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What Is a DBA?

Last editedMar 20222 min read

Whether you’re running your own business or operating as a freelancer with a single member LLC company, you may have heard of the term ‘doing business as’, also known as a DBA. For many people, this raises questions such as “what is a DBA?” and “do I need a DBA?”. Since this is an important legal decision to make, you should first understand the terminology.

What exactly is a DBA, and why would you need a DBA? Put simply, this is a name that your business can operate under that is different to the official, legal name. Doing so can provide you with certain legal protections, but it’s not necessary for everybody. Keep reading to find out more about DBAs and whether you should get one.

DBA meaning

Before explaining the uses of a DBA, the DBA meaning should first be established. DBA is an acronym that stands for ‘Doing Business As’, and it may also be referred to as an assumed or fictitious name.

If you file for a DBA, then you can conduct business under a different name – that is, you can choose to operate under a name that is different to the official or legally registered name. By default, when you register a business, your legal name is associated with that business. If you don’t want your full name to be attached to the business, then you should file for a DBA.

Depending on where you live and the specifics of your company, there are different requirements for a DBA. For example, the price of an application can range from around $10 up to $100 based on the state, county and your business structure. There will also be different procedures to follow, with some states requiring you to go to the state government and others asking you to go to the county clerk’s office.

An additional constraint is that you cannot have the same DBA as another business, so make sure to do a quick name search in your jurisdiction before filing.

Does my business need a DBA?

Now that you know what a DBA is, you may be wondering “why would you need a DBA?” and “do I need a DBA?” Not every business requires one, and this generally comes down to a combination of legal requirements and the business owner’s personal preferences.

If you’re operating a sole proprietorship or general partnership and you don’t want your business to operate under your own legal name, then a DBA will be necessary. In addition, many franchise owners choose to file for a DBA to affirm the identity of your business. For example, those with a Subway franchise might choose to make their DBA “Subway” so that others will easily understand the nature of their business.

How to file a DBA name

Exactly how to file a DBA name will vary depending on where you live. You may have to do this using notarized documents, or in other states you will be able to file online. Likewise, some states will allow you to pay online, whereas others require money orders or cashier’s checks.

It shouldn’t be necessary to hire an attorney to help you file your DBA claim. The process is generally quite simple, meaning that most business owners are able to deal with this independently. However, if you’re unsure, then it’s always a good idea to seek a professional opinion.

How long is a DBA good for?

Another important question that comes up is “how long is a DBA good for?” Well, just like the filing process, this can vary significantly from state to state. Make sure to stay on top of this, as if you allow your DBA to lapse then it can affect your marketing strategy. In addition, if any of your company information changes, such as a change in partners, then you may need to file for a new DBA depending on state regulations.

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