Registering Your DBA

Michelle Adams

One of the most important contributing factors to the way consumers view your business is your business name. You want to be sure that you have a business name that conveys your brand and that is easily recognizable. If you operate a business by yourself, you can often use your own name as your business name. But we recommend that you register another name to help you differentiate your business from yourself.

Your ‘Doing Business As’, or DBA, is an important component of conducting business in the United States. That’s why we’ve created this guide – we want our readers to have the best understanding of what a DBA is and how it impacts your business. We also provide guidance on how to set up your DBA. Make sure to read all the content in this post if you’d like to know exactly how to approach the process!

What is a DBA?

A DBA is simply an official way of saying that you operate under a different name than your own. You register a DBA with the government in order to ensure that everything is being tracked correctly. This allows you to use a name other than your own to conduct business.

It’s a great advantage if you’re trying to separate your personal life from your business life. It’s also perfect for those who want to provide additional branding to their business.

Do I Need One?

Whether or not you need or want a DBA will depend on the type of business that you’re running. Below we will outline some common reasons you may need a DBA.

Sole Proprietors

If you’re a sole proprietor and you want to do business without using your personal name as the name of your company, you will need to obtain a DBA. This is often suggested if you want to create a business name that you can build a brand around. It can also help you see what type of name you want your business to be before you commit to incorporating it.

LLC and Other Forms of Corporations

Using a DBA for these types of businesses is usually suggested if you plan on having several names under the same parent company. In addition, many LLCs have the extension ‘LLC’ at the end of the company name. If you use a DNB, you won’t have to worry about conducting business with this extension on the end of your name.

Registering Your DBA

Registering a DBA

Registering DBAs happens at a state level – each state has their own rules and regulations surrounding DBAs and how they are issued. You’ll need to make sure to check with local regulators if you want the exact guidelines on DBAs. Below we will outline the basic steps you should take to get your DBA registered:

Step 1: Check Past Usage

Although some states will allow more than one business to use the same name, you should still check that it’s not being used. You don’t want to confuse your customers by having the same name as another business. You also want to make sure that you can get the domain name associated with the business – it’s the easiest way to ensure consumers can access you easily. The ‘.com’ extension is still the extension that offers the most prestige.

Step 2: Apply

You can typically apply with local or state authorities. Many will make you pay a fee to register your DBA – but this should most likely be less than $100.

Step 3: Stay Updated

Depending on the state that you live in, you may have to reapply every six to twelve months. If this is the case, you’ll want to stay on top of it to make sure that you still have the right to do business under the correct name.

Things to Keep in Mind

There are a few other things you should keep in mind when deciding whether or not to register a DBA. We outline some other contributing factors below:

No Protection

While a DBA protects your name from being clearly associated with your business, it doesn’t protect you from litigation or other legal issues. If you want to protect yourself against potential compensation problems, you need to make sure to structure your business accordingly. DBAs are primarily symbolic.

No Separation

Having multiple DBAs under the same umbrella company does not separate the businesses in terms of taxation and other financial matters. You’ll have to legally separate your business if you’re trying to create a true separation.

No Trademark

You don’t have a trademark on the name or brand that you’re using just because you have a DBA registered. You need to also make sure that you have a trademark if you want to protect your name from being used by other companies. If you’re planning on using your name extensively, we suggest that you try and obtain a national trademark. While some states allow you to use the same name as another company, others don’t.

Verdict

You need to be certain that you’ve registered your DBA if you’re planning on using another name for your business – not doing so can land you in a bit of hot water. You don’t want to get in trouble for using a name you don’t have permission to use. This is especially true if you operate in a state that doesn’t allow two businesses to use the same name.

Don’t be lazy about obtaining a DBA. Using a different name for your business has many benefits. You’re much more likely to be able to build a lasting brand around a name that isn’t your own. Make sure to consult all your shareholders before deciding on a name, it’s important that you put considerable effort into getting off on the right foot.

If you need any additional information on starting a business, make sure to check out some of the other pages that we have on our site. We are experts on a variety of topics, including the best ways to get funding for your small business. We have a ton of great content – have a look at our blog!

Michelle Adams
Business Consultant

Michelle worked at a teller at her local bank while she was earning her degree in economics. Then, after completing an MBA, she came back to the bank as a loan officer. As a result, Michelle is uniquely suited to providing advice to small businesses when it comes to selecting the best loan and credit products.