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How to Get an Iowa Business License

5-minute read

A woman with an Iowa business license works on a tablet with her baby.
Kat Ambrose

Kat Ambrose

30 November 2020

As a new business owner, you've probably experienced a wave of emotions from the moment you decided to go out on your own. From feeling hopeful and courageous one minute, to feeling exhausted and doubtful the next, it's par for the course for those who are self-employed.

But you've done it! You're embarking on a great new adventure, and you should be proud of yourself.

So to make sure you're set up for success from the get-go, there are a few things you need to take care of before you can start running your business. For starters, we need to talk about getting an Iowa business license.

It might not be the most glamorous part of running a business, but it's certainly an important one. Here's the reality: Government websites can be tricky to navigate. And depending on your business, there may be additional steps you need to take to get fully licensed.

I know you're busy, so I've done the research for you. This guide includes what you need to know on how to get a business license in Iowa.

Do I Need an Iowa Business License?

If you are a business owner in Iowa, you need an Iowa business license.

Rather than getting an all-encompassing business license, business licenses are typically regulated based on your business's specifics. Fortunately, IASourceLink is your one-stop shop for all things licensure. For example, if you're opening a health food store, the Department of Inspections & Appeals will usually issue your business license.

For certain professions, the Iowa Professional Licensing Bureau website offers additional information regarding specific business licenses. This resource not only tells you which licenses and certifications you likely need in order to operate — it also includes the fees associated with your business.

If your business falls into one of these categories, I recommend checking out this resource:

  • Accountants
  • Architects
  • Engineers and land surveyors
  • Interior designers
  • Landscape architects
  • Real estate appraisers and professionals

Also, getting your Iowa business license can offer several professional advantages. It helps you to:

  • Establish your credibility and legitimacy with customers and business peers
  • Improve confidence and trust among customers
  • Reach business goals like opening additional locations
  • And more

Starting a business is exciting, and it can be tempting to focus on the aspects you love doing most. But with an Iowa business license, you can help maintain your good standing as a business in the community.

Now, let's get to the nitty-gritty of how to get an Iowa business license.

How to Get a Business License in Iowa

1. Register your business with the Iowa Secretary of State.

Before you can apply for a business license, you need to file your business as a legal entity. Depending on your business, some business structures are better than others.

For example, most small businesses register as limited liability companies (LLCs) or a sole proprietorship. It currently costs roughly $7 to file as a sole proprietorship and $50 to file as an LLC in Iowa.

2. Check the requirements for business licenses based on your business type.

As I mentioned earlier, the nature of your business will ultimately determine the requirements you need to meet to obtain your Iowa business license.

To see what requirements your business must meet, check out the Iowa Business License Information Center (BLIC). You can search by department (if you know what department your business license falls under) by frequently requested licenses and by keyword.

Back to the health store example from earlier, if you search the keyword "grocery" in this database, you'll see permits and licenses that may be required for your business.

Once you click on a license, you'll see information regarding when to typically apply, who should apply (this is great if you aren't sure if you need a license!), the processing time, exam requirements, and fee structure.

In addition, it's crucial to confirm whether or not you need additional licenses as per BLIC. If you need extra help finding out which license is right for you, contact them at [email protected] or by calling their toll-free line at 800-532-1216.

State of Iowa Business License + Insurance Requirements

You understand the importance of getting an Iowa business license, but is that all you need to protect and legitimize your small business?

Not quite.

Business insurance is another excellent way to ensure that your business and assets are safe from the expected and the unexpected. If you plan on hiring employees, you'll likely need to contribute to Unemployment Insurance (UI), per the Iowa Workforce Development.

By providing funding, UI protects individuals who are temporarily unemployed. You can learn more about UI and the requirements by visiting the Understand Employer Responsibilities page on the IASourceLink website.

But there are additional types of insurance you may want to consider as well. Let's take a look at two other standard policies for small business owners.

General liability insurance

As much as you can prepare for anything and everything as a small business owner, the unexpected has a way of popping up.

So having a general liability insurance policy on your side is vital. General liability insurance can help protect you and your business from third-party property damage, accidents, physical injuries, and other events. This type of insurance helps save you from dipping into your personal finances to cover medical bills or lawsuits.

For example, say you're at a client's home while working on a project, and you accidentally damage a piece of art. Your client is upset and demands that you not only replace the artwork but takes you to court for negligence. Your general liability insurance policy can prevent you from paying those expenses out of pocket.

Workers compensation insurance

As a business owner, it's vital to protect both your employees and yourself. Workers compensation insurance can cover specific costs like employee medical expenses, lost wages, death benefits, and more. If an employee gets sick or injured on the job, workers compensation can protect all parties from out-of-pocket expenses.

Insurance sounds pretty important, right? At Simply Business, we can help you find the right insurance policy options. Start comparing quotes in 10 minutes or less with our free quote tool.

Applying for an IA Business License?

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 $25.95/month.*

Start Here >

How Much Is an Iowa Business License?

You may be thinking, "How much is this going to cost me?" That's a valid (and necessary) thing to consider. As a small business owner, I'm sure you're on top of every expense, and this is no different.

The cost of your Iowa business license will vary, depending on your occupation. For example, if you're a construction contractor, you can currently expect to pay $50 per year for the Construction Contractor Registration. But if you're opening up a daycare, your fee structure may be more complex, depending on the number of children you plan to have in your care at one time.

Keep in mind, these fees may change periodically so it’s best to check.

If you aren't sure which business license you need, contact the Iowa Secretary of State or visit their website for more information.

Go Get Your Iowa Business License!

It may feel as though the work of a small business owner is never done, and in many ways, that's true. After you take care of the "business" tasks, you can jump back into doing what you love most. Hopefully, this guide will help you navigate how to get a business license in Iowa.

Being a business owner myself, I know how hard you're working and what you face. Getting your business set up from day one is another brick in the strong foundation you're building. Keep working hard. We're proud of you here at Simply Business!

* 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 - December 2020 data of 10% of our total policies sold.

Kat Ambrose

Written by

Kat Ambrose

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.

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

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