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 Washington 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 Washington-based plumbing business called “Seattle Plumbing,” and you want to expand beyond Seattle, you can register a DBA for “Spokane Plumbing” and use that name in the Spokane market.
The state of Washington provides no exclusivity for DBA names. This means that if another entrepreneur likes your name and wants to register it for their own use, they are legally allowed to do so. We’re not fans of registering DBAs in this state for this reason.
If you want exclusive usage rights to an alternate business name for your Washington LLC, you can form an additional LLC instead. This requires more effort and more money than registering a DBA, but we think the exclusivity is worth it.
That said, if you still want to register a DBA for your Washington LLC, we’ll discuss the process in detail below.
How to Get a DBA for a Washington LLC
First off, we’ll note that Washington typically refers to DBAs as “trade 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 Washington starts with a search of the state’s business database to make sure the name you want isn’t already registered by a formal business entity. If the name you want is available, you can move on to filling out the Business License Application form, as Washington groups DBA names in with the business licensing process.
To complete this form, you’ll need to provide your LLC’s official business name, your Unified Business Identifier (UBI), your federal tax ID number (EIN), an indication that you’re filing the form to register a trade name, the name you’re registering, an indication that your business is an LLC, the date you formed your LLC, your LLC’s business address, a list of your LLC’s owner/members, your LLC’s gross annual income in Washington, a description of the nature of your business, and your signature.
We will also note that there are several other pieces of information that could be required on this form depending on your responses and the nature of your business. When you’re done filling out the form, you can submit it to the Department of Revenue online, by mail, or by hand. This form has a $24 fee — $19 for the general Business License Application form, and an additional $5 for each trade name you register.
Online filings typically take just two business days to process, while the state says that paper filings are processed in the order they’re received. In general, paper filings can take 10 business days to process, although you can expedite your order for an additional $50, which speeds up your processing to one business day for in-person filings or two business days for mailed filings.
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 trade name. However, Washington specifically says that registering a trade 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 Washington, a DBA might not be the best idea.