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File Your DBA

If your sole proprietorship or partnership is going by a name other than your own, make sure you file it with the state.

If you're structuring your company as a sole proprietorship or a partnership, you have the option of choosing a business name, or dba ("doing business as"), for your business. This is also known as a fictitious business name. If you want to operate your business under a name other than your own (for instance, Carol Axelrod doing business as "Darling Donut Shoppe"), you may be required by the county, city or state to register your fictitious name.

Procedures for doing this vary among states. In many states, all you have to do is go to the county offices and pay a registration fee to the county clerk. In other states, you also have to place a fictitious name notice in a local newspaper for a certain amount of time. The cost of filing a fictitious name notice ranges from $10 to $100. Your local bank may also require a fictitious name certificate to open a business account for you; if that's the case, they can tell you where to go to register. In most cases, the newspaper that prints your fictitious name ad will also file the necessary papers with the county.

In most states, corporations don't have to file fictitious business names unless the corporations do business under names other than their own. Incorporation documents have the same effect for corporate businesses as fictitious name filings do for sole proprietorships and partnerships.

Naming Dos and Don'ts
When choosing a business name, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Choose a name that appeals not only to you, but also to the kind of customers you're trying to attract.
  • To get customers to respond to your business on an emotional level, choose a comforting or familiar name that conjures up pleasant memories.
  • Don't pick a name that's long or confusing.
  • Stay away from cute puns that only you understand.
  • Don't use the word "Inc." after your name unless your company is actually incorporated.
  • Don't use the word "Enterprises" after your name; this term is often used by amateurs.

Need more advice? Check out "How to Name Your Business."

Source:Start Your Own Business, Entrepreneur magazine and Entrepreneur.com.


Continue on to the next section of our Home Based Legal How-To >> Choosing a Business Structure

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