Do I need a doing business as (DBA) for my website?

Something that might surprise you, is the
name of your creative business might be a nickname under the law. You’re gonna
walk away from this video knowing: (1) what a DBA is, (2) what a DBA isn’t, (3) the three times you might need a DBA, (4) why you want to get one, and (5)how to get it.
Hi! My name is Kiffanie Stahle, founder of the artist’s J.D. A place designed to add
ease to the legalese of running your creative business. This week’s question
comes to us from JK in Pennsylvania. JK asks, “Does my blog need a DBA?” So first off,
what is a DBA? A DBA goes by four different names. It’s a doing business as, which is shortened to DBA, a fictitious
business name, which is shortened to an FBN, an assumed name, or a trade name. All
four of these names describe the same concept. And that concept is that you are
allowed to do business as something other than your legal name. A DBA, all
it’s doing, is allowing you to have a fun creative name for your business that
doesn’t match up with: your legal name if you’re a sole proprietor or your LLC’s
or a corporation’s name if you’re an LLC or corporation. That’s all it’s doing is
basically functioning as a legal nickname. And the reason you have to file for a DBA is because your clients and customers, if something goes wrong, need to understand who’s legally responsible for that business. And so what you do
when you get a DBA, is all you do is go down, most likely to your county, and file
for it and then there will be a record of who is the legally responsible person
for that business. So that’s all the DBA is doing. It is allowing you to have a fun
creative name for your business that isn’t your legal name. Since your DBA is
really just a nickname, that means it’s not the same as creating an LLC. Because both LLC’s and sole proprietors can have a DBA. You
create an LLC to put a fence up between your business life and your personal
life. So if anything goes wrong the problems stay on their own side of the
fence. They can’t cross over. And filing for a DBA isn’t the same thing. There’s a
totally different process that you have to go through to become an LLC and put
up that fence. So a DBA is not going to provide you that kind of protection and
put up that fence. A DBA also isn’t the same thing as going to the USPTO and
filing for a trademark. Once again there’s a whole different cost, procedure,
and forms you have to file in order to make that happen. All a DBA is doing is
allowing you to have a fun, creative name for your business that aligns with what
you’re doing for your clients or customers. It’s not again putting up that
fence or giving you a registered trademark. So now that you know what it
is and what it isn’t, why do you need one? And when do you need one? There are three times when you’re gonna need to get a DBA for your creative business. The first
is when you’re a sole proprietorship and your name isn’t the same as your
business name. The second is when your LLC name isn’t the same as your business name. And this often comes about because you have multiple brands or businesses
under the same LLC umbrella. And the final one that you might need a DBA for
is when you’re in a partnership and you imply that there are multiple business
owners. So what do I mean by this. I’ve put together five examples for you of
when a creative business will and won’t need to file and obtain a DBA. Our first
example is Molly the Maker. Molly has a New York LLC and her LLC’s name is Molly Knits, LLC. However her website, her social media accounts, and everything else associated with her business is Knits by Molly. And because
Molly’s LLC name is not the same as her public-facing business name, she’ll need
to obtain a DBA. Our second example is for someone who has multiple brands or
businesses under the same LLC umbrella. Courtney has a California LLC and this
LLC’s name is CC Coach LLC. However she has two brands. Brand number one is
Coaching by Courtney and brand number two is CC Career Coach. Because her brand names do not align with her LLC name, she also will need a DBA. Now if one of her
brand names was CC Coach and the other was coaching by Courtney, she’d only need to obtain the DBA for the Coaching by Courtney brand name. If you’re curious if
you should have multiple brands or businesses under the same LLC umbrella, last season I did a video that talks you through how to make that decision. So
make sure you head over there if you’re interested in doing this, to learn when
it is and isn’t a good idea. Our third example is something that comes up a lot and that’s if you have an LLC and you want to not have that LLC at the end
of your name. So your LLC name is Molly Knits and you’re doing business as just
Molly knits. Here’s where the problem comes in of different locations having
different rules. In some places, you don’t need to a file for a DBA if you’re
dropping the LLC. While in other locations if you don’t want to have that LLC at
the end of your name, you’re going to need to file a DBA not have it tacked
on every single time. Our fourth example is Thomas the teacher. Now Thomas is a sole proprietorship and his legal name is Thomas Smith, but his
business name is Mighty Websites. You’re not going to be surprised that since his
legal name doesn’t align with his business name, he’s going to need a DBA. Now if his business name was Smith Designs Mighty Websites then he
probably won’t need a DBA because his last name is included in his business
name. Our final example is Claire the Curator. Claire is also a sole
proprietorship and her legal name is Claire Jones. However, her business name is Claire Jones and Company. Because of that “and company” implies that there are
multiple business owners. And because of that Claire will need to obtain a DBA
for her business. So which bucket does your creative
business fall in? (1) Do you need a DBA because your name is not the same as
your business name? (2) Do you need a DBA because your LLC’s name is not the same
as your business name? (3) Do you need a DBA because you imply that there are
multiple business owners? (4) Or did you luck out and not need a DBA at all? I’d
love to know your answer in the comments. Why should you go through the headache of going down and figuring out how you’re gonna file for your DBA? And
then going through that process paying the money, and doing everything that’s
needed to do it. Why should you do it? The big reason is money. If you don’t have a
DBA your bank isn’t going to let you accept payment in the name of your
business. You will only be able to accept payment in your legal name. The DBA
allows you to have your clients or customers write checks or provide
payment to your business’s name. So that’s the number one reason why you’re gonna go through and deal with this legal red tape. Because
you want to be able to accept payment in your business’s name. So now that I’ve
convinced you it’s a valuable thing to do for your creative business, how are
you going to do it? Unfortunately I have to give you the terrible lawyer answer
of, “it depends.” And the reason it depends is because this is done on a county
basis usually. And across the 50 states we’ve got hundreds, if not thousands of
counties. And every county is going to pick from one of those four names to
decide what they’re going to call it, they’re gonna have a different form,
they’re gonna have different fees, and they might have different requirements
about if you have to publish a notice in the newspaper after you go ahead and
file your forms, in order for your DBA to be final. So unfortunately all I’m going to
be able to tell you to do is hop over to Google, type in your county name plus the words doing business as. And then look at the results. Make sure you’re looking for
the results from your county government website, not from some other website. You want to get the information straight from your county about which form you
need to fill out, how much you’re gonna need to pay them, and what the process
looks like. Once you’ve either decided you don’t
need a DBA or you’ve gotten your DBA, you’re well on
your way to tackling the five must-do tasks that I think are minimum for every
creative business. In the show notes, I’ve left you two resources so that you
can tackle the rest of these tasks. The first is a workshop I did a little while
back, that walks you through what exactly each of these tasks are and how you’re
going to do it. The second is if you join my membership community, which membership is only $9/month, you’ll get instant access to a course I’ve put
together, that walks you through each of these five tasks. And then allows you
when you hit a roadblock, to not only ask our community, but to ask me
how you’re gonna overcome that. If you liked this video, make sure you hit that
like button and subscribe, so that you can get notified each time a new
episode drops. I’ve also left a link to a video I did last season, about how to
pick a name for your creative business that won’t land you in legal hot water.
I can’t wait to join you in the comments. Have a great day!

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