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You’ve started operating your business. Maybe you’re running a website or selling products offline. You haven’t incorporated or formed an LLC yet.

A customer sends you a check written out to the name of your website and not your own. You haven’t opened a bank account in that name yet. You don’t want to send the check back to the customer and have her write a new one–that looks unprofessional and they might decide to cancel the order rather than be hassled.

So, how do you cash your check?

There are really three options for dealing with this. Here they are in ascending order of expense and time:

1. Try To Cash It Anyway

Okay, this isn’t much of a unique idea. The first thing to try is simply to deposit it in your own bank account. This might or might not work. Whether it works or not, after this first attempt, use one of the techniques below to make deposits in the future smoother.

2. File a DBA (Doing Business As) and Open a Free Business Checking Account

If you’re operating a business under a name other than your own, then you need to at minimum file a DBA with your state. This does not incorporate your business. What it does is let the State know that you–Mary Smith–are operating your Sole Proprietorship business using a name other than Mary Smith.

A DBA does not create limited liability for your business, meaning that you are personally liable for your business’s debts. With limited liability, you are not responsible for your business’ debts. Therefore, a DBA is not a replacement or substitute for incorporation.

You can get a Doing Business As (DBA) form from your State’s Secretary of State office. They are relatively simple forms with a filing fee of usually less than $100.

Once you have a DBA, you can open a small business checking account. Some banks actually have separate programs for small businesses that operate as a DBA, called DBA checking accounts.

With a DBA small business checking account titled in the name of your business, you will now be able to take checks written in your company’s name without any problem.

3. Form An LLC

Forming an LLC for your business will be more expensive than either of the above two options. However, creating an LLC actually makes your business a completely separate entity from yourself.

If you want the advantages of limited liability for the owner and certain tax breaks, then you need to form an LLC. See the articles below form information on choosing an LLC, the advantages of an LLC, and the best method of forming one.

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