Making It Official: How to Register a Business Name

how to register a business name

Registering a business name is a momentous occasion for a new entrepreneur. There’s nothing like the sweet rush of making a new business official.

Beyond being a sentimental moment, though, registering your business name is a way of staking your claim to the perfect business name. It’s also a way to make sure that your chosen business name isn’t already in use.

There are three main ways to register your business name. That said, registering your business name in more than one way may make sense, depending on your individual circumstances. Get on top of the process and learn all about your options: here is your guide on how to register a business name properly.

The Three Ways to Register a Business Name

As mentioned, there are three ways you can register the name of your new business. This is an important process, and deciding on the right way to register your business name depends entirely on how you want to set up your business’s structure and brand.

Here are the details on the three ways to go about registering a business name so that you can determine which of these options are the right fit for your needs and preferences:

1. Register Your Entity

Registering your business name is a happy side effect of registering your business entity. No matter which business structure you choose to register your business under, you have to do it under your chosen business name. And, as a result, your business name will be registered with the IRS. This process could cost anywhere from $30 to $630, depending on what type of business entity you’re registering as and what state you live in. Registering a business name in this way is the most straightforward option, and it really almost takes care of itself.

Be sure to note, though: if you’re a sole proprietor, you don’t need to officially register your business entity. And, as a result, this isn’t necessarily the simplest way for a sole proprietor to register their business name.

In fact, unless you want to do business as a sole proprietor under a different name than your personal name, you don’t have to register your business name at all. We’ll go into more detail on this later, but be sure to know this from the get-go if you’re a contractor or freelancer operating as a sole prop.

2. File a DBA

Another way to register a business name is to file a DBA, or a Doing Business As title. A business’s DBA is the informal name under which it does business, and it can also be referred to as a business’s fictitious name, trade name, or assumed name.

If your business’s official registered name—the title you registered your business entity under, for example—doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, you can register for a catchier DBA. Depending on which state you’re doing business in, you either need to register your DBA on a state level, a local level, or both. This could cost anywhere from $10 to $100.

When sole props and partnerships register their business entity, they typically do so under the personal names of either the founder or founders. Filing for a DBA is a great option for sole proprietorships and general partnerships that don’t want to do business under their personal names. Some banks might even require sole props and partnerships to file for a DBA to access a business bank account.

3. Apply for a Trademark

Finally, if you want to register your business name on a federal level, then registering a trademark is the way to go. You can apply for a trademark online through the US Patent and Trademark Office’s site.

Before you go through the process of applying for a trademark for your business name, though, be sure to search through the office’s database to make sure your desired business name hasn’t already been trademarked by a business in your area. If it has, you trademark request will likely be rejected. But the flipside of this potential inconvenience is that, if you file for a trademark before other businesses in your area, then those who apply after you won’t be able to use your business name.

Be sure to note that this option for registering your business name could cost you a bit of cash—you have to pay anywhere from $275 to $325 to trademark a business name. You might also have to wait up to six months to receive a response for your trademark application. So, while this option for registering your business name would protect your business name on a federal level, the tradeoff is an investment of time and money on your end.

Do You Need to Register Your Business Name?

Now that you’re familiar with the three different ways to register a business name, you’re equipped with the info necessary to decide which is the best option for your business. But, in certain circumstances, you might not even need to register your business name at all. Sole proprietors who do business under their personal name—like contractors and freelancers—are not required to register their business entity or business name.

Unless you’re a freelancer or contractor who wants to work as an LLC, you don’t have to register your entity. And if you’re fine running your sole proprietorship under your personal name, then you don’t have to file for a DBA (or trademark) either.

Registering Your Business Name: An Example

Let’s say, for instance, that your name is John Smith and you become a travel photographer. If you’re doing your travel photography work as the sole proprietor John Smith, then you don’t have to register your entity, your DBA, or your trademark.

But, if you decide to register as an LLC, you automatically register your business name through that business entity registration. You can decide to register your business name as John Smith, LLC, or you can choose to totally switch it up and register your business name as JS Travel Photography, LLC. And if you want to federally protect the business name you land on, you can apply to trademark it.

Either way, if you want to do business without that “LLC” attached to the end of your business name, you technically need to file a DBA for the shortened version of it. This way, John Smith can be recognized as the same business as John Smith, LLC, for instance.

Other New Business Logistics to Take Care Of

Now that you’re an expert on the various ways to register your business name, it’s time to take a look at the other kinds of logistics that you need to consider while you’re setting up the foundation of your new business. Though registering your business name is a valuable first step, it’s far from the end of the housekeeping you need to tend to for your new business. Here are some steps you can take as soon as you get your business name registered:

Licenses and Permits

Depending on where you do business and what industry you’re working in, you need to secure varying local, state, and/or federal business licenses to legally run your business.

For starters, most cities and towns require you to get a local operating license to set up shop. If you’re starting a brick-and-mortar business, you also need your local government to issue you zoning and land-use permits for your business location. Plus, if you’re planning on building a new space—or even renovating or adding appliances to a pre-existing one—you need to access a building permit, as well. You might also need to access fire department, health, signage, and environment licenses from your local government before you open up your doors.

On the state level, businesses often need to acquire state business operating licenses, seller’s licenses, tax registration, and occupational licenses. Finally, if you’re working in a federally regulated industry, then you’ll likely need to apply for industry-specific licenses issued by federal entities.

Business Website

Though it doesn’t involve as much official paperwork as registering your business name, registering your business domain name is still a crucial step. Choosing the perfect domain name for your small business website can help solidify your brand and also make your site easier to find. This is a particularly important step if you’re starting an online business, since your domain could potentially double as your actual business name.

Small Business Insurance

Finally, getting a General Liability insurance policy for your business can help you hit the ground running. Even if you just get vendor insurance for a single day to table at a local market, insuring your new business could mean the difference between a running start and….well, tripping on your very first step.

Plus, accessing business insurance is easier than it’s ever been. With Thimble’s app, you can even use your smartphone to purchase a short-term policy. We offer insurance policies that you can purchase down to the hour, rather than by the year.

How to Register a Business Name: The Takeaways

Registering a business name is just the first of many official steps to take as you set your business up for success. Whether you’re a sole proprietor who wants to do business under a name other than your personal name, or you want to federally protect your business name with plans to start an international brand, registering your business name can serve a wide variety of purposes. Whatever your end goal, though, registering your business name is an actionable way to make your entrepreneurial endeavors official.

Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.

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