Recent changes in business and the economy have resulted in a lot of consultants and service providers working from home or in shared office spaces. Companies are eager to hire private contractors and freelancers because of lower tax and insurance costs, and there are endless perks for the contractor. Work from the comfort of your favorite cafe, make your own hours and name your own price. If you’re looking to start or expand your work as a consultant, knowledge-worker, or small tech or services business operating in Oakland, start here:

This section will be most useful to folks who are independent small business people providing consulting and knowledge workers services. 

Steps to being business-ready

Step 1: File for a Fictitious Name license. What’s the name of your business? If you plan on naming your business something other than your name, you’ll need a fictitious name statement. If you are doing business as an entity other than your own name, you have to have this to get a business bank account for that name. If you’re going to use your own name, you are exempt from this step.

Step 2: Next, you’ll need a Zoning Clearance Number. This is required for all Oakland-based businesses and notifies the City what type of business you’re operating and where you’re operating from. Fill out this form ( and return it to:

250 Frank Ogawa Plaza, 2nd Floor, Oakland, CA 94612

Hours: 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Step 3: Get an EIN or tax ID number. Another thing that separates the business from the individual is the EIN or the tax ID number specifically for your business. This is important if you plan on filing a separate tax return under the business name. You’ll also need it for your business license application, aka the Business Tax Certificate.

Apply online here (

Step 4: File for a business license. Every service-oriented business working out of a home must file for a business license, aka a Business Tax Certificate, and pay an annual business tax. For your business license, you’ll need (as we’ve already mentioned above):

The initial fee is $60, and then you’ll pay annual taxes after that, unless you are a nonprofit.

You will get a paper certificate from the business tax office approximately two weeks after you pay your fee. Get the 2013 New Business Application here (

Step 5: Find a space. Refer to our Guide to Getting Space in Oakland 

Cheat Sheet:

NEXT: Getting started: Setting up shop in a retail incubator in Oakland

Follow the series: