What Is a DBA?
A “doing business as” name, or DBA, allows you to refer to your business with a name or names other than its legal, registered name. If you operate a sole proprietorship or general partnership, this means using a name other than your own personal name or that of a partner.
If you own a company that already has a registered name, such as a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation, acquiring a DBA enables you to refer to your business as something other than its legal business name.
While many different types of companies can benefit from DBAs, they’re most commonly associated with sole proprietorships and partnerships that operate under their owner’s personal name. When larger companies acquire DBAs, they often do so to refer to a specific product line under an alternate name — “Product X, brought to you by Company Y.”
Either way, the biggest advantage of DBAs is the way they enable you to change your image without forming a new business structure.
Why Should I Get a DBA?
If you are a sole proprietorship or general partnership, a DBA can be beneficial in a few ways. For one, it can increase the professionalism of your business and lend more legitimacy to your transactions. Many customers will feel more comfortable hiring and writing checks to a business rather than an individual.
DBAs can be helpful to larger companies as well. If your corporation or LLC operates with one or more distinct product lines or branches that you’d like to keep separate for accounting purposes, acquiring one or more DBAs is a great way to create that divide.
Finally, a DBA can help you expand your business in the form of multiple stores or additional websites. This is especially popular for restaurants that have a main location and a spin-off location.
For example, if a fine-dining restaurant named John’s Fine Food wants to open a fast-casual offshoot location in an airport or mall, they can acquire a DBA and call the new location Fine Food To-Go, by John. The DBA allows you to operate two distinct branches without having to register an entirely new business entity.
How Do I Acquire a DBA?
The process for obtaining a DBA can vary from state to state, but for the most part the it is quite simply. You’ll need to file paperwork with your state of formation that includes the basic information about your business and the name you’ve chosen. There is a filing fee that ranges from around $10 to over $100, depending on the state.
While the process is fairly straight forward, you may still choose to hire a professional business services provider to acquire your DBA for you. Sometimes, it’s nice to let someone else worry about the paperwork and legal formalities so you are free to run your business. Here are some reputable DBA acquisition services:
- LegalZoom ($99): LegalZoom has a great rate for DBAs, and they include any advanced steps that your state may require, such as publication of your business name. They’re also the industry leader for business services providers, so you know you’re in good hands.
- CorpNet ($108): CorpNet’s price point isn’t quite as low as LegalZoom’s, but they do a great job with DBA acquisitions, and they have several options available to customize their service. They also have excellent personalized services and very positive customer feedback.
Filing a “doing business as” name is a relatively simple process that can enhance your business in a number of ways. Whether you’re a sole proprietor looking to add an heir of professionalism to your business or a large corporation hoping to branch out into a series of new products and services, a DBA can be a great tool.
You can put in an application with your state on your own or hire a professional to file the paperwork for you. Either way, this is a straightforward process that can greatly benefit your business.
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