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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. Generally, on your state's Secretary of State website, you can 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.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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