Step 1: Choose Business Structure
The type of business structure you choose to form will determine how you register the business with the state. Use our how to choose a business structure guide to help choose which business structure is best for you, whether it’s sole proprietorships, general partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations.
The factors you should consider when choosing a business structure will depend on your needs and wants for personal liability protection, tax liabilities, and paperwork to keep the company in compliance.
Sole Proprietorships and General Partnerships
By default, sole proprietorships operate as the same name as the owner while general partnerships must include the surnames of all the partners.
LLCs and Corporations
Both LLCs and corporations require unique names in Alabama that must follow certain naming requirements:
Alabama LLCs and corporations must complete and file a Certificate of Name Reservation prior to filing for formation with the state. This can be done by either:
- Mailing a Name Reservation Request Form to the Alabama Secretary of State along with the $25 fee. This must be done at least two weeks prior to formation.
- Filling the form out online via the Alabama Secretary of State website. This can be completed at the time of formation.
Step 2: Check Name Availability
When registering a business name, it's important to make sure it's unique and no one else in your state formed a company with it or has control of it online as a domain name.
Domain Name Search
We strongly recommend that you also check to see if your business name is available as a web domain (URL). Even if you don't plan to create a business website today, you may want to buy the web address to prevent others from acquiring that domain name. If the web domain is available then it’s likely the name will also be available in a business search.
Find a Domain Now
Alabama Business Name Search
Next, search the Alabama Secretary of State business entity search tool. This is an important step in the process because your filing will be denied if you try to file for a name already in use.
Search requirements can vary depending on your business needs. For example, a unique and available name is required to:
- File for formal business structures like LLCs and corporations.
- File a DBA name for any business structure.
A state-level name search isn’t required for informal business structures like sole proprietorships or general partnerships in Alabama. But, if you decide to register a trade name or DBA name, you’ll need to search the database to see if your desired name is unique and available.
Step 3: Form Your Business With the State of Alabama
Once you have selected your business structure and name, you will need to file your formation documents with the state, which will register your business with the state of Alabama.
To register your Alabama LLC, you'll need to file the Articles of Organization with the Alabama Secretary of State. You can apply online or by mail. Read our Form an LLC in Alabama guide for details.
To register your Alabama corporation, you’ll need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the Alabama Secretary of State. Read our Form an Alabama Corporation guide to learn more.
Protect Your Business Name With a Trademark (Optional)
Once you confirm the availability of your business name and secure it, you can choose to apply for a trademark for your business. This typically costs around $225 to $400 plus any attorney fees as well as a renewal fee every 10 years.
While this cost can be high for a start-up or fledgling business, it will give your company brand nationwide protection backed by federal law. That means if others try to do business with the same — or a similar — name as yours, you’ll have legal precedent on your side. For most small businesses, this really isn't necessary unless they are thinking of going national.
How to Change the Name of an Alabama Business
Changing the name of a business in Alabama can be done in two ways: by filing for a trade name or by submitting an amendment to the legal name of an existing business.
The first method, filing for a trade name (also known as a DBA name), is the easiest way to operate your business using a different name without needing to change its legal name.
A DBA name is the only way for sole proprietorships and general partnerships to have a different business name. It’s also the easiest method for LLCs and corporations to follow because it allows them to avoid filing an amendment or complicating their business operations while enabling them to operate with brand names that don’t include the necessary LLC or Inc. suffix required in a legal name.
If you want to change the legal name of your LLC or corporation, however, filing an amendment to the legal name of an existing business is your best option. Here are links to forms for both options:
You may submit both by mail along with the $50 filing fee.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to register a business in Alabama?
The costs of registering your LLC include filing a Certificate of Formation with the Alabama Secretary of State for $200 as well as additional fees if you use a professional business formation service — which we recommend. Alabama also requires you to reserve your LLC name, which costs $28 if requested online or $10 by mail.
How do I form an Alabama series LLC?
Form an Alabama series LLC by following five steps: name your series LLC, choose a registered agent, file the Certificate of Formation, create a series LLC Operating Agreement, and obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
What does LLC mean after a business name?
LLC or limited liability company is a business structure in which owners aren’t responsible for the business’ debts or liabilities.
What does Inc. mean after a business name?
Inc., the abbreviation of incorporated, signifies the business is a corporation rather than an LLC or other business structure. A corporation is a business structure that’s treated as a separate legal entity from its owners.
Do I need a Certificate of Compliance in Alabama?
Yes, a Certificate of Good Standing, known in Alabama as a Certificate of Compliance, is a certificate that can be obtained to verify that your LLC was legally formed and is properly maintained.
How do I get an Alabama business license?
Apply for a business license in the county in which your business is located through the probate judge or license commissioner as well as any other counties in which you plan to conduct business.