DIY Guide to Forming a Business in California

Updated: 6 days ago

When starting a new business, there are many important decisions to make and many rules and procedures that must be addressed. While there is no single source for all filing requirements, the following steps have been developed to assist you in starting your business.

Step 1

It is helpful to begin with a business plan. A business plan is a blueprint of every aspect of your business. Sales, Marketing, Advertising, Promotion and Location are just some of the categories to consider when creating a plan.

Step 2

If you would like help deciding on a location for your business, contact the California Business Investment Services unit of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GO-Biz). The California Business Investment Services unit provides tailored site selection services for businesses, real–estate executives, and site selection consultants.

Step 3

Choose a business structure. A brief overview of the following types of legal business structures available in California can be found on the state Entity Types website:

  • Corporation

  • Limited Liability Company

  • Limited Partnership

  • General Partnership

  • Limited Liability Partnership

  • Sole Proprietorship

Step 4

Your next step will be to file your tax and employer identification documents.

Step 5

A name can be reserved for a period of 60 days. Fees and instructions for reserving a name are included on the Name Reservation Request Form (PDF).

The reservation can be renewed to the same applicant or for the benefit of the same party, but not for consecutive 60-day periods. There must be at least 1 day between reservation periods. (California Corporations Code section 201(d), 2601(c), 5122(c), 7122(d), 9122(c), 12302(d), 15901.09(b)(c) or 17701.09(a).)

The reservation of a name does not guarantee the name meets all federal and state requirements related to a specific entity type. Names are reviewed for compliance at the time documents are submitted to the California Secretary of State’s office for filing.

Step 6

Most businesses require licenses or permits in order to operate. Please click on each of the resources below to determine if your business requires any licenses or permits.

  • CalGOLD (The Gold Standard For Permit Assistance)

  • Department of Consumer Affairs


Electronic Signatures

"Electronic signature" typically is defined as meaning an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with an electronic record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the electronic record. An electronic signature may be as simple as typing in a name electronically, checking a box indicating an intent to sign or some similar process. However, electronic signatures only are permissible in electronic transactions between consenting parties. The use of an electronic signature requires the agreement of both parties to allow the use of the electronic signature and must be on a document that requires a signature and that is electronic.

Electronic signatures on filings submitted through the Secretary of State's online process are the only electronic signatures that are acceptable for filings with the Secretary of State. Computer generated signatures or fonts made to look like a signature printed on paper filings are not acceptable.

Digital Signatures

A digital signature is a type of electronic signature that requires specific security criteria to be met during the electronic transaction to ensure the signature is from the party it is supposed to be from. Digital signatures use a form of encryption as part of the signature process to ensure the signature cannot be duplicated or impersonated and require the receiving party to have the encryption key to decipher the signature.

Digital signatures are not acceptable for business entity filings made with the California Secretary of State.


  • For documents with a filing fee of $25.00 or more: Upon filing, we will return one (1) uncertified copy of your filed document for free, and will certify the copy upon request and payment of a $5.00 certification fee at the time of submission. To get additional copies, include a separate request and payment for copy fees when the document is submitted. Copy fees are $1.00 for the first page and $.50 for each additional page. For certified copies, there is an additional $5.00 certification fee, per copy.

  • For documents with no filing fee or a filing fee that is less than $25.00: To get a copy of the filed document, include a separate request and payment for copy fees when the document is submitted for filing. Copy fees are $1.00 for the first page and $.50 for each additional page. For certified copies, there is an additional $5.00 certification fee, per copy.

  • For information about ordering copies after a document has been filed, go to Information Requests.

Filing Options

The completed form/document, along with the applicable filing fee, can be submitted to the Sacramento office:(1) by mail; (2) dropped off at the public counter along with a separate non–refundable $15 special handling fee; or (3) dropped off at the public counter using their preclearance and/or expedited filing services. The preclearance and/or expedited filing of the document within a guaranteed time frame can be requested for a specified non–refundable fee (in lieu of the special handling fee). See Service Options to determine which service will meet your needs.


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