“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
From experience, I know that when you are setting up a new business, one of the hardest parts of the setup process is deciding on a business name. You want it to be amazing, to reflect your brand identity and ideals, to be memorable, to look fantastic on your website and business cards, and to be easily found online. However, I’m going to be a little controversial here and say that you needn’t be having sleepless nights over it – it’s not the be all and end all! At the end of the day, it’s the quality of the work you provide and your exceptional skill-set that should set you apart from your competitors, not a witty name. Despite this, I know that it is still an important consideration for many business owners and have therefore collated some top tips to help you select the perfect business name!
Can I just use my own name?
As a Sole Trader, you can trade under your own name if you want to – no need for any exotic and emotive language. You can also choose another name for your business (which needs to be displayed on official paperwork like invoices and letters).
What can’t I call my business?
According to the gov.uk website, if you are a Sole Trader, your name should not:
- include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership’, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’
- be offensive
- be the same as an existing trademark.
Your name also can’t contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression, or suggest a connection with government or local authorities, unless you get permission[i].
What if I have a Limited Company?
Choosing a company name for a Limited Company has a few more requirements. For example, your name can’t be the same as another registered company’s name; if it is, or is deemed too similar, you may have to change your company name if someone makes a complaint. Generally, your business name also needs to end in ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’[ii]
Can I use the name of a business that no longer trades?
Regardless of whether you are a sole trader or a limited company, it’s worth doing your research before deciding on a name. If you come up with a name that you like, check Companies House[iii], Social Media and the Search Engines to see whether it has been used by another business, as even if that particular company doesn’t trade anymore, you could be negatively impacted by the reputation of the original business, or asked to change the name.
Have you checked for slang/dodgy euphemisms?
Once you’ve shortlisted your potential names, it’s worth checking the dictionary/thesaurus to review the potential connotations associated with them – they might sound innocent to you, but could be a dodgy euphemism that you’ve never heard of! Also, if you are hoping to work with international customers, it might be worth checking to see whether your name translates into something less-than-positive in their native language. I have a Bulgarian friend who delights in telling me that a well-known UK business he has dealt with has a name that means ‘poo’ in Bulgarian slang…
What if I just can’t think of anything and don’t want to use my name?
If you’re stuck for a name and can’t bear to use your own, if could be worth using a tool like https://keywordtool.io/google to determine what people are typing into the Search Engines when they are looking for the kind of services you provide – could any of these be built into an original business name? If so, it could help improve your business’s visibility online as using a carefully selected keyword as a business or website name (as well as implementing other on-page search engine optimisation activities) could help relevant business owners find you more easily.
Alternatively, a website specialising in domain names (like https://www.123-reg.co.uk/) could be a useful tool for inspiration, as by typing in a specific keyword (like ‘Virtual Assistant’), it will bring up a list of potential domain names that your business could use. It’s worth noting that just because a domain is free, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a business already using that particular name, so make sure you do your research and check that it really is free and available for use.
And finally – don’t panic.
If you can’t think of a name, don’t get despondent. As I mentioned at the start of this blog, it’s your customer service, the high quality of your work, your exceptional skills and your attention to detail that will make you stand out from the crowd as you launch your VA business. A name is simply a label to distinguish you from your competitors, it doesn’t have inherent worth or meaning – that is something you build yourself. So whether you use your own name or find something catchy that you’d like to call your business, make sure that you build a professional, sustainable and successful VA business, and people will remember you for all the right reasons.