You’ve done your research and you know an LLC is the right legal business format for your new start-up. Now comes one of the most fun—and most important—tasks of getting your new business up and running: choosing an LLC name.
Picking the perfect business name for your new LLC will take more than a few minutes of your time; in addition to finding something that’s both a good fit with your start-up visions and has branding potential, you also want to make sure your new LLC name complies with legal requirements.
Even if your brain is awash with numerous potential LLC company names, the following steps will help you find the best LLC name for your new start-up.
1. Brainstorm a list. It’s best to go through the process of choosing a business name with a list of at least five or six potential LLC names; if the name you have your heart set on turns out to be unavailable at the LLC name check stage, you’ll be glad to have other options to turn to. In brainstorming your list, don’t hold back or judge—aim to jot down as many possible names as you can. You may be surprised at the interesting and potentially viable names you’ll end up with.
2. Narrow down your list. Once you’ve finished brainstorming, it’s time to put on your critical judgment hat. Go through your list and begin to cross off names that don’t feel quite right. Take your time and consider every potential name carefully. When you’re finished, you will, hopefully, have a list of five or six names to take to the next stage.
What are some considerations to keep in mind when narrowing down your list? Check out the following:
- Is the name memorable? You want to use a business name that people will remember; doing so will help your LLC stand out from the rest of the crowd.
- Is the name meaningful? Does it tell people the kinds of goods they can buy from you or the types of services they can expect? While this certainly isn’t a consideration that should dictate whether or not a name has a place on your list of potential names, it’s definitely something that works in a name's favor.
- Is the name original? Having an original name will, in most cases, trump the need for a name that describes what your business does; this is especially true if your start-up is primarily an Internet-based company or if you intend to do most of your marketing and branding online. An original name that’s also memorable can provide you with invaluable branding potential.
3. Include required words or phrases. Most states will have a list of required words or phrases that must be included as part of an LLC name; these are typically identifiers that let people know your company is an LLC, phrases like “Limited Liability Company” or abbreviations like “LLC”. Choose the required word or phrase that works best with each of the names on your list.
4. Eliminate restricted words. In addition to required words, many states also have a list of words which can’t be used in an LLC name, or which can only be used with permission. For example, you probably won’t be able to use “corporation” or “partnership” in your name, and certain words like “bank” will likely require approval from the appropriate government agency.
5. Check LLC name availability. Once you have a list of potential names, you’ll need to check to make sure they’re available for you to use as your new company name. Most states prohibit LLC names that are identical to names of businesses currently registered with the state or names which are similar enough to a registered name to be confusing to the consumer, so checking LLC name availability is an important step in the process. Most states maintain a searchable online database of business name registrations you can use to check the potential names on your list.
6. Check for trademarks. While an LLC name search helps you meet your state’s legal requirements for naming your LLC; a trademark search adds an extra layer of protection. There’s nothing more frustrating or challenging then running into trademark issues down the road, when your company is thriving and has had time to build up a loyal customer base and a solid reputation. To avoid potential trademark challenges, do a search of each name on your list on the US Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark database; if you find an identical name or one that’s too similar to one of your potential names, it’s a good idea to eliminate that name from your list.
7. Internet-readiness. By now you should have a good idea which names are most suitable for your new business. To help you pick from the list of names remaining on your list, check to see the availability of domain names for each remaining name. Even if you’re running a brick-and-mortar only company, chances are you’ll be staking out some online real estate for marketing purposes; a good domain name will be an invaluable business asset. When looking for a domain name, don’t be disheartened if your exact name isn’t available; variations that are similar enough to the actual name will usually work as well.
It’s also important not to forget the social media aspects of your LLC name. If you intend to do any social media marketing, you will want to check the availability of usable usernames on each of the major social media platforms on which you intend to have a presence.
It’s worth the extra effort you’ll need to put into finding a name that’s a good fit for your new start-up. The right name will do more than just serve as a way to identify your company; it will also provide you with the base to build your brand and reputation.
LegalZoom can help you start an LLC, and we will check state records to make sure your name is available. If you’ve got questions, our network of independent attorneys can speak with you about your legal issues.