When it comes to launching your business, there are numerous different factors you will need to consider. One such factor is how to register a new business name. With this in mind, today, we’ve taken a brief look at how to register your new business name. Hopefully, this will help you find out a little more about the opportunities available for your new firm.
What is a Legal Name for a Business?
Before looking any further, we should point out that the business’s operating name isn’t necessarily the same as its legal name. The business’s legal name is its officially recognized name, and this will be the name used on any legal documents and paperwork.
However, your business can also apply for a different operating name by completing a DBA form. We have covered this topic in further detail a little later on. However, creating a separate operating name is not necessary if you don’t wish to do so.
Things to Consider Before Registering your New Business Name
Before you can look at registering your business name, you will first need to check a few key things. These include the following points.
Step 1: Check if Your Business Name is Unique and Available
First, you’ll need to check whether your business name is unique. Indeed, there are thousands, if not millions, of other businesses operating in your niche. What’s more, if you have chosen a generic business name, competitors for the same brand name might fall across different niches.
With this in mind, you will first need to check whether or not your chosen business name is available. In many cases, unless you have started out with a completely unique name, you may have competition for your chosen brand name.
Of course, you cannot have the same business name as another firm. In addition, ideally, you want a unique name that will stand out from your competitors; if your business name is similar to another business’s, your customers could get confused, and you could lose out on revenue.
Luckily, if your business name is taken, there are still plenty of other great options you could try. As such, if you want to ensure your business is fully unique, be prepared to get your thinking cap on. A little thought now can help set your business up for long-term productivity or prosperity. So, it’s definitely worth dedicating time towards.
Tips to Choose an Effective Business Name
When choosing a business name, it’s important to carefully consider the different options available to you. Indeed, your business name plays many crucial roles in the firm. It can give your customers a clear understanding of what your business offers; in addition, having a suitable business name also helps set your firm apart from others.
A business name can also give an immediate impression of your brand. If you choose a business with the name “Bargains” in the title, customers will likely expect low prices from your store. But, if you’re trying to sell premium products, you’ll probably fall short.
Meanwhile, your customers will likely associate your firm with top-quality, premium products if you use luxurious branding and words in your business name – e.g., diamond, sophistication, and the like.
Clearly, there’s a lot in the name for your business. As such, when choosing a business name, you may want to consider the following factors:
- Can your business choose suitable word choices to give an impression of its products
- Is your brand name suitably unique from direct competitors?
- Does your brand name give customers an expectation of what stock you might offer – e.g., if your store sells biking goods, “XYZ Example Bicycles” would be an effective, simple name.
- Can you include your location in your business name? This may minimize later expansion potential. However, it’s a highly effective way for local small businesses to target local customers. This will often prove especially influential for search engine optimization purposes when launching a website.
What About Using a Business Name Generator?
If you have been struggling with naming your business, there are countless business name generators out there on the market. These may help give you a little inspiration.
However, for the best results, we recommend against relying on these exclusively, as they will often be less effective. Still, if you need some inspiration to get started, this could be an option to help give you some early ideas.
A more effective business naming idea may be to base your business name on your logo (if you have one). Ensuring the business name and logo matchup is a key component of effective business branding overall.
What Type of Business Entity Do You Have?
So, let’s assume now that you’ve come up with a stellar name for your business. Next, you’ll need to consider the type of business entity you’re planning to operate as. Some different examples of business entity include:
- Sole traders / sole proprietorships
- C Corporations
- Limited liability companies
The type of business entity that you operate as will impact numerous different aspects of your business management overall. For example, sole traders and sole proprietorships often have less paperwork than large-scale limited liability companies. However, companies can raise funding through selling shares on the stock exchange. They are also considered their own distinct legal entity, and so the owners are not liable for business liabilities.
The type of business that you operate will also play a role in your naming choice. As such, you should consider this carefully to ensure you’ve selected a suitable business name,
Limited Liability Companies
Limited liability companies must include the phrase LLC or variation thereof in their name. In addition, LLCs cannot use any names that could cause confusion with government agencies, such as the FBI.
For corporations, similar naming conventions and rules apply. You must include the word, company, corporation, limited, or incorporated in your business name. Once again, your business name mustn’t cause any confusion between your firm and government organizations.
Naming is generally much easier for sole traders or sole proprietorships. Indeed, these businesses only need to operate under the surname of the business owner; it is possible to operate outside of this restriction, but you’ll need to file a DBA form.
Along a similar line as sole proprietorships, if you wish to register as a partnership business, you will need to include the surnames of the partners in the name. Once again, if you wish to select a distinct business name, you will need to complete a DBA form.
Consider Whether Rival Businesses Have a Similar Domain Name
So, you’ve picked out a business name. What’s more, you’re confident it’s unique in your local area. Still, it’s worth checking other rival businesses online to see how they will compete with your firm.
Indeed, when establishing a new business, you want to be confident that you have free access to the ideal domain name. Unfortunately, if another firm had the same domain name as your business, this could impact your ability to create an effective website. As such, where possible, we highly recommend you consider your competitors’ websites before settling on a business name to ensure you’re able to compete effectively.
Step 2: Check Whether your Business Name is Unique
At this point, we’ve considered several times the importance of checking if your business name is unique. But how can you actually do this? Well, there are four factors you can consider to ensure you’ve selected an entirely unique business name. These include searching the web and checking domain names. Plus, you can also use the business entity name search tool or check Federal trademark records.
How to Carry Out a Business Name Search
First, let’s briefly consider how to carry out a business name search. Your Secretary of State website will usually include a link to the Business Entity Name Search tool for your area, which you can use to search for similar business names.
This is crucial, since your application will be denied if the business name isn’t unique. While this won’t stop you from reapplying for a new business name, it’s a delay to your plans and can be frustrating.
However, if you operate an informal business structure (sole proprietors or partnerships), you may not need to complete a state-level name search. However, this varies from state to state. While some require it, others may not. As such, you should check your state’s requirements to ensure you’re following the most appropriate naming conventions.
Checking the Federal Trademark Records
Trademarking your business name can be a good way to prevent copying the business. However, searching the Federal Trademark Records can also be a good way to check name availability. This can also help you check if any other businesses may have trademarked your name, which would prevent you from using the name.
Fortunately, searching for a trademark is a simple process. Just search the U.S. Trademark Electronic Search System to find out more about whether or not your chosen business name is available for trademark.
Step 3: Register a New Business Name
By now, we’ve considered all of the different factors you may need to think about to choose a business name. However, this doesn’t mean anything until you have actually registered and secured the name. As such, we recommend registering your business name as soon as possible after choosing it.
The exact requirements may vary; however, we’ve presented a brief summary below to help you find out more about registering a business name.
Reserving the Business Name
First, we need to consider the process of name reservation. This isn’t actually crucial for every business. Indeed, many states do not require the name to be reserved. However, there are still benefits to reserving a business name, especially if you’re not quite ready to launch your business yet.
Forming an LLC Business
First, let’s consider how to form an LLC business. As we have already covered, all LLC businesses must include the term “LLC” or a variant thereof; in addition, LLC businesses must be registered with the state. We recommend getting support from a professional registered agent to make the process a little easier.
To form your LLC, you will need to complete articles of organization and create an operating agreement. Finally, you will also need to obtain an EIN (even if you don’t plan on having many staff members on your team). You can take a help of paid LLC formation services at nominal cost as well.
As with forming an LLC, we highly recommend that you get professional support from a registered agent when forming a corporation business. You will also need to select the share structure and initial directors for your corporation and complete the formation documents. Once again, you will finally need to obtain an EIN before you begin trading as a corporation.
- Filing DBA Forms for Sole Proprietors and Partnerships
If you are a sole proprietor or partnership business, your business name will usually be based on your surname. However, it doesn’t necessarily need to be this way, and you can apply to change this by completing a DBA form.
There are many reasons why you might want to change your sole proprietorship or partnership’s name away from just your personal name. For example, perhaps you want to establish the name of your business differently, or you would like to focus more so on the type of products your business offers.
In this case, you can use the DBA form to request a name change for your business. However, we should point out here that exact rules vary, and businesses located in South Carolina, New Mexico, or Kansas cannot change their names using the DBA form.
To complete a name change for your business, you will need to check the availability of your new business name before proceeding.
A common misconception is that DBAs form a legal identity for your business. However, this is not the case. As such, if you want to set up your business as a distinct legal entity from the owners, you will instead need to form a corporation or incorporated business.
Amending a Business’s Existing Legal Name
As a final option here, if you have already obtained a business name but wish to change it, this is possible thanks to the Certificate of Amendment. The Certificate of Amendment allows your business to change its name, assuming that the name is available.
In many cases, this is available from your state’s website; however, the exact form varies from state to state. As such, check with your local state representative if you’re unclear on the exact form you need to fill out.
A Key Point of Consideration: Check Your State’s Regulations
We’ve summarized some of the key things you should know as part of your business’s naming efforts – however, we must give a word of warning at this point. Indeed, while the above steps will likely be relevant for the majority of business naming efforts, there may be different requirements or steps.
Every state has different rules for naming businesses; as such, we highly recommend that you consider these to choose the most effective naming convention for your business. Indeed, the requirements can vary significantly across different state borders, so this may influence your final naming choices overall.
Find step by step process to register business names in each state.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Registering a new business requires that you select a suitable business name. This is something that many new business owners gloss over. However, the name you choose will play a prominent role in the success of your business. As such, we highly recommend you spend some time considering this decision carefully. In addition, you should always check the specific requirements for your state’s unique requirements before attempting to register the new business. Indeed, the specific requirements vary from state to state, and you may need to make some slight alterations to your plans accordingly. Still, naming your business doesn’t have to be a major headache, and there are several key options you can consider to ensure your naming conventions are effective overall.
What are the Benefits of Brand Name Reservation?
There are advantages that comes when you reserve the brand name for your business. Perhaps the main advantage is that you have some time to spare while you form your corporation. If there are delays to that corporation formation, then another company can’t just swoop in while you’re taking your time with forming the corporation. During the effective reservation period, no other business can use that brand name.
This is a big deal, especially when you’ve hit upon that “perfect” brand name for your business. It may be so perfect that other people who are starting similar businesses may also stumble upon it. By reserving the name, you get to use it first.
You can then take your time forming your corporation, without hurrying matters too much. You won’t have to rush the formation of the corporation, without getting all the operational details straight.
The other advantage is that, at least in the state of Alabama, it’s an absolute requirement. In that state, you can’t form an LLC or a corporation without reserving the name first. Alabama is the only state to require this, however.
What are the Drawbacks to Company Name Reservation?
A lot of experts actually recommend that you don’t even bother with the name reservation. You simply just form the company as quickly as you can, then the name becomes yours. It’s an automatic part of the process.
Unless you’re in Alabama, then it’s not really necessary at all. It’s not even all that practical. You expend time and effort into doing something that you don’t really have to. Imagine if you’re able to reserve the name and then a week later, you’re able to form the company. It seems like such a waste.
In addition, you’re no really permanently reserving the company name for your sole use. There’s an effective period for the reservation, and you’ll have to renew the reservation to maintain it.
There’s a fee for this as well. So, when you renew the reservation, you have to pay again. In some states, this can be rather expensive, with fees of $100 or even more.
Keep in mind that this reservation is only effective for your state as well. It’s not like you’re getting trademark protection for your brand, which keeps other companies in the entire US from using the brand name. If you want to reserve the name for your company throughout the country, then you’d have to go through the process 50 times (49 states plus D.C.). Obviously, that’s not quite practical.
How Much Will It Cost in My State?
It really depends on where you’re forming the corporation.
District of Columbia: $85
Florida: This state does not offer business name reservations
New Hampshire: $15
New Jersey: $100
New Mexico: $25
New York: $45
North Carolina: $130
North Dakota: $10
Rhode Island: $50
South Carolina: $10
South Dakota: $75
West Virginia: $15
How Long Will the Reservation Process Take?
It depends on the state. Most of the time, however, it’s a straightforward procedure that only takes maybe a couple of business days.
How Long Will the Reservation Last?
Again, it depends on the state. Some states only hold the name for you for 30 days, and then you’d have to renew the reservation. Other states can keep that name in reserve for an entire year, during which you can figure out how you can form your own company.
For most states, though, the reservation period is 120 days.
Should I use a Professional Service?
Experts generally recommend that you hire a formation service to help you form your LLC or business. This is to optimize the whole procedure and minimize potential mistakes. You can do the same with the company name reservation, though very few online formation services offer this service.
You can start with BizFilings, which perhaps offers the most affordable name reservation service. It only costs $35. It’s a reputable company that has served more than half a million customers, so they know what they’re doing.
Another option is MyCorporation . They’re more expensive at $49, but they do good work based on the number of rave reviews this online formation service has received over the years.
Keep in mind that most formation services will also offer a name availability search to make sure your company name is not yet in use, either.
DIY Name Reservation
You can always just reserve the name yourself, if you want.
First of all, start with a good company name that’s unique (which is a legal requirement). That means you need to check your state’s secretary of state website for their naming database, to confirm that the name you’ve chosen isn’t in use just yet.
Once you’ve confirmed the availability of the name, go to the name reservation section of the website and fill out the name reservation form. Then you can either submit the form online, or download the form and then mail it later on.
Pay the fee, either through online with your credit card or through the mail.
Should You Reserve the Company Name?
In most cases, the answer is a firm no. This is, of course, unless you’re in Alabama where it’s a requirement. Anywhere else, we recommend that you don’t even bother.
That’s because you can just use the time reserving the name to just go ahead and form the company instead. That way, you save yourself the effort, and you won’t have to pay a fee for this extra (and unnecessary step).
Of course, it’s a different matter when you see certain complications when forming the company. Perhaps you’re forming an LLC or a corporation with several other co-owners, and you all can’t quite agree with the details on how to run the company.
If that’s the case, if you all at least agree on the name, then you can go ahead and reserve the name while you people iron out the operational details. At least you’ll have about 4 months to figure things out, so there’s no absolute need to hurry. You can make sure everyone agrees on the company rules first.
Don’t reserve the name if you’re not running a formal business, however. Only the names of formal business are offered the protection of a unique company name. If you’re running a casual general proprietorship, then don’t even bother to reserve the name.