You have a big idea, truckloads of ambition, dreams of a thriving South Carolina LLC, and you’re mentally prepared to make it happen.
But the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and for you, that first step is filing the Certificate of Formation.
With such grand plans, the last thing you might want to do is file paperwork, but completing the Certificate of Formation is what authenticates your LLC, making it official in South Carolina. It’s perhaps the most important step in starting your South Carolina LLC. Following this guide will help take the tedium out of paperwork and get your business started quickly.
But before you dive into the Certificate of Formation, you should have a few pieces of information ready to help streamline the process.
Choosing an LLC Name
Before anything else, you will need to decide on an LLC name. You must include a business name on your Articles of Organization, and if the Secretary of State deems that name unacceptable or unavailable, the document will be rejected, so make sure you nail down a good name right away.
This means you must follow all of South Carolina’s business name requirements. The good news is there aren’t too many. Your name must include some form of “Limited Liability Company” or “Limited Company,” including the abbreviations “L.L.C.”, “LLC”, “L.C.”, or “LC.” On top of that, it must be distinguishable from every other South Carolina business name, so you’ll want to search your desired name and confirm that no one else is using it.
Once you’ve found your perfect name, include it on your Articles of Organization to automatically register it. In the event that you’re not quite ready to file an LLC, you can place a 120-day hold on your name by submitting a name reservation request.
Choosing a South Carolina Registered Agent
A registered agent is your LLC’s liaison to the state, the mediator who takes care of all your important legal, tax, and compliance documents, keeping your business in good standing. When you go to file the Articles of Organization, you’ll notice that your initial registered agent’s information is required, so have it ready.
Confirm that your agent is either an individual South Carolina resident with a physical address in the state, or a business entity authorized to do business in South Carolina (like a registered agent service). Your agent will also need to sign the Articles of Organization, giving consent to the appointment. Without a registered agent name, address, and consent form, your application will be rejected.
Quick Note: If your first choice doesn’t work out, don’t worry. You can always change your registered agent in the future.
Preparing to File Your South Carolina Articles of Organization
Now for the main event: the Articles of Organization. Here’s your opportunity to get your LLC officially on record and authorized to conduct business in South Carolina.
Even though the Articles of Organization is unmatched in its importance to your LLC formation process, it’s not overly complicated. In fact, if you have all of your information ready beforehand, it’ll be no problem for you. Here’s what it requires:
- The LLC name
- Designated office address
- Registered agent name, address, and signature
- The name and address of each organizer
- The LLC’s term (optional)
- Whether the LLC is managed by members or managers
- The name and address of each initial manager
- Whether any members are liable for the LLC’s debts and obligations
- The delayed effective date (if applicable)
- Signatures for each organizer
And let’s not forget about payment. Unfortunately, the Articles of Organization isn’t free; it costs $110, so have a credit card or check ready to go when you file.
Now that you’ve collected the Articles of Organization’s requisite information and prepared to pay the fee, you can choose from three different filing options: online, by mail, or in person.
If you want to get your business started right away, filing online is your quickest option. Head over to the Online Business Filings system and you can complete the process there. Your submission will be processed within 24 hours.
Hard Copy Filing
Download the paper application and fill it out. When you submit this form, you’ll need to include two additional copies and a self-addressed stamped envelope. After compiling your materials, mail or hand-deliver them to:
South Carolina Secretary of State’s Office
Attn: Corporate Filings
1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 525
Columbia, SC 29201
Hard copy filings are typically processed in 2-3 business days, but it can take longer during peak filing times.
What About Foreign LLCs?
The process outlined above works for domestic LLCs (those formed in South Carolina), but what if your business is expanding to South Carolina from another state? In this case, go ahead and disregard the Articles of Organization, it’s not the form you’ll need.
Every foreign business entity entering South Carolina must instead file an Application for Certificate of Authority. This is called foreign qualifying. Don’t get antsy and begin doing business in the state without first foreign qualifying. This can lead to some serious consequences.
But after your application has been accepted, you’re free to start your business activities.
Want Help Filing Your Articles of Organization?
Let’s be honest: you’ve got a lot on your plate. Filing paperwork can take time away from your other tasks, ones more focused on setting your budding LLC up for success.
The good news is that you don’t need to file the Articles of Organization yourself. But if an attorney is out of your price range, hiring an LLC creation service is a great option.
There’s no shortage of business incorporation services out there, but not all of them are equal. Each one offers different packages, costs, and processing times, so it’s important to find the right fit for your LLC.
While each service has optional upgrades and perks packages, on the most basic level, they will review your business information, prepare your formation documents, and submit them to the South Carolina Secretary of State. They will complete everything outlined in this guide and notify you when your Articles of Organization has been filed. You won’t have to lift a finger.
There are other benefits too. Some services will include a year of free registered agent service when you hire them. Other services offer order tracking, notifications on future documents, assistance drafting your operating agreement, or coverage of certain LLC formation costs.
Which is the Best LLC Service?
All you need to do now is research every service extensively and make side-by-side comparisons for each option. Easy, right? Just kidding – we did all of that for you.
And from our meticulous research of reviewing and ranking the top LLC services, we’ve drawn the conclusion that IncFile and Northwest are your best overall options.
They might not have the brand recognition of LegalZoom, the industry giant, but both have amazing customer support, affordable prices, and include a year of registered agent service.