Beginner's Guide to DBAs for Small Business Owners

Did you already pick a business name? Before you use your business name in documents and marketing, you may need to register your business name as a DBA with your local or state government. Learn the basics about a DBA.


What is a DBA?

DBA stands for "doing business as" and is the name of a business. In some counties and states, a DBA will also be called:

  • Fictitious Business Name

  • Assumed Name

  • Trade Name


Which Businesses Need to File a DBA?

A DBA is most commonly used by businesses that want to operate under a name that is not the legal name of the owner or owners, such as with sole proprietors and partnerships.


Limited liability companies and corporations can also file a DBA if the company will operate under a name that is different from its legal business name.



Do I File a DBA at the County or State Level?

Depending on your location, your business will need to file a DBA at the county or state level. Some states will require a DBA to be filed at the state level. While other states don't require a DBA to be filed at the state level and instead leave it to counties to register DBAs.


If your business needs to register at the county level and operates in multiple counties, you will need to register a DBA in each county requiring it.


To determine which level of government you need to file a DBA, check your county's and state's websites.



Important DBA Prerequisites

Before you file a DBA, it's important that you first complete these steps:

  1. Research if the business name you want to use is available and not already taken. Check your county's or state's website to search its database of registered business names.

  2. Choose a business structure. When registering a DBA, you will need to select a business structure such as a sole proprietor, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation. Learn more about business structures and how to form one.



How To File a DBA

There are four ways you can file a DBA. Depending on your county or state, options 1-3 may not all be offered.

  1. Visit Your Nearest Government Office

  2. File Online

  3. File by Mail

  4. Use an Online Filing Service

Many small business owners use a professional online filing service to file a DBA on their behalf. This is a great option if you need professional help filing a DBA. The price you pay for an online filing service varies.


Consider using Swyft Filings, a popular online filing service.


Some counties and states will require you to publish your DBA in a local or regional newspaper for a certain time period. This is an additional cost that varies by newspaper or publisher.



DBA Renewal

Most DBA's will need to be renewed. Depending on your county or state, you will need to renew your DBA every few years, most commonly between 3-5 years. Check your county's or state's website to know if your DBA will need to be renewed and how often.


 

Learn how to attract more local customers to your local business.