What is a company formation service?
When you’re just starting your journey of entrepreneurship, you might be thinking of forming an LLC for legal and tax purposes. You have a whole host of options and decisions to make and charting the course for the direction the company will take.
At this moment, to save time and money, it is highly advisable to use an incorporation service so you don’t have to go through the hassle of filing paperwork. This time is better spent growing your business. ZenBusiness LLC is one such service and in this ZenBusiness review, we break down all the components of the incorporation service.
ZenBusiness promises quality and efficiency. In this review, we’ll go through everything you’ll need to get your business up and running.
ZenBusiness Review Overview
There are many factors to consider when choosing a professional incorporation service. The thing we loved best about ZenBusiness is their fast and friendly customer service. When your money and business are on the line, you need an incorporation service that is quick and efficient.
Other reasons why you should consider ZenBusiness:
- Very affordable service that starts at only $49
- Worry-Free yearly compliance, so no surprises
- Includes free registered agent service for a year
- Includes free Operating Agreement template
- 100% Accuracy guaranteed when filing
- Highly affordable pricing
- Quick turnaround times for higher-tier plans
- Proven to be trusted and have their customers best interests in mind
- Does not sell unnecessary personal data to third parties
- Has customizable options and is willing to work 1-on-1
- Growing to become a one-stop-shop for all your business needs beyond the formation
- Quick to help if you have issues with their services
- In the past, their customer service was sporadic, not easily accessible (since improved)
- For some special cases, you need to contact Customer Support multiple times
One of the most important choices comes in the form of business structuring. The structure you decide to go with influences more than you might initially realize, from your day-to-day, to how much of your personal assets are at stake, to taxes. You want to pick a structure that gives you a good balance between benefits and legal protection.
That is why many people choose to go with LLCs or a Limited Liability Company, as it protects your personal assets from getting caught up in things like lawsuits or bankruptcy.
With that said, picking the optimal legal entity for your company isn’t so simple, and making the most well-informed decision requires a lot of knowledge and expertise in the field.
If you are someone who likes to get into the action as soon as possible but doesn’t want to compromise or stifle their progress with erroneous company formation choices, you may choose to seek out a company formation and registered agent service.
These services are supposed to be straight-forward and intuitive plans and packages to streamline the formation process. Backing these plans are qualified and experienced professionals who spend their days learning the in’s and out’s of company registration, essentially saving you the trouble.
By hiring such an outfit, you aren’t compromising the formation of your business by scrambling to decide yourself but handing off this specific portion of the process to a handful of experts that you will come to know well.
On top of this, these services do more than just guide you with a cookie-cutter technique, but take into account your personal goals, desires, and can also take the role of being your registered agent.
What is a registered agent and do you need one?
If you’re not quite sure what a registered agent is, or why you’d need one, we’ll shed a bit of light on it for you. If you’re in the U.S., though this applies to much of the world as well, you’ll find that every state registration requires what is called a ‘registered agent’, ‘statutory agent’, or ‘agent of process’.
A registered agent service has designated personnel whose purpose is to receive federal and state legal documents and are accountable for their safe-keeping and passing on. For certain situations and legal documents, the government may not be content with just mailing it out, but are set on making sure someone has received it.
This prevents situations of things getting lost in the mail and never acted on, for example. The explicit acknowledgment and receipt of high-priority institutional documents are where registered agents play a role.
This allows for states to ensure there is always someone able to sign and be accountable for, so you can consider these agents to be like the face or hands of your company in the government’s point of view. Your registered agent service accepts the legal paperwork on your behalf and typically emails a copy to you as soon as they get it.
For those of you wondering why you can’t just do it yourself, there are a few caveats to becoming a registered agent, and while it may vary state by state, there are some fairly commonplace standards that every agent must abide by:
- Being open or present at a designated location at sufficiently frequent times
- Have a physical address in the state (a P.O. Box will not suffice)
- Be Authorized to transact business in the state.
There are also quite a few perks to having a registered agent service play this role as opposed to you doing it yourself if you do fulfill the above criteria:
- You don’t want to be served legal documents in front of your employees or customers
- You won’t have to worry about missing documents while traveling (especially important if your business relies on constant travel)
- You can change your business location without changing agents or notifying the government every time you move
- Freedom to do business in multiple states easily, just need an agent within each state
- You won’t have to be in fear of fines or penalties if you miss a deadline or aren’t present when a document is delivered
- You won’t fall out of good standing with your particular state
If you catch our drift here, getting a registered agent service alleviates a whole lot of headaches you would otherwise have to deal with yourself personally, rather than focussing on the parts of your business that actually profit you and bring you excitement.
The absolute convenience of such an entity can’t be understated, and that is why so many LLCs opt for hiring a registered agent service instead of doing things themselves.
Breakdown of all the different ZenBusiness review plans
With those basics out of the way, we’re going to cover in what ways ZenBusiness LLC stands out as well as highlighting the services they provide with each package being broken down. Each of these plans gives you the peace of mind of a registered agent for FREE for a year, but Zen Business tries to sweeten the deal with its more premium LLC formation packages for those trying to form an LLC.
Starter Package ($49 plus State Fee)
Their most basic plan comes at $49 cost plus state fee, billed annually. This plan will give you the standard business filing service, featuring things like name availability search tools, a standard 2-3 week filing speed, as well as access to your business’ documents through their ZenBusiness Portal.
On top of this, you can expect a year of registered agent support directly, giving you a clear line of communication for any questions, advice, or help you may need along the way.
This basic tier also includes things like operating agreements, bylaws, and CPA assessments to better help you figure out what kind of bookkeeping and accounting your business may need when just starting out.
Despite being the most basic plan, there are a few extras you can tack on if you so choose, such as rushed filing, EIN (Employer ID Number) registration, and even website hosting.
Here is a quick rundown of features you’ll be getting with the standard Starter Package:
- Name Availability Search: Searching through their database of the state you intend to form your company, it is determined whether or not the business name you want is already claimed by another party. Helpful for you to know whether or not you’ll need to find another name for your business to go by.
- Prep and Filing of Articles of Organization: These forms are required by your state to form an LLC. ZenBusiness, as an LLC formation service, drafts these articles for you themselves and then files them within your state.
- Operating Agreement: The LLC Operating Agreement is a document outlining the structure of ownership regarding your business, as well as some ground rules as to how your company operates. ZenBusiness provides you with a customizable template to create an Operating Agreement that meets your business’ specific needs.
- Worry-Free CPA Assessment: ZenBusiness also offers a free accounting and tax assessment courtesy of their licensed CPA’s. This is all in-house and helps you better understand how your business’ bookkeeping, accounting, and taxes should be done.
While these additional services do come with an additional fee, the fact you can pick and choose whichever services you need is helpful especially if you’re budget-oriented and want to optimize the money you spend. This route allows you to not have to purchase an entire tier up if you only need one or two of the extra services.
Pro Package ($149 and State Fee)
Next up is the ZenBusiness Pro Package. This tier includes everything listed in the previous tiers but steps it up a notch by offering significantly improved expedited filing, bank resolution documents, EIN registration, and compliance reminders and checks.
The plan itself costs $149 plus applicable state fees but similar to the previous plan, there are a few more perks you can tack on to improve your experience even further.
Here is a quick rundown of the standard Pro Package’s unique offerings:
- Federal Tax ID Number (EIN): An Employer ID number is a lot like an SSN for your business, as it’s a nine-digit number that enables your business to open bank accounts, hire employees, and file taxes just like an individual would.
If you plan to do any or all of these things with your business, it definitely is a must-have, and ZenBusiness will streamline that process for you.
- Banking Resolution: ZenBusiness LLC provides you and your business with a customizable BR – a form that indicates who has the authority to open up a business bank account on behalf of your LLC.
If you plan on doing this yourself or delegating it to someone else in your business, a BR will be required to certify the account creation with your bank of choice.
- Worry-Free Guarantee: Finally, this feature is the preparation and filing of annual reports, with two amendments per year. If you ever find yourself missing a filing deadline, ZenBusiness will help to regain good standing with your state and ensure that it never happens again.
One good feature that I was able to use is rush filing for an additional $100, which decreases turnaround times to be near-instant, as well as a website and domain registration for $100 and $25 respectively.
In my opinion, the domain registration and website are pricey compared to what you can get from an independent WebHost, but if you want to have an all-around business-building experience, these perks should help out quite a bit.
Premium Package ($249 and State Fee)
Finally, the last predetermined package is the ZenBusiness Premium. This is a $249 annual partnership with ZenBusiness as well as any applicable state filing fees. You’ll find that this plan doesn’t really have much in the way to justify the $100 price increase.
The Premium Package comes with all the filing basics listed before, along with website setup, business email accounts, and other forms that may be required down the line. This choice is great especially if you intend to come out kicking with a solid online presence.
Here are the added perks unique to this package:
- Domain Name Registration: ZenBusiness will personally secure a domain name for your website, as well as include a domain management dashboard tool for you to better manage.
- Domain Name Privacy: This additional feature helps to keep your personal information private, as a website domain name and its filing is in the public domain. Keeping this information confidential prevents unwanted information from being spread or found online.
- Rushed Filing Speed: This feature is Zen Business prioritizing your LLC’s documents, their filing, and management at the top. Your business’ filings and LLC formation will be of utmost importance and be dealt with first by their qualified team to ensure the highest quality service.
- Business Email Address: You will be provided a business email account with 5GB of database storage, meaning you can have a professional contact point when marketing and making connections on behalf of your business.
- Website Setup: On top of the domain name registration and privacy, ZenBusiness will provide you with the tools and help to set up a professional website for your business, increasing the reach it has online.
Build Your Own Package (Variable Cost and Applicable State Fee)
The absolute final package is essentially a build-your-own package service, allowing you for the greatest amount of flexibility with the services you intend to purchase.
In this case, you can pick an assortment of all the aforementioned services, but not be tied to the aspects of the other plans you don’t necessarily need or want. To have access to this service, though, you’ll have to register an account with ZenBusiness LLC and give them some insight into your personal situation and business endeavor so they can better understand the types of services that would be the best fit for your tailor-made plan.
In this case, you’ll likely get the most intimate and well-crafted plan for your specific business, but you need to be certain this is the route you want to take as it requires the most input from you.
You are also more than capable of checking out the prices per-item for each of the services they provide on the Pricing, Plans, and Services Page. Before you form an LLC, some of the unique things you can inquire about are:
- Business Insurance: ZenBusiness LLC has partnered with Commercial Insurance Center to provide you with a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) Insurance that helps bundle general liability and commercial property coverage with a discount.
- Business Credit Cards: In tandem with Divvy, your small business could be given access to a fast and simple credit card to help manage your payments, cash-flow, and also track any expenses in real-time.
- Google Advertising: This perk is a partnership between ZenBusines and Google to offer you a credit of upwards of $150 in Ads Credit, so if you really want to push your product hard as soon as your business is up and running, this is a great opportunity.
- New York Publication: For those of you in New York, you should consider picking this perk up as NY limited liability companies are required to publish an announcement of their LLC formation in two local newspapers for up to six consecutive weeks. With Zenbusiness, they secure the Certificate of Publication for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which package is the best?
This question is heavily dependant on your personal situation. In our opinion, each of the plans sticks out in their own ways. The best package is definitely the Pro – which packs tons of features that you need and leaves out all the fluff that you don’t need.
Otherwise, if money is of no concern, you just want the most finely crafted, coherent plan for your LLC formation, the “build your own” option is best.
The reason for this is because even though there are a lot more details and information you have to provide on your end, this also means ZenBusiness has an easier time tailoring a plan custom made for your unique needs.
While it may end up being the most expensive plan in the end, depending on which perks you pick, it is also a customized approach. If you want to be very budget-conscious, or feel particularly independent, then the simplest package, the Starter, is best.
This is the best bang for your buck if you’re competent and willing enough to do all the other tasks on your own, but want a registered agent representation for convenience.
The Premium is significantly more costly than the starter or Pro, but has little in the way of improvements. We would only recommend this if you want more or less everything handled for you and out of your hair so you can focus on your primary business goals.
Is an EIN worth the money?
If you are a bit more restricted budget-wise, then this minor convenience isn’t worth it, and you can simply get your EIN online directly from the IRS for no charge. For those of you looking to form an LLC, an EIN is the least difficult step in the whole process.
The truth is, getting an EIN either through a service or from the government personally is up to your own preference. Some enjoy the simple convenience of having their EIN confirmation being in the same place as their LLC formation paperwork, and because of that, it is worth the extra charge.
Is ZenBusiness trustworthy?
The short answer is yes. ZenBusiness has been around since 2015, headquartered in Texas initially. Since then, their business has soared, raking huge support, customers, and notoriety in just a matter of years.
They also go out of their way to provide grants to select recipients, allowing for companies they work with to flourish. Because of this, it is clear to see they care about having their customers do well and focus on growing rather than worrying about deadlines.
In this regard, they are incredibly unique and genuine.
Are there any discounts?
Actually, there are discounts available with partnered websites, netting you up to 20% off of your LLC formation services order with minimal effort on your end. Unlike a lot of other options, ZenBusiness does try it’s best to provide top-dollar service for bottom-dollar prices.
Do they handle New York Publication requirements?
When it comes to niche state-specific requirements to form an LLC, some business creation companies will leave you to do it yourself, and only handle the generic stuff. In ZenBusiness’ case, they will go out of their way to make the process smooth.
In New York, for example, you are required to have the announcement of your business formation in two local papers for 6 weeks. So, yes, ZenBusiness takes care of things like NY Publication Requirements.
How is Customer Support?
To be completely honest, Customer Support for ZenBusiness had been a bit of a sore point that a lot of customers felt could be drastically improved – from turnaround times to support options as reflected by its earlier customer reviews.
Since then, though, Zen Business has stepped its game up, revitalizing their Customer Support to provide phone, email, and web-based aid with a much faster response rate to aid you in your business formation.
So, while previously this left a lot to be desired, we can pleasantly say ZenBusiness improved drastically, and that their Customer Support is very helpful and accessible in a bid to improve their customer reviews.
Is there a refund policy?
This is a bit of a unique question that hinges on whether or not your business filing has been submitted or not. In the case that it has not been submitted to the state yet, then you may request a refund of your purchase with just a cancellation fee attached.
In the case that the filing has already been sent out to the state and will be under imminent review, you may no longer receive a refund as sufficient service has been rendered.
For this, we can’t really blame them, because if you’ve paid for them to form your company and all the paperwork has been sent off to be approved, you’re getting what you paid for. If that hasn’t been met though, it is fair to get a significant refund from the initial payment for your business formation.
Should I reserve my company name in advance?
For most customers, reserving the name of your upcoming company before filing for business formation is mostly unnecessary, though if you question whether or not the name you want will be available by the time you intend to apply for formation, maybe because it is trendy or in high demand, then you should absolutely reserve the name in advance.
The case is also true if you are forming a business that will operate in the state of Alabama, which requires name reservation for all LLC formations. Overall, unless you are going to form in Alabama or have a really unique name you must secure before anyone else takes it, it isn’t necessary to reserve the name in advance.
Can I form an LLC in the United States from abroad?
Absolutely. If you intend to form an LLC in America, you can do it from just about anywhere. You do not need to be a citizen or resident, nor do you personally need a physical presence in the United States.
This is in large part why business formation services are so popular and widespread – a lot of companies and interested parties from abroad want to have a registered agent in the States.
Does ZenBusiness sell or share information with third-parties?
You may have noticed a troubling trend in modern internet-based platforms like tracking, using, and selling your information to their third-party associates – typically reeling you in with things like ‘special offers’ or ‘extras’ and then selling whatever information they get out of you, like emails or personal preferences.
When it comes to Zen Business, the only time they are in contact with third parties regarding your information is when it comes to domain name registration and creating a corporate website.
These two acts require a bit of simple information exchange in order to actually create the domain and website. If you were to do it yourself, you’d have to hand over the exact same simple information. Apart from this, the information you provide will be completely confidential.
Does ZenBusiness upsell?
In the case of Zen Business, when you choose their most basic plan (Starter), that has the most room for upselling, you only get introduced to a few of the options available, each of which is actually quite useful – EIN, Banking Resolution, or their Worry-Free Guarantee.
Of course, none of these options are compulsory, but ZenBusiness doesn’t ever try to make it feel like it is either. You won’t feel pressured by what they try to offer on top of the initial basic plan.
What else can ZenBusiness do?
As we outlined earlier, ZenBusiness does more than just business formation paperwork for you. It can also handle the documentation of things like operating agreements and amendments, annual reports, EIN acquisition, and even banking or credit.
ZenBusiness tries to be a one-stop-shop if you have the means and desire for their services, so the sky’s the limit. If you need a website, they can help. If you need a business credit card, they can help. If you need a publication service, they can help.
How long does the Zen Business LLC formation process take?
This process is highly dependent on the requirements and estimates of each state, as each state has its own specific turnaround times (for example, Alabama has a turnaround of 58 business days).
On top of this, ZenBusiness also handles priority a bit differently, with the highest priority going to their Premium Package holders. Here are the estimated turnaround times, state-specifics aside:
- Starter: 6-7 working days
- Pro: 4-5 working days
- Premium: 1-3 working days
While the premium might seem absurdly fast, keep in mind the state you choose to form in may throw a wrench in that estimation, and all ZenBusiness can control is how fast their own turnaround time with your paperwork can be. Regardless of this, ZenBusiness is perhaps the best LLC formation company in terms and speed and deliverability.
Tips when forming an LLC
In this section, we will provide a few key tips and things to consider when looking to form an LLC, and in some cases overlooked or put off until later.
Philanthropic for-profit endeavors and LLC
If you’re looking to make a for-profit social enterprise that focuses on issues that benefit society as a whole, rather than solely on income maximization, then consider making an L3C.
An L3C is a low-profit LLC that is a bridge between classical non-profits and for-profit endeavors, giving you a structure that helps in finding funding as well as helping easily comply with the IRS regulations.
The good thing about a venture such as this one is you’re not as limited by the stringency of either for-profit or non-profit legalities, so you can focus on your project quicker and without hassle.
Making an Anonymous LLC
An anonymous LLC is one which as the name implies, is formed in a way where the members are not required to provide their identities and aren’t a public entity.
Going about this route is not troublesome, as there is no difference when registering for an anonymous LLC. The reason you may want to go about this type of LLC is to prevent dangerous groups or individuals from accessing your information and harassing you.
If you or the people you are working with have been targeted in the past, an anonymous LLC allows you to operate in safety.
LLC Naming Restrictions
We slightly touched on the naming of your business a bit earlier, but here are a few tidbits you should take into account when deciding your name:
- LLC is needed at the end of your business name typically
- It must be distinguishable from all other LLCs filed in-state
- Can’t contain prohibited words such as “Bank”, “Insurance” or “Trustee”
- If it’s an LLC, it cannot go by Corp. or Inc.
Trade Name Usage
Related to your LLC name is the idea of trade names, or “doing business as”. If you want to use a name that is not your formal LLC title, then you can opt for making a DBA to refer to your LLC when promoting your company to others. Filing for a DBA is a simple process and can be easily done with a qualified agent.
Setting up for Investment
If in the future you plan to raise money from investors, venture capital firms, or close associates, there are a few things you should consider:
- LLCs are not an investor’s first choice. Typically investment is provided to corporations
- Private Placement Exemptions may be in order if you intend to issue LLC units to investors
- Put in place a good set of Articles of Organization that outline the rights of potential investors
As our article winds down, we have summed up the pros and cons and other facts in this ZenBusiness review. You can’t go wrong with picking ZenBusiness as your business formation service provider as it’s the best LLC formation service in the market.
If you’re looking to form an LLC in any of the 50 states in the US, Zen Business will be able to help you out. Overall, without a doubt, their service pros outweigh the cons.