Choosing a name for yourself can be one of the best things about starting your own business. But it can be trickier than you think, and your company name can have a significant impact on your success. 

This article will show you how to choose the right name and how to ensure you’re following the government rules, whether you’re becoming a sole trader or a limited company. Read on to find out:

  • Why you need a business name
  • Rules for company names in the
  • How to pick the right name for your business

Why you need a business name

As a self-employed sole trader in the UK, you don’t really need a business name. It’s perfectly acceptable to trade under your personal name. 

But you must choose a name if you’re setting up as a limited company. Learn more about how to set up your business as a sole trader or limited company here.

You’ll need to pick a business name before you can do any of the following:

  • Set up a website
  • Write terms & conditions
  • Open a business bank account
  • Invoice customers
  • Order business cards

Rules for company names in the UK 

You must follow specific rules when registering a company and choosing a company name in the UK. Rules are slightly different for the self-employed, limited companies and business partnerships.

For example, you must choose a name for your business if you’re setting up a private limited company. But you can trade under your personal name as a self-employed sole trader. 

When you’re a sole trader

You should follow these rules on naming your business:

  • You can trade under your own name
  • You can choose another name for your business
  • You do not need to register your name
  • You must include your name and business name (if you have one) on official paperwork like invoices and letters.

Sole trader names must not:

  • Include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership’, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’
  • Be offensive
  • Be the same as an existing trademark
  • Contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression or suggest a connection with government or local authorities, unless you get permission

If you want to stop people from trading under your business name, you can apply to register your name as a trademark. Read more about the difference between a trademark, copyright and patent here. You can search the Companies House register for existing company names to avoid using another company’s name. There’s more information about how to set up a small business with Companies House here.

Rules for naming your limited company

Your name cannot be the same as another registered company’s name. If your name is too similar to another company’s name or trademark you may have to change it if someone makes a complaint.

Your name must usually end in either ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’. You can include the Welsh equivalents ‘Cyfyngedig’ and ‘Cyf’ instead if you registered the company in Wales.

Rules for ‘Same as’ names

‘Same as’ names include those where the only difference to an existing name is:

  • certain punctuation
  • certain special characters, for example, the ‘plus’ sign
  • a word or character that’s similar in appearance or meaning to another from the existing name
  • a word or character used commonly in UK company names

You can register a ‘same as’ name if the following applies:

  • your company is part of the same group as the company or Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) with the existing name
  • you have written confirmation that the company or LLP has no objection to your new name
  • ‘Too like’ names
  • You may have to change your name if someone complains and Companies House agrees it’s ‘too like’ a name registered before yours.

Companies House will contact you if they think your name is too like another and advise what to do.

Trading name

You can trade using a different name to your registered name. This is known as a ‘business name’.

Business names must not:

  • Include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’
  • Contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression unless you get permission

How to pick the right name for your business

Consider SEO

SEO means Search Engine Optimisation. If you pick a business name that people are likely to search for, your business name might come up in the search results. When you’re relying on Google and other search engines for people to find your business, then picking a name that works well for search engines can be helpful.

You can think about what your customers are searching for and use that as your business name.

You can use Google Trends to test specific search terms. This will show you the popularity of a search term over time. However, it might not have enough data to show you anything for very niche search terms. To learn more about SEO, see our Beginners Guide to Small Business SEO.

Avoid overly complicated names

You don’t want potential customers getting confused about how to find your business online. 

Think how many times you’ll have to give your details out over the phone. Is your potential business name easy to pronounce? Will people understand what you’re saying? And is it easy to spell? 

Try to pick something easy to speak and write and avoid constantly correcting the misspelt version of your name. 

Get a.co.uk or .com domain name.

Customers tend to associate a .co.uk or .com name with a more professional business. The chances are that someone already owns your preferred domain name, but many domain owners are willing to sell their name for the right price.

Think of the domain name you want as a business investment. You can check the availability of a domain name on sites such as GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com. If the domain name is taken, you can often track down its owner and see if they are open to selling it.

Also, make sure to grab your desired business name on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Learn more about how to use social media for business here.

Save time on bookkeeping with Countingup

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here.

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