How Does A DBA Work, And Do I Really Need One?

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Registration doing business as form on a table.

An essential step to starting a business most entrepreneurs don’t immediately think about is establishing a business name. In addition to separating your business income and expenses with a separate bank account, one of the first things you’ll want to do as a sole proprietor or a partnership, assuming you aren’t ready or don’t have the funds to incorporate, is to form a DBA (Doing Business As).

A DBA allows you to market your brand and receive checks in the name of your business, instead of your personal name. However, not all businesses need a DBA, so we’ll help you understand if you need one, the benefits of having a DBA, and how to register for one.

What Is A DBA?

DBA stands for “Doing Business As.” It’s also sometimes referred to as an “assumed name,” “trade name,” or “fictitious business name.” Essentially, a DBA is a business name (such as “We Rock Your Web”) that you use instead of your personal name (John Smith). It’s a way for you to register that you’re doing business under a separate name other than your full legal name. As with many business opportunities, a DBA is confusing, so we’ll clear this up for you.

Do I Need A DBA?

If you want to launch a sole proprietorship or partnership, you’re required by law to use your legal personal name(s) as the name of your business. If you choose, you can continue to use this as your business name. However, this isn’t an ideal option for many business owners for multiple reasons, including unique brand recognition, trademarking problems, etc. Here are some scenarios to help clarify when you need a DBA.

Do I Need A DBA For A Sole Proprietor Or A General Partnership?

If you’re a sole proprietor or have a general partnership and want to conduct your business using a name that isn’t your own name, then you’ll need a DBA. For example, if John Smith wants to open a candle shop called Sniff This, he would need to file a DBA for “Sniff This.” If the company’s name implied a group (e.g., The Smith Group) or he just used his first name (e.g., John’s Candles), he’d need to file a DBA.

However, if he wanted to open a candle shop called John Smith’s Candles, he may not have to file a DBA because the business name reflects his full legal name. However, many states require a DBA, even in this case, so it’s important to check your state’s requirements.

Do I Need A DBA For My LLC?

You don’t necessarily need a DBA for a limited liability company (LLC). But if you have an LLC or are incorporated and want to conduct business under a name that’s not the same as the name of the LLC or company, then you’ll need a DBA. For example, if John Smith’s Candles, LLC wanted to also operate under the name, he would need to file as a DBA.

The same is true if John Smith wanted to expand his business with the sale of incense and use John Smith Incense in his new business name, then John Smith’s Candles, LLC would have to file a trade name for John Smith’s Incense.

What Are The Benefits Of Filing A DBA?

In addition to simply having your business’s name separate from your legal name, there are several other benefits of registering for a trade name;

  • It’s an easy, inexpensive way for a sole proprietor to use a business name without having to form an LLC or a corporation.
  • A DBA allows for optimal branding opportunities to market your company.
  • You can expand your business into different services, stores, websites, etc., without having to form a separate business entity for each.
  • You want to create a website for e-commerce or marketing purposes.
  • Registering a DBA may make it easier to open a business bank account.

Create a DBA with Rocket Lawyer

Still confused? This video does a good job of explaining what a DBA is and when to file for one.

How Can I Register For A DBA?


Visit your city’s local business office to find out how to file a DBA with them. In many cities, you’ll also be required to obtain a business license before you get a DBA.

Online Legal Service

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It’s easy (and less expensive than using an attorney) to create and file a DBA online with a service such as Rocket Lawyer. The filing process is super easy. Below are the steps taken to file for your DBA online:

  1. Complete the online questionnaire.
  2. Complete the DBA application through the LegalZip software.
  3. Rocket Lawyer files your documents with the government after obtaining your signature on the completed DBA application. (Some states do not require a signature, so the papers are electronically filed directly.) The review period averages about 15 business days after the signature is received.
  4. DBA application is approved and a “County Certified Copy” is mailed to you (typically takes about a week).
  5. DBA statement is published by Rocket Lawyer. Some states require your DBA statement to be published in the newspaper. Proof of publication will be forwarded to you and a duplicate copy of your statement. If the county requires proof of publication, Rocket Lawyer will file with the county.

How Much Does A DBA Cost?

Rocket Lawyer has two options: pay for a monthly membership and get access to most legal products and services or pay as you go.

  • Premium Member: $39.99/month for Premium Plan (includes 30-minute consultation, answers to legal questions, incorporation filing, creating documents online, discounts on additional services, and more)
  • Non-Member: Pay a la carte for services: $99.00 for one DBA (plus state fees), $39.99 per document creation, $49.99 per legal question, $59.99 per 30-minute consultation, $99.99 for incorporation filing, etc.

These prices are from the time of publishing and may change over time.

Congrats! You now have your DBA and can operate your business under your cool new name.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions we often get from our readers about DBAs. Don’t see yours? Ask us in our comments.

Do I Need An EIN For A DBA?

Not all businesses with a DBA require an EIN (Employer Identification Number). You will need an EIN if you have more than one employee, are a multi-member LLC, have a corporation, or pay excise taxes. If you’re a sole proprietor who registered your business with your social security number, then you don’t need an EIN to register for a DBA. You also don’t need an EIN if you’re a single-member LLC or if you hire contractors instead of employees.

Do I Need A DBA For My Website?

In most cases, yes, you’ll need a DBA for your website’s domain name. A DBA is required if you make money through your website or if you use your site’s name in any sales, marketing, or branding materials. You also need a DBA if your business’s name is different from your name.

Do I Need A Separate Bank Account For A DBA?

Yes, you’ll need a separate bank account if you have a DBA.

What If I Want To Protect My Business Name?

To protect your business name for use on a website, product, or marketing materials you’ll want to file for a trademark. Our comprehensive guide on trademark registration can help you with an easy-to-follow step-by-step approach.

Are you planning on applying for a DBA? Let us know in the comments!

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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