Entrepreneurs put a lot on the line to start their own businesses — their own money, their own time and even their own names. As a sole proprietor, you can choose to simply do business under your personal name. Or you can keep your name to yourself and look more professional as a business by officially registering a DBA (Doing Business As) name. Filing a DBA — also known as a fictitious business name — allows you to:
- Conduct business under a name that isn't your own
- Use a business name without forming an official legal entity such as an LLC or corporation
- Accept payments under a business, rather than an individual, and open a business bank account under your business name
File your DBA with the appropriate entity through easy online servicesDBAs typically are filed with the state or, more commonly, the county. For a small fee, you can complete a name registration form that allows you to legally use your fictitious business name; all you'll need in most jurisdictions is your name, the date of your filing, the name you wish to do business as and your business address.
Decide if a DBA is right for youIf your company is structured as a sole proprietorship or a partnership, and you want to operate your business under a name other than your own, chances are you'll need to file a DBA with your city, county or state.
Choose a nameIf you want to do business under a fictitious name, choose that name carefully. Keep your name simple and easy to pronounce, and choose one that adequately describes your business while appealing to your target customers.
Apply for a Federal Tax ID NumberA name isn't enough to do business; you'll also need a number with which to identify your business to the federal government. You can use either your Social Security Number (SSN) or an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Register a trademarkFiling a DBA will not protect your business name from duplication. To reserve exclusive rights to your DBA, you'll have to register it as a trademark.
United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Use — and enjoy — your DBAOnce your DBA is properly registered, you can use it to conduct business — meaning that you can freely use your DBA to market and advertise your business, as well as finance it via business checking accounts and lines of credit.
- Corporations and LLCs also can register DBAs, and are required to do so if they plan to transact business under a name other than their legally-approved name.
- DBA registration can cost between $10 and $100.
- Individuals and companies can file as many DBAs as they desire.
- In some jurisdictions, a DBA must be formally announced via publication in the local newspaper.