Fri 22 Jan 2016 | By:

What, Why and How to Register a California DBA

Why and How to File a DBA

Ever heard of the term “Doing Business As” or DBA? If not, I hope that you’re still in the mood to learn a few things, what with all the legal process and business concepts that you had to understand and absorb in the last few months – it must be exhausting.

However, it’s essential that you have an idea of what a DBA is. Even if there’s no necessity for the process now, I’m sure that as your business grows and becomes successful, you’ll think of expanding – a DBA is most likely useful at this stage.

In this article, I’ll help you understand what a DBA is, why there’s a need to file one and how it is filed and obtained. Let’s start by knowing what “Doing Business As” means!


What Is A California DBA?

A DBA, also known as “Doing Business As Name” or “Assumed Business Name”, is a process in California that allows you to operate under an alternate name from your legal business name. It also enables you to receive payment and open a bank account under your fictitious name.

Upon filing a DBA, expect your name and business to be circulated in all the local state papers. This process is essential since you’re now using an alternate name, thus, the state of California needs to protect its consumers.

By informing the community of your identity and the type of business you’re conducting, dishonesty is avoided.


Why File A California DBA?

You may need to file a DBA for the following reasons:

1) You prefer to use a business name instead of your personal name

If you’re managing a business under a sole proprietorship, your personal and business name are the same. For instance, if you’re Robert Anderson and you have a cleaning business, legally, your business name is also Robert Anderson.

Running a business as a sole proprietor may limit you from using different names other than your personal name, so if you want to change this, you may need to file a DBA in California.


2) You have a client that requires a DBA before awarding a job/project to you

There are clients who will require you to register a DBA before they hand you a work contract. This is especially true for freelance professionals. For example, if you’re working as a graphic artist and you’re trying to seal a deal with a company, you may have to file for a DBA.


3) You want to start a completely new business

As your business grows, you might think to grow or start different businesses. Since it’s different, you’ll also have to come up with a distinct name for it – this is where filing a DBA comes in.


4) Your main company is running another business or website

Suppose you have a website that sells shoes that only caters to middle-aged women. If you start selling shoes for young women, you know that young women would never purchase from the same website; so you create a different website with different branding.

For this, you have to file a DBA so you can use an alternate name for your website that caters to consumers in the young adult category.


5) Your bank is demanding a DBA so you can open a bank account for your business

If you’re a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you may not be able to open a business bank account very easily. The majority of banks will require you to present a DBA first, this is a heads-up if you’re planning to open one!


How To File A California DBA

The state of California has a simple and straightforward process when it comes to filing a DBA. It can be done through mail or online, in your county of residence.

The first step to forming a California DBA is to think of a DBA name. The California Secretary of State does not allow close resemblance when it comes to DBA names because it can confuse or mislead the public.

If you want to change your business name from “John’s Rentals” to “John’s Rentalz”, you will be asked to replace your DBA name by the state office .

The next task to do is to check the Secretary of State’s online database of registered business names for any duplicate names. If your chosen DBA name is not available, you’ll have to make a new one.

After this, you can ask the county clerk’s office for a Fictitious name form or check their website for downloadable forms. In the printed form, you have to fill-out the details and sign the form afterwards. Make sure that all the information you write is correct.

After you’ve done all these procedures, you can now file your DBA form. You have to pay for a filing fee, which may vary from county to county. The last and final step is to publish a notice of your DBA Registration in all approved newspapers within your county. You need to do this once a week for 4 straight weeks. Make sure that your local publication issues an affidavit after this period.


Should You File A DBA in California?

Have you thought about filing a DBA? I hope this guide has been helpful. Filing a DBA in California can do wonders for your business. Sometimes, you just need a more descriptive and catchy name for your business so it attracts the attention of consumers. Sadly, certain business structures will not allow you to do this: sole proprietorship and general partnership for example.

If you have this dilemma, a DBA is your way out. It’s an affordable solution, because you don’t have to create separate entities for each new business; you simply have to file a $50 DBA! If you feel the need to file a DBA, just follow this guide!

Need Help Filing Your DBA?

Have an online filing service take care of the entire DBA filing process for you. All you have to do is answer a few questions about your business and they take care of the paperwork.

LegalZoom (for $99) or Rocket Lawyer (for $99)

This article is an informational guide and as such should only be used as a reference when filing an CA DBA, and it should not be used as a legal advice. Your lawyer is still the best person to talk to if you want more details on the legalities of filing a ‘Doing Business As’ in California or bringing a business idea to life in general.

About Ryan James

Half hardworking hermit, half avid adventurer, Ryan founded Startup Savant to simplify entrepreneurship and pay it forward by donating a portion of all revenue to support children's education via