Rochester, NY

You can’t wait to start your business. If only you could skip all the “Legal stuff”.


How to start your LLC in Rochester, NY

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE by Michael Bradley Updated: January 3, 2023
Name your LLC
Appoint a Registered Agent
~7 days
File Articles of Organization
Draft an Operating Agreement
< 120 d.
Fulfill New York’s LLC Publication Requirement
Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

Why form an LLC in Rochester, NY?

As New York’s third-largest metropolitan area, Rochester offers an energetic art scene. The city also has tasty treats around every corner. But the Garbage Plate wins the hearts of many Rochesterians. And the low cost of living combines with an educated workforce to support a thriving economy.

Deciding to open a business in Rochester is a major step forward. To convert your concept into reality, you’ll need to form a legal entity. The process can seem daunting. And that’s why we’re here to guide the way. This article has everything you need to form an LLC in Rochester, New York.

We’ll cover:

  • The six easy steps to form a Rochester LLC
  • Local information about the licenses, permits, and business resources
  • More actions to consider after forming a Rochester, New York LLC

LLC Formation Process in a Nutshell

1. Name your LLC

How to select a name for a New York LLC? Every new business needs to come up with a name. While marketing concerns are valid, you’ll also need to follow New York law.

New York’s LLC Law section 204 specifies the LLC naming requirements. Each LLC must include one of the following:

  • Limited Liability Company
  • L.L.C.
  • LLC

The name of your LLC must be distinguishable from existing businesses. Use New York’s Business Entity Database to check for what is already used. Coming up with a unique name is wise and required.

There are many terms you must avoid using. You can’t hold yourself out as something you aren’t, such as a governmental organization. Also only use terms related to highly-regulated industries if authorized to do so. These include things like medical, financial, or legal services.

It can help to know that many LLCs operate under a name different from the legal entity name. These are doing-business-as (DBA) names. For example, “Rochester Landscaping LLC” can use “Rochester Lawn Care.”

Another element to think about is the domain name (URL). Even if you don’t want to launch a website immediately, it’s worth securing the matching domain name right away.


2. Appoint a Registered Agent

What is a registered agent? Every business must provide a point of contact responsible for receiving important documents. The registered agent performs this duty.

A primary function of the registered agent is for legal service of process. This means that if someone sues the LLC, the paperwork goes to the registered agent.

Some business owners appoint themselves as registered agents. But seasoned owners understand the value of hiring a registered agent service.

Electing to use yourself as the registered agent has the following advantages:

  • It’s cheap: You can dodge an extra expense by handling it yourself.
  • It’s simple: There’s only one address to update.
  • It’s reliable: Documents and notices come straight to you.

There are also some disadvantages to appointing yourself as the registered agent. These include:

  • No privacy: The registered agent’s name and address are public information. The Division of Corporations posts them on its website.
  • Junk mail/spam: The address will get junk mail. You’ll have to sort through that without missing the critical notices.
  • No breaks: Registered agents must be available during business hours. They don’t get time off.
  • Business interruptions: Your customers could witness you getting served with a lawsuit. This can be embarrassing and may tarnish your reputation.
  • It’s your fault if you miss something: All responsibilities are yours. If you make a mistake or miss a key notice, it’s on you.

We recommend hiring a registered agent service to avoid these downsides. They’ll sort your mail and keep your address confidential. Registered agent services cost around $100-$150 per year. Attorneys can charge up to $500 per year for this service.

If you choose to start your LLC by using a business formation company, they often include a registered agent service in their packages. Feel free to take a look at our registered agent recommendations article for more information.

$0 - $100

3. File Articles of Organization

How do you file the Articles of Organization for a New York LLC? Hold on to your hat because this is the most powerful step in the process. Filing your Articles of Organization transforms your idea into a legal enterprise. The LLC doesn’t exist without it.

This task can seem complicated. In reality, it’s something most can handle on their own and only takes basic information to complete.

Section 203 of the Limited Liability Company Law provides the details. The LLC’s name, purpose, and contact information are some of the necessary components. You can use this fillable form provided by the state to make things even easier.

A $200 fee applies to filing the Articles of Organization. You’ll also need to pay a $50 fee for a certificate showing you’ve published newspaper notices.

The Division of Corporations must process your application for it to take effect. The average delay is seven business days, but you can pay for expedited service if needed. Here are the times and fees that apply to quicker processing:

  • Within 24 hours: $25
  • Same day: $75
  • Two hours: $150

To save time and avoid the hassle of LLC filings, all seasoned entrepreneurs use LLC formation services. For recommendations, check out our article on the best LLC services.

~7 days

4. Draft an Operating Agreement

Does my New York LLC need an operating agreement? This is optional in some states. But New York law requires all LLCs have an operating agreement. This private contract between the LLC members sets out the rules under which it operates.

This mandatory agreement helps avoid problems down the road. It specifies the rights and responsibilities of the members and managers. Operating agreements also lay out the methods for adding or removing members.

The best operating agreements cover any situation the LLC may find itself in. Owners can customize them according to their desires and expectations, including:

  • They determine the rights and duties of LLC members. If one LLC member is responsible for running the business or managing the books, the operating agreement should say so.
  • They say whether the LLC has a member or non-member manager and what the manager has the right to do. Managers also have special duties to the company and its members. The operating agreement should state these.
  • They outline what the LLC is legally able to do. The operating agreement should also set down how the company is allowed to conduct its business from day to day.
  • They say how new members can join the company. They also have rules about how exiting members can leave.
  • They set down how and when profits are paid to members. They can also create different types of membership and payment schemes.
  • They say whether members or managers are in charge. They also say how to hire and fire managers.
  • They say how and under what circumstances the LLC should end. You might not want to dissolve your business now, but you might in the future. It’s best to think about it and plan before it becomes an issue.
  • They say how to change the rules. You may need to amend your operating agreement in the future. The operating agreement should set down the rules for making changes.

Even though New York requires every LLC to have an operating agreement, you don’t have to file it with the state. It is a private contract between the members.

LLC formation services provide operating agreement templates for as little as $50. This cost is worthwhile to ensure your LLC operates as you want it to.


5. Fulfill New York’s LLC Publication Requirement

What is New York’s publication requirement? Newspaper notices are a traditional way to keep the public informed. Most states have removed this somewhat archaic need thanks to the internet. But New York still requires it.

New LLCs must publish notices of their formation with two local newspapers. You have 120 days to complete this step. There are three ways to tackle it:

  • Do it yourself: You can save some money by doing this yourself, but it can take some time and effort. Speak with the local county clerk to find out where to publish the notices.
  • Use an attorney: While most attorneys make the process easy, they’ll also charge top dollar to do it for you.
  • Go through a registered agent service: This option usually costs less than attorney fees. Yet still gets the job done with great ease. This is often an excellent method to use.

The total cost also depends on the specific newspaper costs. Some outlets charge more than others and the differences can be dramatic.

Once published, file for a certificate with the Secretary of State. You can find a form statement in the text of Section 102 of the Limited Liability Company Law. A $50 fee applies.

< 120 d.
~$100 - $1000

6. Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

Do I need to get an EIN? The Internal Revenue Service uses Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) to track the tax information of businesses for federal tax purposes. They are essentially like Social Security Numbers for businesses.

The IRS requires certain businesses to get an EIN. These include any of the following:

  • If the LLC has more than one member;
  • The LLC hires any employees; or
  • It follows C-corporation or S-corporation taxation rules.

Even if you don’t fall under one of these qualifications, getting an EIN is beneficial for your business. For example, some states require having one for state tax purposes, and banks often require them to open a business bank account for your LLC.

The IRS has made the process easy through its online EIN application. It only takes about five minutes to complete and is entirely free of charge. It’s not worth hiring someone to do this unless it’s part of a wider LLC formation package.

Read More: How to get an Employer Identification Number in New York


Cheapest way to start your LLC

Do it Yourself
Gain personal knowledge
Lower upfront cost
You're losing money when you consider how much time it takes
There's the risk of making a mistake
It's a headache
Potential price
Potential time
5+ days
Formation Service
Very easy to use
Affordable ($39 for an LLC)
Same-day filing
Highly reliable
Not ideal for complex LLCs
Potential price
Potential time
30 min
A lawyer can help you manage risk
Offers more customization when you need it
Costs more than any other method
Finding one takes time
Slower compared to formation services
Potential price
> $400
Potential time
5+ days

Licenses and Permits in Rochester, NY

To start a business, you’ll need to get the appropriate licenses and permits. The state, county, and city-level authorities all have different requirements. Neglecting this essential step can result in grave consequences.


While not always necessary, New York offers many professional licenses for certain operations. These cover occupations like real estate brokers and security guards.

Review the New York business checklist to see what applies to your entity.


Rochester LLCs also need to review the local licenses and permits. While not necessary for all operations, many businesses need approval. This can come from the City of Rochester and Monroe County.

Familiarize yourself with the list of the City of Rochester licenses and permits. These cover specific business activities, such as:

  • restaurants and bars,
  • automobile services, and
  • barber shops.

Monroe County also requires some operations to get specific permits. These include things like food establishments and hotels.

It’s critical to get what your business needs before starting operations in the area. For more guidance, reach out to the City and County officials. They can point you in the right direction so you can get your business up and running in no time.

Support for Small Businesses in Rochester, NY

Local business leaders are eager to help others join the economy. By connecting with seasoned entrepreneurs, you can discover the road to sustainable success. The time spent reaching out to the community is a worthwhile investment.

Here is a list of local organizations dedicated to helping businesses thrive:

Next Steps After you Register your LLC

When you get to this point, take a moment to celebrate. You have created a New York LLC and are on your way to becoming a successful business owner. But there are some tasks worth completing right away.

  • Register a Matching Domain

    The internet is a central tool for many modern businesses and customers. Even if you don’t want to launch a website right away, it’s worth getting a domain name (URL) for your business.

    If you don’t, other people can snatch the domain name that matches your LLC name. These can be competitors looking to stifle competition. Or domain squatters, who buy the domain names so they can resell them at a markup down the road.

    Registering domain names is a quick, affordable and straightforward process. Most domain names cost around $20-$50 per year. Secure the rights to your domain name before someone else does.

  • File for a DBA (Doing Business As)

    Another tool for your LLC is a doing-business-as (DBA) name. This allows companies to operate under a name different from the business’s legal name. Some call these assumed names.

    Using a DBA name is a common practice. It helps merge any gap between the LLC name and what you want to show on your building or signs. For example, “Rochester Window Services LLC” can operate under “Rochester Window Cleaners.”

    Section 130 of the General Business Law provides the legal guidelines for using a DBA name. If you decide to use one, you’ll need to file the DBA with the New York Secretary of State. The form only requires basic information, and a $25 fee applies.

    For Rochester LLCs, you’ll also need to follow the Monroe County requirements.

  • Stay Compliant

    Forming your business entity is the foundation to operate. But there are some ongoing compliance concerns that you’ll also have to deal with.

    New York law requires LLCs to file a statement with the Secretary of State every two years. It is a quick update of the basic information and contacts. You can bypass this step by listing this information in certain tax reports.

    If you hire any employees, you’ll have to register with the state and pay employment taxes. Some businesses have more state tax considerations. These include corporate franchise tax or estimated tax payments.

    Now is also an excellent time to open a business bank account to keep the business finances separate. You should also consider purchasing insurance coverage. Policies for general liability, workers’ comp, and commercial property coverage might be worthwhile.

LLC Formation FAQs

What are the benefits of an LLC?

Most importantly, having an LLC will ensure your personal assets are protected if your business cannot pay its debts. Running your business through an LLC can also provide you with better tax treatment. In addition, LLCs have fewer and less complicated reporting requirements compared to other types of businesses, making them particularly suitable for smaller businesses.

Do I have to form an LLC to start a business?

It is not strictly necessary to form an LLC in order to start a business. You can engage in business as a sole proprietorship instead. However, in that case, your personal assets may be at risk if your business takes on too much debt or loses a lawsuit in court.

How much does it generally cost to form an LLC?

It doesn’t cost much to set up an LLC for your business. In most states, you will need to pay less than $150 to register your new LLC with the local state authorities. In some states, you may need to pay some additional costs later on, for example, when filing an annual report or filing for a DBA.

How long does it take to form an LLC?

The time it takes to have your LLC approved can vary wildly depending on the state, the filing method you used and if you opted for expedited filing. In some states, you can have your LLC approved in as little as one day, while in others, it may take weeks or even months.

If you want the fastest possible turnaround time, you should consider using online filing and pay for expedited service, if available.

How will my LLC be taxed?

The IRS and most state tax authorities treat LLCs as “pass-through” entities. This means that your LLC does not pay taxes directly (as corporations do). Instead, the tax burden is passed through to the members of your LLC. The members will then include profits and losses from the LLC’s business on their personal income tax returns.

In what state should I form my LLC?

It is generally best to form your LLC in your home state, where you will actually carry out your business. Some people believe that it is advantageous to form your LLC in Delaware or Nevada. In reality, you would then have to register with the authorities in your home state as a foreign LLC and pay additional fees – without much benefit in return.

Do I need to file for a DBA?

You are not generally required to file for a DBA (“Doing-Business-As”). However, most business owners choose to do so anyway. Getting a DBA will allow you to omit the letters LLC from your customer-facing business name. You can also have multiple names for your LLC if you want to run more than one business through your LLC.

Can I form an LLC if I am not a US citizen or US resident?

Yes, you can form an LLC for your business in any US state. There is no requirement for you to be a US citizen in order to form an LLC, nor do you need the right to reside in the US. If your business is going to own physical property in a given state, you may want to form your LLC in that state.

Do I need to hire an attorney to form an LLC for my business?

No, you don’t need to hire an attorney to form an LLC for you. It is generally much cheaper and straightforward to file the necessary paperwork yourself or to hire an affordable LLC formation service to handle the work on your behalf. However, you may want to consider hiring an attorney if your business is very complex.