If you are trying to figure out how to name your LLC, you are not alone. There is no such thing as a perfect name.
Coming up with a legitimate company name is one of THE most confusing and difficult aspects of starting an online business for many entrepreneurs and would be business owners.
I am constantly amazed by how many entrepreneurs get stuck on naming their LLC before they even have a legitimate business idea.
So in this post on want to share 25 of my top tips for how to overcome this mental obstacle to naming your LLC.
Don’t Overthink the name of your LLC
Naming your LLC should be the easiest part of starting a new business. You really don’t need to overthink this.
The first step of this process is to recognize how truly easy coming up with a unique name is.
You can use your own name, your kids initials, or even the street you grew up on.
Have a favorite constellation or maybe a fun way to say your name that isn’t quite your name?
All of these are great names for your new LLC.
And coming up with a unique business name is step number one before you file your LLC formation documents.
You only need one legal name for your LLC
Many people get confused because they have all sorts of different names for various products and services they want to sell. And as a result, they think they need to set up a different LLC for each – but aren’t sure which to start with.
The bottom line is that the name of your LLC does not need to have any relationship to what you are selling. You online need one legal name for your LLC, but you can have multiple DBA’s (also known as “doing business as” names or fictitious business name) for your limited liability company.
Follow the rules in your state
Believe it or not, there are specific rules and requirements in each state regarding what you can and cannot use as a legal business name.
Typically, these rules state that your name must be unique, distinguishable, and not misleading.
Each state has their own statute that outlines how to name your LLC. You will want to review these rules carefully before you file your LLC.
In many cases, if you file your Articles of Organization and your name gets rejected either because it does not comply with the state statute, or it is not unique or distinguishable, then your filing fee is non-refundable and you will need to submit a new filing.
Use a modifier for your LLC name
When you submit your Articles of Organization, don’t forget to include the proper modifier in your name.
These could include:
- Limited Liability Company
- Limited Liability Co.
- Ltd. Liability Co.
Do a name search first – How to check if your LLC name is available
It is always a good idea to conduct a name search first to confirm that your limited liability company name is available.
Almost every state will allow you to do a name search via their online database.
You must make sure that your name is both unique (i.e. no other LLC is using your name) and distinguishable (your name can’t be deceptively similar to another name).
Failing to do a name search ahead of time could result in your application being rejected and loss of your filing fee.
Do not use any prohibited or restricted words
When you are trying to come up with a business entity name, it is important not to use misleading or prohibited words.
In other words, if you are not a doctor, don’t use “doctor” or “healthcare” in your business name.
In addition, states such as Florida prohibit the use of certain words that would confuse the name of your LLC with a federal or state government agency such as IRS, EPA, Treasury Department, etc.
New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania each have their own published lists of prohibited words that you cannot use in your LLC name.
Use multiple DBA’s for your LLC
As mentioned before, if you are torn between two different names for your LLC, remember that you can file a fictitious name or “doing business as” for a different name under the name of your LLC.
Our recommendation is to use a generic name for the business entity, and then file a more product or service specific name for your DBA name. If that brand does not work out, then you can always file a new DBA for a different product or service.
In addition, you can use DBA’s after you have settled on a name that you would like to trademark and then file a DBA for that specific name.
Don’t worry about trademarking your name… yet
Speaking of trademarking, many new online businesses worry that they need to trademark the name of their LLC. While this may be true down the road, in most cases it just isn’t necessary.
There are two main reasons why you shouldn’t worry about trademarking the name of your LLC.
First, when you are just starting your online business, you don’t yet know what product ideas will really work for your business. Your business may go through many different stages before you finally find a winning product idea. As a result, you may be wasting a lot of time and money on a trademark application before you even need one.
Second, while it is important to make sure that you are not using a competitor’s trademarked name when naming your LLC (another reason why you should use something arbitrary and generic), you can’t actually trademark a name unless or until you are using the name in commerce.
In many cases, you will be using a DBA as the name you are selling a product under with your online business. Your LLC will just be a “holding company” for your various brands, products and services.
Finally, your LLC will own any trademarks that you do decide to file later on. This way if you decide to sell your business, you can keep the LLC and merely sell off the websites, trademarks, customer lists, etc. that are attached to that business. If you name the LLC the same name that you decide to trademark, then you make the process of selling your business that much more difficult.
Have fun with your name
As mentioned above, you shouldn’t stress about coming up with a name for your business. Feel free to have fun with this process.
Get your kids and spouse on board. Come up with something unique that represents who you are as a person and the values of your business.
One of my favorite names was the original LLC name used by Pat Flynn. As we all know, Pat is the founder of Smart Passive Income, which now is owned by SPI Media, LLC. However, for 10 years Pat operated under the name Flynndustries, LLC.
Obviously, this name had nothing to do with Pat’s main SPI brand, but it sure was creative!
What creative name can you come up with for your LLC?
Reserve your name if you aren’t ready to form your LLC
You may be reading all this and thinking to yourself…
“Yeah, that sounds great. But what if I’m not ready to file my LLC just yet?”
There could be a number of reasons for this.
- You are still planning out ideas for your business
- You are going to be moving and want to hold off until you do so you don’t have to register two separate LLC’s
- You are comfortable operating as a sole proprietor for the time being
Whatever the reason, you are still able to either file a DBA under your personal name (if you don’t have an LLC yet and are operating as a sole proprietorship), or you can file a name reservation with the secretary of state’s office in your home state for a period of time.
But be careful and check the rules in your state. Kansas, for example, is the only state that does not allow you to file a DBA, but you are able to reserve a name in Kansas for 120 days. Other states may have similar nuances in their statutes that you should consider.
Pick a name you don’t anticipate changing
While it is not impossible to change the name of your LLC after the fact, it can be difficult for a variety of reasons.
- You will need to update all of your contracts to reflect the new LLC name
- You will need to update your web properties, privacy policies, terms of service and terms of sale
- You may need to update your information with your payment processor (i.e. Stripe, Paypal, etc.)
- You will need to update your name with the IRS and your state revenue department.
- If you are collecting sales taxes, your name will need to be update with the state.
- You will need to file Articles of Amendment with the secretary of state that can cost time and money with additional filing fees and reporting requirements to complete an LLC name change.
For these reasons, you should be sure that you feel good about the name you choose and that you do not anticipate changing it anytime soon.
Use Your Initials
If you are at a complete loss for what to name your LLC, and you definitely don’t want to use your personal name, then consider using your initials or even the initials of your children.
There was a time when CSH Holding Company, LLC was on the radar for my LLC name. CSH are the first initials of my kids – but that name was already taken.
Make the name generic
When I’m working with clients to help them set up their LLC, I typically recommend they pick a generic name.
The reason for this is that we want their name to work with a number of different business ideas.
If the name you choose for your LLC is too specific to a certain industry, then you run the risk of becoming misleading if you change course with your business. This of course would necessitate a name change in the future (which you should avoid for reasons already mentioned).
Use a play on words when naming your LLC
One of my favorite LLC names was Pat Flynn’s “Flynndustries, LLC”. This is an excellent example of a great use of play on words.
As you were growing up, did you have a nickname or did people call you a name that was derived from your last name, but not quite the same?
If you can find a new or different way to incorporate your name into the name of your LLC, that is a fantastic way to create a unique and distinctive name for your business.
Don’t try to trick people
A great way to get your name rejected is to try and fool people into thinking your LLC is in a different business than it actually is. This is a great reason that you should use a generic or arbitrary name.
If you are not in the business of selling legal services, then you should not use “law firm” or “legal” in your name. If you aren’t an accountant or selling tax preparation services, then keep “taxes” out of your name.
Consider using your personal name
I keep going back to the idea of using your personal name because it is one of the easiest names you can use for your LLC.
Of course there are exceptions. If you have a common name such as “Tom Smith” or someone else has already filed an LLC with your name, then this obviously won’t work.
But if you are just looking for an easy name and you want to build a personal brand, then just using your name as the name of your LLC is a great plan.
If your name is hard to spell, do this…
What about the situation where you want to use your personal name for the name of your LLC, but it is too hard to spell…
This is a common question, but not a huge problem. My recommendation is to either move forward with your name as it is spelled (remember that you will likely be selling under a different brand name anyway), or find a way to simplify your name.
A perfect example of this is Gary Vaynerchuk. Rather than use his full name in his online brand, he has become known as “Gary Vee”. And for his media company, he titled it “VaynerMedia”.
Everyone knows that Gary Vee is Gary Vaynerchuk, but Gary has found a unique way to express himself online through a simplified name.
Which means that you need to…
Make it easy to pronounce
Even though you may not be using the name of your LLC as the face of your business, you will still need this name to open a bank account, sign contracts, and complete other business.
A name that is hard to pronounce and/or spell increases the likelihood that someone (not associated with your business) will make an administrative error that could cause you problems down the line.
So try and find a name that is easy to pronounce and spell.
Don’t be too clever
But don’t be too clever with your name.
Many people come up with clever sounding names that they think sound cool, but it’s possible that they are the only one getting the joke.
Before you attempt to use a name that sounds funny or clever to you, run it by your friends or family members to see what they think.
Don’t be too specific
One big mistake I see from people forming LLC’s is to use a name that is specific to what they are selling.
For example, if you are a web designer, then you could name your LLC “Jane’s Web Services, LLC”. While this is completely normal and fine to do, I don’t recommend it.
When you make your name too specific to what you are selling, then if you decide to change the way you do business at some point, then you will have to deal with all the problems that come up in changing your name.
Brainstorm multiple options
If you are really struggling to come up with an idea for your business name, then take 20-30 minutes and brainstorm all of the ideas you can think of.
Just write down whatever comes to mind for this brainstorming session.
Don’t second guess yourself. Just get it all down on paper.
Set a timer and when the timer goes off, take another look at your list.
If nothing pops out at you, then try to narrow your list down to the top 5 ideas.
Sleep on it before making a final decision
The next step, after you have your list down to 5-10 names, take a couple of days to make a final decision. This is an important decision and you don’t want to rush it.
Sleep on it for a night or two and see if any ideas “speak to you.”
Ask your friends and family what they think
If you still can’t make a final decision, ask your friends and family what they think. But remember that at the end of the day, this is your business and you are the one that should make the final call.
Consider social media
Another way to narrow down your list is to think about how your name will sound on social media.
Even more important than that is whether or not your proposed names are even available on social media!
You can narrow down your list by cross-referencing various social media platforms to see if your names are available.
A great tool to help you with this is Namechekr.
How will your LLC name fit into your overall marketing strategy?
As mentioned above, in most situations, the name of your LLC will not be reflective of your overall business.
Remember, your LLC is merely a legal vehicle to receive income for your business, and protect your personal assets from your business debts.
After you set up your LLC, you can file separate DBA names that represent the various brands of products and services that your business is offering.
As such, except for in the rarest of circumstances, your LLC name will have no bearing on your overall marketing strategy.
Is the domain name available?
Although you may not use the name of your LLC in your marketing strategy, you may want to build a website around the name of your company.
If this is the case, then having an available domain name may be important to you.
To narrow down your list of potential names, you can use Namecheap to check on domain names.
Do a trademark search if you are using something unique
Although I’ve mentioned several times in this post that you should use a generic and arbitrary name for your LLC, I know that there will still be people out there who still want to name their LLC after the brand of product or service they are selling.
If this is the case, then it is vitally important that you do a thorough trademark search at the Federal level first. Even though your chosen LLC name may be available in your state, that does NOT mean that the brand name is not a deceptively similar name to another brand or trade name that is registered to a company through the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office).
For more information on how to complete a trademark search, click here.
Are you proud of your proposed LLC name?
So you are narrowing your choices and about to make a final decision. The last question you should be asking yourself is “am I proud of this name?”
Remember, this is a name that you will be associated with for as long as you are in business for yourself (even if you sell your business, you will likely keep your LLC and sell only the assets).
Are you happy with your choice?
Does it make you proud when you think about your name?
If so, then you are ready to move forward.
Make sure you like your name
At the end of the day, you are the one who has to live with this name. And chances are, you will have this name for a very long time. Make sure you like it.
How to Name Your LLC? Make a decision and move forward
Hopefully by now you have more than enough information to come up with the best possible name for your LLC.
When you are ready to move forward, here is a link to start your first LLC.
Not Legal Advice
I realize it goes without saying, but no attorney-client relationship is formed just because you have read this post. This post is for informational purposes only, and if you require additional legal support or advice you may click here to schedule a strategy session with a lawyer from The Hart Law Firm, P.A.