How to Use a DBA for Small Business

How to use a DBA for your small business

Small businesses of all types can usually benefit from creating a DBA. The good news is that these benefits aren’t hard to realize and setting up and managing a DBA is a fairly simple process. We can help you understand the benefits and set-up your DBA in your state.

Before diving into this article, if you would like a little more background about what a DBA is, take a look at our What Is a DBA article.

DBAs for Small Business

Creating a DBA for an LLC

If you have an existing LLC, you may be considering setting-up a DBA. One of the main reasons for doing it is to make it easier to create or build a particular brand. If you have a strong brand already, or there is a developing one you’d like to focus on, a DBA can make this name more visible to consumers and allow you to tailor a marketing strategy to it.

A tailored marketing strategy can be useful if your business offers multiple distinct products or services. If one of these becomes especially popular, registering a DBA can help you highlight it even more. And, if there are other products or brands down the road that you would like to highlight, you can create a separate DBA for each one.

Registering a DBA is typically a pretty simple process. Some of the details vary state to state but generally speaking, you just need to follow these steps:

  • Verify your DBA name - The first thing you need to do is see if the name you want is available. Most states offer an online search tool to help you with this.
  • Fill out the registration form - Once you’ve decided on a name, you will need to fill out a registration form either online or on a hard copy.
  • Submit the form to the proper state office - After filling out the form, either submit it online or mail it to the proper office in your state.

For more detailed information for your business’ home state, check out our state DBA guides on how to file a DBA. You can also read our review of the best DBA filing services.

Creating a DBA for a Sole Proprietorship

Sole proprietorships often get a DBA because otherwise, the business name is simply your name. Choosing a DBA name for your business can make it easier to market your company, helping to attract more customers. The process for registering a DBA for a sole proprietorship is sometimes different than the steps for an LLC. Check out our state DBA guides for more information.

If you start a one-person consulting firm, you’ll probably have more success with a business name like “Sarah Smith Consulting” or “Top Choice Consulting” than you would by calling the business “Sarah Smith.” A DBA name makes your company sound more professional, trustworthy, and memorable to potential customers.

Additionally, you will need to register your DBA to open a business bank account if you are using a name other than your own.

Creating a DBA for a Non-Profit

The reasons for creating a DBA for a non-profit are essentially the same as those for an LLC or sole proprietorship – generally to create marketing opportunities and attract attention to your brand. The process is the same too! Find more information in our state-specific DBA guides.

Do I need a DBA for my Online Business?

The same rules apply for brick and mortar businesses and online businesses. You only need to register a DBA for your online business if it is operating under a different name than your legal business name.

For more information about setting up a DBA, check out our state DBA guides.

Managing a Small Business DBA

Can a DBA have employees?

Since a DBA isn’t a separate entity, it technically does not have any employees of its own. However, the business entity that set up the DBA can have employees as long as it has an EIN.

How much does a DBA cost?

The cost of getting a DBA varies state to state, but it is typically less expensive than filing for a new business entity like an LLC. Expect to pay between $10 and $100 when filing for a DBA. To find specific information for your business’ home state, check out our state DBA guides.

When does a DBA expire?

This depends on your state. Each state has its own set of rules. Your DBA could expire after a number of years or be valid indefinitely. Check your state’s specific regulations to see how long a DBA is valid for.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does DBA mean?

DBA is an acronym for “doing business as”. In some states, a DBA might be called a fictitious name, trade name, or assumed name. To the point, a DBA is essentially a nickname for your company, and there are plenty of good reasons to use one.

How many DBAs can I have?

You can have as many DBAs as you can afford to create and are able to keep track of. However, more isn’t necessarily better. Each one will come with additional incremental expense and paperwork, so you will want to make sure you have a good reason for each one you have.

When would it be good to do a DBA versus a legal name change?

Getting a DBA is often a better choice than changing your business’ legal name. If you are simply interested in rebranding your company or focusing on another line of business, filing for a DBA is a much simpler process than filing for a legal name change.

Is my DBA protected from being used in other places?

There are some state-level laws that prevent DBAs that are too similar to existing ones from being used, but this varies from state to state. It is possible to trademark a DBA, which would offer stronger protection across state lines.

When is a DBA required in my State?

If you are operating a sole proprietorship, you will need a DBA in order to open a business bank account or accept payments in a name other than your legal name. If you have an LLC or a corporation, you will likely need a DBA if you want to conduct business under a name other than the one you already registered.

These rules can vary by state. Check out our state DBA guides to see what the regulations are in your business’ home state.

Can a DBA get an EIN or Tax ID?

DBAs aren’t required to have a separate EIN because DBAs aren’t a business entity. The business entity that the DBA is under would have an EIN if an EIN is required. To learn more about EINs and when you would need one for your business, read What is An EIN from our friends at TRUiC.

How do you set up a DBA for a rental property?

It’s always best to consult an attorney. Usually, the best option is to form an LLC to protect your personal assets in the event of an issue with the rental property. Holding the rental property in your name and with a DBA will not protect your personal assets in the event of a lawsuit.

To learn how to form an LLC, visit our Form an LLC state guides.