Guide to the Law for Business Owners and Entrepreneurs in California

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Here you will find some basic legal information for businesses in California. For more general information, see our Guide to the Law for Business Owners in the U.S.

If you are a sole owner of a services based business, you may be a freelancer.

1. Business Structure & Set Up

Determining which form you will use for your business is one of the most important considerations. The structure you have, whether a sole proprietorship or partnership versus a “limited liability” entity like an LLC, can significantly affect your financial situation. See more at our Guide to Business Structures in California.

Do I need to register my business?

“Registering a business” can mean many things, including getting a local business license, or EIN, etc. See our full Guide to Business Licensing & Registration.

What is a social enterprise?

A social enterprise is a type of business that operates based on both “doing good” as well as making a profit. See our Guide to California Social Enterprises for more.

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2. Hiring for Your Business

When you are ready to hire help in your business, you should consider whether you will have “employees” or “independent contractors,” or both. Once you decide that you will need to know what paperwork to file, what rights your workers will have, etc.

See our full Guide to Hiring for Your Business in California.

3. Taxes & Accounting

How do taxes work for a small business? 

As a small business, you actually must pay taxes 4-5 times per year, not just once! See our Guide to Business Taxes in California.

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4. Business name

Can I protect my business name and prevent others from using it?

Maybe. If no other ongoing business used the name before you did, in the same industry as you, you may have rights to your business name. This is called “trademark” rights. See our Guide to Business Naming and Branding.

What is a DBA or fictitious business name statement and do I need that?

DBA stands for “doing business as,” such as if Mary and Jose want to do business as “California Graphic Design.” If they have not formed an entity, they would need to file a DBA also called fictitious business name statement with the county where they are doing business. If they have formed an entity, such as California Graphic Design, LLC, they would NOT need to file a DBA to do business as California Graphic Design.

See more at our Guide to DBA in California.

5. Business Contracts

All businesses need to have a basic understanding of how contracts work. See our Guide to Contracts for more.

Contract dispute? See our Guide to Enforcing Contracts and our Guide to Resolving Business Disputes.

6. Retail and E-Commerce

See our Legal Guide for Retail Businesses, and our Guide to Laws about E-Commerce.

7. Business Banking

For information on bank accounts for your business, see our Legal Guide to Business Banking.

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8. Other business law

Be sure to also read our Guide to the Law for Business Owners in the U.S.

You should also be aware of licensing & permitting requirementsconsumer rights, marketing regulations, particularly on the Internet, and other general law (See all Legal Guides).

Do you have a dispute with a customer, client, or other business? See our Guide to Resolving Business Disputes.

There are often local laws for businesses as well. See our Guides for Business Owners in the Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay area.

9. Info for specific types of businesses

Alternative Medicine
Artists and creatives
Interior Design
Life Coach or Wellness Coach
Massage Therapy
Mental Health

Further Resources


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