Though some business requirements — such as your sales tax license, resale license and employer identification number — don't cost anything to fulfill, others come with a fee. The amount of the fee varies depending on where you will do business and the type of business you want to start.
Structuring your business as a corporation gives you liability protection that sole proprietorship businesses and partners don't have. Since the law regards the corporation as a separate entity from its shareholders, your personal assets are safe if someone sues your business. You must file articles of incorporation with the secretary of state where you have a business location, which means filing multiple articles if you have locations in more than one state. The fee to file articles of incorporation is between $100 and $200, as of 2011.
Since incorporation comes with the legal responsibility of extensive bookkeeping, consider starting your business as a limited liability company instead. An LLC has the same liability protection a corporation has without the double-taxation or bookkeeping duties. You must file articles of organization with the secretary of state in each state where you have a business location. The process may cost as little as $50 or as much as $800.
If the costs to incorporate or form an LLC are too much for your business right now, you can start your business as a sole proprietorship or partnership instead. These business structures are not separate from you personally in the government's eyes, so you're liable if anyone sues your business. Yet the fees to become a sole proprietor or partnership are minimal because you only need to file an assumed name form to be able to do business using a conventional business name (as opposed to your legal name). A DBA ("doing business as" form) costs $10 to $100 and notifies the state of your business name. State law will determine whether you file with the secretary of state, city hall, county clerk or local newspaper, so contact the secretary of state to find out.
The nature of your business will determine which, if any, occupational licenses you need. If your business will involve food, health, beauty, weaponry or any other product or service that affects consumers' health, it's likely you will need a special license. Contact the secretary of state where your business is located to be sure. The cost of your license will vary depending on the license.