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Starting a new business is exciting, but it’s easy to forget some of the more technical work that needs to get done.

Things like getting a business license and figuring out your business taxes might not be fun, but they’re essential to the long-term success of your business. 

The only problem is, the path for obtaining a small business license in your state isn’t always clear. Every state is different, from having an online portal to requiring applications be submitted to a specific authority.

However, if you know where to look and what you need to apply, the whole process becomes much easier. Hence, this guide. 

Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about getting a business license, including:

  • What is a business license?
  • Industries that require business licensing
  • How much does a business license cost? 
  • Applying for a business license 
  • How to get a business license (in all 50 states)

Let’s get started.

What is a business license? 

If you’re new to starting your own business and you’re not exactly sure what the purpose of a business license is, this section is for you.

A business license is a legal document that gives you the authority to operate a business in your chosen state. That’s about all there is to it.

However, when it comes to actually acquiring a business license, it’s not quite so simple.

That’s because, in many states, there is no “business license”. Instead, it might be a “business permit”, “seller’s permit”, or even a collection of 2-3 licenses and permits you need to obtain to operate your business all depending on your state and industry.

We know, that can make the whole process sound a bit confusing. Fortunately, we’ve simplified everything in this guide, so you’ve got nothing to worry about (read on). 

Industries that require business licensing

As mentioned above, what licenses you need to operate your business depend partly on what state you’re operating in, but also what industry. 

For example, a business which offers alcohol will likely need to obtain a liquor license, a restaurant may need that in addition to a food service license, and a construction company will probably need a general contractor license.

Because each state is different, it’s important to contact your local state authority (or use their online resources) to find out what you’ll need for sure (see your corresponding state’s section below). 

Here are some industries that typically require special licensing:

  • Spirits and alcohol
  • Transportation
  • Radio and T.V
  • Firearms
  • Nuclear energy
  • Agriculture
  • Commercial fishing

How much does a business license cost?

Because the type of business licensing required changes based on state, in addition to countless other unseen factors, the price of obtaining a business license varies from state-to-state as well.

There are two factors which come into play (typically) when it comes to paying for a business license: 

  • The initial license cost: $50-100 for a business license in most states
  • And renewal

Renewal fees tend to be the same as the initial license cost, but they can be less in some cases. 

When you’re getting a business license, it’s typically just for 1 year, with renewal required every year thereafter.

However, as with everything else, this is all dependent upon the type of license(s) and the state. So, check with your local authority to know exactly how much your licensing needs will cost. 

How to apply for a business license

As we’ll talk about in a moment, the application process is a bit different for each state. However, the overarching steps involved are roughly the same. 

Here’s a simple breakdown of the steps involved to apply for a business license in most states:

  1. Check your state’s regulations before applying for a business license. Depending on your type of business, other licenses and documents may be required to operate. Learn everything you’ll need to get your business started in advance so you’re well-prepared. 
  2. Submit application with additional documentation. You’ll likely need to submit additional documentation along with your application. Check what those documents are to make sure you have them in order. After that, make sure you’re submitting your application in the right place. 
  3. Wait for approval. For most states, after applying you’ll need to wait for word of your approval. During this time, state business licensing authorities will double-check the application and additional documentation you provided. 

Now, let’s talk about how to get a business license in your state.

How to get a business license in your state: A guide to all 50 states 

Obtaining a business license, no matter the state, typically only requires a few basic steps.

However, because it’s different for each state, the whole process can be incredibly confusing. 

That’s why we’ve done the work for you. We’ve found out exactly how to apply for a business license in each of the 50 states. So, no matter what state you live in, you’ll find the information you need to get your business license below. 

To find out how to get your state’s business license equivalent, click on the map, dropdown, or text summary below: 

Or you can click the dropdown below to select your state:

Here’s a summary of instructions for obtaining business licensing in all 50 states (listed in alphabetical order): 

How to get a business license in Alabama

Use Alabama’s official AtlasAlabama for information on licenses, business tax numbers, and other useful resources for getting your business started. 

How to get a business license in Alaska

Visit Alaska’s Department of Commerce to find out everything you need for obtaining your business license as well as to apply for and renew your license online. 

How to get a business license in Arizona

Arizona’s Department of Revenue website has information on everything from what licenses you’ll need to how much you’ll pay. You can also apply using their online portal. 

How to get a business license in Arkansas

Arkansas official Arkansas.gov website has a great guide for getting started with obtaining business licensing in Arkansas, including steps to apply for various business licenses, how to figure out what licenses you’ll need, pricing, and an online portal to apply right from their website. 

How to get a business license in California 

Use California’s official CalGold portal to get specific instructions on how to get a business license in CA. Simply enter your information and the portal will give you relevant instructions. 

How to get a business license in Colorado 

Colorado’s Business Express online portal offers all the information you’ll need to apply for business licenses online as well as having instructions for manual application. 

How to get a business license in Connecticut

Connecticut’s New Business Checklist is a detailed guide that offers steps for applying for a business license in Connecticut. 

How to get a business license in Delaware 

Delaware has a great One Stop Business Registration & Licensing portal with a useful questionnaire that will direct you to the necessary documents and application resources. 

How to get a business license in Washington D.C.

D.C.’s Business Center has a great guide for figuring out exactly what licenses you’ll need to obtain to become fully established. Once you’ve reviewed that, use their Business License guide to apply for a business license online. 

How to get a business license in Florida

You can obtain information on types of business licenses and apply online at Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation and online portal. To get started select your type of business from the drop-down and the site will guide you through instructions for your industry. 

How to get a business license in Georgia 

Most businesses can apply for business licensing online through Georgia’s online portal licensing service. For more information on what licenses you need and whether you can apply online, see Georgia’s official business license page. 

How to get a business license in Hawaii 

Hawaii’s Business Express is one of the better online portals among the states. Simply follow the instructions and you’ll be guided to which types of licensing you need and how to apply.

How to get a business license in Idaho 

Start by getting information on what licenses and permits your business needs at the official Idaho state website. Once you’re done, you can apply online for your necessary licensing and permits at their official online portal

How to get a business license in Illinois 

Check Illinois official state site for information on your specific licensing needs. If you’re having trouble finding the licensing information you need (the page is a bit of a pain to scroll through), you can use the search icon at the top right.

How to get a business license in Indiana 

Indiana’s licensing regulations are a bit more complicated than most states, but their official state website has put together a well-organized Business Owner Guide that makes it pretty easy to find the information you need as well as instructions for how to get started (and links where relevant). 

How to get a business license in Iowa

Most businesses need a unique type of license based on the industry in Iowa, which their Business License Information Center helps you identify and find next-steps for. 

How to get a business license in Kansas 

Kansas’ Business Center provides all the information you’ll need to get your licensing squared away. However, if legal structures are a bit confusing, check out this guide for more information. 

How to get a business license in Kentucky 

Kentucky has a great One Stop Business Portal that will help you get information on what exact licenses and permits you need as well as help you apply online.

How to get a business license in Louisiana 

Louisiana’s Business Services resource has all the information you’ll need to figure out what licenses and permits you’ll need. To gain access to their online application services, you’ll need to create a separate account to access their online portal. 

How to get a business license in Maine 

Unlike most states, Maine handles its business licensing at the city level. However, Maine’s local government resource will help you identify the right town/city that your business resides in to help get you pointed in the right direction.

How to get a business license in Maryland 

Maryland’s Department of Commerce has a great one-stop portal that makes it easy to identify which licenses you’ll need and apply online. They even have a great welcome video to get you started that helps break everything down. 

How to get a business license in Massachusetts 

Massachusetts’ licenses and permits page will help you find which licenses you’ll need to operate. Once you’ve reviewed that, use their Starting a New Business guide for additional resources for getting started. 

How to get a business license in Michigan 

Some businesses don’t need licensing in Michigan. To find out if you’ll need licensing to operate, check Michigan’s official licensing search. For additional information, review Michigan’s official Guide to Starting and Operating a Small Business

How to get a business license in Minnesota

Minnesota’s online licensing tool will help you find out which licenses and permits you need to operate in Minnesota. You search by topic, agency, or alphabetically.

How to get a business license in Mississippi 

Getting licensed in Mississippi can be a bit confusing as some businesses need both state and local licensing, some only state licensing, and others no licensing at all. To find out what licenses you may need and whether you’ll need to get licensed at the state and/or local level, see Mississippi’s official Small Business Development Center’s FAQ.

How to get a business license in Missouri 

Missouri’s online portal offers information on getting licensed in the state as well as the ability to apply online. 

How to get a business license in Montana

Review Montana’s official state licenses by industry list to find out when licensing you’ll need. You may also need to get licensed at the city level depending on your industry. 

How to get a business license in Nebraska 

Nebraska’s Licensing Division has information on what industries need state-level licensing. If your business doesn’t require state-level licensing, check with your local city governance for information on whether you need to get licensed at the city level. 

How to get a business license in Nevada 

Nevada’s SilverFlume Business Portal has everything you’ll need, including a complete guide to what licensed you may need and how to get licensed 

How to get a business license in New Hampshire 

Review this list at NH’s official Department of Revenue licensing FAQ. If your business doesn’t show up, contact your local city government to find out what licensing you may need beyond that. 

How to get a business license in New Jersey 

New Jersey’s Business Action Center is a complete guide and resource for getting licensed in the state. For more information on where you need to go to obtain specific licenses and permits, see their License and Certification Guide.

How to get a business license in New Mexico 

New Mexico’s licensing portal allows you to apply online. However, keep in mind that licensing may differ between industries and the state vs. local level, so you should also check with local authorities to find out for sure what you’ll need to have in place. 

How to get a business license in New York 

New York’s business wizard has information on what licenses and permits are needed to operate in the state as well as instructions for applying. 

How to get a business license in North Carolina 

NC has an easy-to-use state website and a great business planning checklist to help get you started towards getting licensed and set up in general. 

How to get a business license in North Dakota 

All information regarding licensing, including which licenses are necessary for your business and how to apply, can be found on the North Dakota state website here

How to get a business license in Ohio 

Ohio’s Small Business Development Center has everything you need to find out which licenses you need, how to get licensed, and how to register with the Secretary of State (a requirement for Ohio businesses). 

How to get a business license in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has more varied license requirements, which you can find instructions for obtaining on the Department of Commerce’s Business Licensing and Operating Requirements page

How to get a business license in Oregon 

If you’re in need of more information than just licensing, Oregon’s starting a business guide will help walk you through several important steps to getting yourself established (#6 explains licensing). 

How to get a business license in Pennsylvania 

The Pennsylvania Licensing System is Penn’s one-stop portal for everything related to licensing. Using the portal, you’ll be able to find out which licenses you need to get started as well as steps to applying for all relevant licenses and permits. 

How to get a business license in Rhode Island 

Rhode Island has two great resources for getting your business started. Their starting a business guide walks you through everything you’ll need to start your business. Second, the Department of Business Regulation has a handy list of license needs and the ability to apply online. 

How to get a business license in South Carolina 

Like many states, SC runs their licensing on the city level. However, you can visit South Carolina’s licensing, permits, and registration page for information on getting licensed and their one-stop portal to get the process started. 

How to get a business license in South Dakota 

South Carolina doesn’t have a central portal for information on licensing, but they have a handy PDF guide on licensing and registration here. Visit South Dakota’s official state website for more information on getting your business started. 

How to get a business license in Tennessee 

Tennessee’s business registration and licensing page has all the information you’ll need to figure out which type of license you’ll need to operate (there are a few unique types of licenses) and how to apply. 

How to get a business license in Texas 

The official Texas state website has information on getting licensed via their home page (under Work). For more information on how to get a license and what licenses and permits you might need, see their guides and resources page

How to get a business license in Utah 

Utah’s official Business Licensing and Registration guide has specific instructions for getting licensed in the state. For more information on getting your business started in Utah, check out their Government Requirements page

How to get a business license in Vermont 

Start by looking at Vermont’s professional regulation page for information on what licenses you’ll need to get set up in the state. Vermont doesn’t have an official licensing portal, they instead direct you to the SBA’s Apply for licenses and permits page. 

How to get a business license in Virginia 

For steps on launching a business in Virginia, read their business one stop guide which gives information on starting a business in Virginia. Step number 4 will get you started with specific instructions for getting licensed. 

How to get a business license in Washington 

Washington state’s online business licensing portal offers a simple but straightforward guide to everything you’ll need to get licensed, including when you’ll need a license and how to apply. 

How to get a business license in West Virginia 

West Virginia’s online business portal can help you figure out the specific licenses you’ll need as well as direct you to where you need to apply to get started obtaining those licenses. 

How to get a business license in Wisconsin 

Review Wisconsin’s online business portal to find out what licenses and permits you might need. In addition, you can use their portal apply online and find additional resources.

How to get a business license in Wyoming

Wyoming business permitting and licensing has the perfect online guide that will get you started on the process to getting a business license in Wyoming. For additional questions which the page does not answer, contact the Wyoming Business Outreach Coordinator.

Obtaining your business license– simplified

Obtaining a business license can seem complicated. And, if you don’t know where to look for information on your state’s business license application process, it definitely can be. 

However, with specific information for getting a business license based on your state, the process becomes much simpler.

Just getting your business started? Check out these guides: