Trade Names: What They Are and When to Use Them

A trade name is any name, other than your own, under which your company does business. These are also often referred to as fictitious names, Doing Business As (DBA) names, or an assumed name. Typically, if you are a sole proprietor or partnership that has created a name for your business you’ll need to register your trade name. If you’re an LLC or other type of business entity that requires registration you may either need to reserve the name in advance or file for it as part of your business filings. Registering a domain is not the same as registering for a trade name. Additionally, as an LLC, you may have a name for the LLC, but want to do business under a different name. This is most common with holding companies or umbrella companies. This would be an instance where a trade name would be used.

So let’s take Michelle as an example. Michelle has a side hustle doing work as an event photographer. She is trying to decide between using her name, Michelle Thomas, or the name Bella Photography Studios.

If Michelle were to just do business under her name, she would not need to register a trade name. However, if she were to do business as Bella Photography Studios, she would need to register this as a trade name.

To register your trade name, you’ll need to either contact your County Clerk’s Office or your State government depending on where you live. The process for obtaining a trade name is simple and most states offer online registration. I should also note that not all states require registration for trade names. At the time of this writing, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Wyoming do not. Because this is a state specific process, you’ll want to be sure that you’ve identified accurate information for your state!

If you have questions about the process for your state, please feel free to ask in the Legally Empowered Facebook group.


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