Freelancer Q&A: Do I Need A Business License?

Maybe. When you start your freelance business, whether part-time or full-time, check the requirements of your municipalities to see if you need a business license. Some cities will require you to hold a business license, even if you work out of your home. Usually, the requirement applies to the city in which you reside, but some cities will require you to hold a license if you are doing work for a client in their city! As an example, I have my home office in Kent, Washington and hold a business license there. Several years ago, I did a sizable project for the City of Kirkland and my contract with the city required that I hold a business license there as well. If you live in an unincorporated area, check your county’s rules to see if a business license is required. Also, check your state’s requirements to see what you need.

The price of a business license varies as does the term. Business license fees tend to be reasonable, and are a tax deductible expense. I’ve paid anywhere from $35 to $100 per year for a license. Regarding length of the license term, in Washington State, for example, you pay a one-time fee for a business license and the license is good for as long as you own your business. Local municipalities, however, may renew annually so mark your calendar with pertinent renewal dates to ensure your business licenses are always current.

Dana Neuts is a full-time freelance writer based in the Seattle area. In addition to writing for publications like South Sound magazine and The Seattle Times, she is the owner and publisher of several hyperlocal community sites including iLoveKent.net and iLoveWashington.net. She is the regional director for SPJ’s Region 10 and the chairman of the SPJ freelance committee.

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