Do you need to form a new corporation, but you can’t decide which incorporation service is the right option to help you with the formation process?
This comparison guide takes a look at the five key factors that we use to analyze incorporation services. Which one of these reputable companies is the best choice to form your new business entity? Read on as we discuss all the relevant details.
Key Comparison Points
In our review and comparison of each online incorporation service, we performed a “stress test” on each based on 5 key factors:
- Compared pricing and features to determine overall value.
- Researched their track record.
- Assessed the quality of customer service.
- Tested their ordering process and service’s ease of use.
- Reviewed the turnaround times for incorporating online.
As you’ll see in this comparison, both ZenBusiness and Direct Incorporation are good incorporation services.
However, ZenBusiness wins our vote as the better option and honestly one of the best services available. All due to their inclusion of a full year registered agent service and much lower prices.
Overall Pricing and Value
ZenBusiness: If you’re interested in forming a corporation for just $39 (plus state fee), ZenBusiness is your one and only option. Even at such a low price point, this package includes the full incorporation process for your business, along with registered agent service, corporate bylaws, and an assessment with one of their in-house CPAs. If you want some more advanced features, we also like their $149 plan, which adds annual report service, compliance monitoring, a federal tax ID number (EIN), and a banking resolution.
Direct Incorporation: Direct Incorporation’s pricing starts with the Standard package at $147 (plus state fee), which includes six months of registered agent, along with EIN acquisition. While that’s not exactly a great deal, they do have some interesting features in their more expensive packages that most competitors don’t offer, like trademark protection, custom logo design, full-service web design, and more.
Winner = ZenBusiness
Direct Incorporation has some really interesting packages if your company needs all of their advanced features, but for most entrepreneurs, ZenBusiness has the better bargains. Especially when you consider the fact that ZenBusiness will form your new business entity for just $39, this category is clearly a big win for them.
Company Track Record & Experience
ZenBusiness: They’ve only been open for a few years, as ZenBusiness was formed in 2015. Even though they’re a relatively recent addition to this industry, they’ve already helped form thousands of businesses, and they say on their website that they want to form a million LLCs and corporations within the next five years, which is quite the lofty goal. Their customer feedback is exceptional, as the hundreds of reviews they have available are almost all positive in nature.
Direct Incorporation: Direct Incorporation has been around since 2003, and they’ve served over 80,000 clients over the years. They don’t have a ton of customer reviews available though, as we were only able to track down 51 total reviews. More of their reviews are positive than negative, but not overwhelmingly so ― they do still have a handful of critical feedback from their clients.
Winner = ZenBusiness
Direct Incorporation has been in business for an additional 12 years, which is an obvious advantage in the longevity category. However, both of these companies have handled a relatively similar volume of customers, and ZenBusiness has a big advantage in client feedback. Overall, ZenBusiness wins their second category in a row.
ZenBusiness: ZenBusiness provides access to their customer service team by phone, email, or web chat, and we have plenty of experience with all three of these options. In our experience, their response times are very fast, and they provide accurate information in a friendly manner. You’ll find high-quality customer support with ZenBusiness.
Direct Incorporation: With Direct Incorporation, you can access customer support via phone or email. One aspect of their customer service that we really appreciate is the fact that they have every employee’s direct extension and email address on their website. In our experience, their support is quite responsive, and their representatives are knowledgeable.
Winner = Direct Incorporation
Direct Incorporation gets on the board here with a close win. Both of these companies provide solid customer support, but Direct Incorporation’s inclusion of a full list of every employee’s direct contact information is a great attribute that breaks the tie in this category.
Ease of Use
ZenBusiness: Forming a new business entity is simple with ZenBusiness. You’ll start by selecting your formation package, then you’ll provide them with some basic information about yourself and your business. After that, they’ll take care of the rest. We do have one minor gripe with ZenBusiness in this area though, which is the way they incorporate a few upsells and third-party partnership offers.
Direct Incorporation: We were able to complete Direct Incorporation’s order form in less than 15 minutes, which is pretty impressive. They explain all of their features clearly, and they recently redesigned their package selection screen to improve the ease of use. They also have FAQs that can help you decide which package is the right one for you. For the most part, they avoid upsells and third-party offers.
Winner = Direct Incorporation
This was a close category, but ultimately Direct Incorporation has a slight edge thanks to their lack of third-party partnerships and upsell attempts. To be fair though, the difference between these two companies in this area is rather negligible.
Speed of Formation
ZenBusiness: ZenBusiness has a different method of estimating turnaround times than nearly every competing incorporation service, in that they do not base their processing speeds on the requirements of each state. Their turnarounds are instead based on how much money you spend on their platform. Their Starter package has a 3-4 week turnaround, their Pro package can be completed in 1-2 weeks, and their top-tier Premium plan takes 3-5 days.
Direct Incorporation: On Direct Incorporation’s website, you can pull up a page that conveniently lists their estimated processing speeds for each state, including both standard and expedited service options. They also usually prepare your business formation documents and submit them to the state within one business day, which is always impressive.
Winner = Direct Incorporation
We always prefer when a company bases their turnaround times on the actual processing speeds of each state. In this situation, Direct Incorporation does just that, while ZenBusiness speeds up or slows down your formation process depending on which package you buy. Therefore, Direct Incorporation picks up an easy win in this category.
At the end of the day, ZenBusiness wins two categories in our comparison, while Direct Incorporation takes home three of them. However, ZenBusiness is our preferred choice between these two companies, because their advantage in the pricing and features category is a blowout that outweighs Direct Incorporation’s advantages.
We do think Direct Incorporation has a noteworthy edge when it comes to ease of use and formation speed. However, ZenBusiness has superior customer reviews, and their pricing blows away what Direct Incorporation has to offer.
Overall, we think ZenBusiness is the better option for most of our readers, but if Direct Incorporation’s advanced features appeal to you, we like their services as well.
What Is the Biggest Advantage of Each Service?
ZenBusiness has a significant advantage over every other company in this industry, Direct Incorporation included. That, of course, is their outstanding offer of a $39 business formation package ― no other company in this industry can match this offering.
Direct Incorporation has a few of their own advantages, with their biggest one being customer support. We love the way they provide their clients with direct contact information for every one of their employees.
Which Is the Best Package Available From These Services?
We typically recommend that our readers choose the cheapest business formation package that includes registered agent service. With this in mind, we prefer the ZenBusiness Starter plan, which costs $39 for the first year, and $119 after that.
Not only does this package include the full formation process for your corporation, along with registered agent service, but they also provide you with corporate bylaws and a CPA assessment.
Which Company Offers More Help With Ongoing Compliance Requirements?
You can get assistance with ongoing compliance issues by using either of these services, as they both have several features that can help you maintain your good standing with the state.
With ZenBusiness, registered agent costs $119 per year, and they also have annual report service available for a rate of $75. Direct Incorporation offers these features as well, with annual reports costing $97. Their registered agent service is included for free for six months with any formation package, but they provide no information regarding the price of this service after that.
Can I Get a Refund if I Need One?
One area where ZenBusiness struggles is their confusing and substandard refund policy. Take a look at how they describe this policy in their own words: “Once ZenBusiness has submitted your business for filing with the State under no circumstances can you charge-back or dispute the fees associated with forming your business. If you contact ZenBusiness before your business has been submitted for filing with the State, ZenBusiness may refund the charge, less a $50 cancellation fee, if certain conditions are met.”
Direct Incorporation doesn’t exactly excel in this area either, but their policy is at least somewhat less restrictive than ZenBusiness’, and less confusing as well. Their refund policy says that they will grant any refund request, but they do assess a $40 processing fee.
Which Is the Better Option if I Need Publication Service?
In some states, you need to publish your company’s formation in a regional newspaper. For example, Arizona and Nebraska require publication for LLCs and corporations, New York requires it for LLCs only, and Pennsylvania and Georgia have this requirement for corporations only.
While Direct Incorporation does not provide any level of assistance for publication requirements, ZenBusiness actually offers to handle the entire process on your behalf. They charge a reasonable rate of $200 for this service, which is about average compared to their competitors.
Do Either of These Services Go Overboard With Upsells or Third-Party Partnerships?
Direct Incorporation keeps the upsells to a minimum, and they also don’t have any third-party partnership offers that we’ve noticed.
On the other hand, ZenBusiness makes you navigate through a couple hundred dollars’ worth of upsells as you fill out their order form, and they also have a couple of third-party partner “deals.” We’ll point out that ZenBusiness doesn’t bother us too terribly much in this area, but Direct Incorporation is certainly the better service in this regard.
Am I Required to Use a Formation Service?
All 50 states allow you to form your own corporation, as there is no law that dictates the usage of a professional formation service. In fact, if you want to give the DIY option a shot, we have extensive how-to guides available on this site (here’s the link for corporations).
However, we should point out that the corporation is a complex business structure that can be difficult to form, so we only recommend the DIY option if you’re entirely comfortable with the incorporation process.