Fact checked for accuracy by Billie Anne Grigg, a bookkeeper and Mastery Level Certified Profit First Professional.
Finding a name for your LLC can be creative and free-wheeling, but it’s also beyond important that you get it right. Strokes of genius are certainly possible. That doesn’t mean the naming process won’t have procedures to follow, rules and laws to know, and errors to avoid.
Plus, remember that name will represent your brand. It will go on all your advertising, signage, advertising, business cards, and more.
Below are some guidelines on how to name your LLC. If you’re still in the LLC setup process, make sure to read our guide on how to form an LLC too.
Your Name Has to be Legal
A critical aspect of choosing the name is making sure it’s legal. Some states require specific wordage and list off-limits words.
You may need to include an identifier showing the business is a limited liability company. The qualification entails using the phrase “limited liability,” “limited liability company, or “LLC” in the name.
Several states have words not allowed in LLC names. There are words that you can only use with permission. “Insurance” or “bank” are commonly disallowed. The list of prohibited or restricted words is not the same in every region. You can find out which words are allowable in your area through the state business website. That’s usually the site for your Department of State or Secretary of State.
Pick a Name That’s Meaningful
Here are criteria to keep on the table when choosing an LLC name that has heft.
Keep It Catchy
Your LLC needs a memorable moniker. “Catchy” doesn’t mean your name has to be snappy like a jingle. It can be formal or friendly or even funny, but when people think of a specific product or service, you want your LLC to come to mind. Play with words or alliteration, or use a name that’s easily abbreviated (now that’s catchy!).
Go for Meaning
Your name should tell consumers what you’re selling (Whether it’s a product, classes, or a service, you’re selling something).
“Laura’s” might be catchy and short (a good start), but, for a new company, it doesn’t say much. “Laura’s Flowers” works better for a marketing plan. It tells your audience you offer an invaluable service. However, as the LLC grows, the name may become “Laura’s” to repeat customers out of support and love.
You Want Originality
There are certain environments (the internet comes to mind) where an original label may have more value than meaning. Facebook is where the power or originality stands out. If your LLC will operate primarily on the internet, that unique name can help stand out on the most popular media platform in the world.
Distinctive Is Distinguishing
You may come up with a great name and, upon attempting to register, learn you can’t use it. Choosing an LLC name that’s too similar or identical to an existing registered business is going to get rejected.
You want to perform some due diligence, such as running through online business name databases in your state. There’s also the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. They have a database that’ll help eliminate names you may not be able to use. Lastly, if you get warning signs, you can still check the name status to see if the name’s in use.
Domain Ready Name
No new business can afford to turn its back on the internet. Even a local online presence will be invaluable to growth. See how viable your LLC name choice works with domain names. Check with a domain registrar for the availability of LLC names. It’s not unusual to come up with a perfect name and discover variations that aren’t available.
Social Media Friendliness
Facebook and Pinterest are two social media platforms that allow a business to go with a vanity URL. Instagram and Twitter require a user-chosen name for a company. Your company name will be invaluable here, building your identity and brand. It may be wise to investigate and find out if a variant of your LLC moniker is available.
Common Mistakes When Naming an LLC
Picking a compliant and friendly name won’t be difficult. The bigger challenge is finding one that works for you that’s available for use. Still, some obstacles can trip you up. Here are a few ideas to keep on the agenda to avoid falling off the path of naming your LLC.
Not Keeping Your Options Open
A big mistake many entrepreneurs make is finding the perfect name (to their mind) and leaving it at that. Business owners should properly weigh options before etching that name in stone. To avoid last-minute disappointments, come up with a list of up to three names in order of preference.
Not Looking for Trademarks and Availability
Most states will let you check domain names online for free. Many entrepreneurs don’t even know that trademarking is critical. Simply because you cannot find a company using your name doesn’t mean some entity doesn’t own it. If it’s trademarked, it’s still out of your reach. Find an online tool to help with that too.
Not Optimizing an LLC Name for the Internet
You want a memorable name that easily translates across URLs, social media, email addresses, etc. A good place to accomplish this is on GoDaddy.
It’s important to remember that today’s business landscape alongside the internet has changed B2B and B2C interaction. Consumers are more likely to come across your business because they’re looking for it. Because more people search for businesses online, you have to create a name that translates across the internet.
Create a name that is memorable and easy to locate. If a name’s complicated or long, it might be hard for users to remember or input into search engines.
Marketing and Practical Matters
Don’t overlook how the name of your LLC plays a role in building and advertising strategies.
To start, a concise, short name — or one that you can abbreviate (think Citibank/Citi) — will be beneficial. Also, choosing a name easily misspelled or jumbled will interfere with brand recognition.
Here are other practical matters to remember.
Use an LLC Name That Highlights What You Sell
To put it simply, try and insert what you do into the title. Think of an electrician opening her own company. More than likely, she will use “Electric” or “Electrician” directly in the business name. Similarly, many plumbing contractors use “Plumbing.”
Incorporate Company Values in the LLC Names
If your company has a core value that serves as a company foundation, it might be best to feature it in your name. Try to keep it generic as references to religion or politics (unless you’re targeting these groups) may draw an audience you’re not trying to reach.
Does the Name Sound Good
The name of your LLC should be easy to read and roll off the tongue. It needs to sound natural. Often, entrepreneurs love a name that sparkles on paper, but it doesn’t flow when spoken aloud.
The Last Word
Your LLC name has to adhere to qualifications imposed by your state while being unique, memorable, and aligning with your mission. It needs to be attention-grabbing, to be capable of standing the test of time, and show the world you’re a trusted authority.
One last note: Since your LLC will be a huge part of your future, it’s critical to find a name you will like for a long time to come. For more advice on names and other checklist items for starting your business, head over to our full article on how to start a business.
Filed under: Advice Columns