If you’re starting a business, the business entity formation process is one of the first and most important hurdles. This step can be terriblycomp ...
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Written by: Coralee Bechteler
Coralee is a business writer with experience in administrative services, education, and software testing.
Edited by: David Lepeska
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Updated on March 6, 2023
If you’re starting a business, the business entity formation process is one of the first and most important hurdles. This step can be terribly complex and time-consuming, which is why many entrepreneurs turn to a professional formation service.
One of the top options is Nolo. But is it the best service? And is it the right choice for you? This review takes a closer look — putting ourselves in the shoes of an entrepreneur — to help you choose the formation service that will put your business on the road to success.
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Nolo handles the business formation process for you, making it nearly seamless while offering additional services that can make life easier for a new business owner. Whether you’re forming a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation, Nolo takes care of all the red tape so you can focus on building a successful business.
Nolo offers packages of services and a la carte add-on options. We explored all of the options and have broken down the services and pricing here. It’s worth noting that Nolo outsources many offered services to other companies.
|Basic Package||Standard Package||Express Package|
|Price||$49 & state fees||$149 & state fees||$299 & state fees|
|Name Availability Search||√||√||√|
|Filing Time||Standard||Standard||Priority Rush|
|LLC Formation Filing||√||√||√|
|Customer Service Support||√||√||√|
|Automated Error Checking||√||√||√|
|Guide to Formalizing Your LLC||√||√||√|
|Tax ID Application Preparation||√||√|
|LLC Records Kit & Seal||√|
State filing fees still apply with all these plans. Fees vary by state, which we have listed below.
The $49 Basic Package includes a business name availability search and business formation filing. It also includes unlimited customer support, making it a great value.
The Basic Package consists of a business name availability search through your state and business formation filing, with unlimited customer support. It also offers a few extras, including error checking and a guide to formalizing your LLC.
This plan is a great value and appropriate for entrepreneurs with a limited budget that just want to get their business up and running, but plan to handle annual reporting and the operating agreement themselves. You can add additional services at the time of purchase.
This plan may also be appropriate for established businesses forming a new business structure or changing their business structure. The fee is reasonable compared to a similar plan offered by LegalZoom, which costs $79.
The $149 Standard Package has the additional benefits of an EIN application and a supply of business forms. The price is high for what little is added to the Basic Package.
The Standard Package includes all the services included in the Basic Package, but with the addition of a prepared EIN tax ID application and a supply of business forms. Nolo will email you a filled-in EIN application, so all you have to do is sign it and send it in. Their business form cache provides you with over 30 different documents.
This package includes standard filing just like the Basic Package, so you can expect the filing to form your LLC to take two to three weeks.
This package is appropriate for businesses that want a little more help applying for an EIN tax ID and would like a handy personal library of forms and documents relevant to their LLC. However, the price jump from the Basic Package to the Standard Package is a little high to gain access to more forms- only one of which is prepared.
The $299 Express Package has the additional benefit of rush filing, as well as a Personalized LLC Records Kit & Seal. This plan is expensive compared to the Standard Package, considering how little the additional benefits offer.
The Express Package includes everything in the Standard Package with the advantage of rush filing, as well as a Personalized LLC Records Kit & Seal.
The advantages of this package can be mostly attributed to the priority rush filing. However, we don’t think adding these two services merits doubling the price from the Standard Package, from $149 to $299.
The Express Package, however, would be beneficial for a business owner that’s impatient to form their LLC and doesn’t mind spending a bit more to do so. Otherwise, it does not seem worth the extra money you’ll pay compared to the Standard Package.
Note that none of these plans feature registered agent services or an operating agreement. However, during the LLC formation process, you will be offered the opportunity to add supplementary services to your package– including an operating agreement.
An operating agreement added to an LLC formation package will only cost you $50, compared to purchasing an operating agreement a la carte for an annual fee of $99/year.
|Registered agent service||$150 annually|
|Business license service (acquire licenses, tax registrations, EIN, etc)||$100|
|Tax services||$170 annually|
|Website and hosting service (site builder, hosting, domain, security certification||$135 annually|
Initial state filing fees are detailed below.
If you purchase products a la carte, you’ll need to be careful as the cost can add up fast.
Also, we noticed that Nolo offers several individual online forms and ebook guides to help you form, start, and run your business. You can explore all Nolo’s do-it-yourself products here, under the Legal Products section of Nolo’s website. We’ve outlined the relevant LLC forms and assistive texts for you to review below.
|Operating Agreement||$99 annually|
|Business Forms Bundle||$199.99 annually|
|Minutes of LLC Meeting||$34.99 annually|
|How to Write a Business Plan||$24.49|
|Form Your Own Limited Liability Company||$31.49|
|The Small Business Start-Up Kit||$20.99|
|Legal Forms for Starting & Running a Small Business||$20.99|
|Nolo’s Guide to Single-Member LLCs||$19.99|
|Nolo’s Start & Run an LLC Bundle||$79.99|
|Nolo’s Quick LLC||$20.99|
We reviewed the yearly access fees for the forms above, and we strongly recommend purchasing a package with Nolo for a better deal.
Your LLC must be formed with your state by filing articles of organization, sometimes called a certificate of organization or a certificate of formation. This can be done online or by mail. Nolo handles the filing for you online, and the LLC approval time varies by state.
This can be a time-consuming and difficult process for an entrepreneur and getting customer support from your state government office is often a challenge. With Nolo, you have access to customer support during their business hours:
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, PST
Once your LLC is approved and official, you’ll be emailed your formation documents. Note that business documents will always be emailed to you, as they are unavailable on the website.
When you form your LLC, depending on the state where you want to register your business, there will likely be an added state fee. Below we have listed the fees for each state so you can calculate the overall expenses for creating your LLC.
Please note that the state fees are costs that you will pay in addition to Nolo’s formation service costs, or any other formation service you choose.
Use our dropdown calculator to check how much LLC formation will cost using Nolo. Simply choose a plan, add-on services, a la carte services, and the state where you want to form an LLC to calculate the exact cost based on your needs and preferences.
In most states, when you form an LLC, you need a registered agent. A registered agent is a person or business authorized to accept and respond to legal, tax, and financial documents on behalf of your business.
For $150 a year, Nolo can provide you with an outsourced registered agent and ensure that all official correspondence is handled on time and properly filed. They also keep track of deadlines and send reminders of things you need to file, such as tax forms and annual reports.
A registered agent service will help keep you in compliance with the law and save you time by keeping track of key documents and filing deadlines. The agency will also provide support if any issues arise.
Nolo’s outsourced registered agent services enable you to have flexible hours. If you are your own registered agent, you must be personally available from 8 AM to 5 PM at your registered agent address. If you use an agency, they are available during those hours so you can focus on growing your business.
If you use a national agency, as Nolo provides you through the company Vcorp, you can also form an LLC or corporation in another state or multiple states where you do not have residency.
Using Nolo’s outsourced registered agent services also offers you a level of privacy, as you would never be served with a summons at your business in front of customers or employees.
Nolo offers an operating agreement template customized for your state for a fee of $50. An operating agreement for an LLC is an important legal document that details who owns the business and also provides essential information pertaining to member duties.
An LLC operating agreement establishes the financial relationship between business owners (“members”) and the basics of the working relationships between those owners and the managers who oversee daily operations.
By using the Nolo template, you can just fill in the blanks, rather than having an attorney draw up the agreement for you from scratch. At an add-on price of $50 for each package, it’s a good value compared to the attorney fees you would otherwise pay. Moreover, the add-on fee is a much better deal than purchasing the form for $99 under Nolo’s Legal Products.
It will cost you $50 to add an operating agreement to all packages Nolo offers: the Basic Package, the Standard Package, and the Express Package. Only a handful of states require an operating agreement, but having one is highly recommended.
Nolo offers many guides to help you with documents and other business tasks. Free guides include:
Nolo also offers a service that matches you with a lawyer that fits your needs. Getting paired with a lawyer is free, but you will still need to pay for services from the lawyer you select.
You can choose to purchase access to Nolo’s Business Forms Bundle for $199 annually.
Below, you can see the full list of document templates you would have at your disposal if you purchase an Express Package for $299– or if you buy Nolo’s Business Forms Bundle for $199.
These document templates can be very valuable for a business and can save a lot of attorney fees. However, we think Nolo’s documents library is overpriced. Other sites offer document templates for free.
We tested Nolo’s customer service experience from every angle. Here’s what we found.
When we first visited Nolo’s webpage, we almost thought we had the wrong website. Whether you look up Nolo on Google or type in www.nolo.com, the home page doesn’t make it abundantly clear that you can hire Nolo to form your LLC. Rather, it only appears that you can purchase forms and other resources that will empower you to start your business yourself.
After some trial and error, we finally figured out that clicking on “create an LLC yourself” takes us to the page where we can hire Nolo to form our LLC for us.
Nolo’s ease of access to their LLC formation services is just the opposite– difficult! Someone unfamiliar with Nolo’s products and services could easily come to the conclusion that Nolo only offers do-it-yourself products and support.
Even the main heading depicted in the screenshot above leaves the impression that Nolo isn’t actually forming your new business for you. We found the attached blurb beneath to also be vague, as it doesn’t explicitly state that Nolo takes on your LLC’s formation process.
Clicking the “Start Now” button initiates a questionnaire about your new LLC. It’s worth noting that many of Nolo’s offered services can only be purchased by adding them to one of their formation packages, such as an operating agreement.
To write this review, we all but officially filed to form a new LLC using Nolo’s service. Below we detail our customer service experiences.
We clicked the “Start Now” button and were then asked a series of business questions, starting with the state our LLC will be formed in. The questions were simple and quick, but many people might find it preferable to review Nolo’s LLC formation packages before going through the process. We thought that wasn’t an option, but finally found Nolo’s LLC packages page.
We then went a step further and began to form an LLC. We chose the Basic Package and then had the opportunity to add supplementary, outsourced services to our package. We added an operating agreement, registered agent services, the business licenses service, tax services, and the website and hosting service. The entire process took less than ten minutes and was pleasantly simple.
Nolo then presents you with a summary page where you can review and edit your order.
When you proceed to the payment page, you’ll be asked to sign in or create an account with Nolo. At this stage, we are again unimpressed with Nolo’s usability and user language.
Looking at the screenshot above, we’d guess that your eyes went straight to the green button and the text within it. This could easily mislead users to believe that they don’t need an account to hire Nolo to form their LLC, but the text above it indicates that is not the case.
If you choose not to pay right away and come back to it later, your order details will be saved in your cart for 90 days.
We asked customer service about LLC formation turnaround times and received an almost immediate response.
Overall, we didn’t find Nolo’s website to be very intuitive or easy to use, since LLC information can be difficult to find. You have the option to sign up for a free account on the site, though Nolo’s login page gives the impression that it’s only for lawyers or those seeking to tackle the business formation process themselves.
Signing up for an account doesn’t seem to provide access to anything you can’t access without an account. The documents listed in the screenshot above must still be paid for.
When we explored Nolo’s website, we were disappointed at how difficult it was to find cancellation information. After some digging, we determined that you can cancel services at any time over the phone or by submitting a written request a minimum of two business days before the commencement of the next billing cycle.
There are no fees or penalties to cancel, and we’ve provided Nolo’s contact information below.
Email: [email protected]
Hours (PST): Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
We did note that a few customer reviews about Nolo involved difficulties with cancellations, including this quote:
“You can’t cancel… they keep your money. BEWARE.”
We tested the three primary methods of Nolo’s customer support, and detail our findings below.
We called Nolo to ask a question about cancellations. Our call was answered immediately by a machine that connected to a representative. We waited less than five minutes for our call to be picked up, and a friendly customer service representative answered our question thoroughly.
Our question asked Nolo for more information about their cancellation policies for services added on to a business formation package. We were glad we called as we had trouble locating enough information on their website, and the representative was very accommodating.
We found out that you can cancel Nolo’s outsourced registered agent service at any time. Additionally, Nolo will issue you a prorated refund.
Both Nolo’s outsourced business license service and their tax accounting service entail a one-time fee and are thus non-refundable once purchased. So if you don’t want the services anymore, you can simply neglect to use them. You can request they officially be canceled, but you will not be issued a refund.
The customer service representative we spoke to was very professional and made no sales pitches, though he did ask for our first name at the very end of the call for no obvious reason.
Phone Support Rating:
Unfortunately, Nolo’s website doesn’t make it easy to find their email address. Instead, we found ourselves on a wild goose chase, clicking numerous links all over their website as we looked for the relevant contact information.
In our email, we limited the scope of our question to the cancellation of registered agent services. Unfortunately, we received an impersonal response to our email 20 days later that didn’t acknowledge how long we had to wait for an answer.
Email Support Rating:
We found this disappointing as we sent our email first thing in the morning, and Nolo’s website led us to believe we would hear back on the same day.
While exploring Nolo’s website, we came across more than ten different contact forms available for users to fill in and submit to request customer service support.
In the contact form we submitted to Nolo, we asked the same question we had asked in our email about canceling registered agent services. Just like we did with our email, we submitted this contact form first thing in the morning.
Once again, we have yet to receive a reply, and once again, we were under the impression Nolo would get back to us that same day.
We wanted to know how real Nolo customers feel about the service, so we thoroughly explored customer reviews at the Better Business Bureau and Trust Pilot.
Nolo has an A+ rating on BBB.
Nolo has been an accredited BBB business since 2020. Nolo has an A+ rating from the BBB, but with only 1.57/5 stars in customer reviews. However, this extremely low rating is a result of only seven customer reviews. Conversely, Nolo has had 18 complaints filed through the BBB in the last three years, all of which have been resolved.
Almost all reviews on BBB rated Nolo with only one star. One customer left a two-star review in June of 2022, and one reviewer posted a four-star review in May of 2022. Unfortunately, the review from May didn’t contain a single positive remark about Nolo, so we found the four-star rating to be a little questionable.
Most reviews posted on BBB concentrate on Nolo’s attorney lead services rather than their LLC formation packages and assistance. Just one review out of the seven was left by a user who purchased a formation package with Nolo for their new LLC in Delaware.
This customer’s review complained about the filing time: “It has been a month and I’ve not received any paperwork for my business.” The reviewer went on to say that when they brought this issue to a customer service representative, they were told, “it may take another 3 weeks” for their LLC to be officially formed.
However, this review was left in 2020, so the delay could be attributed to COVID-19.
You can read all seven reviews on the BBB website.
Nolo has an average trust score rating on Trustpilot.
When we looked up Nolo on Trustpilot, we were surprised to find that there were two different verified profiles for Nolo. One profile is specifically for Nolo’s books and forms, and the other is for attorney services. We’ve provided an overview of both of Nolo’s profiles below.
The Trustpilot score for Nolo’s books and forms profile is 4.3/5 stars, derived from 15 reviews that break down as follows:
The Trustpilot score for Nolo’s attorney services profile is 1.9/5 stars, from 98 reviews that break down as follows:
Positive Trustpilot reviews tend to focus on Nolo’s easy formation process and their use of plain language. One person said Nolo “always provides quality, informative materials,” leaving a five-star rating. Another reviewer praised Nolo’s content as “incredibly well written” and “easy for the layman” to understand.
One customer that hired Nolo to form their business left a glowing five-star review, describing their experience with Nolo as “timely and cost effective,” and their formation process as “entirely consistent with [Nolo’s] brand promise.”
Another person boasted that when prompted by Nolo to fill in their business’s information “each question was accompanied by [detailed] information” that clarified “what you were answering” and even offered suitable answers to help users “get to the next question with ease.” This same reviewer also declared that Nolo formed their new business in under a week.
Some of the less favorable reviews revolve around poor customer service and not receiving services or products that customers purchased from Nolo. One reviewer stated that Nolo’s “customer service is atrocious,” and complained that “every time” Nolo returned their calls, they were “rude and want to get you off the phone.”
Another angry customer left a review declaring that making a purchase from Nolo is “worse than burning cash.” One reviewer bemoaned Nolo’s persistent pressure to “just pay a little more,” and another griped that each purchase they made resulted in “harassing messages” from Nolo in their inbox.
You can read reviews for both Nolo’s books and forms profile and Nolo’s attorney services on the Trustpilot website.
Overall, Nolo’s services offer advantages and drawbacks, as detailed below.
Nolo was founded in 1971 by two lawyers with a mission to help those unable to afford legal assistance. The founders, Warner and Sherman, shared a vision of providing accessible and reliable legal information that everyone could understand and use.
Warner and Sherman started publishing guides with this vision in mind, producing resources for a large span of topics– like forming a new business. Over the years Nolo evolved into the sizable company we see today, offering business formation packages, attorney services, and a bounty of free information.
Based in Pleasanton, California, Nolo is structured as a corporation. A corporation is formed under state law by filing articles of incorporation with the state. A corporation is similar to an LLC, like your new business, but LLCs file articles of organization instead.
In addition to providing legal information and services to entrepreneurs and lawyers, Nolo advocates for legal information accessibility. Today, Nolo supports legal change that empowers the everyday person – such as instituting legal forms written in plain language.
According to their LinkedIn page, Nolo currently has fewer than 200 employees.
We explored several services similar to Nolo to see how they stack up.
Nolo’s Basic Package is a great price, but the included services are lacking in comparison to many of its competitors. Nolo’s other LLC formation packages tend to offer less than their competitors’ packages do.
LegalZoom has three packages of services as well.
Like Nolo, none of the LegalZoom plans come with an operating agreement service. It costs $99 extra for the service. Annual compliance services are also not included in LegalZoom plans. However, turnaround times with LegalZoom are generally shorter than with Nolo.
Swyft Filings is not a subscription service like some of Nolo’s offered services. They charge a one-time fee for business formation services of $49, and other ongoing services can be added. The differentiating factor for Swyft Filings is their speed. Their signup process is quick, and they have faster business formation turnaround times.
Incfile has very competitive pricing. Their basic package, called the silver package, is free and includes registered agent services for a year. Their gold package is only $149 and includes the operating agreement as well as a banking resolution. Their premium package is $299 and includes some additional services that Nolo does not.
In general, Nolo provides valuable services for aspiring business owners and people seeking legal information they can easily understand. Unfortunately, we just aren’t that smitten with Nolo as a whole when we lined it up with its competitors.
Nolo’s business formation packages and a la carte services pale when compared to a competitor like Incfile. Moreover, Nolo’s website lacks clarity – it’s confusing and difficult to navigate. However, Nolo’s LLC formation service is surprisingly easy to use once you find it.
We found some reviews that had nothing but good things to say about Nolo, but most of the reviews fit our own experience with Nolo’s customer service, which was inconsistent. We had a couple good phone conversations, but trying to get in touch over the internet proved difficult.
Email responses were slower than expected, and trying to find the right contact form to submit is frustrating and overwhelming due to Nolo’s poorly organized contact forms. If we’re being honest, it feels like Nolo threw a handful of contact-form confetti into their website and let them land where they may.
Nolo can undoubtedly take the time-consuming task of starting your business off your hands, but we think there are better bargains elsewhere. As a result, we’re wary of recommending Nolo to help you start your LLC. Instead, we suggest you look at some other options.
As a leading entrepreneurial advisory site, we take our responsibilities seriously. We understand that countless entrepreneurs, and potential entrepreneurs, rely on our judgments and insights, particularly when it comes to creating their business.
As a result, our writers do their utmost to gain a comprehensive understanding of the services offered and the actual customer experience. In this case, we:
Thanks to this full immersion in the actual customer experience, our reviewer and team are able to provide the most complete and insightful review of Nolo’s LLC formation services.
Nolo offers business formation services to handle the paperwork and cut through the red tape with your state, so you don’t have to. They also offer additional services, including registered agent services and business license services.
The Basic Package from Nolo offers a name availability search and validation, LLC formation filing with your state, automated error checking, unlimited customer service phone support, standard filing times, and a free guide to formalizing your LLC.
The Standard Package from Nolo offers the same business formation services as their Basic Package, with the added benefits of a prepared EIN application
With the Express Package from Nolo, your formation documents will be filed via priority rush (seven to ten business days), as well as a personalized LLC records kit and seal.
Nolo’s Basic Package is $49 plus state filing fees and does not include any of the optional add-on services like an operating agreement or registered agent service. The Basic Package offers a name availability search and validation, LLC formation filing with your state, automated error checking, unlimited customer service phone support, standard filing times, and a free guide to formalizing your LLC.
Yes, you can purchase Nolo’s business formation service without signing up for any additional services or subscriptions. The fee is $49.
Nolo outsources their registered agent services from the company Vcorp, a professional service that will handle official correspondence and documents for your business. They will ensure that all correspondence is handled on time and keep copies of documents for you. They will keep track of deadlines for you and send you reminders of things you may have to file, such as tax forms or annual reports.
Nolo outsourced registered agent services can be purchased for an annual fee of $150.
Nolo has an A+ rating from the BBB, but with 1.57/5 stars in customer reviews. They have been an accredited BBB business since 2020.
Turnaround time for business formations through the Basic Package average two to three weeks, according to Nolo. You can purchase the Express Package to receive priority rush filing.
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