Updated on: June 24th, 2024

How to File for DBA? – File a DBA (Guide)

Form an LLC & File for DBA Quick and Hassle-Free

The term DBA stands for ‘Doing Business As’, but why would you need one for your business, and what purpose does it serve?

What Is a DBA?

Every business out there has a legal name. This can either be the name that it is registered with, in the case of a sole limited liability company or other statutory entity, this is the one that is on its formation document. Alternatively, is you have a sole proprietorship or a partnership, then the business name is the name of the business owner or owners.

Although this is the legal business name, if the company does business under another name, then this is known as a DBA name. A company is allowed to have as many DBAs as they feel like they need, but in most states, unless that name is registered, the company can only do business under their legal name.

Just remember that if you register a DBA before you form an LLC, corporation or other legal entity type, then the state is going to see you as a sole proprietorship.

What a DBA is Not?

You should be very aware of the fact that a DBA is not a legal business entity, it is a name that has been attached to a business entity. Doing business under a DBA name is not the same as forming a business.

So How Do You Register a DBA Name?

You can’t just suddenly decide that you want to use a DBA name and then start doing it, there is a process involved, as well as a fee.

There are forms you have to fill out, and how you go about this varies state by state. Some will require you to fill out the forms and file with the local or county clerks office, while some will require you to file them with a state agency, while others will let you file it with both. Just make sure where you need to be filing the paperwork for the state you are in or the state you will be conducting business in. Different business typed also have different requirements, so be sure you have completed all the necessary steps for your business type.

Once you have completed all the necessary procedures, you will receive a fictitious name certificate, and you can then start to use your DBA name.

Other procedures you should be aware of:

  • If you are filing a DBA name for a LLC or a corporation, then a proof that the business is in good standing is often required. You get can this by requesting a good standing certificate from the secretary of state.
  • If your company is not a corporation, then you can’t make your DBA name include the term INC. or Corp. etc. You are also unable to make your name indicate that the business is an LLC if it is not.
  • In some states, filings are made in different offices depending on if your business is a sole proprietorship or general partnership, corporations or LLC. The forms could be different too.
  • Different states have different accepted forms of payments for the filing fee. For example, only some might let you pay using a debit or credit card, while others may need money order or cashier’s check.

Step 1: Do a preliminary DBA name search

Name Availability Check

The first step of the process would be to do a preliminary DBA name search. You have to first check that your desired DBA name is still available, much like when you were choosing the original name for your business. Jot down a few names you like that fit your brand and then log onto the Secretary of State’s website for the state that you a doing business in and use the search to see if your desired names are still available. At this point you could also do a quick domain search to see if any of them are available to purchase.

Some states will hold your name for you for 120 days for a small fee, which is ideal if you are not ready to file yet, but do not want to lose the name to another company. You could also consider trademarking your DBA name, or at least seeing if there are any existing trademarks in your name. Be sure to check your state’s regulations to ensure you are not breaking any rules when it comes to naming regulations.

Step 2: Application filing

Application Filling

Once you have picked your name and checked that it is available, it is time to file it. Be aware that some states may list this as filing for an assumed name, fictitious name or trade name. Find the correct form on the Secretary of State’s website, fill it out and submit it online. The whole process will not take very long. You could also mail the form. Most states will also charge a small fee for the filing.

All you will need to fill out the form is your chosen DBA name and your company’s Employer Identification Number. If you don’t have an EIN you can use, then you could use your Social Security Number. Several states require you to register a DBA with more than one level of government. A sole proprietorship, for example, may have to file at the state and county level.

Step 3: Publication

Some states, but not all, will then require you to publish the name once it has been filed and approved. California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Pennsylvania all require you to publish the name to the local newspapers, usually each week for four weeks, although this can vary from state to state.

Why Would You Need a DBA?

There are many reasons that companies would use a fictitious name rather than their legal name. The reasons greatly vary greatly depending on the business type, for example a sole proprietorship would use a DBA name for a different reasons than an LLC would.

  • As a sole proprietorship, the most common reason you would use a DBA name is if you don’t want to do business under your personal name. As a sole proprietorship or general partnership, your personal name and business name will be the same on public records, so if you want to remain private and keep your personal name separate, then you will need to file a DBA.
  • If your business name is just your personal name, it can be very difficult to identify what the business actually does. A DBA name gives you the opportunity to choose a more distinctive name that helps to highlight what your business does. For example, if you have a cupcake business, rather than just using your personal name, you might what it to be ‘Joe’s Cupcakes’. The same applies for a general partnership. If you register a fictitious name of your choice, you will be able to do business under that name instead.
  • Depending on what bank you are going with, they may require you to have a DBA name in order to open a bank account for your business. Sometimes the bank will ask you to show proof of the DBA filing as part of the registration process to prove that you are doing business under a different name.
  • Businesses don’t stay the same for ever. There may be a day when your business decides to go down a different route, or enter a completely new line of business which is not reflected by the name that you are currently using. Using a new DBA name can help to market a new line of products or services, as having a name that is more descriptive can be very beneficial. This is why some businesses would choose to have more than one DBA name, for different portions of the business.
  • Even if you don’t need a DBA for your business, it can still sometimes be a good idea that will make it worth the fees and tedious paperwork. For a start, if you are a sole proprietor, this is the least expensive way to use a business name, and it is also usually the simplest. Without having to go through the whole process of forming an LLC or corporation, you can create a whole other business identity.
  • Without you having to actually form multiple businesses, a DBA will let you operate more than one. For example, if someone wants to run two distinct businesses, they can create one corporation and run the two businesses under two different DBAs, which can greatly cut down on paperwork and expenses.
  • If you’re operating under a different name but have not filed it, the legal protections you get by being a LCC or a corporation may be invalidated, therefor a DBA will help to keep your business compliant.
  • For many businesses, online sales are a growing part of the company, so rather than creating one website in the hope that it would suit all potential customer, you can easily segment your online market by using different DBAs with separate websites, targeting customers with different needs.
  • To use a domain name as a DBA. You can file a DBA name so that your company can transact business under the company’s domain name. This method is usually used when your company name is not available as a domain name. For example, when you want to operate another website in addition to your existing one.
  • Sometimes, especially with older businesses, the legal name is not search engine friendly, or if very difficult to remember. You could use a DBA name to help make your company easier to find.

Get Professional Help & Form Your LLC & DBA Today

You are able to file for a DBA name yourself, but many people do not have the time, find the process too confusing or would rather use an external company to do it so they ensure they get the process right. There are many businesses and third parties who are able to do this for you, but one of the best is Zenbusiness. The company has been around for many years, and has established quite a reputation, helping literally thousands of businesses with their needs. Zenbusiness will walk you through the whole process and are one of the most cost-effective options out there.


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Are there any other names for a DBA?

You might hear the term DBA name also referred to as an assumed name, a fictitious business name or a trade name.

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