Operating as a sole proprietor is one of the quickest ways to get your business started. Most states allow sole proprietorships to operate without registering, as long as you run the business under your own legal name. The IRS also makes things easy by allowing you to use your Social Security number to report business income and expenses. However, if you want to separate your business and personal affairs, you can apply for a fictitious business name, also called a “doing business as” or DBA, and an employer identification number (EIN) for the business.

Register a DBA

Go to the website of the business registrar for your state to find out how your state processes DBA registrations. In most states, the business division of the secretary of state's office handles business registrations. Some states register DBAs at the state level, while others register DBAs at the county or city level.

Check the availability of the name you want to use for your business. Every state has a business entity database that is accessible from the state's website. Plug the name into the search field to make sure the name you want to use is not already in use by another business operating in the state.

Obtain a DBA registration form. You can download the form from the website of the state, city or county agency that processes these types of registrations. If your state processes DBAs at the county level, go to the website of the county clerk for the county where you will locate your principal place of business. County-level registrations typically require you to register the DBA in every county in which your business will operate.

Fill out the form. The purpose of a DBA registration is to inform the public of the responsible party behind the use of the name, so the typical form requires you to at least provide your name and address and the name and address of the business. Some registration forms might also ask for your Social Security number.

File the form with the correct agency, along with the appropriate filing fee. A few states require you to publish notice of the DBA registration in a local newspaper to complete the registration process.

Apply for an EIN

Go to the IRS website. Click on the “Apply for an EIN Online” link. Use the electronic system to apply for an EIN for your sole proprietorship.

Fill out the online application. The system asks you to identify a reason for applying for an EIN for a sole proprietorship. Selecting “to open a bank account” is one of the most basic reasons, since sole proprietorships that have an EIN often set up a business bank account with it.

File the form electronically with the IRS. Filing is free, and the system gives you your EIN immediately after transmission. Alternatively, you can apply for an EIN by mail or fax using IRS Form SS-4.


You can apply for your EIN before or after you register the DBA. In some states, you can use the EIN instead of providing your personal Social Security number. In those states, you might want to apply for your EIN first.