When comparing online legal services for your small business, two names you’ve likely come across are ZenBusiness and LegalZoom. Both can help your business with formation and ongoing operational tasks. However, ZenBusiness is best-suited for businesses that want someone to completely take care of the business formation without spending a ton of money. There’s little you would have to do other than provide the necessary information for whatever documents are being filed.
On the other hand, LegalZoom, is best for business owners who might need a little more assistance from attorneys specializing in their area of need and location. Additionally, if you’re looking for a place to form your business, but also have other business-related documents drafted by attorneys, LegalZoom will work best for you.
With this overview in mind, let’s dive into the ZenBusiness vs. LegalZoom comparison and explore the features, pricing, pros, cons, and reviews of each service.
ZenBusiness vs. LegalZoom: Features
ZenBusiness is all about business formation; therefore, their services are there to help you do just that. LegalZoom, while offering many documents for business formation, also offers other services to help you continue to run your business. Let’s take a closer look at what each of them offers.
For starting your business, here’s what ZenBusiness has to offer:
- Business formation plans
- Registered agent service
- EIN service
- Operating agreement
- Annual reports
- New York certificate of publication (New York is one of the few remaining states that requires a published announcement of your LLC formation.)
- Business formation experts for customers to chat with
ZenBusiness explains their five-step formation process, so you know exactly what to expect from the service.
- Select filing package and any additional business services
- ZenBusiness files business documents with your state
- State confirms your business
- ZenBusiness delivers all business documents to your user dashboard
- Ongoing services to keep your business compliant with state requirements
LegalZoom has many features that make it a comprehensive legal service for those looking to form their business, and continue to run it. Below are business formation services offered by LegalZoom, and the types of business you’ll be able to form:
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- Sole proprietorship
- DBA, or “doing business as”
- Employer identification number (EIN)
- Business naming services
- Tax, license, and permit services
- Additional business services like registered agent, certificate of good standing, and more
ZenBusiness vs. LegalZoom: Pricing
Pricing for online legal services can be hard to determine, especially since LegalZoom offers a pricing structure where each service and document is priced differently. ZenBusiness, on the other hand, lists their pricing right on their homepage and has standard packages you can choose from, or individual services and document pricing similar to LegalZoom. Let’s get a closer look at ZenBusiness vs. LegalZoom pricing.
Like was said above, ZenBusiness offers three package options that cover a wide range of needs and service. This is how their business formation package pricing breaks down:
$49 per year* + state fees
-Standard filing speed
-Operating agreement and bylaws
-100% accuracy guarantee
$179 per year + state fees
Everything in Starter, plus
-Expedited filing speed
-Employer ID number (EIN)
-Business filing service
$299 per year + state fees
Everything in Starter and Pro, plus
-Rush filing speed
-Business domain name
-Domain name privacy
-Business email address
*The $49 per year is a promotional price, but after your first year, the annual price goes up to $119, which is the normal price of the Starter package.
In addition to those packages, customers can pick and choose certain services to add to a package if it’s not included, or use them to create their own package. Here are all of the other options you can choose from:
- New York LLC certificate: $200 plus the publication fees
- Assign ZenBusiness as your registered agent: starting at $99 per year
- ZenBusiness’s worry-free compliance (covers annual report and up to two yearly amendments): $119 per year
- EIN: $70 (keep in mind, you can apply for your EIN for free directly from the IRS)
- Operating agreement: $35
- Annual reports: $75 plus state fees
- Expedited filing speed: $50
- Rush filing speed: $100
- Banking resolution: $30
- Business website: $100 per year
- Business domain name: $25 per year
- Domain name privacy: $10 per year
- Doing business as (DBA) registrations: $95
- DBA compliance: $50 per year
- Certificate of good standing: $75 plus state fee
- Business email address: $25 per year
- Business bank account: $110 per year
- Accounting and bookkeeping: $50 to $200 per month
- Business credit card (through a partnership with Divvy): free to apply
- Business name reservation: $50 plus state fee
If you’re in need of more than one of the services offered above, it makes sense to go with one of the package options, as the cost really adds up doing it individually.
LegalZoom has a bit of a different pricing structure than ZenBusiness, as there are no set package options or memberships. Each formation service will come with its own set of packages with prices varying depending on service and state. For example, here is how LLC pricing breaks down:
$79 + state filing fee
Name check and business filing, articles of organization, LLC next steps guide, Peace of Mind review, lifetime customer support, financial account authorization letter
$329 + state filing fee
Everything included in Economy plus deluxe organizer, official certificates and seal and LegalZoom VIP processing
$349 + state filing fee
Everything included in Economy and Standard plus rush processing with Secretary of State and express shipping
The LLC Next Steps Guide is step-by-step instructions to review your LLC documents. Peace of Mind review is when LegalZoom personally reviews your order before anything is filed and your business formed. LegalZoom offers 20 personalized company membership certificates and an official company seal with the Standard and Express Gold packages.
Just like ZenBusiness, LegalZoom offers extra services that you can add on to whichever package you choose, or purchase on their own. Here is a sampling of what is offered:
- Registered agent services: $299 per year for the first year, then subject to change
- DBA/business names: starting at $99 plus state filing fees
- Trademark search: starting at $199
- Certificate of good standing: starting at $45 plus state filing fees
- EIN: $79
LegalZoom does offer attorney access for any questions or concerns, and that comes in two package options: Legal Advantage Plus and the Business Advisory plans. They start at $31.25 per month and $9.99 per month, respectively.
ZenBusiness vs. LegalZoom: Pros and Cons
Both ZenBusiness and LegalZoom have plenty of pros and cons for you to consider when choosing between the two legal services. Keeping in mind what your business needs most from this type of service will help you determine which are deal-breakers.
ZenBusiness Pros and Cons
- User-friendly website
- Clear pricing right on homepage
- Services can be purchased separately from packages
- Easy cancellation
- Chat function on website to get in touch with customer service quickly
- Access for business formation experts
- Can view, download, or print documents at any time with the registered agent service
- No access to attorneys—formation experts are not attorneys
- Chat function on website can take up to two hours for a response, depending on traffic
- Doesn’t offer legal documents like LegalZoom does
LegalZoom Pros and Cons
- Customers get sent copies of documents that have been filed on their behalf
- No monthly membership, unless you opt for the legal advice plans
- Free newsletter for tips and information
- Mobile app for iOS and Android
- Reasonable, flat-fee pricing, since you only pay for what you need
- No downloads or edits allowed on any documents
- Legal advice only with paid plan
- Pricing is only straightforward and easy to find if you know what services you need
- Wording on website can be confusing and lead to you signing up for (or not opting out of) services you don’t need or want
ZenBusiness vs. LegalZoom: Customer Reviews
ZenBusiness is a Better Business Bureau (BBB) accredited business and has an A rating, for which customer reviews are not used to calculate. The customer reviews, as with any company, are a mix of good and bad. LegalZoom has a similar display of reviews, even though many customers chose to leave negative reviews. Let’s take a look at the common theme of customer reviews for both ZenBusiness and LegalZoom.
ZenBusiness Customer Reviews
As mentioned in the cons section above, while the customer service chat option on their website is convenient and it makes it seem like you’re talking to a real person (which you probably are), customers felt like they were just working off of scripted responses and didn’t deviate from exact wording when asking for clarification on a subject. However, others have said that the personalized customer service they received was outstanding, so just like most customer service, your experience will vary.
Customers love the reasonable prices and the fact that they weren’t upsold or hit with hidden fees and charges. Overall, the reviews for ZenBusiness are overwhelmingly positive, which is a good sign if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to form your business.
LegalZoom Customer Reviews
LegalZoom has hundreds of reviews, and while there is a mix of positive and negative, a lot of them focus on the negative.
The most common complaints seem to be about hidden charges, LegalZoom not making it clear what is an add-on that can be opted out of, and customer service. Many people noted that they were still being charged for services they hadn’t received, or after canceling their various plans and memberships.
For instance, while a registered agent is required by law for anyone operating a business, LegalZoom doesn’t necessarily make it clear that they don’t need to be your registered agent. If you don’t opt out of that service, you will automatically be charged for it.
When it comes to customer service, many reviewers noted long wait times or it being impossible to get in touch with anyone at all, and when they did they were met with less than ideal assistance. Again, like with ZenBusiness, this experience can vary from person to person.
The Bottom Line
When you think of LegalZoom vs. ZenBusiness, both offer what a business owner would need to legally form their business, but there are some big differences between the two. If you are a business that is just in need of actually forming your business, ZenBusiness will work the best for you because of their easy pricing and no frills that you have to sort through. However, if you are looking for a more comprehensive experience where you can draft legal documents or speak directly with an attorney, LegalZoom is going to work best for your business.
Choosing the right legal service for your business will come down to a number of factors, with services offered being just one of them. The pricing for ZenBusiness vs. LegalZoom could be a little steep for small businesses, but when you consider the a-la-carte pricing of LegalZoom, it could wind up being cheaper based on your businesses needs. That’s why it’s important to take all factors into consideration when choosing which one is best for your business. Understanding what your business needs and where each service shines (and falls short) will help make the choice clear.
Jennifer Post is a freelance writer who has covered business topics including marketing, franchising, cybersecurity, health insurance, and hiring and retaining employees. She has also written about various finance topics such as startup funding, business bank accounts, retirement plans, and health insurance. Jennifer has specialized experience in social media management and knows the ins and outs of marketing a business through most social media platforms.
After briefly studying law at Widener University’s Delaware Law School, she went on to continue her small business writing career using her new legal knowledge to create content helping small businesses understand legal matters such as taxes, hiring and firing practices, harassment, and other company culture matters. You can find her work on Business.com, Business News Daily, and How Stuff Works.