There are no two ways about it: choosing a name for your company isn’t easy. You’ve probably already had many sleepless nights worrying about getting that perfect name for your fledgling business. Is it memorable? Does it accurately represent the business? Has someone else used it already?
These are all legitimate concerns, of course. But, choosing your limited company name doesn’t have to be a traumatising experience.
To help you, we’ve put together a complete guide to naming your limited company. In it, we’ll guide you through legal obligations and branding considerations, as well as offering up a bunch of bonus tips to help get your creative juices flowing. If you’re still struggling to name your limited company after all of that, we’ll show you where to go for more help.
The legal stuff
Before we get into the more exciting area of actually coming up with a name, it’s worth covering off the legal and regulatory considerations for company naming. This is for two reasons: firstly, you don’t want to go to the effort of coming up with a shiny new name only to find that it’s already registered. Secondly, the limitations set by legal requirements can actually help when it comes to getting creative.
In terms of legal requirements, you’ll need to register your limited company’s name at Companies House. If your chosen name is too similar to one that already exists, your application might get rejected. Luckily, you can check if your business name is available on our limited company naming tool. It’s worth bookmarking that name checker—any time you get struck by inspiration for a new name, run it through there before you get too excited. Bonus tip: the Companies House search will not bring up partial results, so enter the full proposed name.
Alongside the Companies House check, you can also use the government’s Intellectual Property (IP) Office search, to see if any trademarks could potentially clash with your new name. To be clear, it’s not a legal requirement to register your name as a trademark (although it’s relatively inexpensive and it’ll give you legal standing if someone rips off your brand). The important thing here is that it gives you the ability to check quickly for any UK products or businesses that your name could potentially clash with.
If you’re thinking about trading internationally, then you may want to consider registering an EU trademark. As a side-note, if you are going to be doing business abroad, don’t forget to check how your chosen name translates into other languages. Running your company name through Google Translate could save you a lot of embarrassment in the future.
All you need to start a limited company
Discover all the intricacies of contracting through a limited company with our free downloadable guide.
What’s in the guide?
- Understanding legislation – what is IR35 and what could it mean for your business?
- Maximising your expenses – find out what business costs you can expense through your company.
- Making your business a success – a look at how to manage your time, market yourself and make your business a success.
Most people think that your ‘brand’ is just your company name and logo. However, the truth is a bit more complicated than that. A significant part of branding is ensuring consistency across any touchpoint your customer might have with your business. As such, a major consideration when choosing a name is looking at how you can use that name online.
Say, for example, you decide to call your artisan bird table business ‘Bridget’s Bird Feeders’. You’ve done the legal checks that we discussed above, and the name isn’t being used for any other company. Great! But then you go to set up your website, and you find that the domain name bridgetsbirdfeeders.com costs a six-figure sum. So, to stay on budget, you have to buy bridgebbirdfeed123.com. It lacks consistency, and people are less likely to trust your website when it comes to buying products. Not a good look for your brand.
Fortunately, there are a couple of easy steps you can take to check out your name’s digital availability.
- Firstly, you’re going to want to make sure that you can get the right domain name.
There’s a great little service called I Want My Name that can check domain availability quickly and easily for you. Simply pop in your potential name, and you’ll get a list of options and costs.
- Next up, it’s worth doing a quick check of any social media accounts that could clash with your name.
Don’t worry. This is a pretty straightforward process: type in your social media homepage URL, then add a forward slash and your business name. So, if we want to check Facebook for our bird feeder brand, we’d type in “www.facebook.com/bridgetsbirdfeeders”. If you get a page that says something like ‘this user does not exist’, then you’re good to go. Repeat the process for Instagram and Twitter if you’re planning on having a presence there, too.
What happens if you input your name and find that the web domain and the social channels aren’t available? Well, you don’t have to go back to the drawing board just yet. Sometimes a simple tweak to the name can open up the availability. To go back to our example, if we find that ‘bridgetsbirdfeeders’ isn’t available anywhere, we could change it slightly to ‘bridgetsbossbirdfeeders’ or ‘bridgetsmithbirdfeeders’.
As a bonus, carrying out these checks will be beneficial for search engine optimisation (SEO). Don’t let those big words scare you: SEO is simply the practice of making sure your business turns up at the top of the Google results when you search for it. By paying attention to getting the right domain and social media accounts, you’ve taken the perfect first step.
Hopefully, the above sections have shown you all the due diligence that your chosen name has to go through to reach the big wide world. Now comes the fun part of figuring out what that name should be!
Getting to a name that you (and all your business partners, too, if you have them) love is likely to be a long, exploratory process with a lot of back and forth. So, rather than give you paragraphs of dense copy about all the stylistic things to consider, we’ve put together eight ‘thought-starter’ action points to get your creative juices flowing.
Eight company naming action points
- Should you use your own name or something more abstract? Let your industry experience and gut instinct lead the way, here. If you’re starting a balloon animal hire company, you might want to go with something more abstract than ‘A. Smith Inflatables Ltd’. But if you’re a lawyer, your surname will probably be more suitable than ‘Crazee Kelly’s Funtime Law Co.’
- Steer clear of names that could be deemed offensive or sensitive.
- Incorporate your long-term goals. If you’re starting out as a sock company, but you’re planning on selling all kinds of clothes eventually, don’t call the company ‘Just Socks’. In these cases, keep things broad in order to safeguard against the potential changing nature of your business.
- If you hit a wall with names, try this: give yourself a strict 25-minute window to write down 100 potential names. You’ll come up with many terrible options, but it’ll flush out your creative system and kick-start your thinking.
- Portmanteaus and compound words (fancy phrases for mashing two words together) are great for naming purposes. If it’s good enough for Microsoft (created by combining microcomputer and software) and Facebook (face and book!) then it might work for you.
- If you want a simple, single word name for your company but you’re struggling, why not try making a word up. That’s exactly what George Eastman did in 1887 when he founded his camera company. He wanted something short, memorable, and he was a fan of the letter K. He came up with the name Kodak out of thin air, and the rest is history.
- Still struggling? Turn to the gods for the answer. Greek deities have long been used for company names (Nike, anyone?), and just browsing through the names could be enough to spark some ideas.
What happens if you change your mind?
If you pick a name, register it and start trading, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with that name forever. It is possible to change the name with Companies House, but you’ll need to fill in a special resolution form and pay to get it changed.
Of course, if you do change the name you’ll need to change all of your assets, too. It could become quite a headache, so consider it a last resort.
Where to go next
If you’ve got this far and you’re still not quite there with the right name, we have just the thing: the SJD limited company name generator. With a few simple steps, we’ll help you create a memorable, legal name for your limited company. And the best bit? It’s a totally free service. Try it out now and put your company naming woes behind you.
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