't worry about the technicalities until you've made at least $5,000. Then if you want to get a business license, file an LLC, etc do it then. For now, focus on making the cash.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jillian Slack
      Depends on where you live and what the rules are there.

      In some places, if you make money first and THEN take care of the technicalities, you could be fined.

      Sometimes you need a business license or permit for your city AND your county.

      Just need to do some checking around.
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      • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
        Given what you've posted, the basic technicalities should take an hour or so. At least, that's what it took here in Florida when we moved here.

        Get a DBA from the county clerk - part license, part tax collection. Depending on the line, anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour.

        Quick stop at the bank to open a business account - about 20 minutes.

        When you get home, make a quick stop at and request a tax ID so you don't have to use your social security number, as was mentioned earlier.

        Congratulations! You are officially "in business", so start "doing business"...

        A side benefit to all of this is at least a minimal amount of protection from audit. Keep your business and personal accounts totally separate. If you need cash out of the business, write a check to yourself out of the business account and deposit it in your personal account.

        As you progress, a credit card you use strictly for business can be helpful in keeping things separate, too.

        Good luck on your new venture...

        Oh, yeah, check with your state and see if you have to charge sales tax on anything you provide...
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    • Profile picture of the author janice2009
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      • Profile picture of the author Mike McBride
        Originally Posted by Derek Pankaew View Post


        Make money first. Then take care of the technicalities.
        Originally Posted by janice2009 View Post

        I am going with Derek on this one. First adapt and get comfortable, then go legit.

        business coach life
        Easy to say when it's not your ass on the line. I mean, if the state, county, city or town come down on him, it's not your problem. If he get's his business income intertwined with his personal assets and ends up having to pay more taxes because of it, well, it's not your problem.

        I hope you, the OP, heed John and Jillian's advice and do things right. You don't need to go whole hog right away, but a simple business license and bank account will be very helpful.

        If things take off, then you can look into taking it further with an LLC or the like.

        But in the end, I wouldn't take legal advice from anyone on a forum, including me! (Not that this WAS legal advice - CMOA)
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  • Profile picture of the author benzbaby
    There's plenty of banks offering free checking accounts for your business but even if you use your name, keep a separate account. This won't cost you money, except for the checks and it will be much easier to do taxes when you keep personal from business.

    Look up the government site for your state and find out what the requirements are for doing business. You'll probably have to put a deposit down for sales tax but they may not require it for that type of service. You can go to a local Dept. of revenue office and they will answer your questions to make sure you are legal.

    First impressions are big so I would make sure you invest little to start but at least be professional. You can pay a minimal fee to have a ringover on your phone for your business.

    You can even get free business cards ... IMHO I would go with a LLC in lieu of a sole proprietorship. I did my own thru the online state government site and I can't remember how much it was (maybe $50) but a lawyer told me to protect my personal assets that way.
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  • Profile picture of the author IMChick
    I forgot to add, sorry for the double post.

    Please check with your Zoning Board if your business is in your home. Do this before your City gets involved and shuts you down. Find Zoning in your local city hall in the city engineer or planning offices.

    Don't skip this step--In my neighborhood it is illegal to start a public business in a private home. By this I don't mean a home office made over from a part of the basement or a spare room with only one person working there. I mean that it is not an approved land use in my residential zoned neighborhood for any commercial entity transact business (and receive mail and freight/fed ex'es) and have clients visit the premises.

    Check it out.
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    • Profile picture of the author jmidas
      most cities/counties require one and they are dirt cheap, but you have time - get things set up first. If this takes off for you, you will want to incorporate and have a biz license - one reason is if you ever go to get a mortgage as a self employed person, the lender will ask for one. Just one of many reasons to have it.
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      • Profile picture of the author AndrewCavanagh
        To get started you need to get started doing what it takes to get yourself paying clients.

        Generally speaking if you're trading in your own name as an individual you can bank checks written out to you without any trouble.

        Once you're making some money you'll want to sort out all the minor details but they're really not that important when you're starting out...getting paying clients is.

        Kindest regards,
        Andrew Cavanagh
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  • Profile picture of the author ricepudding9
    I believe you need too, But I'm not 100% sure...

    But you will also have to pay the taxes...
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