Step 1) Verify Name & Get Form
The first step is to conduct a business name search in your city and county. The California Secretary of State does not track DBAs — instead, they’re issued by specific counties/cities.
Once you’ve conducted a local name search, use the U.S. Tess System to check for trademark issues.
In California, each county has a different Fictitious Name Statement form, and some use “business tax” forms instead. To find out what form you need to fill out, head over to California’s counties page through the CSAC and contact the county where you intend to set up shop.
Now would be the perfect time to make sure there’s a web domain available for your DBA.
Step 2) Fill Out Form & Notarize
Once you get your hands on the form (either digital or hard copy), read through it and make sure you understand every word. Fill out the form and triple-check that all the information you provided is accurate before you sign it.
When it comes time to file, follow the instructions listed on the form regarding where/how. Filing fees differ from county to county, so make sure you include the amount that’s listed on the form.
Typically, it’s a better idea to physically bring the form in and file at the counter rather than mailing it in. Filing at the counter allows you to fix any potential errors before submitting the form, while filing by mail doesn’t allow this opportunity.
Step 3) Publish The Form In A Local County Publication
Within a month after filing, you’ll need to publish your Fictitious Name Statement in a local newspaper. This should also be done every week for the next four weeks.
After this, you’ll need to bring a signed Affidavit of Publication to the county clerk. This should be done within 30 days of the last publication date. Each county provides instructions on their forms regarding how, when and where to publish, so make sure to follow them.
Optional) Get an EIN and Open a Bank Account
Once you have the DBA/FBN you can open a bank account using just your social security number and the DBA or FBN documents. However, it’s a better idea to get a separate Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business. Commingling finances between your business and your personal life is a terrible idea and opens you up to IRS audits.
Call ahead at your chosen bank. Most banks require the EIN document from the IRS and the DBA/FBN documents, some require additional documents such as a business license or “tax certificate” from the local city/county.