When Do You Need A DBA For Your Business, And How To Register It Online

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LegalZoom DBA on Macbook screenAn essential step to starting a business most entrepreneurs don’t immediately think about is legally establishing a business name. In addition to separating out your business income and expenses with a separate bank account, one of the first things you’ll want to do as a sole proprietor, assuming you aren’t ready or don’t have the funds to incorporate, is to form a DBA (Doing Business As). That way you can market yourself and receive checks in the name of your business, instead of your personal name.

What Is A DBA Name?

DBA stands for “Doing Business As”. A DBA name is a business name (such as “We Rock Your Web”) that you use instead of your personal name (John Smith). It is a way for you to legally register that you are doing business under than name in your state. It is, however, a step short (as well as less expensive) of incorporating as a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation.

Rocket Lawyer logoCreate a DBA with Rocket Lawyer

Do I Need A DBA?

It is possible to run your business under your personal name, and cash checks accordingly. You’ll file your business income on your personal tax return. However, there are two instances where a DBA registration becomes more beneficial:

1) You’re A Sole Proprietor Looking To Run Your Business Under A Different Name

The first instance is if you are a sole proprietor or have a general partnership and are conducting business using a name that isn’t your own name. For example, if John Smith wants to open a candle shop called Sniff This, he would need to file a DBA for “Sniff This”. However, if he wanted to open a candle shop called John Smith’s Candles, he may not have to file a DBA. If the business 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.

2) You’re Already A Corporation, But Are Looking To Run Your Business Under A New Name

The second instance is if you have an LLC or are incorporated and are conducting business under a name that is not the same as the name of the LLC or company. For example, if John Smith’s Candles, LLC wanted to operate under the name JohnsCandles.com, he would need to file JohnsCandles.com as a DBA. The same goes for 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 DBA for John Smith Incense.

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

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: $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.

How Can I Obtain 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 (essentially a map of your business location marking off parking spaces – the license is renewed via an annual fee).


It’s easy (and less expensive than using an attorney) to create and file a DBA online with a service such as Rocket Lawyer. You can finish the filing process is 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 “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 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.

Congrats, you now have your DBA and can operate your business under your cool new name!

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.

What’s Your Business Name?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts from Simpson College with a major in multimedia journalism and a minor in marketing. She has been writing about business solutions since 2014, covering subjects such as tax software, email marketing, office equipment and more. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

In 2015, she started her own business and continues to learn how to run it more efficiently thanks to her work on We Rock Your Web. Her natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing and personally testing products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

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Great guide, this was really helpful. I definitely want to run my business under a cooler name than my own LOL! Only thing I’m wondering is are there other services besides LegalZoom that I may want to consider? They’re so ubiquitous and heavily marketed I have to imagine there’s some competitors that might be more affordable.

Super helpful thank you! I need one for my business but have been putting off. I was wondering if this is a one-time fee or if you have to re-register annually (or regularly) through your state? And if so, does LegalZoom help take care of that for you (reminders and let you know how much/when your DBA is up for renewal)