Registering a business name is the first and simplest step in the process of starting a business. You can do it yourself, avoiding the expense of hiring a professional. Depending on the state you are in, a business name may be known as a DBA (doing business as) name, a FBN (fictitious business name), or simply as a trade or assumed name. Because business name registration is a state or local function, procedures vary somewhat, but all follow the same pattern. You will have to pay a registration fee, but otherwise you can register a business name on the cheap.
Things You'll Need
- Application form
- Filing fee
- Articles of Incorporation (if applicable)
Determine if you need to register your business name. A corporation or LLC (limited liability companies) must register the business name. Sole proprietorships or partnerships must register if they use a name other than that of the owner (which is considered the legal name of the business).
Verify that the business name you want is available. Any names already registered may not be used. In many states the Secretary of State's website provides an online business name search tool you can use to check availability. If that's not the case, you can perform a search at your county clerk's office.
Fill out a registration form and have it notarized. The form is available online in some states. However, you can usually get the form from the county clerk in the county where the business is located. Depending on your state's rules, file the form with the county clerk or your state's department of state along with a check or money order for the registration fee. For a corporation or LLC, a copy of the articles of incorporation must be attached.
Place a public notice of the business name registration the local newspaper if the regulations in your area require you to do so. Depending on the jurisdiction, you may also need to file the registration with the county recorder's court.
Tips & Warnings
- In most jurisdictions you must have a business name registration for each county the business operates in. If the business uses multiple trade names, each must be registered.
- A business name registration must be renewed periodically, usually after five years.
- Once your business name is registered, no one else in your state may use that name. This protected status makes the name a valuable asset. Consumer recognition of a well chosen business name can help build sales and reputation.
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