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How to Name a Business and Protect Your Brand

March 14, 2023 10 min. read

Your business name describes what your business is and does, sets you apart from competitors, and often forms a customer’s first impression of your business.

It’s also a requirement for getting a business license, buying insurance, marketing to customers, and just about every other business activity. 

A business name is an important decision that’s hard to change later, so it’s important to get it right from day one. Here’s how to come up with a business name—and what to do next when you’ve got the right name.

READ MORE: How to start a service business on a budget

1. Choose the type of business name you want

There are several types of business names you could use, depending on what appeals most to you and your customers:

  • Personal names are common in the home service industry—for example, AJ’s Roofing or Janet’s Cleaning Service. These names can make customers feel like a real person is running the business and help build a personal connection to your brand.
  • Initials and acronyms are shortened versions of longer names. Say a man named Larry Jones cleans pools—he can call his business LJ Pool Service, or Larry’s Amazing Pool Service (or LAPS for short). This type of name is memorable and easy to come up with. 
  • Descriptive names are functional and tell customers what your business offers. A descriptive name like Quality Plumbers makes it clear that customers will get a top-notch plumber for their home.
  • Creative names make customers think or feel a certain way. A name like Masterpiece Painters suggests that a room will be a work of art once it’s painted, while Riverflow Pressure Washing sounds calm and relaxing.
  • Arbitrary names can seem random and unrelated to your small business, like Origin Pest Control, but they’re easy to remember and they stand out in your market. You can even make up your own word to create a name—for example, combining “lawn care” and “integrity” to become Lawntegrity.
  • Location-based names tell potential customers that you serve their area by including your city, county, or region, like Orange County Appliance Repair. This can also help your business show up higher in a list of Google search results.
  • Names from other languages can make your business feel and sound unique, even when you’re using simple words. A name like Warm HVAC may not wow customers, but Calido HVAC just might.

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2. Brainstorm a list of names

Knowing how to choose a business name will help you build a business that customers recognize and trust.

Start by thinking up and writing down a long list of names. They don’t have to be good at this point—just get them down on paper so you have something to work with.

Not sure how to come up with a unique business name idea? Try these tips to find the right word to describe your business:

  • Use an idiom dictionary like The Free Dictionary to search for specific words and see the commonly known phrases they appear in. For example, if you’re starting a cleaning business, type in “clean” to get inspiration for names like Clean Start Housekeeping.
  • Open a thesaurus to find synonyms (different words that mean the same thing) related to the business services you plan to offer. This can help you come up with a company name like Cupola Roofing or Pigment Painters.
  • Find a rhyming dictionary to help with funny or punny names. Say you’re naming a pressure washing company—when you rhyme “rinse” with “prince,” you can come up with a name like Rinse Charming Pressure Washing.
  • Explore related words using an AI generator like relatedwords.io. For example, if you’re going to offer electrical services, typing in “electricity” could help you come up with names like Edison Electrical or Daylight Electrical & Solar.
  • Try a language dictionary or translation tool like Google Translate to explore name ideas in other languages. Type in words that are associated with your business, like “snow” or “water,” to see what results you get.
  • Use a business name generator to get long lists of business name ideas. You may not find the perfect name, but one of the business name generator’s suggestions may spark an idea.

3. Make a shortlist of possible business names

Go through the list of names you just made, and narrow it down to a handful that meet these criteria for what makes a good business name:

  • It makes sense. The brand name clearly tells potential customers what service your business offers—no need to explain the name to anyone.
  • It’s accurate. It doesn’t mislead people by telling them you offer something you don’t. If you only do landscaping, don’t name your business Axiom Lawn & Landscape—people will think you offer lawn maintenance, too.
  • It’s thoughtful. It makes people think or feel a certain way about your business and says something important about what you do.
  • It’s simple. The name isn’t too long and is easy for your customers to spell, say, and remember.
  • It’s appropriate. Avoid swear words and make sure the name isn’t rude when it’s shortened or abbreviated, like Albany Snow Shovellers.
  • It’s unique. Do a Google search during the shortlisting process to make sure the name isn’t already being used in the area where you operate. 
  • It has room to grow. The name will still fit your business as it scales. For example, it’s best to avoid a location-specific brand name like Seattle Handyman Service if you plan to expand into other areas of Washington.

READ MORE: 6 steps to take before you apply for a small business loan

4. Get feedback from your ideal customers

Got your shortlist? Great—bring it to your family, friends, potential customers, and other members of your target market.

Go through each proposed name, tell them why you’re considering it, and see which name they connect with most. This should tell you which option is the best name from your customers’ perspective.

However, take their opinions with a grain of salt. It’s valid for someone to say, “Your acronym spells out a swear word and you should change it.” But you can safely ignore an opinion like, “You shouldn’t say ‘roof’ in your roofing business name.”

Feel free to pick and choose which opinions are valuable to you.

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5. Pick a name that fits the business

You’re probably leaning toward one or two names on your shortlist by this point. Choose a great name that your customers like, but trust your own instincts here—it’s your business and you need to love its name.

Whatever name you choose, make sure you would be proud to share it with others, too. It should be a name that you would be comfortable wearing on your shirt and having on the side of your vehicle.

6. Check that the business name is available

Before you start printing business cards, check to make sure your service business name is available. A quick Google search was a good start, but now you’ll need to start digging deeper.

Follow these steps to check your name availability:

  • Check area availability using your Secretary of State website and through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This will tell you if the name already has a trademark in your state and country. (If you aren’t in the U.S., find trademark resources on your state or national government website.)
  • Check domain availability to ensure you can get a website URL that matches your business name. You can do this through a domain name registrar like GoDaddy. Purchase your domain name as soon as possible to keep someone else from buying it first.
  • Use a keyword research tool to search for your business name. This will show you if another business is using it, or if the name is so popular that your business will struggle to show up in Google. Most research tools cost money, but this investment is worth it when it’s time to build your website and market your business online.

If it looks like your business name is available, work with a lawyer to conduct a complete trademark search and help you set one up.

Trademark protection isn’t a requirement, but it’s a good idea—it covers your business and your brand if another business starts using the same brand name in the future.

Pro Tip: Make sure you can get social media channels that match your chosen business name. If they’re available, lock them down now—it’s free and it only takes a minute.

READ MORE: The no-excuses guide to creating a Facebook business page

7. Register the business name

After confirming that you can use your chosen business name, you’ll need to choose a business structure (also called a business entity) and register the name with your state or province.

Types of business structures

There are several types of business structures you can choose to register as:

  • Run your business alone as a sole proprietor (U.S., CA) or sole trader (U.K., AU). Sole proprietorship is a common option for independent business owners who are just starting out.
  • Have 2+ business partners to lead the business as a partnership (U.S., CA, U.K.), or a joint venture or co-operative (AU).
  • Reduce risk and protect your personal assets by incorporating your business as a limited liability company (LLC) or limited liability partnership (LLP) (U.S.), corporation (CA), limited company or limited partnership (U.K.), or company (AU).

You can only legally use terms like Inc., Ltd., LLC, and LLP in your business name if you’ve incorporated your small business as that type of entity. 

Learn more about your country’s business structures and registration process by googling “COUNTRY + business registration.” You can also check with the business registration division of your local government.

Business name registration in the U.S.

  • Register your entity name. Depending on your state and business structure, you may need to register a legal entity name to ensure you’re the only business in your state using that name. You can do this at your local registry.
  • Register your domain. Buy a domain (URL) for your business website through an accredited domain registrar. The domain name should be short and match your business name. Renew this registration every year to keep your website active.
  • Register your DBA. If you’re “doing business as” under a trade name, your city or state may require you to register your DBA. It may not always be needed and doesn’t protect you legally, but it’s still a good idea to register a DBA for operational and tax purposes.

Business name registration in Canada

In most provinces, you only need to register a business name with your provincial government if you aren’t running it under your personal name. Here’s how to register your business name:

  • Register a trade name. If your business operates under a trade name or DBA, you’ll need to register it according to your province’s requirements.
  • Incorporate. Incorporating is optional but gives you exclusive rights to use your business name, either in your province or across Canada.
  • Trademark the name. Registering a trademark is also optional but gives you proof of ownership and keeps other businesses from using your name.

Business name registration in the U.K.

Whether you’re a sole trader, limited company, or business partnership, you don’t need to register your business name in the U.K.

However, you do need to use the Companies House Company Name Availability Checker to make sure no one else is using your chosen name already.

You should also search for a trademark to see if similar brands already exist. If not, register your name as a trademark yourself to keep other people from using your business name.

Business name registration in Australia

Use the Business Registration Service to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and register your business online. If you already have an ABN, register through ASIC Connect.

You can also work with a private service provider, like your accountant or solicitor, to register and renew your business name. It’s a good idea to trademark the business name, too.

8. Build out the rest of your brand

Once your company name is registered, you can start building your home service brand identity.

You’ll need a logo, which you can ask a designer to create for you, or design yourself using an online logo builder like Looka. Here’s an example of what your logo could look like:

Home service logo and business name application

You can use your finished logo and branding on your:

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