When getting started, many business owners have to decide on a type of business, business structure, location, which business licenses they’ll need, and more. One thing that many sometimes forget to consider is a “doing business as” (DBA) name. If you’ve never heard of a DBA before, then some questions will probably run through your head:
You should consider a DBA if you plan to operate your business under a different name than the one it’s registered under. They’re oftentimes called a “trade name” or “fictitious business name,” depending on the state.
Although DBAs are best for certain business types like sole proprietorships, other business entities like a limited liability company (LLCs) and limited partnership (LP) can also find them beneficial. Remember that a DBA is not a separate legal entity.
Check out our guide for business owners on how to get a DBA. Have a business already? We can help secure a DBA for you. Simply use the button below.
Do you remember when you secured your company name? You needed to spend some time picking out the right name, then looking online to see if it was available. The same is true for getting a DBA name. You’ll first want to jot down a list of potential names that fit your brand.
Once you have these ready, you’ll log onto your state’s Secretary of State website (in some cases, the Commonwealth of State website). Search for your state’s business name database and look up your list of names to determine which ones are available.
Once you have narrowed down your list, do a quick domain search to find out if any are available to purchase. From there, decide on the right DBA name based on your search results.
If you’re not ready to register your DBA name right away, you might want to consider reserving your DBA name online or via mail. Most states charge for this service but will hold your name for 120 days. We can also reserve your business name.
You may also want to consider trademarking your DBA name. You can also apply to register a trademark at the state and federal levels. You’ll want to check the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database for any existing trademarks on your name.
While federal registration of a trademark often comes with broader protections, trademark registration is often easier and quicker at the state level. There’s typically a state-level database you can check, and if your name is in the clear, you can register a trademark on your DBA name in the state where you’ll be conducting business. Learn more about registering a trademark.
Note that some states have specific rules regarding company names, such as words that cannot be included in your name. Be sure to check your state’s regulations before committing to a DBA name.
Once you’ve selected a name, you’re ready to file the DBA forms to register it! Some states do not refer to this as a DBA name and instead list the form as an application for an assumed name, fictitious name, or trade name.
You can find this form on your Secretary or Commonwealth of State’s website and typically submit it via online filing in minutes. You can also mail in your application. There is a filing fee in most states for this application.
To fill out this application, you’ll need your DBA name and your company’s Employer Identification Number (EIN). If you have a sole proprietorship and do not have an EIN, you will need to use your Social Security number instead. You may also need to supply your company’s official name.
Also keep in mind that there may be additional requirements for filing a DBA name at the city or county level. Reach out to your county clerk if you have questions about DBAs.
The last step is not relevant in all states, but in some, you’ll be required to publish your DBA in local newspapers. States that require this are:
The exact requirements vary by state, but typically the expectations are that you’ll publish your company’s DBA name each week for four weeks. This might require publishing an ad or a statement that includes your company’s name, contact information, and DBA name. Be sure to also check out the pros and cons of DBAs.
We know that going through the process of getting a DBA can be long and hectic. Rest easy because we can help you register your DBA name. We also have many other business formation services that can ease your work so you can focus on being successful.
In some cases, a DBA name filing is required within a specific period of time once you begin to use the name (usually within 30 to 60 days).
Yes, most states allow you to apply for a DBA name directly on their website. You can also mail in your form.
To know where to file your DBA name, check your state and county’s websites or with your county clerk. Some DBA names are filed at the state level, while others can be filed with the county clerk. In some states, they must be filed with both.
Depending on the jurisdiction, most DBA name filings take one to four weeks with some exceptions.
DBA names have an expiration date, so it’s important to find out how long your DBA name registration lasts to renew before your DBA name expires.
You can file for a DBA for a nonprofit, although you don’t need one. You should consider getting one anyway for marketing reasons.
You can get a DBA without an EIN. Remember, a DBA is a fictitious business name, or a nickname of sorts, for your business, and you don’t need a separate EIN for it.
Getting a DBA name is different than changing your business name. Learn more about how to change your business name.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
Most Popular States to Get a DBA Name
When it comes to compliance, costs, and other factors, these are popular states for filing a DBA.
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