A DBA, or "doing business as," is a name you use for your business besides your real name. DBAs are also known as fictitious names or trade names in some states. For example, if you want to call your business "Glamorous Ghost Writers," you have to register that name before you may use it for business. A DBA allows you to have a more descriptive name for your business than just "Jane Doe" or "Kevin Smart, Inc." Even in states where registration is not necessary, you often receive additional protection against others using the same name if you register with the state.
Research the procedure for registering a DBA in your state. Many states require you to register your DBA with either a division of the secretary of state's office, such as the division of corporations, or with a clerk of the court.
Read More: How to Add a DBA to an S-Corp
Select a DBA that is not already in use. Most states have an online, searchable database of the names already registered. In addition, make sure your name doesn't end in a corporation or LLC suffix, such as "Big Corp.," "Landing Pad, Inc." or "Flying High, LLC."
Complete the DBA registration form. This form usually requires the business owners' names and addresses, business's purpose, business's address, and its registered agent's name and address. Some states may also require you to have the form notarized.
Submit the registration form to the appropriate governing body. In some states, this is the secretary of state, while in others, it might be the local clerk of the court. Generally, you must pay a fee when registering your DBA, which varies from state to state.
Publish notice of your new DBA in a publication of general circulation, if required by your state. For example, California requires that within 30 days of filing, you must publish a statement in a newspaper in the county where you have your principal place of business once a week for four weeks.
Register the DBA in every locality where you will use the name, if required by your state. For example, Virginia requires you to register your name in each county you will do business.
- Small Business Administration: Register Your Fictitious or "Doing Business As" (DBA) Name
- State of Utah Department of Commerce: DBA Application Instructions
- Fairfax County, Virginia: Certificate of Trade Name - Individuals / Sole Proprietorships
- Los Angeles County: Fictitious Business Names
- Fairfax County, Virginia: Information for New Businesses
- Alaska Division of Corporations: Business Name Registration
- Benton County, Arkansas: Doing Business Under an Assumed Name
- New Castle County, Delaware: Registration of Trade, Business & Fictitious Name Certificate
- Florida Statutes: Chapter 865.09
Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."