If you haven’t yet considered registering for a “Doing Business As” name (“DBA” for short and sometimes called a “fictitious business name”), now might be the time to do so. A DBA is required by some states when a business plans to operate under a different name other than the owner’s personal name.
In many cases, you’ll also need a DBA to open a business bank account, write checks and collect payments in your business’ name. On top of that, many clients will require a DBA before they contract with you.
DBAs are typically used in the following situations:
- As a sole proprietor or partner: As a sole proprietor, your given name and business name are legally the same. Filing a DBA allows you to conduct business without using your personal name. Filing for a DBA is the simplest and cheapest way to create a name for your business because you aren’t required to form an LLC or corporation.
- As an LLC or corporation: If you have filed to become an LLC (limited liability company) or a corporation, you don’t need a DBA. However, you should file one if you want to conduct business under a different name than the name you filed when you registered your corporation or LLC. DBAs will also permit you to operate multiple brands under a single parent company without having to form separate LLCs or corporations for each brand, which significantly cuts down on paperwork and expenses.
How to File a DBA?
Filing a DBA is a simple process, although it varies slightly from state to state.
1. Contact Your Local County Office
In most states, you simply need to go to your county office, file with the county clerk by completing the appropriate paperwork and pay a fee that usually ranges from $10 to $100.
2. Be Aware of Variations in Terminology
In California, a business owner would apply for a DBA. In Texas, however, it’s known as an “Assumed Name.” Knowing what to ask for early on will keep confusion to a minimum and help expedite the application process.
3. File With Your State Agency If Necessary
Not all states require it, but a list of states that do can be found online if do a quick search.
4. Create a Public Notice
Some counties and states require businesses to publish a public notice of their DBA filing or an ad in a local newspaper. This is meant to protect consumers and to ensure that they know whom they are doing business with. You may also have to publish the notice on multiple publications for a required amount of time (for example, in California, a business must publish a DBA notice in a local newspaper within 30 days of registration, and the notice must run once a week for four successive weeks).
There may be service providers in your area that can get your notice published on the necessary publications for a fee.
5. Check Your Bank Requirements
Your bank may require a DBA as a precondition of opening up a business bank account. Like state terminology, bank terminology differs in regard to DBAs; some may refer to them as “name certificates,” so be sure to speak with your banker to clarify and guide you through any requirements.