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How to Register a Business Name for Free in 2024 

How to Register a Business Name for Free
(Last Updated On: November 23, 2023)

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Are you embarking on a new entrepreneurial venture? Congratulations! Are you wondering how to go about registering your business name without incurring any costs? 

While registering a business name involves legal fees, having a legitimate and official business name can benefit your new enterprise.

Allow us to guide you through registering your business name for little to no expense, ensuring that you start off on the right foot. Let’s delve into the details and uncover the proper method for obtaining a free business name registration!

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How to Register a Business Name for Free – Step-by-Step Guide

When registering a business, registering a business name is typically part of the process. The steps involved in doing so vary depending on the type of business and its location.

Step 1: Choose a Business Name

When it comes to selecting a business name, it’s not enough to just come up with a catchy brand. It’s crucial to verify that no one else has already registered the same identifier. 

Look at your state’s business registry to see if any other businesses are using your chosen name. If there are no matches, you can go ahead and register your business name right away or reserve it for future use. 

Keep in mind that certain states may require you to reserve the name before proceeding with registration, so check the requirements in your specific state.

Step 2: Determine Your Type of Business

Different business structures or entities can categorize your business type. These classifications impact your daily operations, the structure of your company, legal protections, liabilities, and tax payment methods.

  • Sole Proprietorship: The default business structure entails a single owner, where personal and business assets and liabilities are not distinct.
  • Partnership: Similar to a sole proprietorship but with two or more owners, unless it’s a limited partnership, where one partner assumes personal liabilities while others have limited liabilities.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): An entity where one or more owners are shielded from company liabilities, with business profits and losses taxed as personal income or loss for the owners.
  • Corporation: Offering the highest level of owner protection, the business is registered as a distinct entity from its owners (i.e., shareholders), safeguarding them from company liabilities.

The structure of your business impacts the registration process for your business name. If you operate as a sole proprietorship or partnership and use the owner’s legal name, there’s no need to register the business name. 

However, if you choose to operate under a different name, you must register a DBA (Doing Business As).

Limited partnerships, LLCs (Limited Liability Companies), and corporations must register their business names. 

Typically, this step is taken in conjunction with filing documents such as the statement of a limited partnership, articles of organization for an LLC, or articles of incorporation for a corporation.

Step 3: Register Your Business Name

Registering a business name can vary based on the specific requirements of your city, county, and state. In certain areas, it may be necessary to register in each jurisdiction, particularly if permits are needed for operations.

Typically, limited partnerships, LLCs, and corporations must register their business names at the state level by utilizing a registered agent. The registration method can differ between states, with some offering online registration while others require physical document submission.

The registration fees also depend on your location but rarely exceed $300.

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How to Register a Business Name for Free – Buyer’s Guide

What Is a Business Name?

A business entity’s official name is the designated title used when legally registering with the state where it operates. Although a business typically has one name, some may also register a “doing business as” (DBA), which serves as an alternative identifier while still maintaining its recognition as a single legal entity. 

This DBA, also referred to as an assumed, fictitious, or trade name, allows businesses to operate under a different name than that of the owner or the registered business name. For further information on starting a business, please explore our resources.

Why Do I Need to Register My Business Name?

Your business name holds significant value as it serves as a distinctive identifier for your brand, customers, and various legal documents, accounts, and advertising materials. Safeguarding your business name is crucial to preserving the uniqueness of your brand that you have worked hard to establish.

By registering your business name, you not only protect it from any potential liabilities but also gain access to many legal and tax advantages. This ensures that all your efforts are directed toward building a legally recognized and secure brand identity that belongs solely to you.

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Is There a Way to Really Get Your Business Name Registered for Free?

Registering a business name without incurring any costs isn’t possible. In every state, there’s a monetary requirement to register your business name. 

The process of trademarking your business name typically entails an expense ranging from $250 to $750. Nevertheless, there’s an alternative approach to avoid this fee by establishing a common law trademark through the utilization of your business name for branding purposes.

To minimize expenses while registering your business name, you can opt for obtaining a common law trademark. This method offers valuable protection for your business name without necessitating registration fees within your state.

By employing a common law trademark, you’re effectively utilizing the name to brand various aspects of your enterprise, such as the company itself, the overall business operations, products, and services provided.

However, it should be noted that even though this option partially circumvents fees associated with traditional registration methods, certain charges still apply.

How to Change a Business Name?

If you happen to come across any errors or typos in your business name, it’s possible to rectify them by filing a certificate of correction. However, if you wish to make a significant alteration to the legal name of your business, there are several steps that need to be followed.

  • Pass a resolution endorsing the name change, signed by the necessary shareholders, partners, or LLC members if their consent is required.
  • Modify the foundational documents of your business entity. This involves revising the LLC operating agreement, shareholders’ agreement, or partnership agreement, as well as the articles of organization or incorporation, depending on your chosen business structure.
  • Submit articles of amendment, accompanied by the prescribed filing fee, to the secretary of state or the relevant state agency.
  • Inform state regulatory bodies, tax authorities, and licensing agencies about the name alteration.
  • Update the business name across accounts and notify clients, vendors, and suppliers.

Before officially registering your new business name, it’s imperative to verify its availability within your specific state. It’d also be wise to conduct a thorough Google search in order to ascertain if any similar business names are already in use. 

It’s recommended that you search through the database of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to ensure that the chosen name does not have trademark protection.

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Business Types You Should Know

Since you’ve registered a business name incurring no cost (well, almost), we can now delve into the steps involved in doing so. However, before we proceed, it’s crucial for you to acquaint yourself with some legal business classifications that will be explained below.

Sole Proprietorship:

In a sole proprietorship, the company is owned and operated by a single individual. The business bears the name of its owner, such as Edward Nolan or Jackson Smith.

General Partnership:

This particular kind of enterprise is possessed and managed by a minimum of two partners who jointly shoulder the duties linked to the business. In a general partnership, it’s permissible for the name of the business to be formed by amalgamating either the first or last names of these partners.

Limited Liability Company (LLC):

The structure of an LLC combines aspects of a general partnership with certain rules of a corporation. When choosing a name for this type of business, it’s required to include either “Limited Liability Company” or the abbreviation “LLC” at the end.

Corporation:

In contrast to previous forms of business, the corporate business structure operates independently from its owners as a separate entity. As a result, a corporation provides limited liability protection to its owners in the event of legal issues or lawsuits. To indicate this type of business, the name must include “Corp.” or “Inc.” at the end.

Nonprofit Organization:

In contrast to previous business models, this particular type of business is dedicated to performing charitable or educational activities that benefit society rather than focusing on profit generation. The name of the organization needs to convey its nonprofit nature.

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How to Register a Business Name for Free – FAQs

The government acknowledges the legal business name as the official identification for the business, especially for tax purposes with the IRS and registration with the state. 

Customers, clients, vendors, suppliers, and the public recognize and associate with the DBA or trade name of a business.

The processing and approval of a trademark application can vary in duration, ranging from several months to more than a year on average. 

In cases where complexities arise, such as reexamination or amendments to the initial application, the timeframe for completion may be extended significantly.

Bottom Line – How to Register a Business Name for Free

When registering your business name or undergoing a rebranding process, it’s crucial to register your business name. 

This typically occurs during the business registration procedure with your state’s secretary of state. The specifics of this process may differ based on the type of business registration, whether it be a DBA, LLC, or S-corporation.

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About the author

Dr. Alexander Sterling, Esq, a distinguished legal scholar with a business law degree and a Doctor of Juridical Science, is a leading expert in business registration and diverse business departments. Renowned for his academic excellence and practical insights, Dr. Sterling guides businesses through legal complexities, offering invaluable expertise in compliance, corporate governance, and registration processes.

As an accomplished author, his forthcoming book is anticipated to be a comprehensive guide for navigating the dynamic intersection of law and business, providing clarity and practical wisdom for entrepreneurs and legal professionals alike. With a commitment to legal excellence, Dr. Alexander Sterling, Esq, is a trusted authority dedicated to empowering businesses within the ever-evolving legal landscape.