Do you currently own and operate an LLC but are thinking about adding a DBA for another business you’d like to start? Setting up a "doing business as" name yourself for your LLC involves a few steps to register your name properly.
Understanding DBAs and how they can either be advantageous or dangerous for your small business is important in weighing your options. Should you decide to set up a DBA and go through the filing process, you need to determine if you are up for the task or if it’s a wiser decision to outsource the filing to someone else to ensure it is done correctly.
If you aren’t up for the project, you can outsource your filing to Incfile. We can prepare and file a DBA on your behalf — essentially freeing up your time and alleviating some of the headaches that can come with setting up a DBA on your own and navigating uncharted waters.
With that said, if you’re willing and able to put in the time and complete the process yourself, here are the steps to take when setting up a DBA for your small business.
5 Steps to Setting Up a DBA for Your LLC
1. Decide on a Business Name for Your DBA
It’s important to decide on a name that resonates with the business you will be conducting outside of your current LLC. Your new DBA brand identity will provide your potential clients and customers with a better picture and understanding of what your business is and what exactly it provides.
For instance, if your current LLC is a brick-and-mortar dog grooming service with the name “Fido Dog Grooming,” and you want a DBA name for a mobile version of your business, keep it somewhat similar yet descriptive, such as “Fido Mobile Dog Grooming.” This helps tie in your current LLC business to attract some of your existing customers while also attracting new customers seeking out a mobile dog grooming service. While it isn't required that your DBA name is similar to your LLC name, it is often beneficial. The choice is ultimately up to you.
If you’re having problems deciding on a name or even thinking of a name, check out Incfile’s free Business Name Generator. This tool will help get the creative juices flowing and provides a list of name ideas.
Just like when you set up your LLC, you need to do a name search to ensure no one else owns a business with your desired name. To ensure you don’t have any issues with the name you decided on, you can run it through Incfile's free Business Name Search tool to ensure your business name is available for you to use.
2. Register the DBA Name You Want to Use
Name registration requirements vary from state to state. Check with your state to ensure you file the proper documents needed when setting up a DBA. While not all states require you to register your DBA, some require you to file with both state and county agencies. Speak to your local agencies, or search online to figure out what you are required to do.
Additionally, just because you filed for a DBA in your state and county does not mean you are able to do business outside of that state or county. There are restrictions and guidelines in many states as to how you must conduct business after setting up a DBA.
It’s imperative that you do your proper due diligence and check how DBAs are laid out in your state and county to avoid running into any issues. If you're only able to conduct business in your county or state, but you want to do business outside of that designated area, you may need to file a DBA in all of the other states you plan to conduct business.
If you must file in other areas, this entire process of setting up a DBA needs to be completed for each state (a daunting task to say the least).
Where Can You Get the Required Forms?
You can generally get all of the necessary DBA forms at your local county clerk’s office. Your state and county may allow you to complete and submit the forms online, or you may need to print out the documents and submit them in person or by mail.
Once completed, you will need to pay the appropriate fees (anywhere from $10 to $50) according to your state and county in order to file.
Additional Follow-Up Requirements
Look into how long your DBA is good for in your state and county. While some states' DBAs don’t need to be renewed, others will only last you a given number of years before the state and county require you to renew your registration to maintain your DBA and keep it in good standing.
3. Secure Any Business Licenses or Registration Needed
Depending on the type of goods or services your DBA provides, you may need to secure proper licenses and registrations, just as you would when setting up an LLC. This will require some homework and research to be done on your part.
Once you understand what licenses or registrations are needed when setting up your DBA, complete the appropriate paperwork and wait for the approval. Be sure to file any paperwork with both the LLC and DBA name. For example, using the dog grooming business mentioned earlier, you would put on your application and forms “Fido Dog Grooming DBA Fido Mobile Dog Grooming.”
Once approved, go ahead and move forward.
4. Publish Notice of Your New DBA
While not always the case, some counties across the nation will require you to publish notice of your DBA in your local newspaper (and sometimes even for consecutive weeks). You may also need to send proof that the notice was published in the publication. There are often specific requirements that need to be met within a time frame following your DBA's approval to conduct business and be officially registered.
You will need to look up the requirements for your county to ensure you abide by the guidelines when setting up a DBA.
5. Consider Trademarking Your DBA Name
It is common practice to protect your name so that others cannot also use it and profit. Therefore, many go the route of applying for a trademark on the name of their business. When setting up a DBA, this may also be a good idea.
The trademark process can be extremely tedious — many hire a trademark attorney or use trademark service, such as Incfile's. It’s not uncommon to have the application denied when applying for a trademark, meaning you’ll need to go back to the drawing board. This means more money and time you’re investing. For that reason, it’s recommended to pay a professional to handle the application process for you. While this is an additional cost, in the end, it can alleviate many headaches and save time and money.
As you can see, setting up a DBA involves a lot of moving parts. There will be research required, forms to be completed and filed and a lot of time invested. As a business owner, time spent on this process takes away from time spent on growing your business. If you want the process of filing a DBA done for you, Incfile offers full-service DBA filing. All you have to do is simply place an order, and we’ll collect the right information, guide you through the process and provide your DBA name.