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Coca-Cola. Home Depot. AT&T. What do they have in common? They're all extremely well-known brand names, and they're all based in Georgia. If you're preparing to name (or rename) your own Peach State business, you might be feeling the pressure. We can ease some of that for you.
Here, we're taking a look at DBAs, how they can help you secure a name for your business, when you might need one, and how to go about filing a DBA in Georgia. Just remember that Coca-Cola, Chik-fil-A, Waffle House, and Spanx (to name a few) are already taken, so you'll need to get creative.
Let's get started.
What Is a DBA (Doing Business As)?
DBA is an acronym that stands for "Doing Business As." It's a legal filing that allows you to operate your business under a name that is different from your given name (if you're a sole proprietor) or different from the name you registered (if you have a legal business entity).
In Georgia, you'll most often hear this referred to as a "trade name," but you may also see it called a "fictitious business name." All of these monikers mean the same thing, and all of them can help you if you ever find yourself in need of a different business name.
There is one important caveat that comes with DBAs — they are NOT legal business entities or business structures, and they do not offer the legal liability protection of LLCs or corporations. You can register for a DBA with or without a business structure in place, but it will not provide the same benefits. You may want to explore starting a Georgia LLC before you make a decision.
Do I Need a DBA in Georgia?
You may need a DBA in Georgia in certain scenarios, but DBAs aren't required unless you plan to operate under a different name than your legal given name or your registered business name.
In many states, DBAs are filed with the Secretary of State and cover the entire state in which you're operating your business. It's a bit different in Georgia, where County Clerks are in charge of issuing DBAs. That means you'll need to go to your County Clerk when you're ready to file.
In Georgia, you cannot operate under a different name for more than 30 days. If you do, you may face legal repercussions, which could include fines or even the dissolution of your business. So if you plan to use a name that isn't your legal name or registered name, you'll need to act quickly if you want to stay in business and be compliant.
How to Register Your Business as a DBA in Georgia
If you decide a DBA is right for you, you'll need to make things legal and get your DBA filed as soon as possible. You can follow the four steps below to secure your Georgia DBA:
1. Check Your Business Name Availability
Be sure your business name isn't already in use by another business in the state. Georgia is a bit different because everything happens at the county level. That means you need to clarify that your name is available in the county in which you're operating your business.
In Georgia, no matter which county you're in, your trade name must be considered "distinguishable" from any other similar business. That means you can't simply use a different spelling of a competitor's brand name, change the punctuation, or add "The" or "A" to the name. The DBA name needs to completely stand on its own. There are also many restricted words in Georgia, so be sure your name doesn't include any words related to the insurance, banking, or education fields. Check out the state's complete list of naming regulations.
One way to be sure is to use a Business Name Search tool like Bizee's. Simply search for your prospective trade name, and we'll let you know if it's available in your area.
2. Collect Your Business Info
When filing a DBA or trade name in Georgia, you'll need to gather up the following relevant information on your business:
- A statement on the nature of your business or any pre-existing business names
- The trade name for which you wish to register
- The names and addresses of all business owners or members
- Notarized signatures from all business owners or members
- Trade name application, which you'll get from your Clerk's Office
- Payment information for the trade name registration fee and publication fee
Once you've got all this information together, you're ready to make your DBA official.
3. File in Your County
Check your County Clerk office to find out where and how you need to file. The website capabilities vary greatly between counties, so it's best to call and find out exactly where to receive and file your application.
You will be required to pay a fee, which is also determined by the county in which you're filing. Typically, registration fees range from $150-$200, but there may be other fees to consider when requesting copies of your application paperwork, notarizing signatures, or publishing your notification, which we'll dive into next.
4. Notify the Public
Any business filing a DBA in Georgia is required to publish a notice in a local newspaper once a week for two weeks before legally using the new name. You cannot choose any local paper — it must be the one your sheriff's office uses to publish legal notices.
In some cases, the County Clerk will charge you a fee and handle the publication for you, but in others, you'll need to do it yourself. In that case, make sure you submit payment on your own and request a Publisher's Affidavit so you've got proof of publication.
According to Georgia's state government, it typically takes a few weeks to process and approve trade name applications, but this also varies from county to county. The good news is that once your name is approved, you won't need to renew it. If you do ever decide to change the name, you can make an amendment by filling out the application form again and paying the fee as you did the first time.
Why You Might Want a DBA
If a DBA isn't technically required, why would you want one? There are many reasons a DBA could be useful for certain businesses, so let's take a look at some scenarios:
To Protect Your Privacy
Let's say you're a sole proprietor, but you want to protect your privacy and create a memorable brand name that you can use to market your business. Rather than simply listing the business as your given name, you file a DBA and change "Carol Davis" to "Carol's Candies." This way, your full identity stays private, and you can legally operate and market the business under your assumed brand name.
To Expand Your Business
"Carol's Candies," which started in Cobb County, is growing to new locations. You'd like to keep your original name for your Cobb County location, but you need a new name for your new Cherokee County store. You file a DBA for "Carol's Candies North," so you can distinguish between the two in your operations and marketing.
To Grow Your Product Offerings
Your candies are really popular, but you've also found that customers like to buy your handmade gifts when they're in your store. You want to grow your revenue stream into custom-designed candles, so you file a DBA for "Carol's Candles." Now, you can operate both branches of the business as a sole proprietor or under a single business structure.
To Operate Under a Different Name
You want to take your business online, but "carolscandies.com" isn't available. You decide to check on a URL for one of your most popular product lines, and you find that "candylicious.com" is free. You file for a DBA to operate under the name "Candylicious" so that customers can easily associate your website with your brand name.
There are other reasons it would be useful to have a DBA or trade name. You'll need one if you want to open a business bank account under a new name or if you want to accept customer payments made out to that name. If your business was started outside of Georgia but you now want to legally operate there, you'll need a DBA in the county you're doing business in, plus a foreign qualification.
FAQs About Filing DBAs in Georgia
How Much Does It Cost to File a DBA in Georgia?
The cost to file a DBA in Georgia will vary depending on the county in which you plan to register your trade name. Most often, the cost ranges between $150-$200, but there may be other fees associated with the process if you need to get your signature notarized or request additional copies.
You will also pay a fee to publish notice of your trade name in a local newspaper. It's always best to check with your County Clerk to clarify exactly what those fees will look like.
Do I Need to File a DBA for an LLC in Georgia?
You need to file a DBA for an LLC in Georgia if you plan to use a name that's different from the one you registered during formation. This applies if you're expanding the business to another location or service line or if you need your business name to match your URL.
How Do I Legally Write a DBA?
You legally write a DBA by filling out the application required by your state agency. In Georgia, that would be your County Clerk's office. Once you've submitted your form, paid your application fee, received approval, and published notice in a local paper, you are legally free to begin operating under your new trade name.
Is It a Good Idea to Get a DBA?
It's a good idea to get a DBA if you're a sole proprietor who wants to operate under a name different from your given name or if you're an LLC or corporation owner who wants to operate under a different name from the one you registered during formation.
A DBA can also be a good idea if your business is growing to new cities or states, you're diversifying your revenue streams or product lines, or you need a name that's a bit closer to your e-commerce site's URL.
Give Your Business the Best Chance at Success
Names have power — and businesses with catchy, recognizable names have a better chance of succeeding. We're here to help you secure a DBA or trade name that allows your George business to thrive. Instead of going through all the steps above and dealing with endless paperwork, let Bizee file your Georgia DBA and get your business growing.
Wendi is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis, IN, with over a decade of experience writing for a variety of industries from healthcare to manufacturing to nonprofit. When she isn't working on solutions for her clients, she can be found spending time with her kids and husband, working in the garden or doing more writing (of the fiction variety).
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