How to Get a DBA in California: Register a Trade Name 2024

LLC Dojo is reader supported. If you buy a product through links on the site we may make a small commission

Published:

Trade name or DBA registration allows a business in California to operate under a name that differs from its official legal name (the name that was used when the company was formed).

For example, let’s say you have an LLC called Sally’s Burgers LLC that you use for your burger store, Sally’s Burgers, but you want to rebrand your offering to hotdogs? Well, you can use a DBA to trade as Sally’s Hotdogs without having to set up a new LLC.

Filing for a DBA – or ‘Doing Business As’ – gives small business owners and startups freedom to choose their business name without having the costs and complexity of registering multiple LLCs or corporations.

There are many circumstances in which you might want to use a trade name or DBA is used for branding your business. 

But, please note, a DBA (also known as a fictitious business name or trade name in some states) doesn’t provide legal protection for your personal assets in the way an Limited Liability Company (LLC) does. See more here on the difference between an LLC and a DBA.

How to Get a DBA in California

Here is our step-by-step guide to getting a DBA in California.

The process is very easy and is explained in these three steps.

  1. Do a search via the California Secretary of State to see if the DBA or trade name/ficticious name you want is available.
  2. Check that your trade name is available as a domain name (optional)
  3. File your DBA/trade name application then publish the new business name
  4. Pay the filing fees

Want to Save the Hassle and Get Swyft Filings to Handle Your DBA Filing For Free?

Before we get into the detail instructions for filing your DBA application, it is worth noting that various companies including Swyft Filings can file it for you. It is a fast and easy option that is well worth considering.

Trusted Operator
Swyft Filings DBA Application

Get Swyft Filings to take care of your DBA filing for free

  • Only pay state filing fees
  • Money back gaurantee
  • Select DBA from 'Start Your Business' Menu

Step 1: Do a Trade Name Search in California

Your trade name or California DBA must be unique (ie not taken by someone else) and it must meet the state’s requirements for business names.

Once you have a name in mind, you can use check to see if it is available.

The California Secretary of State does not provide online name searches. You will need to fill out the available PDF form. Currently, some counties in California do offer online name searches.

Once you’ve ensured it is not already in use, then need to check that it meets the state’s naming requirements. 

Step 2: Check if your name is available as a web domain

This is a practical step rather than a legal requirement. If you are doing business today it is pretty much certain you will need a website, so it makes sense to check if your name, or a variant of it, is available as a domain for you to put a website on. You can check if your preferred domain is available here: godaddy.com/domains

Chances are the exact match of your domain may not be available, so you might have to get a bit creative. 

Hints:

  • Try to get the .com version of the domain if you can as .org or .net aren’t as suitable for businesses
  • Don’t just insert a hyphen between words. It doesn’t look professional
  • Sometimes a quirky word (“guru”, “school” or “base”) makes for a good brand/domain. 

Step 3: Register your California trade name (DBA)

This is a multi step process commencing with filing a fictitious business name statement at your country clerk’s office.

You must then file the required forms with your county recorder or clerk’s office in the same county where your company’s main headquarters is housed.

Another requirement to file a DBA in California is that you must submit the required forms and fees within 40 days of starting the business. The fictitious business name statement is good for five years from the date submitted. If you need to change any information, you must resubmit a new statement.

Once you’ve filed the fictitious business name statement, you must then publish a DBA statement within 30 days. It then has to run for four weeks in your local county publication where you plan on doing business.

The county clerk’s office will have a list of approved publications to publish. Also, you’re required to have a county clerk’s signature on an affidavit from the publication within 30 days of the last publication.

Double check with the publication you plan to publish the affidavit to ensure that they will provide it to the county clerk after completing the requirement of making it a public record. It must be an approved newspaper of general circulation.

Costs vary between $20 and $50 in terms of state and county fees to file a DBA in California.

Another Option: Get Bizee to file your DBA for Free

Bizee is another trusted national service that can file your DBA or assumed name for you with no hassle and no extra cost.

Industry Leader
Bizee DBA Filing

Get Bizee to take care of your DBA filing for free

  • Only pay state filing fees
  • Money back gaurantee
  • Select 'Doing Business As' Name (DBA) from 'Services' Menu

After You get a DBA For Your Limited Liability Company or other entity

Once you have your DBA or trade name, your business is almost up and running. Here are a few things to consider as next steps to get fully operational.

  • Create a website for your business: Pretty much all businesses need a website these days and it is often an advantage (although not essential) to have social media pages too
  • Set up a bank account for your business entity: Keeping your own finances separate from your LLC’s finances is important and the only way to do that is by operating a separate bank account for the LLC. We recommend Mercury Bank as a great online banking option, although you can bank with the traditional bricks and mortar banks too.
Photo of author

AUTHOR

Rick Wallace
Rick Wallace is an investor who has established several LLCs in different states. He writes about starting businesses via LLCs including topics such as choosing a registered agent.