So, you’ve decided to start a freelance business as a new way of earning a living.
You’ve carefully weighed up your options, looked at the chances of success, and finally made up your mind to go for it.
Now you are faced with the decision of how to make your business official.
The only way to make your business official in Jamaica is by registering it at the Companies Office of Jamaica (COJ).
Now, registering a business in Jamaica seems like a daunting task at first but it doesn’t have to be.
Our quick start guide will explain the business types you can form, the costs associated with registering a business as well as the documents you’ll need to have ready.
NOTE: Nothing mentioned in this blog post should be considered as legal advice. Speak to a lawyer if you have questions about your business.
Should I register my business?
The simple answer is that if you are offering services from a central location or using a name separate from your real name, you should be registered.
You should register your business name if:
- Offering services from an established address in a name other than your own
- Buying or selling goods from an established address
You shouldn't register your business name if:
- Offering services under your own name and not a name other than your own
What business type should I register as?
When registering a business in Jamaica, there are 2 basic structures to choose between:
- A Company – a commercial enterprise registered or incorporated under the Companies Act.
- A business – a sole trader, partnership or trade name registered under the Registration of Business Names Act.
For the purpose of this quick start guide, we’ll be registering as a sole trader business.
Sole trader is a term widely used in Jamaica for an independent business owned by one individual.
There are many benefits of being a sole trader, but there are also some drawbacks.
It is important to know what you are getting into before you decide to register your business.
Advantages of being a sole trader
- Owner reaps all rewards
- Choose your own operating hours
- Freedom to make all decisions
- Quick decision-making
Disadvantages of being a sole trader
- Unlimited responsibility/liability
- Stressful as all decision-making falls on the owner
- It may be harder to bid for larger contracts
- Business life is limited to the owner’s lifespan.
Where do I register my business?
The fastest way to register your business is through their online portal so go with that option.
However, if you like doing business in person, the COJ has installed an outdoor booth where customers can socially distance while waiting to get through.
How to register a Jamaican business online
We've outlined a step-by-step guide below but if you don't want to read, the COJ has their own video guide to help you out.
Sadly, there isn't any audio to explain specific things to you.
Step 1. Reserve your business name
Before you can register your business name you'll need to reserve a business name. Go to the Reservation Menu to create the business name.
Complete the Name Reservation Form and save.
Once your business name is created, you'll have to wait several days to receive a notification saying the name has been reserved.
Tip: To reduce the chance of rejection, search the COJ's directory to see if any other businesses are using the same name as the one you want to use.
Step 2. Register your business
After reserving your business name, click on ‘register a business’.
Click the "Register a Business" button to access the electronic business registration form.
Step 3. Fill out the form sections
Fill out the required fields in the business registration form.
Tip: Remember to save your form at least once to proceed! Saving ensures that you can continue filling out the form at any time.
Clicking the VALIDATE or VALIDATE ALL buttons allows the COJ portal to check the information for any errors or empty fields.
Once all the form sections are complete and displayed in green, click FINISH.
Wait until your submission has been processed. You will be automatically redirected to your list of businesses.
Step 3. Sign your documents
The next step is signing your documents.
View the form to ensure that everything is correct and then sign using the Checkbox Signature option.
You will receive an email containing a secret phrase. Enter it along with your username and password.
Step 4. Pay the registration fee
After being redirected to the applications page, click the “Add to Cart” button to start the payment process.
Step 4-a. Choose your delivery method
Choose your delivery method.
Using a courier service costs an additional JMD 1,150.00.
If you have fears about the pandemic or live too far away then this is the best option for you.
Step 4-b. Checkout
Complete the checkout process using a Credit Card or via COJ eBank.
Congratualtions! You now have a registered business!
Are there benefits to registering my business?
Registering as a sole trader makes the following easier:
- Accessing loans and grants
- Obtaining bigger contracts
- Operating bank accounts in the business’s name
- Establishing ownership of the business’s name
- Inspiring customers’ confidence
What are the consequences of failing to register?
Businesses operating without registering at the Companies Office of Jamaica are operating illegally.
Consequences of failing to register:
- Unlawful to advertise your business or services
- Subject to lawsuits
- Business may be closed
- Business may be unable to obtain legal remedy
Required documents for registration
To register your business in Jamaica, you will need to provide several documents before you can start legally operating.
- The Business Registration Form (BRF 1)
- A document verifying the proprietor’s current place of address (driver’s license, passport, utility bill)
- Tax registration number (TRN)
- National ID of the sole trader
- Professional Certification (where applicable)
- Work permit or Exemption letter (where applicable)
Business registration fees
Business registration in Jamaica costs JMD 2,500.00 which was surprisingly affordable considering how much things in Jamaica usually cost.
How long does it take for my business to be registered?
To receive your certificate of registration you can pick up your documents at the COJ’s headquarters or have it delivered by a courier.
My package was delivered by Tara Courier Services Ltd in the span of three business days; however, your mileage may vary.
How much does it cost to renew my business name?
Business Names must be renewed every three years at a fee of JMD 2500.00.
Late renewal carries a late charge of JMD 1,000.00.
How do I change my business name?
If you want to change any information about your business, it’ll attract a charge of JMD 2,500.00 and require you to fill out the BN5 form.
Information you’re allowed to change at any time
- Name of Business
- Nature of Business
- Address of Business
If you choose to change all the information listed above at once, you will need an entirely new business registration.
How do I close my business?
As sad it is to say, not every business will make it.
If this happens to you, understand that many businesses fail and that you can always try again once you’re more experienced.
To remove your business from the COJ’s register you’ll need to fill out the BN6 form and submit it for review.
In summary, registering your freelance business in Jamaica can be easy. Just reserve your business name, fill out the online application, pay the registration fee, get your certificate of registration, and you are good to go.
You can get these documents and more information at the Companies Office at 1 Grenada Crescent, Kingston, Jamaica, or via their online portal at orcjamaica.com.
If this guide has been helpful for you, please remember to share it on your social media or with your freelancer friends. The more useful information we share, the more we all help the Jamaican freelance ecosystem grow and thrive.
NOTE: Our articles are not intended to replace the services of a legal professional in Jamaica. We are not in the business of providing legal, accounting or financial services in Jamaica.