First impressions matter, and your business name will be the first thing that potential customers will see when they find you. That’s why choosing your name is one of the most important steps in forming your limited liability company (LLC). But finding that perfect name is not always easy.
In this guide, you’ll find tips to pick the perfect name for your LLC, as well as some other things to consider.
To learn more about how to form an LLC, this How to Start My LLC site is a great resource.
Choosing a Name
You’ll want to choose a name that’s easy to remember and unique. Think Google – it’s a unique word that was never used before, but it’s become its own verb! It’s also easy to remember and easy to spell.
But you also may, depending on your business type, want your name to say what you do. For example, if you’re selling shoes, your name should reflect that.
If you have an online business, it might also be wise to choose a name that contains words that will help you get found on Google. For example, if you’re selling shoes online, having the key word “shoes” in your business name can help you rank higher in search engine results.
When you start considering names for your business, it’s often good to get input from others. Get some family and friends together to help you brainstorm a few names. They will be able to view your name from a customer’s perspective, perhaps more than you can. Once you have some potential names, you can all vote to select the best one.
Of course, the final choice is yours since your business is your baby. Be thoughtful about your selection. Is the name going to reflect the identity you want to create for your company?
If you’re still having trouble, there are many online business name generation tools that can give you hundreds of possibilities to choose from.
Once you have a few potential names, you’ll need to make sure they meet your state’s LLC name regulations. In all states, your LLC name must contain the words limited liability company or one of its abbreviations like LLC or L.L.C. Your name also generally cannot contain words that would confuse your business with a government agency. Many states also restrict the use of the words bank and university.
Each state has its own LLC name regulations, so be sure to check your state’s website. Some states have stricter regulations than others. For example, Michigan has a whole laundry list of restricted words, and some states don’t allow vulgarity in LLC names.
Check Name Availability
Next, you’ll need to make sure that your LLC name is available to use. Start with your state’s relevant website, which is usually that of the Secretary of State. All states have a business name search tool that you can use to see if your name or similar names are already being used.
Then you’ll want to make sure that your name is not nationally trademarked, which would mean that the name cannot be used by anyone else anywhere in the country. Just go the website of the United States Patent and Trademark office to do a search.
You’ll also want to make sure that the domain name is available, which you can check on a site like GoDaddy.
Finally, just do a good old Google search to make sure the name is not being used anywhere in the world so that no one ever confuses your company with another. For example, if a company in the U.K. is using the name or a similar name, your company might be confused with theirs when customers search online.
Reserve Your Name
Now you should reserve the name to make sure that no one else gets it first. Most states allow you to reserve the name for a certain period of time for a small fee. You can do this if you’re not quite ready to form your LLC, or alternatively, you can go ahead and officially register your LLC with your state.
Forming an LLC is fairly straightforward and can usually be done online on the Secretary of State’s website. You’ll file a document that in most states is called the articles of organization, while in others it’s called the certificate of organization or the certificate of formation. Filing fees vary by state and range from $40 to $500.
You should also go ahead and purchase the domain name now to make sure that you get the one that you want.
After you form your LLC, you may want to consider trademarking the name to ensure that no one else in the United States can use it. You may want to expand your business to other states as you grow, so a trademark will allow you to use your business name in all states.
A “doing business as” or DBA name is a name that you do business under that is not your official LLC name. At some point, you may expand your product lines, and want to sell those products under a different name. Instead of forming a new LLC for the new product line, you can simply register a DBA name instead.
For example, you may have started by selling shoes, but you want to expand into other accessories like handbags. You can simply choose a new business name for your handbag division and register it as a DBA.
It’s important to note, however, that a DBA name is generally not protected from use by others in your state or anywhere in the U.S. Forming a new business entity or trademarking the name are the only ways to protect it.
Your business name is your company’s identity, so choose your LLC name wisely. Take your time and get input from others to make your selection. Then be sure to take steps to protect your name quickly by reserving the name or forming your LLC, and starting the trademarking process. Then you can focus on launching and growing your business into a lucrative operation!