Calling all Buckeye State business owners — this post is for you! Starting a business is an exciting time, but you have to take care of a few administrative tasks first. The Ohio Business Road Map lists 10 steps to starting a business, and each one comes with its own requirements and challenges.
Today, we’re going to tackle step 8 in the state’s guide, which is obtaining the proper license and permits. Something I’ve learned as I create these business license guides for entrepreneurs like you, is that the answer to many questions is “it depends.”
As a born-and-raised Ohioan, I can’t let my fellow Midwesterners waste time trying to find the info they need. So I’ve searched the state sites and compiled a guide to make your job much easier.
Let’s get started.
A business license is a way for the state to track your business, make sure you’re qualified, and hold you accountable for your work. With that in mind, it makes sense that license requirements depend on the type of work you do.
The Secretary of State has made it easy to find info related to your occupation. This license and permit list has all of the professions that require an Ohio business license. One look at the list (all 27 pages of it) is enough to tell us that many business owners will need to go through the licensing process.
You aren’t necessarily off the hook if the Secretary of State site doesn't cover your skillset. Cities and counties can set licensing requirements, which means that some businesses will need a local license. For example, an antique dealer in Cincinnati requires a license, along with anyone who sells cigarettes in Franklin County.
Before we cover how to get your business license, we need to talk about vending licenses in Ohio. These documents act as a notice to your County Auditor and the state’s Department of Taxation that there’s a new business in town. The reason you should care about a vending license is that you can’t legally make taxable sales and collect sales taxes without one.
Here’s a high-level review of how to get your vending license:
Visit the Department of Taxation here to determine which type of vending license you need
Pay a $25 fee for each of your business locations
Your first stop on the road to getting an Ohio business license is finding your occupation on this list. Once you find your business type on the list, you’ll find out which department handles licensing. The table also includes links to renewing your license, so it may help to bookmark that page.
When you’ve located your job in the far-left column, click on the link to the agency to visit the website that will have your licensing information.
Example occupations and their licensing departments include:
Whether you need a state-level business license or not, you should always check for city and county requirements. You might need a state license, a local license, or both.
For easy reference, here are links to the licensing pages of Ohio’s most-populated cities and counties:
After you’ve confirmed which Ohio business licenses apply to your business, it’s time to gather your materials. In general, having all the necessary information available before you start the application makes the process go quicker. We recommend having the following information at-hand before you apply:
Proof of examination or education. Sometimes you need to pass an exam or prove you have sufficient experience or education to receive a license. For example, architects need a professional degree from an accredited school and a passing score on the Architect Registration Examination.
Personal information. All applications will ask for identifying information like your name, phone number, and address. If you’re a sole proprietor, you’ll likely need to include your Social Security number, too. Some licenses may ask for background checks or criminal records.
Business information. The application will ask for your Employer Identification Number, which is the federal tax ID of an incorporated business. If your business address varies from your home, you also may need to provide it. Some licenses will require business insurance, so you may need to supply a certificate of insurance (COI).
The application and submission process varies between licenses. However, it’s common for business owners to use eLicense.ohio.gov to apply for a license online.
Here’s how to apply for a new license on the state’s licensing site:
Your Ohio business license cost depends on your occupation, level of license, and whether it’s a new application or renewal. Generally, new applications cost more than renewals. Here are some example prices to help you gauge your cost:
Electrical, HVAC, Refrigeration, Plumbing, and Hydronics Contractors: $25 for a new license Massage therapists: $150 application fee Real estate appraisers: $175 application fee Dietitians: $225 application fee
When you delve into your business's license requirements, you might see a line about general liability insurance. For example, the Ohio contractor license application states that:
“Those who pass both sections of the exam can receive a state license by sending a copy of the examination results, a $25 check made payable to “Treasurer, State of Ohio,” and proof of at least $500,000 contractor liability insurance “Certificate of Liability Insurance.”
Business insurance can protect your business in case of accidents, third-party damages, and more. States require some companies to carry a policy so that they can be held accountable for certain actions. Even if you aren’t required to have an insurance policy, it’s always a good idea to have it. Not only could it protect your finances if a client sues you, but it also gives potential customers peace of mind, knowing that you’re insured.
If you need to get your business insurance policy squared away before submitting your license application, we can help. Just use our free quote comparison tool to get custom policy quotes in minutes from the nation’s top insurers. In just a few minutes, you can find your perfect policy and continue with your licensing checklist.
Taking any big step in a new business is intimidating. Not only do you have rules and regulations to abide by, but you’re also proclaiming that your idea is becoming a reality. Thinking about everything you need to do at once can be overwhelming, so we suggest taking it a step at a time.
If you’re nervous about getting started — look around! Simply being here was already the first step. Dedicating even a few minutes a day to getting your Ohio state business license and insurance requirements in order sets you on the path to success.
So take a deep breath and get ready for the adventure ahead. Don’t forget that Simply Business is here to help you along the way.
I'm a freelance writer who has always had an interest in entrepreneurship, starting way back with lemonade stands. These days I write to help business owners with their everyday challenges and choices. When I'm not typing away, you'll find me eating pizza, volunteering at the animal shelter, or taking too many pictures of my cats.
Stephanie writes on a number of topics such as state insurance regulations, business licenses, and small business administration.
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.