Looking to start a business in South Carolina? Before you roll up your sleeves and get to work, you likely need to get a business license.
Securing a South Carolina business license isn’t necessarily difficult, but the process varies by county. This can make it tricky to know how to get a license and how much it costs. It’s different based on where you live and work. Fortunately, we’ve put together this quick guide, so you can reference it and know what to do.
And since we’ve already done the research work, you can spend your valuable time getting a license and kicking off your business — instead of scouring the internet for information.
Ready to get started?
There are 46 counties in South Carolina, and right now, 9 of them require a business license. If you live in one of these counties, you need to get a business license before making your first sale:
These rules typically apply to online and home-based businesses too — not just to brick-and-mortar stores.
If your business’s physical location is in a different county from where you conduct business, you’ll likely need licenses in both counties. For example, let’s say your business is in Charleston County, but you do business in Dorchester County. In that case, you’d need to apply for business licenses in both counties (including a business license in Charleston SC).
Sometimes out-of-state business owners need to get South Carolina business licenses too. This can happen if you have:
So who’s off the hook? You usually don’t need a business license if you:
Remember, operating without a business license puts you and your business at risk. You could end up paying fines and incurring other penalties. Or the county could shut your business down. Trust me, it’s not worth the hassle — especially if you’re just starting out.
Now that I’ve explained “who needs a license and who doesn’t,” here’s the bottom line: getting a business license is a good idea for everyone, even if it’s not required in your county.
Business licenses can:
Convinced yet? Now I’ll show you how easy it is to get a business license in your county.
If you’re like me, organization can be a challenge. But this is where solid preparation really pays off. Before you start applying for a South Carolina business license, take time to collect key information first.
As you complete the licensing paperwork, it helps to have these details on-hand:
Remember, collecting information ahead of time can save you hassle later. The faster you complete your paperwork, the faster you can get your South Carolina business license and kick off your business venture.
Not every county in South Carolina requires a business license, but I’ve provided direct links to the ones that do. First, check to see if your county is on this list. If it is, go directly to its website to read about the licensing process:
If your county isn’t listed here, but you still want to apply for a business license, contact your local municipal office. A local official should be able to guide you through the paperwork and process. And remember, even though every South Carolina county operates differently, the general steps (and information that’s needed) is likely similar.
Fortunately, the state of South Carolina created a handy business license quick chart for you. This chart shows which counties require business licenses. It also links directly to the forms you need to submit to obtain a license.
Keep in mind, some counties allow you to apply for a business license, change addresses, or renew a license online, while other counties are paper-based. Similarly, some counties require a small application fee, while others don’t.
When in doubt, check the South Carolina business license quick chart to determine how you should handle licensing. You also can contact your local county’s licensing department by finding its information here.
Even though some counties offer online applications, at this time, it looks like most don’t. As a result, it can take time for county officials to review your paper application, collect your fee, and send back an approved business license.
Stay patient. If you have questions about how long the business licensing process takes, it’s best to contact your local county’s office first.
Overall, getting a business license in South Carolina is fairly inexpensive. So there’s really no excuse not to get one, especially if it’s required. But, once again, every county has a different process for handling fees.
For example, Aiken and Greenville Counties don’t require business license fees — applications only. On the other hand, to get a business license in Williamsburg County, you need to send in an application form and a $15 administrative fee.
When in doubt, contact your local county’s licensing department to get the fee amount before you send in your application.
You’ve learned about your county’s requirements. You’ve organized your business’s information. And you’ve collected the business license forms you need.
You may need to get business insurance too. In fact, some counties in South Carolina may require proof of insurance before granting you a business license. For example, this is often the case for specialty business licenses, which contractors need.
If you don’t have business insurance today, it’s time to look for a policy. Sure, business insurance helps you secure a license, but it also can protect you financially if an accident, injury, or another claim is made against your business.
Check out our free quote tool to compare policy options from insurance providers that offer South Carolina business insurance. In just 10 minutes or less, you can be on your way to securing proof of insurance — and better financial protection for your business.
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 >
*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 earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.
Emily writes on a number of topics such as entrepreneurship, small business networking, and budgeting.
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.