How To Get a DBA: A Step-by-Step Guide

ByDragomir Simovic
June 10,2022

If you’ve ever tried to set up a business, you know how difficult it can be to decide on the structure the business should take. Once that’s out of the way, it’s time to work on branding, at which point you need to choose a name. Many business owners don’t want to associate their names or surnames directly with their brand; instead, they’ll use a “doing business as” name (DBA).

In this article, we’ll explain what a DBA is, how to get a DBA, why you might need one, and any other related issues that might be causing you confusion. We’ll get right into it with a definition.

DBA Definition

A DBA is a pseudonym or alternative name that differs from the legal name of the business or that of its owner(s). It can be used to refer to the business as a whole or partially in instances where the owner(s) want to operate the business under a name other than its legally registered name. It’s also referred to as a fictitious business name, trade name (in Colorado, for example), or assumed name, depending on your location.

A DBA doesn’t have anything to do with a business’s structure; it’s merely an official nickname used to present a brand to the public. A sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or any other business structure can get a DBA. 

One famous example of this is Meta, Facebook’s newly renamed parent company. The company’s legal name is Meta Platforms, Inc., but its DBA is simply Meta. The original business entity and structure remain the same, but once the business owners create a DBA, they can market their company much more effectively using the DBA name.

DBAs are not separate legal entities and will not offer you any asset or liability protection, no matter your business structure. They do, however, allow you to receive payments, open bank accounts, and market your business under that name.

You may or may not need to register your DBA; this varies by state. It’s also important to note that DBA registration is not the same as registering a trademark; upon registration of your DBA, you should bear in mind that the additional rights and benefits associated with trademarks don’t apply to DBAs, unless you go through a separate trademarking process. 

Registering a DBA 

So, how do you go about registering your DBA? In the USA, you can do this by filling out the required paperwork and paying the filing fee at your local, state, or county agency, depending on the state.

In this section, we’ll answer some questions associated with registering a DBA to give you a better understanding of how it works.

Who Needs To File a DBA?

Although businesses can go without filing a DBA, having a trading name can be great for branding purposes. Any formal or informal business that intends to trade under a name other than their legal one - or that may do so in the future - needs to file a DBA in most states. This is to prevent random “businesses” springing up under false names to defraud unsuspecting individuals.

The main purpose of DBA filing is to prevent such cases of fraud. Once registered, the status of the business, its structure, and its ownership become clear not only to clients, but also to the state authorities where the business is registered. This way, everyone knows who they’re dealing with, especially if and when legal issues arise.

DBAs are potentially more useful for partnerships than for sole proprietorships, simply because without a DBA, the business name will carry the surname of all partners. The more partners there are, the messier this can get. 

A “doing business as” (DBA) name is also advised for formal business structures like an LLC. That way, if the business owner(s) want a rebrand, changing their DBA is much easier than filing for a legal name change.

What Names Can Be Used as DBAs?

You have great flexibility when picking a name for your DBA. It could be an acronym or an abridged version of your own name, a play on words, or an entirely new name. Filing a DBA with a brand new name is common among business entities trying to rebrand or branch out to focus on a single aspect of the business. You’re at liberty to be more specific about the nature of the business through the name of the DBA for the sake of creating awareness.

When Should You File a DBA?

You don’t have to file your DBA at any specific time, but it makes sense to do so early on, before you invest in branding. Don’t worry, though - even if you’ve been trading for years without a DBA, it’s not too late to get one. 

Reasons to get a DBA later on include business expansion, rebranding, requirements from your bank, and bidding for contracts.

The financial status of the company should also be considered when determining when to file a DBA. Registering multiple DBAs at once can get costly, so it’s worth considering whether you really need a DBA and, if so, how many. A better strategy might be to register separate business structures instead of piling up a series of liabilities on one business.

In some jurisdictions, you’ll be required to file your DBA within 30 to 60 days after its first use.

Step-by-Step Guide to DBA Registration

The process for registering a DBA varies based on the state where your business is located or was registered. You should visit the county clerk at the closest registry or the website of the Secretary of State to find out what peculiar requirements apply to your jurisdiction. Your state may also require you to place a local newspaper ad for a stipulated amount of time. The filing fees range from $10 to $100. 

You can manage the process yourself or hire the services of a professional to do it for you.

Step 1 - Check business name availability 

Conducting a name search by yourself or through the state will show you whether the name in question is available at both state and local levels. You should also be aware of the naming requirements applicable in your state. After you’ve confirmed the name’s availability, you can also conduct a quick web search to see if the URL is available and buy the domain name. After all, your business will likely need a website. 

Step 2 - Ensure you fulfill the operating requirements

After securing your DBA name, you may be required by your state to carry out business operations before proceeding with the registration process. Some examples of preliminary operations include printing branding materials like complimentary cards, staff identity cards (where necessary), and brochures.

Step 3 - Complete the necessary forms 

At this point, you’ll need to submit your proprietor information, including contact information, telephone numbers, and email addresses. This stage can be completed online. The completed forms can be handed back to the appropriate officer(s) in charge either online or via email. Whether approved or denied, you will be informed appropriately and this concludes the necessary steps to set up DBA.

Other Things To Note About Filing a DBA

1. Restrictions on names

Depending on your jurisdiction and the registration status of your main business, you may not be able to use certain words in the name of your DBA, including “Inc.” and “Corp.” at the end of the name. This will usually only apply if your business isn’t incorporated. 

2. Announcement of your DBA

When you start a business and need to find out how to get a DBA in your state, you may want to look out for requirements about announcing your trading name. Some states will ask that you announce your DBA in a local publication for a specific period. This is to create awareness that your legal business name and DBA belong to you and have been duly registered.

3. Certificate of good standing

In some jurisdictions, you may be required to present a certificate of good standing from the office of the Secretary of State before your DBA registration can be accepted. This requirement is mostly for LLCs to show proof of the good standing of the business and its owner(s).

4. DBA renewals

DBAs expire and need to be renewed after a certain period. In the majority of states, the lifespan of a DBA is five years. Take note of the registration date and the eventual expiry date to avoid any dramas.

5. Information change

If the information you provided at the point of the DBA filing changes, your DBA may need to be revised. This can include changes to the structure of the business or to your principal address.

6. Employer Identification Number

To protect your privacy and keep your personal and business matters separate, you’re advised to apply for an EIN. Having this number means you don’t need to use your Social Security number for your business identity.

Advantages of Registering a DBA

1. Targeted branding

When you need to branch out or focus on a certain aspect of your business, you may do so by getting a DBA registered and marketing it to your target audience. You’re at liberty to create separate logos, websites, and anything else related to branding to fit the description of what you’re registering as a DBA. This way, that aspect of the business can stand alone and have a more focused appeal.

2. Privacy protection

Since the legal name of a business is usually the name of its owner(s), it makes sense to apply for a DBA. For some businesses, using a DBA ensures the protection of the owner’s privacy and reduces the number of unsolicited postcards and catalogs sent to your address.

Privacy protection also helps reduce unsolicited calls, most of which probably aren’t from potential customers. Some of those calls may even be prank calls. You should consider creating a DBA if you don’t run a business that requires using your name to give you some form of leverage and boost personal branding.

3. Business flexibility

For a business that already exists and is looking to expand, a DBA affords you the flexibility to do so while avoiding the need to register a new business entity. This flexibility even allows you to expand your business to a region where your legal business name has already been registered. 

Flexibility also means that you can decide to use more fun and relatable names for your DBA. So if you haven’t already done so, the time to follow our guide on how to get a DBA is now!

Fraudulent businesses and schemes can wreak havoc, and getting a DBA is the surest way to protect yourself and your business from avoidable legal issues. If you trade under another name in a state where you need a DBA but you haven’t done the paperwork, you’ll be in trouble. 

The last thing you want is to end up defending a lawsuit that could have been avoided by filing the correct ‘doing business as’ paperwork. There’s no reason not to; it’s quick, easy, and not too expensive.

Disadvantages of a DBA

1. Little or no liability protection

Unlike registering certain types of businesses, getting a DBA doesn’t protect your assets from liability if your company gets hit with a lawsuit. The DBA does nothing to separate you from your business; it’s simply a legally recognized alias. 

Of course, that’s not the purpose of a fictitious business name. Whether you’re opening an LLC or a corporation, you shouldn’t rely on your DBA for protection.

2. Maintenance difficulties

Managing too many DBAs under one legal business entity can be a hassle, especially when you’re planning on doing business internationally. That’s because some other countries will also require you to file registration of trade name paperwork. 

When you have to repeat that process for multiple DBAs across dozens of countries, then keep on top of renewals, there’s every chance some important admin could slip through the cracks and cause you some major headaches. 

3. No extra tax benefits

When you register a business name in the form of a DBA, you’re only getting an alias you can use for clearer branding. You shouldn’t expect the DBA to affect your company’s tax status - that all comes down to your business structure.

4. Lack of exclusivity of business names

Seeing as a DBA is not a trademark, it doesn’t offer you exclusive rights to the name you have chosen; it only allows you to conduct business under that name. This means that multiple businesses can conduct business using the same or very similar DBAs. By extension, you can’t use DBAs for legal paperwork, since they aren’t legal entities. It should be noted, however, that you can trademark a business name if you desire some extra protection.

Final Thoughts

Registering a DBA is an easy and inexpensive way to expand your business and create brand awareness. It’s the best way for small businesses to experiment with other goods or services without having to break the bank or go through the process of registering a brand new business.

At the same time, you can also enjoy the privacy a DBA affords you. Now that you know how to get a DBA, we encourage you to follow the steps discussed here and get one if your business needs it.

FAQ
Why would someone get a DBA?

You can get a DBA if you don’t wish to trade under the legal name of your business. Another reason to get a DBA is to expand your business or focus on a particular aspect of it. For instance, a restaurant owner may use a DBA to start a smoothie business by giving it a separate name from that of the restaurant, while still operating under the same legal entity. When creating a DBA, business owners should make sure to capture the nature of the new venture in the name.

What is a DBA vs LLC?

DBA stands for “doing business as.” It’s an alias or fictitious name that an already registered business or company uses to operate if it does not wish to use its legal name. LLC stands for “limited liability company,” a legally registered business entity with a legal persona that is separate from that of its owner(s).

The cost of registering a DBA name is significantly lower than the cost of registering an LLC. This is largely due to the legal implications and benefits of registering both entities. Since a DBA does not separate the persona of the owner(s) from the entity, such owner(s) will not be protected from lawsuits that DBA lands in. An LLC can sue and be sued in its name, without its owner(s) bearing any form of liability.

Another notable difference between a DBA and LLC is that a DBA does not guarantee the exclusivity of your business name, whereas an LLC does. While operating under DBA registration, you may need to take extra steps to trademark your business’s name for protection. Of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive; you can open up an LLC then use a DBA to operate under a different name

Is DBA self-employed?

DBA and self-employed don’t mean the same thing. As a self-employed individual, you can use a DBA to trade under a name other than your legal business name. Knowing how this works comes in handy if you ever wonder how to get a DBA as a sole proprietor.

About the author

Dragomir Simovic is a staff writer for SmallBizGenius, where he regularly contributes well-researched, engaging content about the latest trends in the finance industry. As a successful entrepreneur and freelancer himself, he knows the ins and outs of running a small business and is eager to share his insights. When he’s not analyzing the latest finance news or thinking up startup strategies, Dragomir likes to play the guitar, discover new indie games, and sample craft brews – responsibly, of course.

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Provide Services Online Almost any service that you could provide in a brick-and-mortar venue - you can also provide through your eCommerce store. If you’re searching for eCommerce business ideas, you don’t have to sell physical products. Instead, it could be anything from digital marketing or personal shopping to expert consulting services - anything you could already be providing offline. If you have a skill or expertise that you think people or businesses would be willing to pay for, start offering your services online through your eCommerce business. You can promote your services through a website or social media and start making money. Not sure which business you should transfer online? Here are some eCommerce business ideas for services. Provide Online Classes or Tutoring Online You can make money online by providing services such as consulting, coaching, or tutoring. Online education is gaining popularity, and you should jump on the bandwagon if you have skills to share. This is a great way to monetize your skills and knowledge. Just be sure to set your prices competitively and market your services in a way that speaks to your target group. Depending on your expertise, you could consider various potentially profitable eCommerce businesses. You can provide one-on-one courses via Zoom, for example, or pre-record lessons and charge subscriptions. Make sure to find the right medium for transferring knowledge to your audience.  Translate for Others If you know a second language, not only can you offer online courses as your eCommerce business, but you can also start a freelance translation business from home.  You can start by creating a website or blog to promote your services. As with all good eCommerce ideas on our list, acquiring new clients will take some time. You can also use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to spread the word. When you get your first project, be sure to ask for the client's requirements so you can give them an accurate quote.  Once you complete the project, ask for feedback so you can improve your services and include testimonials as references. With a bit of digital marketing, you can build a successful translation eCommerce business. Become a Social Media Manager If you're good at leveraging social media, you don’t have to look for additional ideas for an eCommerce business - you can make money online by managing social media accounts for businesses or influencers.  Social media is a great opportunity for communicating with customers, finding new clients, and promoting your products and services. However, not everyone has the skill set needed to get the most out of their social media accounts. This is where you could come in and assist businesses to improve their relationship with customers on social media. If you have a knack for building followership, posting engaging content, and communicating with your audience, this might be the idea to pursue and build a profitable eCommerce business.  It’s advisable to choose businesses or influencers that are relevant to your niche. Promoting your portfolio website on social media could provide you with the metrics you need to impress potential customers. Start an Accounting/Bookkeeping Firm If numbers are your forte, you can turn it into a business by starting an accounting or bookkeeping firm. Many people struggle with paperwork come tax season or with day-to-day bookkeeping. If you can provide reliable service, your clients will come to depend on your assistance. You can also consider business accounting as one of the eCommerce business ideas for people comfortable with crunching numbers. While the niche boasts renowned bookkeeping companies and is saturated as a result, you can still claim a piece of the pie for yourself.  Consider working locally or collaborating with smaller companies that don’t need a large accounting team to manage their paperwork. These companies prefer working with someone who can provide their expertise and a bit of extra care and dedication.  Become an Online Fitness Trainer If you're a fitness enthusiast, you can make money by providing online fitness coaching. This is a great eCommerce website idea to pursue if you're able to build up a large following. This holds true for yoga and other types of physical activity that can be done online. Similar to those video tapes with exercises that were all the rage in the 80s, you can also record and sell training programs or create fitness plans, diets, and so on. Depending on the online fitness coaching type you provide, one medium might work better than the other.  Become a Freelance Writer, Designer, or Developer If you're a writer, designer, or developer, you can make money online by offering your services on your eCommerce website. The idea is that your site should serve as your portfolio and opportunity to promote yourself to new clients, but also as a store to accept payments for your work. While anyone can create a website in a manner of minutes with all the free website builders, these professions are still valued on the global market. Apart from creating your site, you can also join some of the popular freelance marketplaces or promote your services via social media. Become a Virtual Assistant On the same note, if you're good with computers and have some administrative skills, becoming a virtual assistant is among good eCommerce ideas to consider. Virtual assistants provide administrative, technical, or creative services to clients from their home offices. For this role, you’ll need excellent organizational skills and a willingness to dedicate time and effort to finding the right clients. You will also have to compete with some established virtual assistant companies, but if you focus on smaller businesses and entrepreneurs, you’ll be able to make more than a decent living with this option. Offer Event or Wedding Planning and Organization When it comes to profitable eCommerce business ideas, providing wedding and event organization is another service you can promote and book online. Not everyone has the time or creativity to organize everything for their big day, company outing, or kids’ party.  This is where your eCommerce site comes into play. You can offer services online and allow your customers to book through your eCommerce store.  For this to be successful, you'll need to create a large network of vendors, caterers, and other third parties. However, if you already have such service providers standing by, this business could be the right idea.  No Clients Needed If you are an introvert and prefer not to deal with clients or customers, you can still make money online. There are excellent online eCommerce business ideas you could pursue, so let's discuss those as well. Start With Affiliate Marketing Affiliate marketing is a type of online marketing where you promote other people's products and earn a commission on any sales that you generate. This can be a great way to make money online if you're able to drive traffic to your affiliate links. Just be sure to choose products that are relevant to your niche and audience. So, where do you start with affiliate marketing now that you’ve chosen it among other ideas for an eCommerce business on our list? You could create a blog, social media account, or YouTube channel where you review products from an array of brands. Having a niche market, you can tap into through your blog or account can be a great way to earn affiliate commissions, as well as build up your own brand and authority. You'll need to invest some time and effort into creating high-quality content, but if you can build up a large following, you'll be able to make a great living reviewing products online. Launch a Dropshipping Business Another excellent choice that belongs to the easy eCommerce business ideas category is launching a dropshipping business. When you dropship, you simply sell products sourced and fulfilled by a supplier. This can be a great way to get started in eCommerce with little or no investment. You just need to find a reputable supplier and set up your eCommerce store. Once you've got everything up and running, it's just a matter of driving traffic to your site and making sales. You'll also be responsible for customer service and ensuring that your shoppers are having the best experience. After all, 91% of customers will simply leave and never return if they have a bad experience with your store, which is something new businesses cannot afford. Bottom Line There are plenty of ideas for an eCommerce business that involve selling products or services. So, if you're looking to get started in eCommerce, be sure to choose the option that best suits your skills and interests. Moreover, take a closer look at the professional network that you’ve built up over the years and then decide which avenue to pursue. With commitment and effort, you can start making money online in no time!
By Vladana Donevski · June 23,2022
The documents for incorporation differ by state, and the nature and type of the business looking to incorporate. In the United States, Corporations and Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are the two main types of business entities, and require different documents to achieve that. In this article, we will learn the differences between articles of incorporation and organization, their components, the filing process, and why they’re necessary. Let’s get right into it! Articles of Incorporation: Definition The articles of incorporation - also known as a corporate charter, articles of association, or a certificate of incorporation - are legal documents filed to establish a company of a specific type as a business entity. In other words, they give the corporation its legal identity. In practical terms, for a corporation to open a bank account, issue stock or shares, operate within a state, and engage investors, it must first file articles of incorporation. In the United States, this is usually done with the Secretary of State or company registrar, depending on the state of incorporation. Delaware and Nevada are the most popular states for registering your corporation, because of their friendly regulations and minimal tax requirements. Articles of Incorporation vs. Organization Most people tend to confuse articles of incorporation with articles of organization, but they are not the same; now that we’ve defined the former, we’ll do the same for the latter. The articles of organization are filed at the point of creating an LLC. In terms of function and components, they are no different from articles of incorporation. However, the regulatory requirements are different and might be stricter, depending on the state and industry the business is in. These are the primary thing to research for prospective owners learning how to incorporate their business. The next step is filing your articles, so it’s time to learn how it works. Filing Articles of Incorporation The Required Documents The components of documents to be provided upon filing articles of incorporation vary by state, but many of them are the same everywhere. Most of these components will be on the face of the certificate of incorporation, and they include: The corporation’s name and address The name and address of the registered agent responsible for accepting legal documents on behalf of the corporation; some states may require a formal agreement of the agent’s acceptance of this responsibility. The number and type of authorized shares; more details on this can be found in the articles of incorporation and their bylaws. The type of corporate structure (e.g., profit, nonprofit, etc.) The names and addresses of the founding board members The names, signatures, and addresses of the persons handling incorporation; a corporation can have multiple incorporators who do not need to be directors or stockholders. If applicable, the lifespan of the corporation, as some corporations are made to exist for a limited time and carry out a particular function. The number and type of stocks the corporation can issue. Other components which are not required, but can be included, are: The limitation of directors’ liability Stockholder actions The assignment of authority to call stockholder meetings The purpose of incorporation, which may not need to be specific, depending on the state. The Filing Process The end goal of filing is to receive a certificate of incorporation. After preparing the documents, the incorporator should schedule an appointment with the designated filing agency of their state. Procedures differ between states, but generally begin with paying a filing fee after submitting the required paperwork. The process is completed upon acceptance of the paperwork and approval of the corporation’s registration. In most states, corporations must have both articles of incorporation and bylaws, even though bylaws are not to be filed. Bylaws only serve as internal documents setting out the rights and responsibilities of a corporation’s shareholders, directors, and other officials. Benefits of Incorporation Corporate Brand Identity Customers are more inclined to trust and do business with a brand when its corporate identity is established, as are investors. Banks are more likely to finance your venture if it’s an official business, and you’ll certainly look better in the strict due diligence checks on your business. Where no official or formal records are found, chances are that funding will disappear for lack of confidence in the safety of investing in you. Tax Advantages A corporation’s tax liability can be reduced depending on the state of incorporation. This tax reduction is often justified through operational costs like insurance, green energy investments, employee retirement benefits, production costs, employee wages, etc. Separation of Liability Filing your articles of incorporation separates the corporation's liabilities from those of its owners, in events of criminal activity, injury, or loss. The owners’ personal assets cannot be seized, auctioned, or sold if the business goes into debt. On the other hand, owners of unincorporated businesses are at risk of losing personal property in such situations. Protection of the Business Name Before an applicant is accepted, the state of incorporation will conduct a search to ensure that no other existing business or corporation has the same name. Applications for companies with an already taken business name won’t go through, because those names are protected - but only if their owners incorporated in time. Business owners also have the right to seek legal consequences for infringement of this protection. Perpetual Existence For businesses with no preset lifespan, the articles of incorporation guarantee longevity and perpetuated existence. This means that, in the event of withdrawal or death of one or all owners, the business remains in existence. By extension, a transfer of ownership is an option for incorporated entities. Unincorporated entities suffer a different fate and cease to exist in such situations.
By Vladana Donevski · June 30,2022

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