How to come up with and check if a business name is taken
In this article, we'll cover:
- The importance of a company name
- The free government Company Name Availability Checker
- Registering your business’ name
- Rules for company names
- Check you can choose your new business name in your website’s address
- Displaying your company name
- Company names in the construction industry
- Business names ideas to avoid
- Need more help choosing a name for your business?
- How to come up with a catchy business name
The importance of a company name
Your company name sets your business apart from your competitors. Customers should come to associate your company name with high-quality work, professionalism, and outstanding customer service. Your company name can also briefly tell customers a bit about you and your company.
When choosing your company name, there are several things to consider. You could include one or all of the following points:
- The type of work you do eg. Electrical, plumbing, building
- Your name or initials
- The name of the local area, town, city, or county where you work
- Something unique or unusual – but this is a risky one, be cautious but don’t be afraid to show your personality
It’s also important to do some research into your competitors in the local area. This will help you to understand what areas of work to target.
For example, if there are lots of general builders in your area, would it be best to specialise in extensions or kitchens.
If, on the other hand, there are more specialist installers, it might be better to offer a wider range of services or even a project management service where you employ specialist sub-contractors.
One thing’s for certain when naming your business. You can’t choose a company name that’s already in use.
The free government Company Name Availability Checker
Once you’ve chosen a name, you need to find out if it’s available. You don’t want to spend money on branding, signs, and merchandise only to find out that the name you want is already in use.
Simply head over to the government’s Company Name Availability Checker to find out if your preferred company name is available. Once you’re sure it’s not already taken you can start the set-up process.
Registering your business’ name
Most UK companies register as sole traders, limited companies, or partnerships. As a sole trader or partnership, you do not need to register your business name although you will need to include it on any official forms, letters, and invoices.
Limited companies must register their company name with Companies House. To set up a limited company you must provide certain pieces of personal information about yourself and your shareholders. You must also pay a registration fee of £12.
Rules for company names
There are certain rules that you must follow when choosing a company name. When setting up a limited company, your company name must end in either Limited or Ltd. This sets your company’s status apart from sole traders and partnerships who cannot use these terms.
Other rules for company names include:
- No offensive words
- No names that are too similar to existing company names
- No sensitive words or expressions
- No connections to government or local authorities unless officially authorised
Most sensible company names which are not currently in use are perfectly suitable and will be accepted for use.
Check you can choose your new business name in your website’s address
Domain name availability check is a must for your business. If you have no idea what ‘domain’ means, read this blog about setting up your small business website.
For a quick summary of what a domain is: think of a domain name similarly to your home address; your domain is an easy-to-remember address used to access a website. And you’ll want your business name to feature in the domain.
For example, once you have your name, do a domain name availability check. It’s likely that you will want either [your new business name].com or [your new business name].co.uk.
Displaying your company name
Displaying your company name is a great way to build brand awareness and get your name seen in the local community. It is also your responsibility to display your company name in certain places and in specific ways.
Your company name must be displayed on a sign at your registered company address or any location from where you operate your business. This does not include businesses that operate from a home address.
All business signs must be easy to read and visible at all times including out of working hours.
Your company name must also be clearly displayed on all official documentation stationery, and promotional material. This includes on:
- Business letters
- Flyers, brochures, and leaflets
- Company profile online: websites, social media, Checkatrade profile
- Order forms
Your company name must be the same or recognisable on all places where it is displayed.
Company names in the construction industry
As mentioned earlier, your company name can include various information about your business. This includes your name, the type of work you do, and the area that you cover.
Construction company names often want to focus on providing excellent workmanship and outstanding customer service. Words such as Professional, Qualified, Expert, Specialist, and Certified help to instil confidence in potential customers by using rationality and logical reasoning.
Words such as Family Run, Customer Focused, Trusted, and Reliable engage with a customer’s emotional side and promote the fact that they are working with a reputable and caring company.
By using a company name such as Professional and Reliable Building Services, you are engaging with both the customer’s rational and emotional decision-making processes. This can help you to set your company apart from your competitors.
Business names ideas to avoid
When coming up with the name for your new company, there are some business name ideas to avoid.
- Any name that suggests a connection with UK government, local authority, or specified public authority.
- A name that includes sensitive words or expressions.
- A name that is inappropriate, or includes offensive words.
- A name that includes a word that represents a regulated activity.
- A name that is already in use or is trade marked in the UK.
- A name that uses certain characters, signs, symbols, and punctuation.
If you’re a sole trader, you cannot use ‘Limited (Ltd)‘, ‘Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)’, or ‘Public limited company (Plc)’ (or their Welsh equivalents) in your business name.
There are some specific Companies House business name rules to follow. A full list of rules and restrictions is available via the gov.uk website to help you check which names are acceptable.
Need more help choosing a name for your business?
Check out this step-by-step on how to come up with a business name
It can feel overwhelming knowing how to come up with a business name. It’s a huge part of your brand identity, and something you want to get right first time.
There are certain rules and restrictions to follow when considering the best name for your new venture, which we cover in this article.
However, when it comes to getting the creative juices flowing to come up with a suitable company name that’s both catchy and memorable, we recommend this process to help generate some great ideas:
1. Get creative
If you’re not keen to go down the traditional route of, “[Your name] Cleaning Services” or “[Family name] & Sons”, then you don’t have to.
A creative business name is often more memorable than a bog-standard one.
To get creative, list the words that help to define the service you offer. You can then use a thesaurus to find alternative words that might describe your service in a more inspiring way.
Why not combine your name with another name, or use an online word generator to help come up with some unusual ideas.
Get together with friends, family, or team (if you have one) to chat through business names. A good brainstorming session often helps to generate some of the best ideas as you spark off of each other.
Remember, your business name has a big part to play in potential customers’ first impression of your company. Therefore, when you review the names from your brainstorming session, ask yourself, “does this name represent my brand in the right way?”.
Once you have a shortlist, search online to see what results appear. You don’t want a business name that has too much competition, or an undesirable association.
Have a look on social media channels too. You want to make sure someone isn’t already using the business name in a similar trade to you, and that the social media handle you’d want is available. The same applies to checking the domain name you want is available if you want to create a website for your new business.
Check whether the company name is already registered with Companies House and the Intellectual Property Office (for trade marks). More on this later.
How to come up with a catchy business name
There are brands that stick in our minds and brands that pass us by unnoticed. So how do you come up with a good business name that people will remember?
How does it look?
Picture how the name will look on your van decals, your business cards, and your website. Will it stand out from the crowd? Perhaps an unusual spelling would work well, an acronym, or abbreviation.
Note down all your ideas and make a shortlist from there.
What does it sound like?
If the name rolls off the tongue easily, includes rhyming, or alliteration (using the same letter or sound at the beginning of the words in your brand name), you’re on to a winner.
Is it memorable?
Another tip for how to come up with a company name that’ll stick is to make it short and easy to remember. This could be by incorporating an (appropriate!) pun, using symbols, or personalising the name to make it more unique.
How can I choose a company name?
Firstly, choose a name that represents what your company means to you. A good company name should reflect your values, promote your services, and be clear and memorable, building trust with your customer base. Once you’ve decided on a name, check its availability, and register with Companies House.
What is the best name for a company?
The best company names are the simplest and most memorable. Good company names should also be clear and tell your customers a bit about what you do.
Over time, the best company names sometimes become synonymous with the product they sell or produce. Hoover for example is a company name for a brand of vacuum cleaners. Vacuum cleaners, now, are often referred to as Hoovers regardless of the company that has produced them.
What company names should I avoid?
When naming a company try to avoid over complicated names. Anything that’s difficult to spell or pronounce is not a good idea. Generalising too much should also be avoided as should using abstract words which have no connection to the company.
How are company names protected?
To fully protect your company name and stop other people from using it, you must register it as a trademark. Although registering your company name as a limited company will protect against other companies registering the same name, they can still trade using the same name unless you have registered it as a trademark.
What is a unique business name?
A unique business name will help you to stand out from the competition. A unique business name could include acronyms, a mash-up of words, your own name, or a made-up word!
Can two companies have the same trading name?
No. Two companies cannot have the same trading name. Before choosing your company name, you will need to check the Companies House register of names.
Can my trading name be different to my business name?
Your trading name can be different to your registered business name. Your business name is the name you register with Companies House. Your trading name is the name you trade under. You cannot use a trading name that is already trade marked.
A word of warning, however. A trading name does not have the same protection as a business name, so it could be possible for someone to register your trading name as a limited company with Companies House and demand that you stop using the name.