One of the most important parts of any business is its name. Your limited liability company’s name is your first impression with prospective clients, whether they hear about your business by word of mouth, drive past a billboard advertising your business on the freeway, or if they stumble upon your business as a result of a Google search.
One way to change your business name — or to add an additional name that your LLC can use interchangeably — is by filing a “doing business as” name application, commonly known as a DBA. There are many reasons to get a DBA — from marketing a new product line to granting a sole proprietorship the ability to use an assumed name — so this article will walk you through the process of registering a DBA for your Indiana LLC.
What Is a DBA?
To begin, let’s quickly run down what exactly a DBA is. One point of confusion we often hear about is that a DBA is not a business entity, like an LLC, corporation, sole proprietorship, general partnership, etc. Instead, you can think of a DBA as an add-on feature of sorts.
The DBA allows you to create alternate business names for your entity, which you can then use interchangeably with your LLC’s official business name. In addition, for informal business entities that don’t have exclusive business names (like sole proprietorships and general partnerships), a DBA can be a great way to inject some additional professionalism into a business venture.
But let’s talk strictly about LLCs, shall we? Why would an LLC want an additional business name? There are several potential reasons, although they obviously vary considerably depending on what your business does. One popular reason is to differentiate a new product line from a company’s existing offerings.
Let’s say that you own a business called “Fine Footwear, LLC” that produces high-end shoes. If you decide to also start a new product line that sells inexpensive flip-flop sandals, you might want a way to differentiate this brand from your core business. In this circumstance, you could register a DBA for “Flip-Flops by Fine Footwear,” and you can use this name to market your new products, while your original product line remains unaffected if your sandal side business fails.
It could also be helpful if you decide to expand your local business into a new market. For instance, if you own an Indiana-based plumbing business called “Indianapolis Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Indianapolis, you can register a DBA for “Evansville Plumbing” and use that name in the Evansville market.
The state of Indiana includes more protections for DBA names than most states do because, in most states, there is no exclusivity for a DBA. If another business decides that they want to use your DBA as their own name, many states allow them to do just that. However, Indiana requires that all DBA names must be unique, which makes the DBA a viable option for entrepreneurs looking to adopt an assumed name in this state.
How to Get a DBA for an Indiana LLC
First off, we’ll note that Indiana often refers to DBAs as “assumed names,” but for the purposes of this article, we’ll continue to use both terms interchangeably because most states use the term “DBA.”
The process for obtaining a DBA in Indiana varies considerably depending on your entity type. This article discusses the process for LLCs to obtain assumed names. For some other entity types (like sole proprietorships and general partnerships), this process looks entirely different and actually takes place on the county level, rather than with the state.
The first step is to conduct a search of the state’s business database to ensure that the name you want is available. Once you’ve determined the name’s availability, you can fill out the Certification of Assumed Business Name. This form requires your LLC’s official business name, the date you originally registered your LLC, your LLC’s business address, the assumed name you want to register, the date, your printed name and title, and your signature.
When you’re ready to file this form, you can submit it to the Secretary of State online, by mail, or by hand. This filing has a $30 fee if submitted on a paper form or a $20 fee if filed online. The turnaround time for documents submitted on paper forms is 3-5 business days, while documents filed online will be processed within 15 minutes if filed during business hours, and no later than the next business day if filed outside of business hours.
Should You Hire a DBA Service?
Would you rather pay a reasonable fee to a business services company and have them register your DBA on your behalf? While you can certainly save some money by doing it yourself, it’s nice to have the peace of mind that your new trade name was registered by a professional who really knows what they’re doing.
Here are a few of our favorite services for DBA registrations, all offering the same low price point of $99:
- IncFile: IncFile is one of the best business service providers available, and their DBA service is top-notch. IncFile receives tremendous customer feedback, with thousands of positive reviews all over the web. They also have plenty of experience, as they’ve been around since 2004 and they’ve formed more than 250,000 businesses.
- LegalZoom: LegalZoom actually has two different packages for DBA services, as their $119 Premium package includes a trial of their Business Advisory Plan. LegalZoom is one of the biggest names in the industry, and they’ve served millions of customers. It’s hard to argue with a track record like that!
- Swyft Filings: Swyft Filings really lives up to their name, as they’re one of the fastest business services companies you’ll ever find. Not only do they have some of the industry’s quickest turnaround times, but they also say that you can fill out their entire DBA application in “as little as 10 minutes.”
To be honest, we often say that entrepreneurs shouldn’t bother with DBAs because they don’t provide any exclusivity for your business name. However, Indiana actually does a solid job in this regard compared to most states.
Indiana’s requirement for exclusivity regarding any assumed name registered here makes the DBA an interesting proposition in this state, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this option to any of our readers.
If you’re looking for a new way to market your LLC in Indiana, a DBA isn’t a bad idea.