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Starting a Small Business? 10 Common Licenses to Obtain

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By Brennan Forrest - - 5 Mins Read
Small business owner attending to a customer
Featured | Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash

Embarking on the entrepreneurial path is a thrilling venture, but amid the dreams of success, a vital facet often overlooked in exciting business licensing.

Essential for legal operation, these licenses and permits, issued by state or federal authorities, form the backbone of regulatory compliance.

Neglecting these licenses can put your business at risk and may lead to complications with government agencies.

In this comprehensive guide, we will examine ten essential licenses for small business owners and explain the details of each one.

These licenses include local business licenses, permits for peddlers, occupational licenses, and specialized licenses for businesses such as food establishments, as well as those dealing with alcohol and tobacco. It is crucial to understand these legal requirements.

The Foundation of Legal Compliance

Operating with the appropriate licenses can enhance your business's credibility and prevent unexpected issues with government agencies.

This guide provides an in-depth look at ten standard licenses and permits that small business owners may need to address.

Familiarizing yourself with these requirements will help ensure legal compliance and smooth business operations.

  1.  Local Business License

Owning a local business license is usually a necessary step for small businesses operating from a dedicated space or remotely.

The regulations for these licenses can differ greatly between states, counties, and cities.

Prospective business owners must understand the specific requirements established by their local municipality and state government to comply with these regulations. Visiting official websites is essential for comprehending and fulfilling these obligations.

  1. Peddler's License

Acquiring a peddler's license is necessary for businesses involving door-to-door sales or public events.

Also referred to as a "solicitor" or "transient merchant" license, this authorization is essential for those who travel while selling products or services.

The process involves thorough checks with local authorities, understanding requirements, obtaining a surety bond (if applicable), submitting necessary identification documents, and patiently awaiting the license's granting.

  1. Occupational Licenses, Permits, and Certificates

In many professions, such as accounting and engineering, professionals must obtain specific licenses, permits, or certificates.

These credentials are typically regulated by state or national boards to ensure that practitioners meet certain qualifications and adhere to industry standards.

It's crucial to be aware of the requirements for your particular occupation, and staying updated with ongoing training may be necessary to keep pace with industry advancements.


  1. Cleaning or Janitorial License

Janitorial businesses may require formal licenses or, in some cases, a service contractor's license.

The importance of bonding and comprehensive business insurance cannot be overstated, especially when dealing with government and corporate clients.

Understanding the specific requirements in your area and obtaining the necessary surety bond and insurance coverage are crucial steps in obtaining a janitorial license.


  1. Vendor or Sales Privilege License

Obtaining a vendor or sales privilege license is often mandatory for businesses selling products or services to consumers.

These licenses are closely linked to sales tax regulations, and the specific requirements may vary from state to state.

Understanding your offerings' tax implications and obtaining the necessary vendor license to ensure legal compliance are important.

  1. Gardening and Landscaping Business License

If your business involves gardening or landscaping services, certain states may require you to obtain a permit or license.

The type of work, such as tree removal or general maintenance, can determine the specific license needed.

Additionally, many states may require bonding, liability insurance, and worker’s compensation insurance.

  1. Food Business, Restaurant, and Food Truck Licenses

Operating a food business involves a variety of regulations, including the necessity for different licenses and permits.

A small business owner standing in front of a mobile store with a smile
Credit: | Kampus Production/Pexels

The requirements can be intricate, ranging from food handling licenses to catering permits and health and safety inspections.

Small business owners in the food industry must thoroughly review their state's regulations to ensure compliance with the required permits and certificates.

  1.  Liquor Licenses

Businesses that sell or provide alcohol typically require a liquor license to operate legally.

Stringent regulations govern the sale of alcohol, specifying the circumstances under which it can be sold, the locations where sales are permitted, and the individuals to whom it can be sold.

Whether alcohol sales are central to your business or represent a supplementary revenue stream, securing a liquor license is essential for ensuring compliance with these regulations.

  1. Tobacco Licenses

Selling cigarettes or other tobacco products requires a specific license due to strict regulations.

Businesses that sell related items, such as vaping products, may also be subject to these regulations.

Small business owners in this industry must ensure full compliance with licensing requirements to avoid legal issues.

  1. Health Permits and Licenses

In many industries outside of food service, businesses are required to obtain health permits to ensure that public safety standards are met.

Whether it's a tattoo parlor or a waste hauling company, adhering to the necessary precautions is essential. It's important to have a clear understanding of the specific health permits that your business requires, whether they are related to occupation or hygiene, as this is crucial for overall compliance.

Also read: 6 Essential Stats to Track as a Small Business Owner

Other Federal Laws and Requirements

Just a heads up, in addition to the licenses we talked about, small business owners also need to deal with federal laws covering marketing, copyright, workplace safety, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

It's important to stay informed about these broader legal responsibilities to ensure that everything is legal.

Does a Local Business Need Permits?

The licenses and permits needed for a local business can differ depending on where you are, the type of business, and other factors.

For example, businesses in states with sales tax might need vendor licenses.

Using services like the Business License Research Package, which provides a customized list of the licenses you need, can make the process easier.

What is the Most Common Business License?

Depending on the nature of your business, the most common business license or permit can vary.

For example, food businesses may need to prioritize health permits, while others might require fire inspections or vendor licenses.

Road Ahead 

As an entrepreneur, it's crucial to comply with business licenses and permits to operate legally. This guide offers insights into relevant permits and the process of obtaining them. Following these guidelines will help save time and effort while ensuring legal compliance.