As a new business owner, you want only the best service when it comes to forming a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) or corporation. You will do whatever you can to simplify your business formation and aren’t afraid to seek help when doing so. Many websites offer incorporation and LLC services, and here we compare two of them: ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent.
To best understand each service and determine which is the best service to use when forming an LLC or corporation, we compared them on the following categories:
- Included Services & Features
- Speed of Formation
- Ease of Use
- Customer Service
- Company Track Record
- Overall Pros and Cons
Overview of ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent
Before we get into a detailed comparison of the services provided by ZenBusiness vs. Northwest Registered Agent, it’s essential to take a look at the services most commonly offered by corporation formation services.
Understanding these services will help you make a sound decision when choosing which service formation company best meets your company’s needs. The services listed below are among the most important to small business owners.
Here we compare how the two incorporation websites fare against each other on providing these basic services to customers.
Employee Identification Number Acquisition
An EIN is your company’s social security number. You use this number to hire employees and open your company’s bank account. The Internal Revenue Service assigns this number, which identifies your business for tax purposes. Zen business delivers your EIN electronically, one less thing you have to worry about as you build your business.
Both ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent provide these services to their clients. Whether the EIN is included depends on the package you select. We’ll get into more detailed information on these companies’ specific services later on in our comparison.
An indispensable document for an LLC, the operating agreement assigns roles and responsibilities agreement, explains who does what in your company. Specifically, this document defines the obligations, duties, liabilities, rights, and powers of all members of an LLC. All of ZenBusiness’ packages include an operating agreement.
An operating agreement includes the following information:
- Name of the LLC
- Purpose of the business
- Name and address of the registered agent
- Information about the articles of organization
- Address of the LLC’s principal office
- Duration of the LLC
The Operation agreement is a standard part of the services Northwest Registered Agent, and ZenBusines offer to their clients. This is one of the necessary components of forming an LLC, which covers the ownership and member duties of your company.
Registered Agent Service
Low-cost business formation services often don’t include a reliable registered agent service because these services tend to be expensive. Both ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent offer these services; we’ll discuss the pricing in the next section.
Annual Compliance Filing Alerts
Compliance is essential to maintaining your small business in good standing. While you’re busy running your company, it’s easy to lose track of important filing deadlines. When selecting a business formation service, it’s important to pay attention to whether they will alert you as important deadlines approach.
With ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent, you can rest assured that you won’t miss important deadlines. Both companies offer these services as part of their packages. We’ll detail the services these companies offer and who does it better in the next section.
ZenBusiness is perhaps the most affordable LLC formation service on the market today, offering three plans to help get your business off to a solid start. Starting at just $49 for the Starter plan, ZenBusiness will assist you in filing an LLC formation and provide you with a registered agent. This price does not include the state fee for filing. The renewal price for the registered agent is $110 per year.
ZenBusiness offers two additional plans, the Pro plan, which starts at $199, and the premium plan, which starts at $299. These two plans offer other services not included in the Starter plan but do not include the state filing fee.
This low-cost plan is a bargain at $49 plus state fees and is surprisingly feature-rich. This basic plan doesn’t include your EIN; you’ll have to pay extra. An EIN is something you can easily obtain for free on your own. ZenBusiness does try to upsell you at every step of the process.
The starter plan covers filing your company’s articles of organization. Standard processing time is two to three weeks, depending on your state, but you can expedite the process if you have a tight deadline. They charge an additional $50 for expedited processing and $100 for rushed processing. ZenBusiness also offers the following in its starter package:
- A year of registered agent services with your LLC formation ($125 after that)
- Online access to essential documents and paperwork related to your LLC
- Customer service via email or telephone
- Operating Agreement included with the fee
- Worry-Free CPA Assessment
This is ZenBusiness’s most popular plan starting at $199. The Pro Plan includes most of the features you will need when forming your company. In addition to everything you get with the starter plan, the Pro Plan includes your EIN.
Another feature of this plan is ZenBusiness’s worry-free compliance guarantee. This plan includes yearly fling report alerts, plus ZenBusiness files the annual report on your behalf. If they miss a deadline, they cover the fees to return your business to good standing.
This option is especially useful for business owners who plan to hire employees and need regular assistance to meet annual state filings and amendments. With this plan, you’ll be protected from liability, meaning you have one less thing to worry about.
ZenBusiness also offers the following in its Pro Plan:
- Name availability search
- Articles of incorporation
- State filing and verification
- Real-time chat support
- Personalized dashboard
- Registered Agent service
- Worry-Free Compliance
- Expedited filing speed
- Employer ID Number (EIN)
- Banking resolution template
- Operating agreement template (for LLCs) and bylaws (for corporations)
With ZenBusiness’ Premium Plan, you get everything included in the Pro Plan plus rushed filing speed and various website add-ons to help your website. The Pro Plan consists of the following add ons:
- Business email address
- Domain name
- Domain name privacy
- Rushed filing speed
- Business website
You get all of this for $299, saving you $200 upfront and $149 annually over adding these features to the starter pack. The plan is ideal for those in a hurry who want a quick and easy way to build and manage a website, domain name, and business email address.
The average processing time for the Premium Plan is 1 to 2 business days, plus your state’s filing time.
Northwest Registered Agent costs considerably more than ZenBusiness.
Unlike ZenBusiness, Northwest Registered Agent doesn’t offer tier-based plans. Instead, Northwest Registered Agent provides two primary services: registered agent service and LLC formation service.
Northwest Registered Agent helps you file for LLC formation starting at $39 and provides a registered agent for a base rate of $225 a year plus the state fee. The renewal fee for the registered agent is $125 per year.
Let’s take a closer look at what each of these services offers.
LLC Formation Service
This is Northwest Registered Agent’s incorporation service, which costs $225 per year plus a state fee. The state fee is the LLC processing amount in your state, ranging from $40 to $500 depending on your state. Included in the price are the $100 filing cost and the $125 registered agent fee.
For example, in Michigan, the state fee is $50 for two years, whereas you’d pay $150 for two years in Illinois. Northwest Registered Agent’s LLC formation service includes:
- Full address use
- Northwest’s dedicated Corporate Guides for customer service
- Same day business filing
- Membership or stock certificates
- Initial resolutions
- Custom-drafted articles
- Online access to formation documents
- Annual reporting compliance
- LLC operating agreement
- Mail scans
- State resources
- Customer service
Registered Agent Service
Northwest Registered Agent’s registered agent service does not include LLC formation in its $125 price. This service is useful if you don’t need help filing for an LLC but only need a registered agent’s services.
Your registered agent will take care of matters such as receiving business notices, government notifications, and Secretary of State correspondence. If your business doesn’t have a physical location, some states will require you to have a registered agent.
LLC Filing Service
This barebones service from Northwest Regional Agent includes the LLC filing service and expedited LLC approval in all states.
While ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent offer similar services, their price points are vastly different. With ZenBusiness, you get the registered agent service and business formation service for only $49. Northwest Registered Agent charges $225 for the same services. ZenBusiness is by far the better deal.
Included Services & Features
Features are often what determines whether a person chooses one incorporation service over another. ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agents bundle the most important features for incorporating your business into their primary packages.
ZenBusiness offers a tiered structure where the more you pay, the more features you get. Northwest Registered Agents has one main incorporation package. Let’s take a look at the features both offer.
ZenBusiness offers a standard filing service, a registered agent, and an operating agreement template all in their Starter plan. These services are included under their $49 a year price point, though there is an additional fee for state filing in an LLC formation. ZenBusiness also offers name availability search for your business, Google Ads credit, and online documents, all for $49.
In their Pro and Premium plans, they also offer EIN (Employment ID Number) and banking resolution; in the Premium plan, they offer a business website, business domain name, and business email address. They also will expedite the filing process and guarantee Worry-Free Compliance, meaning that your business will stay in good standing at all times. This service includes filing yearly reports, submitting documents for you, and costs to remain in good standing.
Northwest Registered Agent prides itself on being a registered agent service first. Their primary service is in registered agent support. Their registered agent service is available free for the first year with your LLC formation. They offer LLC formation and incorporation help, following the requirements of each state. They also provide free legal forms for download right on their website.
Northwest Registered Agent also provides a free business name availability search and will assist you in filing articles of corporation. Included free with your business formation are a free online account and mail scanning through them. Northwest also has the option to file Compliance every year on behalf of your business so that you remain in good standing. They also have optional add-on services like mail forwarding, a second telephone number, or an FCC 499-A registration.
Both ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent offer filing services, registered agents, and peace of mind for business owners. But with the range of services provided across their plans, the bump goes to ZenBusiness.
Speed of Formation
When you’re ready to incorporate your new business, you want to do it as quickly as possible. Traditionally, the time it takes to incorporate your business depended on the state where you were doing business.
While this is still the case, ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent take different approaches to this process.
ZenBusiness has a relatively fast turnaround. Unlike most services, their turnaround speed is dependent upon which plan you purchase. They advise potential clients that their times vary due to state processing speeds so that you could be looking at a little more or less time than their estimates. For the Starter package, you can expect a 3 to 4-week turnaround of your filing. With the Pro plan, which costs more, there is a faster turnaround speed of 1 to 2 weeks. The Premium Plan offers a processing time of just 3 to 5 days.
Northwest Registered Agent is dependent on state processing speeds, meaning that their filing process times can vary. However, because each state has its own processing speed, from a few days to a few weeks, that means that Northwest Registered Agent will get your business formed as soon as the state has processed your paperwork.
Although you can pay more money to ZenBusiness to have a faster turnaround time, Northwest Registered Agent relies solely on the state and won’t slow down the business formation.
Winner: Northwest Registered Agent.
Ease of Use
A user-friendly website is fundamental to most small business owners. Nobody wants to waste time hunting for information on a business formation website. Both ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered agents have websites that are generally easy to use. Here we take a closer look at how easy it is to accomplish our goals on these websites.
ZenBusiness is very easy to use. They make ordering business formation services easy. Your first step is selecting the incorporation plan you’d like to use: the Starter Plan, the Pro Plan, or the Premium Plan.
From there, the website takes you question by question, starting with your name and information, and guides you through individual screens that allow you to build your plan. They offer add-on services that you can choose to personalize your plan.
While they try to upsell you on various services, each screen is upfront about the cost of additional services. The process is straightforward and never gets confusing, and they don’t bombard you with unnecessary information. ZenBusiness’s registration is straightforward and clean in its design. It guides you through each step and makes sure nothing is missed.
Northwest Registered Agent is a little more complicated. Northwest first has you choose where you want to start: starting a business, getting assistance from a registered agent, or maintaining a business. Once you’ve made a selection, you then need to click through more questions, like what type of business you’re starting, what state you’re in, and where in the process you would like to begin.
From there, you fill out the information step by step. First, you enter your business name and address, followed by management type, then you set up your account with Northwest, and you can choose to add additional items to your plan.
Though Northwest Registered Agent is easy to understand and very direct, this round goes to ZenBusiness for its simple and straightforward approach.
ZenBusiness can be reached by email, phone call, or webchat. Each of these services are timely and easy to use. Their contact information is readily available on their website, and their webchat service appears automatically. They also have a FAQ and Help Center with answers to questions you may have, saving you a phone call or email. Their phone services have short waiting times, and they answer emails within one business day.
ZenBusiness has a 4.7 out of 5 rating on TrustPilot, giving them a rating of “Excellent.” Customer reviews state that they have great service, are helpful and easy to use, and have excellent customer service. They have an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau with a 2.31 out of 5 rating.
Northwest Registered Agent not only has timely and responsive phone and email services, but they also assign a representative to each account known as a Corporate Guide. This Guide assists you in every step of the formation process and is available to answer questions directly during filing. Their phone number is posted at the bottom of every page, and they answer emails within one business day.
Northwest Registered Agent has a 4.47 rating out of 5 from the Better Business Bureau. Customer reviews state that they have “fantastic customer service,” are “amazing to work with,” and are a “great company to do business with.” They have an A+ rating.
ZenBusiness does have efficient and effective customer service, but Northwest Registered Agent goes above and beyond when it comes to personalized assistance.
Winner: Northwest Registered Agent
Company Track Record
ZenBusiness was formed in 2015 as a Public Benefit Corporation. Although they are still relatively new, they’ve already serviced thousands of customers and, based on their feedback, have done an exceptional job.
Their company values are transparency, protection, and paying forward. They commit themselves to operating with integrity, aiding small businesses with support and worry-free services.
Northwest Registered Agent was founded in 1998. According to their website, they have helped service and form over two million businesses and assist hundreds of new clients daily. Their Manifesto is based on Privacy By Default, meaning that they strive to protect their clients’ information above all.
They have a transparent and open communication system as they believe that the business formation process should be as stress-free as possible. Their website states they also think that the right foundation allows them to run their business successfully.
ZenBusiness has accomplished some impressive strides in its short lifespan, but Northwest Registered Agent has the proven longevity.
Winner: Northwest Registered Agent
Overall Pros & Cons
We’ve taken an in-depth view of both companies, but let’s glance at a list of their pros and cons.
- Reasonable price point
- Easy to use
- Includes registered agent service
- Thousands of positive customer reviews
- Helpful FAQ and Help Center
- A- rating on BBB
- Business formation can take several weeks
- Worry-Free Compliance only available with Pro or Premium
Northwest Registered Agent
- Free year of registered agent services
- Corporate Guide throughout the filing process
- Top-notch customer service
- Fast filing and business formation times
- Not as easy to use
- Higher price point for corporation filing
ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent make the filing process simple and straightforward. They offer similar services that support business owners and streamline the filing process.
While ZenBusiness has an excellent price point and excellent services, our overall winner is Northwest Registered Agent. They not only have a proven track record and a faster filing time, but they also have a more impressive set of services to aid in filing an LLC or corporation.
From their customer support to their top-notch service, Northwest Registered Agent is our recommendation for an LLC formation service.
Overall Winner: Northwest Registered Agent