If you’re a sole trader, you don’t have to create a name for your business. Instead, you can conveniently trade under your own name. But if you feel like getting creative, you’re free to give your business a new title if you wish to.

Choosing the right sole trader business name is essential. Your customers could form their first impressions of you based on your name.

Read on for some quick pointers on naming your business. Or learn more about what being a sole trader involves at our What is a sole trader? page.

In this article, we will cover:

  • Rules for sole trader names
  • Protecting your name
  • Tips for choosing a sole trader name

Rules for sole trader names

There are different rules regarding company names depending on the type of company. 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. 

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

Trading As names

When you’re a sole trader, you can use a ‘trading as’ name different from your own name.

If you are self-employed and choose to use a brand name rather than your own name, you’ll need to use a ‘trading as’ name on official documentation like invoices and business bank statements. 

You can also enter it in your tax return, sharing it with HMRC as part of Self Assessment

‘Trading as’ is often abbreviated to the letters T/a for simplicity. For example, Lisa Forrest T/a A Very Good Hairdresser or Lisa Forrest Trading As A Very Good Hairdresser.

But whether you use a ‘Trading As’ name or not, you still need to include your official name on your sales invoices as well, for legal reasons and clarity.

Protecting your name

There is no official way to register Sole Trader business names in the UK. You don’t have to register your sole trader business name so you can choose the name you want and start trading. But be aware that about 60% of businesses in the UK operate as Sole Traders, making it somewhat tricky to avoid disagreements between businesses over the use of names.

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

Avoid using someone else’s name 

You might want to do your research and check if any other sole traders are using the business name you want. They may not be happy with you using the same name. It could also confuse your customers or make it impossible to stand out on search results online. You can search the Companies House register for existing company names to avoid using another company’s name.

You also should check whether there are any trademarks associated with the name you like. Trademark will make it illegal to use the name, and you could end up in a legal battle.

Tips for choosing a sole trader name

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. For example, if you’re a Plumber in Edinburgh you can choose your trading name to be Edinburgh Plumber.

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.

Think about what your business does

Some brands have names that are nothing to do with their products – Apple, Nike and Orange, to name a few. But these are well-established household names. 

Including what your business does as part of your name may help your potential customers understand what you do without you needing to take the time to explain it to them. By the time you speak to them, you’ll know they want what you sell.

Check if the domain name is available

Search the internet to check whether your chosen name is taken by someone else or a competitor. Even if you don’t plan to set up a website straight away, consider buying the domain to be ready for when you do. Learn more about how to create a business website here.

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. If the domain name is taken, you can often track its owner and see if they are open to selling it.

Also, make sure to check if the social media handles for your desired business name are available on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Learn more about how to use social media for business here.

Save time on financial admin 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.