How to File a DBA

If you are a business owner or want to start your own business, you may want to run your business under a different name than the registered legal name or your personal name. This article will guide you through each step of “doing business as” (DBA) registration so you can comply with the law while doing trade under the name you choose.

Register My DBA

What Is a DBA?

DBA is an abbreviation for the phrase, “doing business as” and is generally used to link the legal name of an entity to the name under which it conducts business and is referred to as a trade name, fictitious name, assumed business name or some variation depending on your state. A trade name is different from the legal name of the entity, whether that entity is an LLC or you personally if you're running a sole proprietorship or a corporation. That's the legal term, but you could think of it more simply as a nickname for your business. This trade name differs from the business name that appears on official records, but it's still valid for you to use, as long as it's properly registered.

There are many reasons why you may have registered your business under one name, but choose to trade under a different one. For example, perhaps you want to rebrand, take on a new local identity or reflect an industry pivot in your name.

For financial and legal accountability, it's essential that your new trade name is linked to your business. Therefore, to do business under the fictitious name, you must file a trade name (or DBA, fititious name etc). Filing a trade name allows you to brand your business your way while remaining transparent and accountable to state regulations.

7 Steps to File a DBA/Trade Name

You can register a DBA for your business by following these seven steps.

1. Name Selection

You'll need to start by choosing a unique trade name:

  • Decide on the trade name you would like to use. Its not a bad idea to have a backup in case that name is not available in your state. You can see some tips for choosing a unique trade name here.
  • Rank them in order of preference.
  • Check whether your top choice is available. If it's already taken, move on to your second or third choice. Keep going until you arrive at an option you like that's available for registration and distinct enough to be recognizable without confusion.
  • Finally, check that your chosen name complies with local regulations. Some states forbid certain words in trade names or business names. You should also ensure that you use words that convey an accurate sense of what your business is or does.

2. Legal Structure

You determine the legal structure of your business when you first register it under its legal entity name. Filing a DBA is not a way of changing the legal structure of your business. It gives you the right to operate publicly under a trading name while retaining the same form of ownership.

Still, it's important to know what the legal structure of your business is when filing a DBA. Check your original registration documents if you are unsure of this. For example, your business could be a sole proprietorship, LLC, general partnership, corporation or other entity type.

Some states require different DBA forms depending on your entity type. Sometimes, different offices are appointed to handle DBA applications for certain structures. Therefore, it's crucial to check your business's legal structure and state regulations so that you obtain the right forms and know where to submit them. If you have doubts about regulations or requirements at any point in this process, you may want to consider using a professional filing service like Firstep to keep things simple and accurate.


3. Local Filing

Registering a fictitious name is governed at the state level. So, to file your DBA, you will need to gather all necessary documents required by the state where you do business. Instead, you can file your DBA online in minutes with Firstep Business Solutions's Trade Name registration form.

  • Clarify the state where you plan to file.
  • Supply your business name, Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Social Security Number, business address, and any other requested information. You may also need a certificate of good standing, which Firstep Business Solutions can help you obtain.
  • Pay the filing fee as required by your state.

4. Publication

Some states require that you publish your DBA name in the local newspapers. For example, Pennsylvania has specific advertising requirements. There may be specific requirements, such as publishing your name for four weeks, publishing in two or more papers, and other criteria for legitimate DBA advertisement.

If your state has these requirements, you must comply with them for your DBA registration to be valid.

5. Timelines and Renewals

After submitting your application, you should expect approval or feedback within a few weeks. Turnaround time varies by state and can take longer under some circumstances.

Be sure to take note of your state's renewal requirements. Once you have the registered DBA, most states will require you to renew it after a period of time. However, the amount of time varies across states. A few states have no expiration date on DBAs, meaning you do not need to apply for renewal.

6. Record Keeping

Should you need to revisit anything, maintain records of all your filed DBA documents while awaiting approval. It's also useful to retain all your registration documents after your filed DBA is approved. These can be organized for future reference as part of your physical and digital record-keeping system for your business.

If you are in a state that requires publication of your DBA name, you should also keep track of publications as you submit them and they are released. If any concerns arise later, you will have records that show you followed the correct process and fulfilled all requirements.

7. Compliance and Changes

Ensure your business remains compliant with all regulations, including those governing DBAs.

It's possible for there to be occasional changes in your state's requirements for a valid DBA. Be alert to any notifications about changes and respond accordingly. You may have a window of time to address any compliance issues that emerge, or you may need to make changes when your DBA is due for renewal. Be proactive by checking regulations consistently to ensure compliance.

It may also become necessary to amend your DBA registration or file a new application if there are changes in your business. For example, a change in your business address, its legal name, or its officers, partners, or members may require amendments or re-registration in your state.

File Your DBA With Firstep Business Solutions


Your dream of owning a successful business with a name customers love and remember is within your reach. Take the next step in achieving that goal with Firstep Business Solutions.

Firstep Business Solutions provides business owners with personalized, expert support and resources to save them time and give them peace of mind. Our small business experts will share extensive guidance and helpful tools to help you establish and maintain a business that complies with regulations, resonates with customers and achieves your goals.

Our DBA filing service makes it easy to follow all of your state's requirements while freeing you up to focus on the adventure of building your business. Complete our quick and simple form to file your DBA or amend your trade name registration today.