How to Operate an LLC Under a Personal Name

By Ari Mushell, J.D.

How to Operate an LLC Under a Personal Name

By Ari Mushell, J.D.

Perhaps you've considered starting a business for some time and now feel ready to start your LLC. Besides having a product that people want and are willing to pay for, you also need to present yourself properly to your target customer base. You need to brand yourself. One memorable way to present your business to potential customers is to use your personal name as your brand.

Woman smiling at tablet in clothing store

Perhaps you've established name recognition within your community. Putting your name on your business allows you to leverage that goodwill into a business venture. If you've associated your name with your business, you can market yourself as an expert in the industry. Or perhaps your line of business requires you to use your personal name as the business name. For example, some state bar associations require a law firm name to include the last name of at least one firm principal.

Maybe you launched a business some time ago but would like to use your own name for branding purposes. Even if your business formed as an LLC under a different name, you can still use your personal name as a DBA, or "doing business as."

Whatever your reason, you can generally use your personal name as the name of the business: e.g., John Smith Widgets LLC. However, there are rules that you must follow.

Registering as an LLC

In general, you can choose any name when organizing your LLC, provided that the name or a similar name is not already in use in your jurisdiction. Generally, you must choose a name that isn't so similar to an existing business' name that it might confuse customers. The registration process requires a few relatively simple steps:

  1. To determine whether a name is in use, search the LLC name registry in your target state. Another business might operate under "Jewelry by Jane Smith" or "Jane Smith Jewelry," so you must be careful.
  2. Fill out the forms for creating an LLC in your state and draft articles of organization.
  3. Submit these documents and the organization fee to the Secretary of State (or comparable authority).
  4. Create an operating agreement. In some cases, this is optional. Some states require LLCs to draft operating agreements. New LLCs do not have to file these with their states, but they must keep them in a safe place. Regardless of whether the state requires you to create an operating agreement, having one on hand can prevent and solve disputes and provide procedures for confusing or sticky situations.

Operating with a DBA

If you have an LLC under a different name and want to brand yourself through the LLC with your personal name, you can file for DBA status. As a result, you will have the previously established name of the LLC as an official title, but you can brand yourself and operate your business under your personal name.

You can use your personal name when forming an LLC, provided that another local business has not taken the name and as long as your business name ends with "LLC." You can then leverage the business name, your personal name, to brand yourself. You can also use your name in concert with an established LLC through a DBA.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.