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 Texas 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 a Texas-based plumbing business called “Houston Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Houston, you can register a DBA for “Austin Plumbing” and use that name in the Austin market.
The state of Texas provides no exclusivity for DBA names. This means that if another entrepreneur decides that they like your DBA name, they can register and use it for themselves with no penalty. In our opinion, this largely undermines the point of registering an assumed name.
If you want to create an additional official business name for your LLC, you might simply want to form an additional LLC. This is more work and costs more money, but the exclusivity you receive for your name may make it worthwhile.
That said, if you still want to get a DBA for your Texas LLC, we’ll outline the process below.
How to Get a DBA for a Texas LLC
First off, we’ll note that Texas typically 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 Texas starts with a search of the state’s taxable entity database to make sure that no formal business entity has already registered the name you want. Once you determine the name’s eligibility, you can move on to actually registering it.
To get a DBA for your Texas LLC, you’ll need to fill out the Assumed Name Certificate. The information you need to complete this form includes the assumed name you’re registering, your LLC’s legal business name, an indication that your business is an LLC, your LLC’s Texas Secretary of State file number, the jurisdiction where you originally formed your LLC, your LLC’s principal office address, the period of duration you plan on using the name for (up to ten years), the county or counties in which you will use your assumed name in Texas, the date, and your signature.
When you’re ready to file the form, you can submit it to the Texas Secretary of State online, by mail, by fax, or by hand. There is a $25 fee associated with this filing. The state typically processes online filings within two business days, while paper filings take roughly 5-7 business days. You can expedite your filing for $25, which upgrades your turnaround time to just one business day.
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.”
The doing business as (DBA) name varies more from state to state than most other business filings. In some states, a DBA grants you exclusive rights to your new assumed name. However, Texas specifically says that registering a DBA name in this state grants you no exclusive right to use that name. Due to this lack of exclusivity, we’re not fans of registering DBAs in this state.
Instead, it’s probably a better option to form an additional LLC if you want to be able to use multiple names for your business. This is certainly more of a hassle than registering a DBA, but at least you’ll have exclusive rights to your name.
If you’re looking for a new way to market your LLC in Texas, a DBA might not be the best idea.