One of the first—and most important—decisions you’ll need to make as an entrepreneur is choosing a name for your business. As a distinguishing factor that sets you apart from your competitors, your business name can affect how potential customers perceive your startup. It can be an extremely valuable component in your branding efforts.
With your business name carrying a lot of weight, I encourage you to think it through carefully and do some research. You’ll want your name to not only fit your business, but also you’ll need to make sure it isn’t already legally taken by another company.
Choosing A Business Name That Fits
To secure a name that will serve your business well, keep these considerations in mind:
- Will It Make the Right First Impression?
Assess how a prospective name will make customers feel when they hear it. Is the name professional, edgy, fun, approachable, high-tech, academic, or does it give off some other vibe? Is that the feeling you want customers to associate with your business?
- Is the Name Descriptive?
If you choose a vague name, customers may find it difficult to mentally connect with it. For example, if you open a digital device repair shop called “Allen’s Repair Service,” the name doesn’t give customers a clue about what your business repairs. “Allen’s Digital Device Repair Services,” on the other hand, provides a clear description of what customers can expect. Try not to get too specific, though. For example, “Allen’s Smartphone Repair Services” might box your brand into working on just one type of device and prevent potential customers from contacting you about repairing other devices that you’re willing and able to work on.
- Is the Name Too Complicated?
Clever can work for you, but it can also work against you. Try to avoid names that customers will have difficulty spelling, pronouncing, or remembering. The more simple your name, the easier it will be for customers to recall it when recommending your business to friends, family, colleagues, and the multitude of people they’re connected with online.
Making Sure Your Name Is Available
Check if your business name of choice is already taken in the state you plan to do business in. By conducting a free business name search, you can see if your name is already in use. I also recommend using a trademark search application tool to see if the name is available in all states. In doing so, you can identify if anyone else has registered for, been granted, or abandoned a trademark for the name you’re interested in using.
Making The Name Yours
After you’ve picked your name and verified it’s available, you’ll naturally want to take measures to make it legally yours within the state you’ll do business.
If you’re a sole proprietor or partnership, filing to register your name as a DBA (“Doing Business As”)—also known as a fictitious name—is a simple and affordable way to protect your name in the state. You actually don’t need to file for a DBA if you plan to use your own personal first and last name in your business name. For example, Jane Smith wouldn’t have to register “Jane Smith Business Consulting” as a DBA.
If you form an LLC or incorporate your business, your business name will automatically become registered in the state(s) you’ve registered to operate your business. That means no other LLC or corporation may use the name within your state. Note that another business in another state could use your name in its state, and a sole proprietorship or partnership using your name as a DBA can legally do so in your own state.
To more fully protect your business name, I suggest filing for a federal trademark. This will make it illegal for others to use your business name in any of the 50 states.
Your Name Is Just The Beginning
After you’ve selected your name and have taken the steps necessary to make it legally yours, you’ll still have more work to do to get your business off the ground. With a lot of moving parts to coordinate when launching a business, I advise you to consider talking with an attorney who can answer your questions and provide guidance. And for a hassle-free and affordable way to register your business and submit your other legal documents, think about asking a company (such as CorpNet) that specializes in handling document filings for businesses throughout the United States to assist you.
The above content should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.