Learn more about what a fictitious business name is in business.
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The definition of a fictitious business name is a name, other than the registered name of the business, that the state gives you permission to use when conducting business.
Although the fictitious business name definition may seem self-explanatory, the term itself often leaves people confused because it’s used interchangeably with:
All the terms mean the same thing, although DBA is one of the most popular terms used.
Whether you have a limited liability company (LLC), corporation, or sole proprietorship, there are several fictitious business name benefits. States often require that businesses register their name and identify the legal entity they’ll operate under. For example, if you’re starting an LLC then your state may require you to place “LLC” or “limited liability company” in your registered business name. If you prefer to keep the title “LLC” or “corporation” out of your advertising materials, obtaining a fictitious business name will be the way to go.
If you’re operating a sole proprietorship or general partnership, most states require you to use your own name as the name of the business unless you register a fictitious business name. If you want to use something more creative and catchy, you’ll need a fictitious business name.
Another fictitious business name advantage comes when it’s time to broaden the scope of your business. Using a fictitious business name can also help you with expanding your business without the need to create a separate legal entity.
A great advantage of using a fictitious business name is that you can target your specific market. Business owners often use fictitious business names to draw in customers with a name geared toward potential clients. Ultimately, if the fictitious name that you have registered doesn’t work or otherwise proves to be unhelpful, you have the benefit of tweaking the fictitious name while your business’s registered name remains the same. Another fictitious business name advantage is that your business can operate under more than one DBA at a time.
To legally operate under a fictitious business name, you must register the name with the state or county in which your business is registered. Remember that a DBA isn’t a separate legal entity. Because of this, a fictitious business name won’t stop you from facing liability like setting up an LLC or corporation will. All business activity conducted under the fictitious business name remains traceable to the original legal entity and its owners.
Depending on the state that you’re located in, registration of your fictitious business name is completed at the state or county level. Although there are a growing number of states that solely require registration of a fictitious business name at a state level, your county may have regulations affecting the registration of your fictitious business name.
If you’re unsure about whether a fictitious business name is for you after learning the definition of a fictitious business name perhaps, some examples of fictitious business names would help.
Say you want to name your business “Lester, Johnson, & Rivers, LLC” because having the names of the business owners on the company’s registered name is important to you. Since this business name is very general, it could benefit your business to register a DBA. For example, if your business is a consulting firm, your fictitious business name could be something like “Elite Consulting.” Using a different name will allow potential clients to easily identify your business based on the services they’re looking for and that you’re providing.
A fictitious business name allows your business to operate legally under an assumed name. One of the most attractive fictitious business name benefits is that registering your fictitious name allows you to expand your business and connect with your target audience. However, registering a fictitious business name doesn’t create a separate legal entity and doesn’t stop you from facing liability.
We understand that getting a business started can be confusing if you’re new to the process. Depending on the state in which your business is located, we have DBA services to assist you. We can help you conduct a DBA name search, file your DBA name application, and publicly publish your DBA name, if necessary. You can also check out our guide for business owners that details how to obtain a DBA.
Disclaimer – The content on this page is for informational 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.