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How to Register a Business Name: The 3 Options For Making Your Business Name Legal

how to register a business name
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how to register a business nameIt’s so exciting to have a budding idea and the vision in your head of how to bring it to life.  You probably have a laundry list of things you need to do, and registering your business name is just one of them.  I want to save you from spending too much time running around pondering how to register a business name, so I’ll make this article very thorough for you.


First before we consider registering your business name, let’s make sure you’ve chosen something that will stick.  The last thing you want is a business name that is a complete turnoff to your target audience.  It’s helpful before you go thru the process of registering your business name to assess it, and make sure it’s something appealing (not just to you) to your target audience.


Things You Should Do Before Registering a Business Name


In my article “How Do I Incorporate My Business?”, I talk about ways to choose a business name that will stick, you should check that article out.  Briefly, you want to assess a few things:


  • Can your audience tell what you will be offering?  It’s a good idea to choose a business name that explains itself
  • Is the name easy to remember? In my previous article, I used the funny example of the business name “Pooky’s sister’s daddy’s best friend’s mom’s hairdresser”.  Don’t choose anything like that!  It’s too hard to remember unless people want to laugh at you.
  • Make sure you’ve done the name search with the Secretary of State and the USPTO, so you know the name is not already in use.


As I said, check the article How Do I Incorporate My Business? if you want more details about those steps.  If you’ve done all those things, then it’s time to get onto how to register a business name.


3 Ways To Register a Business Name


how to register a business nameNow, there are three ways to register a business name, and I’ll talk about them from easiest and cheapest to most extensive and costly, so you can make the choice of which route you want to go.  Registering a business name is a way to protect the name so you don’t find yourself in legal trouble later down the line.


Reasons to Register a Business Name


You should take this step seriously, and be sure to choose one option to register your business name.  I’ve seen businesses who had not taken this step seriously, then after operating with a fictitious name, buying real estate, buying branded vehicles, and signs for years, they were sent legal paperwork about using someone else’s name.


Can you imagine how much money they needed to spend to re-paint their vehicles, get new building signs, change all of their flyers and marketing materials?!!!  Getting a letter like that in the mail after operating your business can seem like you’re starting all the way back at square one, and it’s no fun.  Choose one of these 3 options to register your business name to prevent anything like that from happening.


Option one: Register a Fictitious Name or DBA


Registering a fictitious name can vary in price depending on your area, but if you choose the DIY method of registering a fictitious name, this typically cost less than $50.  You only want to exercise this option if you are a sole proprietor who wants to operate under a different name, or if you’ve incorporated, but you want to operate as another name.  For example, if Janet Jones wants to operate as Janet’s Bakery, then she would want to register a DBA to operate that way.  Also, if Janet’s Bakery LLC., wanted to operate as Cupcakes of America (maybe a not-so-creative idea, but you get it), then she’d want to get a DBA so her company can operate under that name.


In addition to the DIY method of getting a DBA, there are companies like Rocket Lawyer or incorporate.com who are full-service options to help you to get your DBA done.  Don’t let these steps paralyze you.  Get some help if you feel like you need help.  Stop by to Rocket Lawyer or incorporate.com to see which you feel comfortable with, and if it suits your needs!


how to register a business nameOption Two: Incorporate Your Business


If you want to have liability protection, the ability to use a fictitious name, and other tax and legal benefits, it may be time to incorporate your business.  This option requires you to make some decisions about which business structure is appropriate, and complete some paperwork that needs to be filed with your Secretary of State.  My article here is very thorough, and will direct you on how to choose an appropriate business structure and 3 different methods for incorporating your business: DIY, hybrid, and full-service (hiring it out).  You can check that article out to get details on how to incorporate your business, and why incorporate your business.


Option Three: Register a Trademark

If you’re very serious about protecting your business name in all 50 states, you want to register a trademark with the USPTO office.  When you have a trademark, you can legally ensure no one else can use your name without your permission.  The trademark makes your business name fully recognized as your intellectual property.


Having your  business name as your intellectual property can be nice especially if you have plans to become a big business.  Companies like Disney, Warner Companies, Nike, or others, get paid millions for use of their trademarks.  If you plan to scale your business to a capacity like those giant businesses, definitely, consider getting the trademark as soon as you can.


To get your business trademark, you want to first do a trademark search with the USPTO office to verify no one else has trademarked your name before you apply.  If your application gets denied, you’d waste your application fee and your time, so you want to thoroughly review to make sure you have a unique name.  Here’s a short video to show you how to do a quick trademark search:


If you need help doing a trademark search, I’d recommend you check out Rocket Lawyer.  They are a full service online legal company with hundreds of vetted legal professionals who can address a plethora of your needs.  It’s easy to consult with them, and a consultation is free.  If they make you feel comfortable, then you can let them help you register your trademark, and they can even help you with your DBA, and incorporation too!


I recommend incorporate.com for incorporation because of their longstanding amazing record, but Rocket Lawyer has a great record too.  They have many more available legal services, and to register for a trademark, Rocket Lawyer would be my best recommendation.  Check them out!


Final Words on How To Register a Business Name


Overall, the goal here at How To Entrepreneur is to encourage you to achieve massive business success.  Hopefully, this article helps to point you in the right direction.  If you have any more questions about how to register a business name, please leave a comment below, and I’d love to help you out.  I check my comments daily, so I’m not just saying that.





Now, it’s Your Turn…


Have you registered a business name?  Which method did you use?  Was the process smooth?  Did I leave out any important details you think someone should know?  Leave your comments below.


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