Congratulations! You're a business owner in the great state of Rhode Island. You've joined the ranks of 99,000+ small businesses that call the Ocean State home.
As you know, it takes courage, grit, and hard work to set off on your own to build something you love. That's why it's so important to cross your T's and dot your I's before you start booking clients, making sales, or anything else of that nature. You have to make sure your business can operate legally in Rhode Island. In other words, your business needs a business license.
But you're a small business owner! You don't have time to go down the rabbit hole of government websites and online PDFs that outline the guidelines for getting your business license. So I've done the heavy lifting for you.
In this article, I'm sharing how to get a business license in Rhode Island, including how much you can typically expect to pay, what steps you need to take to get properly licensed, and more.
Let's do this!
The short answer is: Yes, but it depends on the type of business you own. If your business does require a license, it's likely you'll be required to renew your license annually, biennially, or on another schedule.
The city or town clerk of your business location will likely be the one to issue your Rhode Island business license. For example, if you live in Bristol, you'll have to follow the application process per the town of Bristol.
However, if your business type requires additional licenses, you'll have to get those state professional license(s) as well. Rhode Island categorizes state professional licenses into six categories you’ll want to check.
The nature of your business determines which department you'll apply for a license from. If you're a cosmetologist, social worker, or chiropractor, you'll apply for a business license through the Rhode Island Department of Health. But if you're an auto mechanic, architect, or real estate appraiser, you'll need to apply through the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.
If you aren't sure if you need a business license, it's a good idea to verify with the Rhode Island Secretary of State to be sure.
Paperwork and legalities aside, why is it a smart business decision to get a Rhode Island business license? Your license can help you:
As a business owner myself, I know how daunting it can be to add yet another thing to your never-ending to-do list. But trust me, this one is important!
So let's take a look at how to apply for a Rhode Island business license.
Before you can apply for a business license, you must register your business with the Rhode Island Department of State. The nature of your business will determine the type of structure you'll register as. For example, if you're opening a business alone, you'll likely want to register as a limited liability company (LLC) or a sole proprietor. If you're going into business with a few partners, you'll maybe want to consider the partnership structure.
If you aren't sure which business structure is right for you, you can take a look at this resource available on the Rhode Island Secretary of State website.
Once you register and your application is accepted, you'll receive an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which you'll use when filing your taxes. You also can file your taxes through the State of Rhode Island Department of Revenue.
After you've registered your business as a legal entity and have your tax documentation, it's time to apply for your Rhode Island business license.
First thing's first: Make sure you have relevant information regarding your business on hand. That way, when you apply, you will have all the information you need.
This includes information like:
Now, let’s discuss how to get a business license in Rhode Island!
You have all the information needed to apply. Now it's a matter of deciding if you want to apply via paper application or online.
If applying online, visit the Department of Business Regulation licensing portal. First-time applicants must create a new account by clicking the “Register” icon. This is the same portal you'll use to check the status of your application, find answers to related questions, and renew your license.
If you'd like to submit a paper application, you can search for your business type’s correlating application form through the Rhode Island Secretary of State website.
Whether you applied online or via a paper application, you can usually check the status of your application online at the State of Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation website.
Just as it's critical to get your Rhode Island business license, it's also equally important to get business insurance. In fact, the type of business license you need may require you to supply a COI with your application.
Even so, getting business insurance is always a smart idea. How else will you protect your business?
Let's talk about the different types of business insurance you might consider.
In Rhode Island, it's mandatory for businesses with one or more employees to carry workers compensation insurance. This type of insurance protects you and your employees in the event of an on-the-job accident.
Workers compensation can cover things like:
No matter how safe you are, unexpected things can occur, so it's critical to make sure you have the proper coverage.
In addition to workers compensation insurance, it's also smart to carry a general liability insurance policy. This insurance helps protect against bodily injury, property damage, medical expenses, and more.
Not sure where to start with business insurance? At Simply Business, we can help you compare business insurance policy options in Rhode Island. Check out our free quote tool and start comparing policies from top providers in 10 minutes or less.
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 >
Because there are state professional licenses and town or city-specific business licenses, the fees may vary.
But don't stress! The Rhode Island Secretary of State created a handy tool called Business Assistant that helps you figure out what business licenses you may need and how much they typically cost. Answer questions about your business, and you'll get a list of recommended actions to ensure your business operates legally.
For example, if you're an athletic trainer who plans to open a gym and sell items like yoga pants and tank tops, according to the Business Assistant, you can expect to pay between $210-$281 in various fees.
If you need additional assistance, you can contact the Rhode Island Secretary of State.
Building your own business is an exciting career move. It's full of ups and downs, but working hard toward your dream is worth it. The best way to ensure you're off to a good start is to make sure you've covered your legal bases with a business license.
I hope this guide will make it easier for you to get a business license in Rhode Island. Rhode Island is a beautiful place to live and work, and I'm cheering you on (virtually, of course) as you begin this new adventure!
*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’m a writer who specializes in creating value-packed blog content for eCommerce and SaaS companies and small businesses. When I'm not writing, I’m probably out running, checking out a thriller novel—or two—from the library, or trying to pet the nearest dog.
Kat writes on a number of topics such as small business administration and business license requirements.
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.