Naming your limited liability company (LLC) is one of the most exciting parts of starting your own business, and it’s also an incredibly important step. Your name sets the tone for your company, and puts your personal mark on the business.
However, you also have to comply with laws regarding how a business entity may be named, especially the ones specifically dedicated to LLCs.
This guide serves as your one-stop resource for naming your LLC, including rules, marketing considerations, and more. We’ll also cover your options for changing your business name down the line. Let’s get started.
Guru Tip: Once you find the perfect name for your business, don’t forget to register the URL so nobody can use it. Do a quick search on GoDaddy through our tool below.
Important Factors to Consider for Your LLC Name
1) Legal Compliance
The most common business name requirement is that your name is distinguishable from names already in use in the state. What constitutes “distinguishable” varies from one state to another, but it must be unique enough to not be easily confused with any other name registered in that state.
Plus, you’ll want to ensure that your name won’t be confusing to your customers. You’d hate to lose business because a customer mixed up your business with a competitor! To check your name, you should run a name availability check on your state’s website.
Similarly, your name cannot infringe on federally protected trademarks. Many trademarks include a full business name or an abbreviation of it, so you’ll need to stay away from these protected names or phrases.
Guru Tip: Trademark infringement lawsuits are messy, but you can easily avoid them just by doing your research. You can search the trademark database here.
Each state has its own laws for LLC names. Usually, your name must include an identifier of your entity type, such as the phrase “limited liability company,” LLC, L.L.C., or a similar tag. On top of this, the government prohibits the use of certain words, such as “bank,” “insurance,” “trust,” or other words that refer to specific regulated business types. Finally, your name cannot imply that your business is conducting activities that don’t align with your stated purpose.
2) Marketing Strategy
Now that we’ve covered the legal essentials of naming, let’s talk about marketing strategies. Your name is your first (and free!) form of advertising. For one, the name you choose should be easy to spell, say, and recall. This lets you take advantage of word-of-mouth advertising. If your name is hard to say or remember, then you can bet your customers won’t talk about it.
Your name should also be unique without being bizarre. You want it to stick out in your customers’ minds, but for the right reasons. That’s also why your name should give an idea of what your business does. If you sell the best sandwiches in town, your name should reflect that somehow.
At the end of the day, your business name is just that: yours. You should like your name and take pride in it. It takes time to create the perfect name, but in the end, you’ll be glad you did. In general, it’s best to come up with a clear and concise name that briefly describes the core purpose of your business.
In addition, you should brainstorm several different options to use as your name. This way, if your desired name is already taken, you have alternate names to fall back on, and you won’t become too attached to any one idea.
Finally, if you intend to establish an online presence, you’ll want to consider domain names and social media handles. Even if your business name is available in your state, you may not be able to convert your name into a URL domain that matches exactly. If you can create an abbreviation of your name for your domain that blends well with your full business name, it will help your customers find you online.
Claiming Your Newly Created LLC Name
Even if your name is available when you search it, there is no guarantee that you can actually claim the name when it comes time to form your business. You formally claim your name when you register your business entity with the state — LLCs register by filing the articles of organization (or comparable document) with the Secretary of State. Once you’ve formed, no one else will be able to use your name.
In theory, there is a chance that another business could file the name you’ve chosen before you do. If this happens, you’re out of luck — you’ll need to start over and create a new name. Thankfully, you can avoid this situation by either forming your LLC immediately after conducting your name search, or by reserving a business name in advance.
Most states allow you to reserve a business name prior to registering your business. You’ll need to file an application to reserve a name with your Secretary of State’s office, where you can find the necessary forms. There is a filing fee for this reservation, usually ranging from $10-50.
In most states, a name reservation lasts for 60-120 days after filing. Other states’ reservations last only 30 days, and others give you a year. However long your reservation lasts, it will buy you time to get your business affairs in order. While your reservation is active, no one will be able to form under the name you’ve chosen.
Of course, the other option is to simply register your LLC with the state the moment you come up with your business name, as this makes sure all your bases are covered.
Changing Your LLC Name
Hopefully you’ll never need to change your name. It can be a lot of work, and finding the perfect moniker can prove challenging. However, you may need to change your name someday down the road.
Over time, businesses grow and change, and sometimes they decide to rebrand. In these circumstances, your name might not be the right fit anymore. Perhaps your existing business name included the name of an owner who is no longer involved with the company, or maybe the core principles of your business changed. Regardless of the reasons, there are times when an LLC’s name needs changing.
There are a couple ways to accomplish this: you can amend your articles of organization or add a doing business as (DBA) name registration. Amending your articles would legally change the official name of the business. As a result, you’d also need to change other legal documents, including tax registrations, bank accounts, and business licenses.
The advantage of this method is that your new name is protected in the same way your original was, and no other entrepreneurs could use it (or any name deemed too similar). In our opinion, this more than makes up for the additional hassle of amending other filings.
Adding a DBA registration to your LLC is simpler, as you’ll simply need to register your DBA with your state, or your county clerk’s office (whichever is required in your region). The DBA registration does not change the legal name of your business; it simply allows you to operate under an additional name. Since your legal name does not change, you won’t need to amend tax registrations or similar documents.
Of course, there is a severe drawback to choosing a DBA when switching to a new name. DBA names are not legally protected, so you won’t have any guarantee of exclusivity. If someone else decides they like your business name and want to register it for themselves by forming an LLC or corporation, they are not only allowed to do so, but they would then gain exclusivity over the name, and you would have to change yours.
There are several things to keep in mind when choosing a name for your new LLC, with the most important factors being the legalities and the marketing considerations. Your name obviously needs to be legally available, but it also needs to be concise, accurate, and illuminating.
Above all else, our main piece of advice is not to rush into the act of naming your LLC – even if you’re using a professional LLC service. Take the time to consider multiple name options, and also get feedback from trusted friends and family members.
Finally, if you need to change your LLC’s name at some point, take the time to do it correctly by amending your articles of organization, rather than taking the quick fix of registering a DBA.