There are a lot of small businesses out there operating as sole proprietorships, that is they operate the business through the individual(s), and there is no formal entity. Many sole proprietors tell me that they’ve filed a d/b/a with the local county (here, the counties of Onondaga, Tompkins or Monroe), and therefore believe that is all they need to ensure that they are not personally liable, but this is not correct.
The main reason people incorporate or organize LLCs is to limit liability. Debts and contractual obligations are not something that you want to owe personally if you can avoid it. Setting up an LLC will create a seperate legal entity from yourself that you will operate the business through, own business assets, and contract through. Not much has to change when you form a single member LLC. LLC’s are also useful because the IRS will let you choose how you want the LLC taxed (either as a disregarded entity, S corp or C corp).
To actually create the LLC you should first choose a name. Run a New York entity search through the New York Corporation & Business Entity Database. You then need to file Articles of Organization with the New York Secretary of State.
Next you need to either hold an initial meeting or sign a unanimous consent in lieu of the initial meeting. Also prepare and sign an operating agreement. As a single member LLC you don’t need membership interest certificates, but if you have them, you should execute one to yourself.
Obtain an EIN from the IRS. You can apply online, although the website tends to be finnicky. You can also fill out an SS-4 form and mail or fax it to the IRS.
Next open a corporate bank account using the documents you’ve obtained above and get checks and online access to your account. Deposit the initial funds (at least what your operating agreement says you are putting in).
Everything that you used to sign in your or your d/b/a’s name, now sign in the LLC’s name. Also, to the extent possible try to keep LLC finances seperate from your own. Also get a good accountant and either learn or hire someone to keep your books. The last step is to go and make money.