The state tourism slogan is, “Virginia is for Lovers,” but it’s for business owners too. In fact, Virginia has a very high rate of new businesses that succeed — compared to those that close down.
So if you’re looking to start a business in the Old Dominion, you’re in the right place. But before you get too far ahead, you should first investigate Virginia business licenses. A business license allows you to operate your company within the state. And it likely showcases a level of professionalism to customers.
As you research business licenses, you may find a lot of confusing information online. That’s why we created this quick guide to getting licensed in Virginia. It will help explain the benefits of getting a Virginia business license and the steps you need to take to become official.
Let’s get started!
It typically depends on your profession. At the moment, the Commonwealth of Virginia doesn’t have a hard and fast statewide licensing rule for business owners — only for specific professions.
For example, if you are an auctioneer, barber, home inspector, engineer, or real estate agent, you are required to have a license to work.
But other professions, like writers, designers, and marketing consultants, are off the hook.
It’s best to first check the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation to find out if you need a license to operate your business. You may want to check with your local city or county, too. Some local municipalities require business licenses and have zoning requirements that must be followed.
Before opening your business’s doors, make sure you learn the guidelines at both the local and state levels.
Still wondering if you really need a business license? Here’s the bottom line: operating a business without a license puts you at risk. If you get caught (and it’s a requirement for your job), you can end up paying hefty fines, or worse, potentially having your business shut down.
It’s likely not worth the risk. Instead, do your due diligence and follow the licensing rules for your profession.
Plus, getting a Virginia business license has a lot of benefits that you may not have considered. For example, a business license can:
Ready to get your Virginia business license now? Let’s talk about the steps to take.
Remember, at this time, not every business owner in Virginia needs a license — only certain trades and professions. Visit Virginia's Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation to learn the guidelines for your line of work.
Next, call your local city or county department. It’s possible you may have local guidelines to follow. If you cover your bases now, it can save you a hassle or a penalty in the future.
Most Virginia business licenses require an application that asks for certain information. To save time in the long run, it helps to have this information organized before you start filling out the paperwork.
As you download your profession’s business license application, make sure you have these details on-hand:
Remember, the faster you collect this application information, the faster you can receive your Virginia business license. Get organized now, and it will likely pay off later.
Because Virginia issues business licenses by profession, the requirements can vary greatly. For example, you may need to take an exam to be licensed if you’re a contractor or barber. Other professions, like professional athletes, including boxers and wrestlers, usually just need to complete an application form.
Confused? Don’t be. Just check the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation to learn the requirements for your line of work. You can download application forms there and find out the dates for upcoming exams, if required.
Also, contact your local county or city to find out its requirements. It’s possible you may need to complete another application in addition to the state’s paperwork.
For the most part, you’ll need to complete and mail in a paper-based application form. You can download and print your licensing form online. Remember, a committee or association for your profession will need to review your application materials and send you your approved business license.
This can take some time, depending on your line of work. It’s best to contact the board or association that is reviewing your application to find out when you may be able to expect a response.
Once again, it depends on the type of work you do. For example, a license may cost more for a contractor than for a cosmetologist. Many professions also require that you renew your license each year. And if you don’t renew your license by the deadline, you may have to pay a late fee.
It’s best to know the guidelines for your individual profession so you’re fully prepared. Find out if you have to:
Fortunately, these details are in one place — either on the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation website or your local municipal department.
As you know, every profession has different requirements when it comes to business licensing in Virginia. But one thing remains the same — the need for business insurance. Whether your work requires a Certificate of Insurance (COI) to be licensed or not, getting an insurance policy is usually a good idea.
Business insurance can help protect you financially if you’re accused of negligence or if an accident or injury happens on your business’s property. These claims can be extremely costly — enough to put many business owners out of work.
To compare plans and provider options, check out our free quote tool. In just 10 minutes or less, you can see top insurers who protect Virginia business owners.
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.