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Everything You Wanted to Know About Registering a Business Name (and Then Some!)

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When it comes to making a positive impression on potential customers, nothing does the job quite as well as the name you choose for your business. It’s worth spending a lot of time on naming your business to ensure that your name is memorable, easy to spell and pronounce, and is one that people will associate with your great products.

How Do I Decide on a Business Name?

If you’re paralyzed with indecision about what the right name for your business is, here are some tips to help.

First, set aside time to brainstorm. Choosing a business name isn’t something you should do while you’re on hold with customer service and checking your email. It might take a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks. But don’t force it. When the right name comes along, you’ll know.

Then, ask yourself: is the name descriptive? Does it accurately describe what your business does? You might like the idea of calling your business “Zooey’s,” but the name doesn’t tell people if it’s a restaurant, flower shop, or auto repair business. Be specific and use keywords that tell people exactly what you do.

Next, consider how easy the name is. Will your audience be able to spell the name, let alone pronounce it, or will they stumble over it? You want your business name to roll off their tongues.

Bonus Tip: While you don’t have to choose a business name based on what website domains are available, do a quick search to see if you could get the name of your business as a URL. It makes life easy when you can direct people to ZooeysCookieStore.com, if that’s your business name.

How Do I See If The Name is Already in Use?

Of course, you want to be unique with your business name, so you need to ensure it hasn’t been used by any other company. How do you do that? You start with a free corporate name search to see if anyone else in your state has registered the name. If so, it’s back to the drawing board.

If the name is available, you have two choices for the next step. If you plan to incorporate your business or file an LLC, you can reserve the name you want so that no one else can use it until you’ve completed your business filing. A business name reservation will hold the name for 30 to 90 days.

If you plan to operate as a sole proprietor, you can file a Doing Business As (also known as Fictitious Business Name) so that you can operate under the name you’ve selected. Now, you only need a DBA if the business name won’t include your own. If you are Sally Smith and want to use the business name Frenchie’s Falafel, you will need that DBA. But if you want to use the name Sally Smith’s Falafel, you may not need it, since you will, essentially, be doing business under your own name.

Should I Trademark my Business Name?

One other consideration for you is trademarking that name. If you want to be the only business with that name in the country (especially good for franchises that operate in multiple states), registering a trademark for your business name can protect it.

While technically, you have “common law” rights if you use the ™ symbol after your name, formally registering a trademark for it will give you additional protection. Once your business name is registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office, it will come up in searches, and no one else will try to use it.

Choosing a name for your business is a big deal! Treat the process with respect, and take measures to protect that name. It is, after all, your brand.

Founder of CorpNet
Nellie Akalp is a serial entrepreneur, small business advocate, speaker and author. She is the founder & CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service, where she helps entrepreneurs start a business, Incorporate, Form an LLC, set up Sole Proprietorships (DBAs) and keep a business in compliance across all 50 United States.