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Source: Small Business Administration

"A fictitious name (or assumed name, trade name or DBA name, which is short for "doing business as") is a business name that is different from your personal name, the names of your partners or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation."

"For example, let's say Mary Smith is the sole proprietor of a catering company she runs out of her home. Mary wants to name her business Seaside Catering instead of using her business' legal name, which is Mary Smith. In order to use Seaside Catering, Mary will need to register that name as a fictitious business name with a government agency. The appropriate government agency depends on where she lives. In some states, you have to register fictitious names with the state government or with the county clerk's office; however, there are a few states that do not require the registering of fictitious business names."





Each state has it's own requirements
, but here in CA we have to first, be certain the name we want hasn't already been registered, then we have to file the paperwork (available on the county web site) and pay the fee (it's around $30 here in Contra Costa County).  Before it's official, we have to take those documents from the county to a local newspaper for publication.  The county will give you a list of newspapers to choose from, how long they ad needs to run and the paperwork to give them.

This step needs to happen before you can open a bank account.
 

Before filing for your Fictitious Business Name, check to see if the domain is available.  No sense having a business name but not being able to register the domain name.  Sometimes the domain name needs to be something "close" to the legal name vs. exact name.

Here is a listing by state from the Small Business Administration that will tell you the document name and filing requirements for applying for your Fictitious Business Name.


You may also want to check into trade marking your name as well.

United States Patent and Trademark Office

How to Register a Trademark for a Company Name
 

 
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