How to File a DBA

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(Quick Note: Before you get started, we highly recommend brushing up on the basics of what it means to have a DBA and what you need to know before filing. Click here to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages.)

What is a DBA & What Does it do?

During the registration of any business entity, if the brand name chosen is different from individual human names, then a DBA, or Doing Business As name (sometimes referred to as a Fictitious or Trade Name) must be registered with the state for the public record.

This designation was created as a means of further protecting consumers, with the idea being to help stop shady people from trying to get away with things by doing them under another (non-registered) name. This is why most jurisdictions require the public be notified, often through local print newspapers.

When you form a business entity, the legal name of the business by default goes to the human name or entity that owns the business. And hey, as you’ll see below there are surprisingly a fair amount of situations where a brand would choose to conduct business under a different name.

That said, not all states require the registering of fictitious business names or DBAs.

The 4 Primary Advantages of Forming a DBA

Right, now let’s dig into some advantages which will also go a long ways in explaining why someone or a brand would choose to do it.

  1. It’s the easiest way to register a name, especially for sole proprietors/freelancers who don’t want to associate their identity with the brand, or at least keep apart from marketing material and so forth. Not everyone wants to share their personal identity, and to keep it separate. Makes perfect sense!
  2. A DBA allows LLCs and corporations to operate multiple businesses without having to form a business entity for each one which cuts down on paperwork, expenses, and logistics. Imagine having to form a different company for each clothing category on an ecommerce page.
  3. A DBA can help ensure your business entity remains compliant, for example helping an LLC keep its status by showing a distinct separation from its members.
  4. Can dramatically increase the value of branding, so instead of selling men’s watches under “Emily’s Jewelry LLC”, a DBA could be filed for “ManWatch” or something creative.

What are the Disadvantages of Forming a DBA?

Okay, nothing is all peaches and cream. There are a couple downsides to DBA, but they weren’t designed to be perfect or ideal for everyone interested in filing one.

  1. A DBA gives no legal protection like an LLC/Corp/Non-Profit provides limited liability for example.
  2. The process of maintaining a DBA – as in the continual updating of registrations every few years, sometimes in every single county in which it does business. It can substantially differ from state to state so if you don’t work with an incorporation provider or have a lawyer, you really need to make some calls to local county clerk’s offices and the secretaries of state.
  3. The little hassles that can arise from DBA confusion, for example setting up a bank account with a huge bank, or when you need to execute some legal documents but can’t do so under the DBA name.

Who is a DBA Typically Right for?

Pretty much any recognized or registered business entity under the law.

When is it the Right Time to Form a DBA?

This part’s easy because there are only a certain amount of “right times” to chat about. Let’s see:

Have Any Helpful Resources?

Absolutely, Startup Savant has a TON to offer just about anyone interested in learning more about the process and getting help from trusted providers if needed.

This content on Filing a DBA is not a legal document or legal advice. It is for informational purposes only and the information is subject to change over time. For specific questions and concerns regarding how to file a DBA, please consult an accredited attorney or a qualified professional.