Filing for a ‘Doing Business As’ name is usually nowhere near the top of a small business owner’s to-do list. It costs money, requires you to fill out paperwork and, depending on where you do business, might mean running an announcement in a local paper for a few weeks.
Many people just put it off, telling their clients to make checks out to them personally, instead of to the business. Despite the trend of procrastination that pervades DBA filings, small business owners should actually make registering for a DBA one of their main priorities for a few important reasons.
1. A DBA name helps boost consumer confidence and keeps your business legal.
Without a DBA name, you cannot open up a bank account specifically for your business. That means credit cards will be in your name instead, and your customers will have to put your name, rather than the company’s, in the ‘pay to the order of’ line of their checks. While that may not seem like a big deal, not having an official account for your business can shake consumer confidence and makes tracking business expenditures much more difficult.
Consumer protection laws in many states also requires that anyone who is conducting business under a name that isn’t their own has to register for a DBA name, so having one on record helps ensure that your business is on the right side of the law. Any application you send into the government will also have to have your business’s official name on it.
Unless you file for a DBA name, that official name is simply your name, meaning any permits or licenses granted without a DBA name on record will have to have your name on them instead of the business’s.
2. It helps make sure that no one else in the area has the same name.
When you file for a DBA name, you typically perform a countywide search for similar names. If one pops up, you immediately know that you aren’t able to use that name and, if you continue to do so, might be violating trademark law. Performing this search early allows you to pick out a suitable, unused name that you can then use to build up your brand and bolster consumer trust.
Just remember that simply filing for a DBA does not protect you against intellectual property theft – you will still need to trademark your name if you want guaranteed legal protection for your business’s name.
An online presence is essential for any successful business. Every year more consumers turn to the internet when researching companies to do business with, and if you aren’t online you are missing out on a sizable chunk of the market.
But before you start claiming Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and domains attached to your company’s name, you need to make sure that your company will actually be using that name, which means you need to file for a DBA name. After the government gives you the thumbs up, you can go on to claim all of the internet properties you need to market yourself online.
A DBA name is essential for any company that isn’t just named after the owner. Filing for one early lets you know whether or not you will be able to use that name before you spend months building goodwill into it, and will allow you to get all of your other paperwork, including licensing, bank accounts, and trademark registration, started and out-of-the-way.
So when you make the move to start your business in earnest, file for a DBA name first, and then start building an identity for your company.