How to Start a Business in Washington

Ranked 1st for overall quality of life in the US and 5th for access to venture capital, starting a business in Washington is a great choice for entrepreneurs. Start your business today with our simple step-by-step guide and get on the fast track to financial and personal independence. If you get stuck along the way, connect with a business resource in your local area for help.


To Start a Business in Washington, follow these steps:

Step 1: Choose the Right Business Idea

The first step toward business ownership is deciding what kind of business to start. Look for an idea that suits your interests, your personal goals, and your natural abilities. This will help you stay motivated when the going gets tough and will greatly improve your odds of success. We have assembled a comprehensive list of small business ideas to help you get started. Need inspiration? Here were the most popular ideas among our Washington visitors in 2020:

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Find the Right Business Idea for You

Our free Business Ideas Generator will help you identify great businesses that match your interests and lifestyle.

Business Ideas
Generator

Step 2: Plan Your Business

Successful businesses are built through careful planning. Before committing a significant amount of money and other resources toward your business, critically analyze your idea and create a game plan. At a minimum, you should have good answers to the following questions.

Business Name
Naming a business can be challenging. You'll want to choose a brand name that follows Washington naming rules, resonates with your customers, and is available as a URL.

Product Development
What problem does your business solve? What will set your product or service apart from the competition?

Sales & Marketing
Who are your potential customers? How will you get their attention and convert them into buyers?

People and Partnerships
What roles will you need to hire and what professional relationships will you need to form in order to succeed?

Financial Planning
How many clients or sales will you need in order to break even? How much money will it take to get there, and where will you get the funding?

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Start Planning

  • Create a robust business plan to help navigate the early years of your business. To use this free tool sign up for the Business Center.
  • Need Help? Find organizations in your local area that can assist you with planning.
  • If you’re a solo-entrepreneur, setting up a virtual office can add credibility to your business by having a business address on Google search, protect your personal privacy, and provide you with a business phone line and a live receptionist to answer your calls. Save $200 on a virtual office today.
  • If you’re a woman in business, find funding, tools and resources with this great new series Women in Business.

Step 3: Form Your Business

Registering your Washington company as a legal business entity, such as an LLC or a Corporation, has two major advantages:

  • Increased credibility
  • Protection from personal liability in the event your business is sued

For most small businesses, registering an LLC is a great option. In comparison to other business entities, LLCs are easier to set up and manage and they have favorable tax treatment. You can set up an LLC in Washington for $230.

If you choose not to register your company as a business entity, you will be held personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of your business. In addition, unregistered business owners may need to file a Trade Name, also known as a "DBA." Find out if your business is required to file a DBA.

Secure Your Domain

We recommend that you check online to see if your business name is available as a web domain. Even if you don't plan to create a business website today, you may want to buy the URL in order to prevent others from acquiring it

Not sure what to name your business? Check out our Business Name Generator. Then, create a logo with our free Logo Maker.

Find a Domain Now

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

Step 4: Register for Taxes

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.

Obtain an EIN

You should also be aware of important washington taxes that may apply to your business:

  • Most Businesses in Washington must pay a Business and Occupation Tax
  • If you are selling a physical product, you’ll typically need to register for Washington Sales Tax.
  • If you hire employees in Washington, you will have to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax
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Register for Washington State Taxes

Sales Tax | Unemployment Insurance Tax | Business & Occupation Tax

Step 5: Create Business Banking and Credit Accounts

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.

You can protect your business with these two steps:

1. Opening 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.
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Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.

2. Getting 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: Set Up Accounting

An accounting system helps you track the performance of your business and simplifies annual tax filings. Quality accounting software lets you download your bank and credit card transactions, making accounting fast and easy. Learn more about the importance of accounting and how to get started with accounting today.

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Recommended: QuickBooks has all the accounting features your small business will need.

Try QuickBooks for free

Step 7: Obtain Permits and Licenses

To operate your new business legally, you will need to comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. In many cases, this involves obtaining one or more business permits and/or licenses. For example, a restaurant will likely need health permits, building permits, signage permits, etc.

Step 8: Get Insured

Business insurance helps you manage risks and focus on growing your business. The most common types of business insurance you should consider are:

We recommend that all small businesses, including home based businesses, purchase a general liability policy. Businesses selling professional advice or services, such as consulting and accounting firms, should also consider a professional liability policy. In Washington, businesses with one or more employees, excluding business owners, are required by law to have workers compensation insurance.

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Our recommended insurance provider can set you up with an insurance policy that is right for your business

Get a Quote

Step 9: Define Your Brand

The strongest and most memorable businesses are built on a solid brand. When developing your brand, you should consider:

  • What your business stands for?
  • What are your core values?
  • What will earn customer trust?

Once you feel confident about your answers to these questions, it’s time to move onto your business name. Your business name is the cornerstone of good branding and a successful business. To learn more about creating the best name for your business, read our How to Name a Business guide.

Last but not least, try our Free Logo Generator to get a unique logo for your business. Our logo maker is free (no sign-ups or email address needed) and it comes in all social media sizes. It’s easy and hassle free--with no design experience required!

Step 10: Establish a Web Presence

A professional website is critical to the long-term success of your business, regardless of what industry you are in. A website allows potential customers to find your business online and discover the products or services you offer, and it also enhances your business’s credibility.

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

  • Setting up social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  • Creating accounts on review sites (Yelp, Google Reviews, etc)
  • Registering for a local Google profile

Washington Formation Guides

Get Help From Local Resources

To help you start your business, we have identified the best resources across the state of Washington that can support you in your entrepreneurial endeavors.

Select your Region

Seattle Local Resources

Business Impact NW

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Business Planning
  • Fundraising
  • Financial

Offers Free Service

Description

Business Impact NW is a non-profit organization that strives to provide under-financed entrepreneurs funding and technical assistance. They provide business consulting services and discounted courses on a variety of entrepreneurship topics through their partnerships with a Women's Business Center and Veteran's Business Center. These services are open to any entrepreneur who requests assistance. Among all their services, those business coaching and training programs that are affiliated with SBA are entirely free. In addition, you can apply for business loans directly through them.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

1437 S Jackson St.
Seattle, WA 98144
206-324-4330

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Seattle Resources

Spokane Local Resources

Startup Spokane

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Coworking
  • Networking

Offers Free Service

Description

Startup Spokane is a program under Greater Spokane Incorporated that provides entrepreneurial assistance for small businesses and startups in the greater Spokane community. They offer free one-on-one consultation and mentorship programs. They host office hours with seasoned professionals, networking events and workshops, an annual venture expo, and lunch-and-learn classes. In addition, their coworking spaces are open to entrepreneurs who need a place to work.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

610 W. 2nd Ave
Spokane , WA 99201
509-321-3626
Startup@GreaterSpokane.org


WSU Center For Innovation

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Business Planning
  • Research

Description

WSU Center for Innovation offers technical assistance, particularly business research and planning assistance for small businesses and startups in the community. Their organization provides tailored support to startups in any industry that require planning or launching assistance, including market research or business plan formation.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

120 N. Pine St., Ignite Northwest Bldg
Sponkane, WA 99202
509-358-7897
Ebingerm@wsu.edu

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Spokane Resources

Vancouver Local Resources

Vancouver SBDC

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Business Planning
  • Financial

Offers Free Service

Description

The greatest strength of the SBDC is their free, confidential, 1-on-1 business mentoring for anyone who seeks it. Sometimes in order to be considered for mentoring from one of their professional business advisors, you may have to attend a class/workshop or at least present your business plan. SBDC's are located all throughout the state and you should use the SBDC closest to your location if possible, but you can often transfer to a different location if they do not fit your needs.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

802A Officer's Row
Vancouver, WA 98682

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Vancouver Resources

Wenatchee Local Resources

Chelan-Douglas Community Action Council

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Business Planning
  • Financial

Offers Free Service

Description

Chelan-Douglas Community Action Council is a charitable organization that mainly serves low or moderate income residents in Chelan and Douglas Counties. Among their programs, they have a workshop series for small business startups that covers business planning and market research, among many other topics. The workshop series is free and offers over 80 hours of instruction.

 

CONTACT INFORMATION:

620 Lewis St.
Wenatchee, WA 98801
509-662-6156 x 262
vickim@cdcac.org

HOURS OF OPERATION:

MON - THU: 8 am - 5 pm

FRI: 8 pm - 4 pm

 

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See more business resources in Wenatchee

Wenatchee Resources

Yakima Local Resources

Yakima SBDC

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Business Planning
  • Financial

Offers Free Service

Description

The greatest strength of the SBDC is their free, confidential, 1-on-1 business mentoring for anyone who seeks it. Sometimes in order to be considered for mentoring from one of their professional business advisors, you may have to attend a class/workshop or at least present your business plan. SBDC's are located all throughout the state and you should use the SBDC closest to your location if possible, but you can often transfer to a different location if they do not fit your needs.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

10 N 9th St.
Yakima, WA 98901

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Yakima Resources

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