In the ever-evolving world of startups and entrepreneurship, there’s a persistent need for reliable, efficient, and affordable businessservice ...
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Written by: Carolyn Young
Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
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 September 29, 2023
If you’re starting a business, the business entity formation process is one of the first hurdles to cross. 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 ZenBusiness. But is it the best business formation 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 make this crucial business decision.
ZenBusiness provides extremely valuable services for aspiring business owners. Their service is easy to use and offers a great customer experience, which we learned from talking to their customer support, reading countless customer reviews, and forming our own business.
ZenBusiness can take the time and hassle out of starting your business and the ongoing process of staying in compliance with your state’s laws. Their service is reasonably priced, suggesting a balance between cost and quality. Therefore, ZenBusiness is a worthwhile consideration for budding entrepreneurs.
Help and Support
Ease of Use
Offering a user-friendly platform, ZenBusiness helps streamline the process of establishing a business and maintaining compliance with state regulations. ZenBusiness proves to be a robust ally for anyone looking to embark on a business venture.
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. ZenBusiness manages the online filing process for you, though it’s important to note that the timeframe for LLC approval can vary depending on the state.
ZenBusiness will make sure that your business name is available before filing. If it’s unavailable, they’ll contact you to find a good alternative.
Once your LLC is approved and official, you can access your formation documents on the ZenBusiness website at any time.
In all the states, when you form an LLC, you need a registered agent. A registered agent is a person or business that is authorized to accept legal, tax, and financial documents on behalf of your business.
For $199 annually, ZenBusiness can act as your registered agent and handle official correspondence and documents for your business. ZenBusiness takes responsibility for timely correspondence and maintains copies of your crucial documents. They also monitor key deadlines and send reminders for important filings like tax forms or annual reports, effectively aiding in your administrative tasks.
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. This frees you up to focus on growing your business. ZenBusiness will also offer support if any issues arise.
ZenBusiness provides an operating agreement that can greatly simplify the process for you. An LLC operating agreement is a crucial legal document that defines business ownership and delineates member responsibilities.
This agreement outlines the financial ties between business owners, often referred to as “members”, and lays out the fundamental dynamics between these owners and the managers who direct daily operations.
Utilizing the ZenBusiness operating agreement service allows you to simply complete the pre-structured form, negating the need for an attorney to draft the agreement from the ground up.
If you choose the Starter plan, you’ll need to pay an additional $99 for the operating agreement. However, operating agreement is included in the Pro and Premium plans.
Though only a few states mandate an operating agreement, it’s strongly suggested to have one.
An employer identification number (EIN) is a tax-identifying number for your business. It’s required if your LLC has more than one member or has employees. It’s obtained by applying through the IRS.
ZenBusiness will handle the application process for you and send you your EIN as soon as it’s approved. The fee for the Starter plan is $99 or $149 if you buy it along with business documents. Note that the EIN + business documents bundle is available for purchase ONLY with the Starter plan. EIN is included in the Pro and Premium plans.
In most states, LLCs are required to file periodic reports, usually annually. For $100 per year, ZenBusiness will handle the filings for you. One annual report is included in the Worry-free compliance, which costs $199 a year.
ZenBusiness ensures your business fulfills all state-imposed requirements. If necessary, they assist in bringing your business into compliance and then proceed to request a Certificate of Good Standing from the state on your behalf. It costs $100 + state fees.
ZenBusiness provides a comprehensive business compliance service to ensure your venture remains in compliance. This includes:
ZenBusiness provides proactive notifications for impending compliance requirements and filing deadlines, ensuring your business stays safeguarded. The Starter plan includes a year of optional free Worry-free compliance, which renews for $199 per year. Worry-free compliance is included in the other two plans.
ZenBusiness offers tailored business license/permit reports to assist your business in maintaining compliance, saving you time in the process.
By using this service, you can receive a concise report detailing the required licenses and permits for your business to operate lawfully at the local, county, state, and federal levels.
This one-time service will cost you $99 + the cost of business licenses and permits required for your specific business operation.
ZenBusiness offers many guides and templates to help you with documents and other business tasks. Free guides include:
You can choose to purchase access to a business documents library for $99 if you opt for the Starter or Pro plan.
Below see the full list of the document templates that you would have at your disposal if you decide to purchase the service or if you sign up for the Premium package.
Contractor and Service Documents:
Business and Intellectual Property Documents:
These document templates can be very valuable for a business and save a lot in attorney fees. Other sites also provide document templates, but ZenBusiness’ documents library is comprehensive and offers excellent value.
Here are the additional services that ZenBusiness offers:
|Starter Plan||Pro Plan||Premium Plan|
|Price||$0 (does not renew) + state fees||$199 annually + state fees||$349 annually + state fees|
|Filing Time||Standard; Ready in about 2 to 3 weeks||Rush; Ready in about 1 to 2 days||Rush; Ready in about 1 to 2 days|
|Name Availability Search||√||√||√|
|Phone and Email Support||√||√||√|
|Free Tax Consultation||√||√||√|
|100% Accuracy Guarantee||√||√||√|
|Business Document Template Library||$99||$99||√|
|Registered Agent Service||Not included; $199 per year||Not included; $199 per year||Not included; $199 per year|
|Operating Agreement Template||$99||√||√|
|Business License Report||$99||$99||$99|
|Worry-Free Compliance||Optional; One year free, then $199 per year||√||√|
|Annual Report Filing||$100 + state fees; One per year free with Worry-free compliance||$100 + state fees; One per year free with Worry-free compliance||$100 + state fees; One per year free with Worry-free compliance|
|Rush filing speed||$79||√||√|
|Business Website Builder||First month free, then $15 per month||First month free, then $15 per month||√|
|Domain Name with Privacy||$35 per year||$35 per year||√|
|Business Email Address||$25 per year||$25 per year||√|
|Banking||First month free, then $5 per month||First month free, then $5 per month||First month free, then $5 per month|
|Money Pro||First month free, then $30 per month||First month free, then $30 per month||First month free, then $30 per month|
The filing times presented are averages. Filing times vary by state.
The Starter plan includes a business name availability search through your state and the business formation service, with full customer support and standard filing speed (2–3 weeks on average). It also offers a few extras, including optional Worry-free compliance (free for a year) and an accounting consultation to help you get started with your finances. You’ll also have access to your formation documents online at any time.
This plan is of great value and appropriate for entrepreneurs with a limited budget who just want help to get their business up and running and plan to handle annual reporting and the operating agreement themselves. They can choose to add additional services at the time of purchase or later.
This plan also may be appropriate for established businesses forming a new business structure or changing their business structure.
The Pro plan includes all the services included in the Starter plan, with the addition of EIN, an operating agreement template, and their annual (Worry-free) compliance service. The annual compliance service means that ZenBusiness will remind you of any reporting due dates based on your state’s requirements.
Included in the Worry-free compliance are two document addendums if you need to update your formation documents, as well as one annual report. The Pro plan also includes rush filing so that your LLC is approved and ready to go faster. Rush filing means your LLC will be formed in 1 to 2 business days on average.
This plan is appropriate for businesses that want a little more help with the operating agreement, which is a critical document, and the state’s annual compliance requirements, such as annual reports and document addendums. The price offers good value considering the extra services, particularly if you renew every year.
The Premium plan includes everything in the Pro plan, as well as a document template library, business domain name registration and privacy, website, and email.
The advantages of this plan are rush filing, business document library, and business website and email services. However, you can handle website services for less by using a web hosting site such as GoDaddy.
This plan would be beneficial for a business owner that wants a one-stop-shop for their business services. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem worth the added costs.
Note that many of the ZenBusiness review articles online state that registered agent services come with the starter plan for free for the first year, but we verified that registered agent services are NOT included by contacting customer support both by phone and by email.
We asked customer service about filing turnaround times and received an almost immediate response.
Our business was formed, as promised, in two days. We received an email when the documents were ready. We could immediately access our business documents online on the dashboard.
There was a small issue with the business address, but it was resolved almost immediately.
With ZenBusiness, you can cancel your plan or services at any time by emailing [email protected] or calling customer support at 1-844-493-6249 Monday through Friday and Sunday during normal business hours.
There are no fees or penalties to cancel. However, some customer reviews of ZenBusiness highlight difficulties with cancellation.
When you first go to the ZenBusiness site, you’re prompted to begin entering information, starting with your proposed company name and the state of formation. There is a menu at the top that you can explore to find some free tools, products and pricing, and more about the company.
However, if you scroll down, you can see detailed information about their three plans, which is great. You can go ahead and choose your plan.
When you enter your company name and the state, you’re then asked a series of automated questions. After you’ve answered those, you’re offered to save your progress or skip the step, and then you can choose to accept ZenBuziness’ registered agent services or appoint your own registered agent.
Then the packages are shown again, and you can choose which one you want before being offered additional services (free trials of Worry-free compliance, banking, Money Pro, and website builder). Note that these services vary across the plans, which we’ve mentioned in the section on Plans and Pricing.
Then you’ll get a package value breakdown, where you can see the details of your order, including the additional services, as well as free trials if you’ve opted for them. After that, you’ll be prompted to create an account and continue to checkout.
When we went through this process the first time, we received an email within an hour with an offer to assist. We then went a step further and actually formed an LLC. We chose the starter plan and added registered agent services, the EIN service, and the rush filing service.
The entire process took about 15 minutes and was very simple. Once the signup process and payment were complete, we had immediate access to our dashboard. The dashboard shows everything you have to do and what ZenBusiness is working on for you. It’s also where you can access your formation documents once the formation process is complete.
The dashboard also shows all the products that are still available to purchase.
Shortly after forming the LLC, we received a welcome email about what would happen next.
Overall, the site is easy to use if you’re ready to go and just want to complete the process. You have the option to sign up for a free account on the site, though we had difficulty finding that option.
However, signing up for the account doesn’t seem to give you access to anything you can’t access without an account.
We tested all three forms of ZenBusiness’s customer support.
When we tested the customer service response time through the online chat option, we received a response within five minutes.
The question we asked was about the annual compliance a la carte service, which costs $199, compared to the registered agent service with annual compliance included, which is $149.
We asked if those two annual compliance services are different, considering the price discrepancy. The customer service agent was polite but could not explain the discrepancy.
Note: When we were updating this review, the abovementioned registered agent + annual compliance service was no longer offered.
Chat Support Rating:
We called ZenBusiness to ask a question about registered agent services. Our call was answered almost immediately, and the question was answered promptly. The question was whether registered agent services are included in any of the plans, and the answer was no.
The customer service representative was very professional and polite and did not try to make any sales pitches.
Phone Support Rating:
We asked the same question via email about registered agent services and received the same response in 45 minutes. Our question was answered thoroughly and politely. The person who responded did not try to make a sales pitch.
Email Support Rating:
The best way to learn about ZenBusiness is to see what real customers thought of their experience. We have analyzed the Better Business Bureau and TrustPilot reviews.
ZenBusiness is an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau with an A rating and 3.96/5 stars from 217 customer reviews.
The following aspects are emphasized as positive in BBB customer reviews:
The following aspects are emphasized as negative in BBB customer reviews:
On Trustpilot, ZenBusiness has 4.7/5 stars from more than 12,900 reviews. 85% of customers rated the company as excellent.
The following aspects are emphasized as positive in Trustpilot customer reviews:
The following aspects are emphasized as negative in Trustpilot customer reviews:
|Plans and Pricing||3 plans, $0 - $349||3 plans, $0 - $299||3 plans, $0 - $299||3 plans, $0 - $299|
|Registered Agent Service||Not included, $199 annually||Not included, $249 annually||Not included, $199 annually||Included for one year, $119 annually|
|Processing Time||Standard, rush||Standard state times||Same-day, standard, and express||Standard state times, expedited with top tier plan|
|Money-Back Guarantee||60-day money back guarantee||60-day money-back guarantee||No, but they offer 100% satisfaction guarantee and issue refunds (minus state fees)||No|
|Our Review||Full Review||Full Review||Full Review|
|Website||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More|
LegalZoom and ZenBusiness have very similar offerings, but the ZenBusiness plans are more comprehensive, and they offer more a la carte services.
Swyft filings charges a one-time fee of $0 for basic business formation services, 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 plan, called the Silver package, is free and includes registered agent services for a year. Their Gold package is only $199 and includes the operating agreement as well as a banking resolution. Their Premium package is $299.
ZenBusiness was founded in 2015 by a group of entrepreneurs with a mission to help others launch and run businesses while avoiding common pitfalls. ZenBusiness has helped more than 500,000 businesses get started, and, according to their LinkedIn page, has 361 employees and is managed by:
Based in Austin, Texas, they are structured as a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). A PBC is formed with the goal of benefiting the public as well as making money. The official benefit they offer as a PBC is “to promote entrepreneurship by providing accessible products and responsive support.”
In addition to providing services to entrepreneurs, they have awarded loans and grants to small business owners and supported organizations dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship.
Use our dropdown calculator to check how much your LLC formation service will cost using ZenBusiness. Just choose a plan, a la carte services, and the state where you want to form an LLC to calculate the cost based on your needs and preferences.
As an 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 ZenBusiness’ LLC formation services.
We wanted to take our review one step further, so we found a real customer starting a business who needed to form an LLC. Gwendolyn, a nurse, was interested in forming an LLC in Virginia for her new home health care businesses. Here we summarize her thoughts.
Gwendolyn had some difficulty going through the formation process. She filled in her business information but did not complete the purchase process, and her information was not saved in the ZenBusiness system. She went through the process, entering the information several times, before she was able to complete it.
When she was having trouble getting through the process, she attempted to call customer service several times, and her calls were not answered. We’re not sure if she was calling during customer service hours since we utilized customer service ourselves several times and never had a problem.
She finally was able to reach Mark, a customer service representative, that helped her complete the formation process. She was pleased with his support.
Gwendolyn’s LLC formation was completed in five days, and her documents were made available to her online at that time. Considering that she did not purchase expedited or rush filing, five days is quite speedy.
Gwendolyn purchased the Starter plan for $49 (at the moment of this purchase, this plan was $49) plus the state filing fee, which is $100 in Virginia, and she was quite happy with this price.
She did, however, mention that she did not like the prices for other services that she could handle herself, such as obtaining an EIN number. We agree with her on that one – paying $99 for ZenBusiness to get an EIN number for you is not worth it, when you can apply for free on the IRS website and it only takes a few minutes.
While Gwendolyn had some difficulties with the site usability and getting through to customer service, she was able to get her LLC formed quickly and was happy with the price. Overall, she was satisfied with the value she received and was impressed with how quickly her LLC was formed.
Yes, ZenBusiness is a legitimate company that offers services to help entrepreneurs start, run, and grow their own businesses. They are particularly known for their affordable LLC formation and registered agent services.
A service like ZenBusiness can make the business formation process easy for you and ensure that it’s done correctly. They provide customer support and additional services to support your business.
ZenBusiness charges annually for services like registered agent services, business compliance, and worry-free guarantee services. These are ongoing services that require annual renewal to maintain legal compliance, handle necessary paperwork on your behalf, and keep your business in good standing with the state.
There are no fees or penalties to cancel your subscription with ZenBusiness.
Yes, overall ZenBusiness offers great value and excellent support for business owners. Their pricing is very competitive, and they offer many supplementary services that can make life much easier for new business owners.
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