DBA, or "doing business as", is the practice of using of a fictitious or assumed business name to trade under.  You can advertise, accept payments, set up a business checking account, and create a business phone listing under a DBA without having to use your personal name or create a new business entity. If you plan on doing business under another name, you'll need the proper legal documentation in order to avoid being charged with fraud. Fortunately, it's easy and inexpensive to file for DBA.

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First, check with your state and county to find out what rules apply for filing for DBA. In some states you don't need to file a DBA if you're using your full name or part of your name, and a description of your services (for example, 'R. Masterson Photo Studio'). Situations where you might need or want to file for DBA include the following:

  • More than one person is involved in your business (ex: Sandford and Sons).
  • Your business uses just a first name, like Annie's Diner, as opposed to your full name.
  • You have a sole proprietorship and want to use a business name without creating a formal legal entity like a corporation, LLC or partnership. Sole proprietorships are often the cheapest way to do business, and having a DBA allows you to keep your personal information/accounts separate by opening bank accounts and getting phone listings under this business name.
  • You're a single entity, like a corporation or LLC, that needs to operate multiple businesses, but you don't want to create separate entities for each business. For example, your company runs a chain of record stores, but you want to avoid the time and expense of incorporating each store. By incorporating your company under a more generic name, and creating more specific DBAs for each business, you can control the costs of your expanding business.

Next, you'll need to find out whether your state requires you to register at the state level (with the secretary of state) or at the county level. You can either search your state online, or search the business name register. Then, search the database to make sure the name you want isn't already taken. Fill out the forms provided by your county and/or state, and submit them along with the filing fee ($10-$50, depending on the state). Finally, your state's regulations may require you to publish a notice in the newspaper stating that you are doing business under an assumed name. If you chose your name well and use it often, your DBA can be a really valuable marketing tool.

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

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