A California DBA (doing business as) is called a fictitious business name. California fictitious business name registration allows a business to operate under a name that’s different from its legal name.
California DBA registration won’t protect your personal assets. Forming a formal business structure like an LLC or corporation will give you liability protection along with a business name
Use our step by step guide below to get a DBA for your California business. For a look at DBA filing in another state, check out our other How to Get a DBA guides.
Register a Fictitious Business Name in California
Registering a California trade name, also known as a DBA, is easy!
A DBA is only used for branding. A DBA doesn't offer any protection for your personal assets in the event that your business is sued. For this reason, we strongly recommend that a DBA should only be used by a formal business structure such as an LLC or corporation for the purpose of adding new brands to an existing business.
If you are running an informal business (sole proprietorship or partnership), we strongly suggest forming an LLC to separate your business and personal assets. The name of the LLC can be selected to act as the brand name for the business.
Learn How to File a DBA in California yourself in three steps:
Step 1: Start with a California Fictitious Business Name Search
Your California fictitious business name must be unique and must also meet California’s business name requirements.
Before you file, you will need to search county records to make sure your exact name isn’t already taken. We will provide contact information for county offices in Step 2. You will also need to consider any state naming rules.
Your California fictitious business name should NOT include:
- Any business entity suffix, such as LLC, Incorporated, Corp, etc., unless the business is actually an LLC, corporation, etc.
- Restricted words (e.g. Bank, Attorney, University) may require additional paperwork and a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, to be part of your business.
For a complete list of naming rules in California, you can read California's Code of Regulations.
We recommend checking if your name is available as a web domain (URL). You might not plan on starting a business website today, but you may want to prevent others from acquiring your URL.
Find a Domain Now
Once you reserve a domain name for your DBA, consider setting up a business phone system to help strengthen your customer service and boost credibility. We recommend Phone.com because of its affordable pricing and variety of useful features. Start calling with Phone.com.
Need Help Creating a Brand Name and Logo?
Step 2: Use Your California Fictitious Business Name
California fictitious business names are filed with the county where your principal place of business is located.
If your principal place of business is outside of the state of California, you must file with the Sacramento County Clerk. Nonprofits are not required to file a Fictitious Business Name Statement.
A DBA does not offer any protection for your personal assets in the event that your business is sued. For more information on setting up a limited liability company, visit our How to Form an LLC page and select your state.
Filing a DBA With the County Clerk
DBA regulations are managed by the state of California which means the steps for getting a DBA are similar from county to county.
We will provide step-by-step directions to get a Los Angeles County fictitious business name. If you need to file in a different county, contact the correct county clerk for instructions.
These links will lead you to the fictitious business name websites for some of the more populated counties:
- Sacramento County Clerk
- Orange County Clerk
- San Diego County Clerk
- LA County, Full Instructions Below
For a complete list of county contact information, visit the California Department of Public Health's website.
For California Non-Residents. Businesses without a location in CA must file for a ficitious business name in Sacramento County.
How to File a Los Angeles County DBA
Fictitious business names can be filed online on the LA County County Clerk’s fictitious name portal. Or, copies of the forms can be mailed to you by calling (800) 201-8999 or obtained in person at the County Clerk’s office.
When applying in person, applicants do not need to have the statements notarized. If applying by mail or by third-party, a Notarized Affidavit of Identity form must be included. This form is available in person or by calling (800) 201-8999.
Reminder: LA County requires that you check their fictitious business name records before filing to make sure your name isn’t already taken.
You can file an LA county fictitious business name by mail, in person, or via third party. Assumed name forms can be accessed on the LAvote website.
$26 First-Time Filing Fee for one Business/one Registrant
$5 for Each Additional Business Name/Re
See forms for the exact address.
See forms for the exact address.
Manage Your LA County DBA
Call (800) 201-8999 for general questions about LA County fictitious business names.
Renew Your LA County DBA
You are required to renew your Los Angeles County DBA every 5 years. Renewal forms can be found on the LA County website. The fee for renewing your fictitious business name is $26. Depending on how you deliver this form to LA County, you may need a notarization form.
Change Your LA County DBA
To make changes to your Los Angeles County DBA, visit the Fictitious Business Name Amendment page on the LA County website. Depending on how you deliver this form to LA County, you may need a notarization form.
Withdraw Your LA County DBA
Call the county clerk at (800) 201-8999 to request a Statement of Abandonment. In the case that your county doesn’t provide this form, you can create your own by following the rules on the California Legislative website.
Step 3: Register Your California DBA
Within 30 days of registering your fictitious business name, the state of California requires that you publish a "fictitious business name statement" in a newspaper in the county where your principal place of business is. You must publish once a week for four weeks.
Publication requirements are explained in detail on the California Legislative website. The basic steps are:
- The newspaper must be a general circulation publication that circulates in the county where you register your fictitious business name. You can find a list for LA County on the LA County website.
- Contact the newspaper of your choice that circulates in your county and is on the list mentioned above. Request to publish a “fictitious business name statement” in the newspaper once a week for four weeks.
- If re-filing your fictitious business name is required (the original expired), you must publish a statement again.
- Lastly, you must file an affidavit proving publication within 30 days of the completion of publication. In LA county, this can be completed by following the steps detailed on the LA County publication info page.
You should direct any questions about publication requirements to the county clerk’s office that you registered your fictitious business name with. You can find the complete list of county contact information on the California Department of Public Health's website.
If you want to use a professional service to get a DBA for your business we recommend:
Swyft Filings ($99 + state fee)
After Filing Your California DBA
If filing a DBA marks the beginning of your business journey, then there are a few more steps that you should take before getting started:
- Create your Business’s Website - Every business needs a website. Luckily, drag-and-drop builders like GoDaddy and Wix make the job quick and easy. Check out our Best Website Builder article to find the tool that’s best for you.
- Get your Business Finances in Order - You’ll need to separate your business finances from your personal ones. This is accomplished by opening a business bank account. If your business has long lead times or other cash flow irregularities, you can also look into a business credit card.
- Protect Your Business - While an LLC will help to protect your personal assets in the case of a lawsuit, your business’s assets also need protection. Having the right business insurance will ensure that you’re covered if the worst happens. Most businesses start with general liability insurance as their base coverage.
DBA California FAQ
How many DBAs can I have?
You can have as many DBAs as you can afford to create and are able to keep track of. Each one comes with additional incremental expenses and paperwork, meaning more is not necessarily better.
Can a DBA get an EIN or Tax ID?
DBAs aren’t required to have a separate EIN because DBAs aren’t a business entity. The business entity that the DBA is under would have an EIN if an EIN is required.
To learn more about EINs and when you need one for your business, read our What is an EIN guide.
Can a DBA become an LLC?
No. An LLC is a business entity, while a DBA is just a name for a business.
Sole proprietorships are often confused with DBAs, but they are not the same: a sole proprietorship is a business entity, therefore it can choose to become an LLC.
To learn how to form an LLC, visit our Form an LLC state guides.
Can a DBA have Inc. in the name?
A DBA can only have Inc. in the name if the business entity the DBA is attached to is a corporation.
How do I set up a DBA for a rental property?
Holding a rental property in your name and with a DBA will not afford you any protection. The best option is to form an LLC to protect your personal assets in the event of an issue with the rental property. In any case, it is always best to consult an attorney.
When would it be good to get a DBA vs a legal name change?
Getting a DBA is often a better choice than changing your business’s legal name. If you want to rebrand your company or focus on another line of business, filing for a DBA is a simpler process than filing for a legal name change.
Is my DBA protected from being used in other places?
Some state-level laws prevent DBAs that are too similar to existing ones from being used, but this varies from state to state. It is possible to trademark a DBA, which would offer stronger protection across state lines.
Useful Links for Your California DBA
- California Business Insurance
- California Legislative Information - Fictitious Business Name
- Los Angeles County - Filing a Fictitious Business Name
- Los Angeles County - Fictitious Business Name General Info
- Sacramento County - Fictitious Business Name Resources
- What is a Sole Proprietorship?
- What is an LLC?