Starting your own business can be incredibly exciting, and understanding all of the steps you need to take to get your business up and running can be overwhelming. It’s easy to forget that you might need to take care of some legal requirements before you start doing business.

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Not all businesses require licenses, of course. If you’re a freelance writer or graphic designer, you won’t need to get a license to start taking on clients and building your brand. However, depending on your industry and business, there are a few different licenses and permits that you may need to obtain before you go any farther with your business.

BUSINESSES THAT REQUIRE STATE LICENSES AND PERMITS

In some professions, you’re going to first need to get a license or permit to practice. These include but are not limited to:

• Accountants
• Cosmetologists
• Aestheticians
• Building contractors
• Debt collectors
• Appraisers
• Barbers and hair stylists
• Real estate agents and brokers
• Private security providers
• Auctioneers
• Private investigators

Even if you don’t operate in a field that requires you to be licensed to do business, you may still need some licenses or permits to open your doors.

SELLER’S PERMIT, CERTIFICATE OF AUTHORITY, OR CERTIFICATE OF RESALE

All three of these basically refer to the same type of permit, which applies to businesses selling taxable goods. If you’re running your business out of your home, and you deal in taxable goods or services, you need to pay and charge sales taxes on your stock, which means you’ll need a sales tax license. In some states it’s a criminal offense to operate without one of these licenses, so look up your state’s laws to make sure that you’re operating legally.

AIR AND WATER POLLUTION PERMITS

This will most likely be a municipal permit issued by the city where you do business, and it only applies to businesses that burn materials and/or discharge waste or other materials into waterways or sewer systems. If this is the case, you may also need to get a permit from the EPA, depending on your business and what kinds of wastes you produce.

FIRE DEPARTMENT PERMIT

Does your business make use of any flammable materials, and/or are your premises open to the public? If so, you’re probably going to need a fire department permit, or you may need to agree to periodic inspections from the fire marshal to ensure that your premises are safe and that you have taken the necessary fire precautions.

HEALTH DEPARTMENT PERMITS

If you’re serving or selling food to the public or to other food service businesses, you’re going to need a health department permit from your county of operation. The permit itself is fairly inexpensive, but you will need to do your homework to ensure that you’re operating within the laws and regulations that apply to your business and that you’re ready for random inspections from the health department.

You may not need a license to start doing business, especially if you’re selling consulting or creative services. However, if you’re going into retail, food service, or manufacturing, or you intend to let the public have access to your site, there are a few local, state, and federal permits and licenses that you may need. With a little bit of research at your local tax office or online, you should be able to find out if any of these licenses or permits apply to you and which ones you need to get before opening your doors for business.

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