When starting a business, most people begin with a Sole Proprietorship. Easy to set up and simple to operate, a Sole Proprietorship requires nothing but you, your services or goods, and the open seas of commerce. But when your enterprise takes off and you start getting an influx of clients and money, things get more complicated. It’s time to create a brand, a recognizable name for clients to identify, and a structure to manage your business. But how? The most common options for small businesses are a DBA (Doing Business As) designation or an LLC (Limited Liability Company). But what do these abbreviations even mean? And which is best for your business?

Get started Start Your LLC Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Learn How to Do Business As

A DBA is essentially a business name you use instead of the legal name of your business. They are most commonly used by sole proprietors to conduct business under a different name than their own, but any business may have a DBA. For example, a business owner named John Smith may file for a DBA to conduct business under the name John’s Burgers, or a corporation may maintain several DBAs for different businesses it operates. The DBA allows you to maintain a separate identity, for writing (and receiving checks), signing contracts, and operating your business, without establishing a new legal structure. Obviously, a DBA is only useful if you plan to retain your current business structure, whether that is a Sole Proprietorship or some other form, and simply change the name under which you do business.

Getting a DBA usually requires you to file a form, usually with the county clerk, and is subject to some standard fees, which vary by locality. Each state regulates DBA filing and requirements differently, so before you begin the process, make sure to familiarize yourself with local regulations. For example, some states may require you to publish a notice of your DBA in a local newspaper to inform customers.

Establish a Limited Liability Company (But Know What You Are Doing)

If you want more than just a different name, you may want to consider an LLC. The key advantage of an LLC is that, as the name suggests, you are protected from personal liability. The business’s debts will be collected from the assets belonging to the business; in most cases, your personal assets will be protected. However, note that the protection isn’t perfect, and in certain circumstances you may become personally liable for the debts incurred by the business.

Forming an LLC creates a new legal entity through which you will control the business. The process of establishing such a company varies from state to state. Typically, you will have to prepare Articles of Incorporation and submit them to the appropriate state agency. Note that while you’re not required to have an attorney help you establish an LLC, it is highly recommended that you at least consult with one to ensure that you make the best choice for your business and follow state and federal regulations in setting it up.

If you’re ready to start an LLC, we make it easy. If you have questions about choosing the right business entity for you, ask a lawyer

Get started Start Your LLC Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your LLC Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.