How to File a Fictitious Business Name in California & Its Major Cities

How to File a Fictitious Business Name in California & Its Major Cities

Having a fictitious business name isn’t necessarily a requirement to do business, but whether you run a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or some other type of company, a fictitious name — also commonly known as a doing business as (DBA) name or an “assumed business name” — does have its advantages.

While the process of setting up your company with a fictitious business name varies depending on where you are based and where you operate, many regions make it easier than you may think to get set up with your very own DBA. Of course, given the size of its economy, California is one of the most popular states to register your brand-new fictitious business name. If you already have a California-based company or are looking to start one, here’s how to file a DBA in California.

Filing a Fictitious Business Name in California

Registering a fictitious business name in California doesn’t have to be a headache. In just a few steps, here is how you can get one set up for your company:

  1. Choose a name: First, you need to figure out what fictitious business name best represents your company. In many cases, this will be something catchy and memorable that hopefully also captures the niche your business serves. Just ensure that your chosen name (or something similar) isn’t already taken by another company. That could complicate things and may mean you’ll need to go back to the drawing board.
  2. Check availability: The best way to check that your selected DBA name is available is to run a California business name search. The California Secretary of State maintains an online database of all the registered business names throughout California. From here, you’ll be able to find out if the fictitious name you want to use is even available before you continue along the process.
  3. Get the forms you need: Next, you’ll contact your local county clerk’s office to request the necessary paperwork. What you’re looking for here is called a Fictitious Name Statement form. Some counties offer the option to print it at home and send it in, while others will require you to visit an office in person. Once you do get your hands on a copy, don’t forget to settle your DBA filing fee when you turn in your Fictitious Name Statement. (Of course, this varies from county to county too.)
  4. Let people know: When you have secured your DBA name, you’ll need to spread the word by publishing a notice in a local newspaper within your base of operation. This should be done at least once each week for four consecutive weeks — you should confirm with your county clerk if there are specific publications that are recommended for this purpose. Any publication that runs your notice should subsequently file an affidavit with the same county clerk.

California DBA: Cities of Note

If your business is based out of one of California’s biggest cities, here are some more details on how to go about filing your fictitious name:

  • San Diego: Within your first 40 days of operation, you are required to file a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the County of San Diego. Here too, you can choose to file in person at an office or through the mail.
  • San Jose: If you’re a San Jose business owner, you’ll be happy to know that the county of Santa Clara’s Office of the County Clerk-Recorder actually lets you submit your DBA application online (though you will need to visit an office to finalize it).
  • San Francisco: In San Francisco, the Office of the County Clerk handles the fictitious business name process. Like other major cities, you can print your form online and either present it at an office or mail it in, after which you’ll receive a certified copy.
  • Fresno: Business owners in Fresno will need to head over to the County Clerk office to take care of their DBA filing.
  • Sacramento: As the capital of the state, businesses in Sacramento are an important part of the state’s economy. The County’s Business License Unit offers business owners the opportunity to file a DBA.

The Name Game

Business owners in California and beyond cite a number of reasons why they ultimately decide to file a fictitious business name. No matter what your rationale — whether it’s legal in nature or with more of an eye on your marketing strategy — you can rest assured that getting a DBA is one step you can face with minimal stress.

Here at Incfile, we know that making the right choices for your business’ future can be overwhelming. That’s why our mission is to educate the entrepreneurs we work with by helping you make the right calls every step of the way. We offer a wealth of resources and are prepared to tackle any questions you may have. If you’re ready to take that crucial next step to grow your business, check out our website and get started today!

Robert Yaniz Jr.

Robert Yaniz Jr.

Robert Yaniz Jr. has been a professional writer since 2004, including print and online publications. Much of his experience centers on the business world, including work for a major regional business newspaper and a global law firm.
Robert Yaniz Jr.

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