One of the very first steps you need to do when starting a business is to register your business name. Many newbie entrepreneurs assume simply deciding on a name is sufficient to establish it, but that’s not the case.

In order to ensure that you’re the only person using this name, and to protect yourself from anyone else using it, there are a few steps you need to take to register a business name.

Step 1: Conduct a Name Search

The quickest way to see if anyone else is using the name you want for your business is to conduct a corporate name search. This will tell you whether anyone else in your state is registered with a business of the same name. If that’s the case, you may want to choose another name so as to avoid confusion.

Keep in mind, this search won’t tell you if anyone in any other state is using the name. For that, you can trademark your name to get a nationwide search on it.

Step 2: Reserve Your Business Name

If you haven’t yet decided what business structure you want to file, it’s a good idea to go ahead and reserve your business name. This process is typically shorter than the approval process for filing an LLC or corporation, and can ensure you get the name you want.

Step 3: File a DBA

Filing a Doing Business As form involves applying for a business name at the county government offices and paying a fee.

Keep in mind, a DBA isn’t sufficient for incorporation because it usually only protects the company name at the county level. Incorporation involves a statewide registration. Part of the incorporation process is documenting the assumed name and avoiding duplication with other registered corporations. This is also true for a limited liability company (LLC).

Step 4: Choose Your Business Structure

Now that your business name is secure, it’s time to decide between a corporation and an LLC. When you first start a business, you may not know which structure is better for you, but as a few months pass, you may have a better idea.

This will provide an additional layer of protection to both you and your business name.

Step 5: Trademark the Name

Consider going one step further and trademarking your business name. Trademarks and brand names have value. They can be sold as corporate assets. The US Patent and Trademark Office has a search feature to prevent duplication and a free search at their site will prevent inadvertently infringing on someone else’s registered name.

Make sure you take the time to protect your business name!