If you’re looking to incorporate your small business, you may have come to discover that doing so isn’t necessarily the easiest or most straightforward endeavor. Thankfully, there are online legal services, like ZenBusiness, that can make the whole process a little bit easier.
ZenBusiness can be a great option for would-be small business owners, but it’s far from the only one on the market. In our ZenBusiness review, we’ll go into what the platform provides, what it will cost you, as well as the pros and cons. We’ll also provide a few alternatives so you can decide if ZenBusiness is the best option for your business’s needs.
ZenBusiness makes straightforward legal filings easier and more affordable for small business owners. With ZenBusiness, you can prepare and file your own business formation documents, avoiding the need to bring lawyers or other potentially costly professionals in to do the work for you.
If you’ve tried to go it alone in terms of carrying out one of the many legal steps required to start a business, you know how challenging it can be to make sure you’ve taken care of each and every task—especially when states vary in terms of business licenses, requirements, and forms. Not only does this require steadfast attention to detail, but it also takes up a significant amount of time on your side (and can take a long time for the state to approve your documents, too).
Luckily, as an online business formation service, ZenBusiness makes it easier to keep track of these tasks, as well as many others that you are likely to encounter as your business grows. Although the features you receive with ZenBusiness will vary based on your pricing plan and location, some of their most noteworthy services include:
- Business formation (LLCs or corporations)
- Name availability search
- Registered agent services
- DBA (doing business as) registration
- Operating agreements
- Federal employer ID number
- Ongoing state compliance requirements
- Annual business reports
- New York state business formation publication
- Filing amendments
- Certificates of good standing
- Banking resolutions
The ZenBusiness suite of services also includes add-on features, such as a complimentary assessment from a certified accountant to help set up bookkeeping, accounting, and tax considerations within your first year of operation.
You can also acquire a business domain name from ZenBusiness, get quotes for business insurance from leading providers, and weigh your options for the best business credit cards from within the platform itself.
ZenBusiness offers three service tiers, varying in terms of the number of features included (and, of course, price). Anyone can start off at a more basic (and less expensive) service tier and upgrade as necessary afterward, which prevents you from overpaying for features and services you may not need.
You can also opt-in for certain services at an additional cost, such as a business website and domain name, while remaining on a lower-priced plan. Here’s an overview of the basics, as well as what you’ll get with each plan.
ZenBusiness Starter costs $49 when billed annually—excluding state-level fees (which depend on your state and business entity type) or additional costs from add-on services.
With this plan, you’ll be able to take advantage of the standard business filing service, which includes name availability search tools, standard filing speed, phone and email support, and access to your documents through the ZenBusiness portal.
You’ll also get a complimentary year of registered agent support, which provides companies with a dedicated address for being served legal notices. Note that this service auto-renews at $119 per year once the first year of service is completed.
Plus, this service tier includes the production of operating agreements and bylaws, as well as a CPA assessment to help determine what kind of accounting and bookkeeping you may need for your business as it gets off the ground.
You can also incorporate a few a-la-carte options in this plan, such as expedited or rushed filing, employer ID number (EIN) registration, and website hosting, among others. These add-on services, of course, will each have their own respective fees.
In addition to the features of the Starter plan, ZenBusiness Pro steps up the offerings significantly by including expedited filing, banking resolution documents, employer ID number creation, and compliance checks and reminders.
This plan costs $179 annually, plus state filing fees and any additional features you might add to your package. You can add rush filing for a $100 fee, as well as a business website and domain registration for $100 and $25 per year, respectively.
ZenBusiness Premium includes every service the platform provides for a $299 annual membership (plus state filing fees).
This plan is a great option for business owners that want access to an all-inclusive legal service to handle all of the work that comes with starting a new business. This plan includes all of the filing basics and registered agent service, as well as assistance with setting up a website, email addresses, and other ongoing forms that businesses need to file every year.
ZenBusiness also offers a build-your-own package service, which allows you a greater amount of flexibility with the services you purchase.
To access this service, you’ll have to register for an account and provide ZenBusiness with a fair amount of personal information.
Therefore, you’ll want to ensure that you want to move forward with this option, rather than an existing plan or ZenBusiness alternative, before going through the account creation process.
You can see all the pricing on a per-item level on the ZenBusiness pricing homepage.
ZenBusiness Customer Reviews
Although ZenBusiness hasn’t been around as long as some of their competitors, this online legal service has plenty of reviews (both positive and negative) across the internet. For starters, ZenBusiness has 4.7 out of 5 stars from Trustpilot, and 4.8 out of 5 stars from Google.
Most positive ZenBusiness reviews cite how easy it is to navigate the platform and set up an LLC with minimal effort. ZenBusiness also gets praise for walking customers through the process, making it easier to wade through the otherwise challenging prospect of registering a business.
The main thread that connects most of the positive feedback centers around just how simple it is to use the platform—a positive attribute for any program designed to get people up and running with their business.
ZenBusiness reviews aren’t perfect, however. Some users have complained about the software guiding them through the process of setting up an LLC, only to need a limited liability partnership (LLP) based on where they live.
Others have expressed confusion about recurring charges, particularly around registered agent services they may not have canceled. According to some reviews, other competitors provide faster service, which may be something to keep in mind.
Here are a few of the top pros for using the ZenBusiness platform.
- All-inclusive business formation service: In terms of giving business owners everything they need to get their new business registered, and filed with their respective state, ZenBusiness hits the mark. The platform makes the filing process straightforward, quick, and about as painless as possible.
- Variety of add-on products: Moreover, if you don’t want to shop around for other products, such as business credit cards, web hosting, or registered agent services, ZenBusiness has you covered there too.
- Pricing: ZenBusiness gets high marks for their straightforward pricing model, especially for a-la-carte services. Not every business wants or needs the suite of services ZenBusiness includes in their annual plans (for example, if you only want help setting up your LLC). If that’s the case, it’s easy to pay for a single service without having to purchase a yearly subscription. For those who want an easy and inexpensive way to take care of annual forms and filings, ZenBusiness’s three tiers are competitively priced.
- Alerts: One of the other key features ZenBusiness provides is a set of alerts to help business owners keep track of when certain recurring filings are due. This can be a huge help that not every filing company provides. Keeping on top of deadlines for form submissions can be a chore if done manually, and therefore, having ZenBusiness keep track for you means one less thing to worry about.
On the other hand, ZenBusiness has a few drawbacks that are important to consider:
- Better deals for ancillary services elsewhere: ZenBusiness includes a range of features that aren’t necessarily helpful for most business owners looking for help filing registration and incorporation documents. Finding the right business credit card isn’t something most business owners need from their filing provider. Rather, they should consider getting the advice of a financial professional. Other features, such as domain name registration and web hosting, might be more affordable if done elsewhere too.
- Recurring fee for registered agent services in basic package: Including a year’s worth of registered agent services in a basic-tier package is a helpful thing to have for most businesses. Opting purchasers into a recurring registered agent service after buying a year’s subscription to ZenBusiness isn’t the best user experience, however. It may, in fact, be cheaper to find your own registered agent. Or, at the very least, users should not have to worry about making sure they cancel their registered agent services before the $119 fee kicks in.
If you’re trying to decide if ZenBusiness is right for your business, you may want to consider one of the many ZenBusiness alternatives on the market before making a final decision. Fortunately, there are a variety to choose from—some may be less expensive but have fewer features, whereas others might include more for your money, but cost significantly more as well.
Here are a few of the best ZenBusiness alternatives.
LegalZoom is perhaps the best-known player in this space and has the incumbent’s advantage as far as ZenBusiness alternatives go. This platform is an originator when it comes to offering basic legal services for small businesses.
With a platform as robust as LegalZoom, there’s likely to be a solution for any of your common legal needs, but expect to pay more than you might with a straightforward document filing service like ZenBusiness.
Swyft Filings provides many of the same services as ZenBusiness, as they’re also a digital service provider designed to file all the forms needed to get a company registered and ready for operation. Swyft Filings includes all the same state filing capabilities as ZenBusiness, as well as some of the other add-ons like web hosting and employer identification number filing.
Note that Swyft Filings doesn’t include an option to purchase registered agent services, however. The entry-level option also costs $49, and the mid-priced tier is slightly less expensive than ZenBusiness, at $149 annually.
IncFile is another solid option for an online business document filing system. This platform also costs $49 at the base level, and includes the same suite of tools that you’d get with ZenBusiness.
You can also get registered agent services with IncFile as you would with ZenBusiness. All in all, ZenBusiness gets an edge in terms of cost, as it comes out to be less expensive in most cases, depending on the services included.
The Bottom Line
Registering a new business can be a time-consuming process, even if it isn’t necessarily the hardest thing you’ll do as a budding entrepreneur. That said, you’re likely to have myriad other tasks to handle when starting a new business, and it may be more efficient to outsource these legal startup processes to a third-party service or professional.
Therefore, going with a company like ZenBusiness—that can handle the ins and outs of getting your business registered properly—can save you both time and hassle, leaving you open and ready to think about other big-picture concerns.
Christine Aebischer is an editor at Fundera.
Prior to Fundera, Christine was an editor at the financial planning startup LearnVest and its parent company, Northwestern Mutual. There she wrote and edited on topics such as debt, budgeting, insurance, taxes, investing, and retirement. She has written for print and online on topics ranging from personal finance to luxury real estate.