Unveiling Small Business Power: Pairing a DBA with Your LLC for Business Triumphs

Small Business - March 26, 2024
Woman business owner reviewing business formation options

If you’re starting a small business, you want to make the best decisions to help your business succeed. One of your main considerations should be whether you’ll register your business as a limited liability company (LLC) or as a “doing business as” (DBA). But did you know you may be able to register your business as DBA under an LLC, harnessing the power of both registration types for your benefit?

We’ve laid out the basics about DBAs, LLCs, and the combination of both so you can start the registration process with confidence.


Difference between LLC and DBA

An LLC is a legal business structure that lets you keep your business assets and debts separate from your personal assets. This is handy if a creditor is seeking your company’s assets; they may be able to collect your business assets, but they can’t collect your personal ones since they are kept apart. You’ll establish your LLC with its own bank account. Any business that you conduct with customers or clients must be conducted under that LLC name.

Keep in mind that you can use your DBA as your personal name, but you must file an LLC first or your company becomes an automatic sole proprietorship.

A DBA is your trade name, allowing you to conduct your business under a different name than your legal personal name or your registered LLC name. A DBA could come in handy if you’re opening a franchise.

A DBA does not legally protect you and your personal assets the way an LLC does.

Do you need a DBA for your LLC?

If you plan to carry out business tasks under a different name than your LLC name, you’ll still need to get that DBA.

Why would an LLC use a DBA?

If you’re opening a different branch of your LLC, you may want to name that branch separately from the other branches of your company. This is where a DBA is useful. You can register your DBA name to show the public that you’re doing business under a name that does not match your legal LLC name. A DBA is more for the protection of your consumers than for you. This way, the public knows what company they’re doing business with.

What comes first—DBA or LLC?

It depends on how you want to run your business. If you register a DBA without first registering as an LLC, you can conduct business as a sole proprietorship under that DBA. The problem is that you won’t have limited liability protection, meaning that you’ll be personally responsible for your business’s debts.

How to register DBA under LLC

Here are some basic steps you can follow to register a DBA under your LLC:

1. Choose a name.

The right trade name can excite curiosity about your company while clearly communicating what it is you do or sell. Come up with a list of possible names, as the one you want may already be taken. Perform a business name availability check by doing a basic search engine query. You can also search county and state websites to see if the name you want is taken. Check your Secretary of State’s database of existing DBAs. And you can search the U.S. patent and Trademark Office website for name matches.

2. Register your name.

Depending on where your company is based, you may be able to register your DBA name online. DBA registration fees vary depending on where, and at what municipal level, you register. You may also be required to publish a DBA notice in an approved publication, like a newspaper or local events periodical.

Get help from LegalShield

Registering your company as an LLC and filing for a DBA trade name can be complicated. A LegalShield Small Business Plan membership can help you get the access to the answers for the legal questions you have through our affordable business legal plans. Our plans are tailored to different business needs, offering access to a provider law firm in your state.

Your LegalShield provider law firm can review business legal documents of 15 pages or more depending on the level of the small business plan, may make a phone call on behalf of your business, offer consultation, or write a letter on their official letterhead, and perform other essential legal services on your behalf.

Let us help your small business grow and prosper!


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