Does the thought of applying for a North Carolina business license make you feel like you’d rather make an appointment with the dentist?
We get it. After all, searching through government websites to find N.C. licensing requirements can be a real pain in the you-know-what. How do you know if you’ve found the right information? And how much should you generally expect to spend on your NC state business license?
Consider your questions answered, because we’re here with a handy step-by-step guide on how to get a North Carolina business license.
North Carolina doesn’t offer just one single license to all NC businesses. However, that doesn’t mean you’re off scot-free; in fact, NC requires multiple business types to apply for a business license that’s specific, such as:
Plus, getting a business license can open up a world of opportunities for your business, both now and in the future. For example, a business license can:
If you’re just starting your business, it’s a good idea to check to see if you’re legally obligated to obtain a license or certification. We’ll cover how to do that in the next section.
Good news: Most businesses can apply for a North Carolina business license 100% online. To start the process, head to NC.gov and navigate to the page titled: “Starting a Business in NC.”
Scroll down the page to the Licensing section, then click.
Note: If you haven’t already registered your business in N.C., you’ll likely need to do that before you can apply for a business license. You can register your business here.
In North Carolina, there’s no one-size-fits-all type of business license, so the license you may need could be different from another business owner in another industry.
Additionally, N.C. requires certain businesses to apply for environmental permits or to follow zoning requirements. Again, these restrictions are based on your business type and location, so it’s important to pay attention to what’s required of a small business in your specific industry.
Click on the NCBOLD link to reach the North Carolina Licensing page. You’ll see a huge list of different business types, which is why we recommend typing your industry’s keyword in the search bar to be taken directly to your results.
Here’s where the North Carolina licensing process splits off, depending on the type of business you own. Each industry has its own licensing requirements, fees, and application process, so be sure to carefully follow the instructions provided by your industry type.
If you’re having difficulty finding your business license type or you have any additional questions about the application process, you can call Business Link NC at 1-800-228-8443.
The good news is that North Carolina makes it relatively easy to find and apply for your business license type. That means there’s likely nothing standing between you and your official NC state business license!
By the way, if you’re required to apply for a contractor license, you can follow our step-by-step guide on how to apply for an NC contractor license.
Short answer: Business license costs vary depending on your industry, as well as where you’re located.
The best way to find out how much your NC state business license will cost is to navigate to your specific industry on NCBOLD’s website. You should see a clear summary of how much your license will cost there.
These costs could change, but for example, we found North Carolina licensing costs for the following business types:
Landscape Contractor: $75 for the application; $60 for a new license
Esthetician: $20 for the application; $20 for a new license
Plumbing Contractor (Class I): $100 for the application; $130 for a new license
As you can see, you don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars to get your business license — which is good news if you’re starting your North Carolina business on a budget!
Depending on your industry type, you may be required to have proof of business insurance before applying for a business license.
Here’s why: some industries (particularly those that require work with clients or client properties) can carry a certain amount of risk. Business insurance shows that you’re protecting your business from financial claims that may arise from those risks (for instance if an employee accidentally damages a client’s property).
Plus, if you have employees, you may be required to have a NC workers' comp policy before being approved for an NC state business license.
Don’t let a lack of insurance hold you back from getting your business license. Use our free quote comparison tool to check business insurance policies from the nation’s top insurers.
Just click on the policy you want, the effective date, purchase it, and boom — your business is insured.
You may need to show proof of business insurance to get your license.
That’s where we come in. Compare free insurance quotes for policies as low as $19.58/month.*Start Here >
Whether you’ve just started your business or you’ve been told your business has to get licensed, taking the time to get a North Carolina business license is a necessary step toward ensuring that your business will be around for years to come.
So grab a cup of coffee, clear out some time, and make a point of applying for your license. You’ll thank yourself in the long run!
*Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on January - March 2023 data of 10% of our total policies sold.
I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner - I've had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!
Mariah writes on a number of topics such as small business planning, contractor insurance, and business licenses.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated insurance carrier by AM Best. Harborway Insurance is a brand name of Harborway Insurance Agency, LLC, a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. California license #6004217.