Choosing a name is one of the more exciting parts of starting a business! It begins to feel real and you start to build a picture in your head of what it might actually look like one day.
You'll want to choose an appropriate business name that helps attract your ideal clients while abiding by legal and other requirements. Don't forget - names can be changed and sometimes it pays to quickly choose a name to get started and stick with it for a while. You can always re-brand later if you think it necessary - it is not difficult for a small business.
It' s much better to get started and concentrate on building your business than stalling for too long trying to choose a name.
NB Steer away from using JUST your own name or initials - this tells nobody anything about your business and does not prompt them to a) say "Ooh, I must speak to her" or b) to ask more about what you do. If you are going to include your name, say what you do as well - see below!
1. What do your ideal customers want?
No matter what business structure you choose, its name will go a fair way to creating the first impression people get when they see your marketing material.
It's a good idea, then, to try to craft a name that will communicate what you do quickly and make it easier to let your ideal customers know what you can do for them.
When starting a business, people do tend to get a bit stuck finding a name they LIKE and that sounds memorable or quirky in some way. Obviously, you're fairly limited on the amount of words you have to play with here but focusing on what your customers actually WANT should really help.
2. What impression do you want to create?
As well as getting across what your business actually does, its name can also convey other Unique Selling Points such as whether it is family run, has been long established, amongst others.
I think some examples are probably useful here so here goes:
a) Are you looking to attract only local customers, perhaps focusing on the point that you know the area and community? If so, you might want to consider using the name of the town or city in your business name. I purposely called by accountancy practice Yeadon Accounting (Yeadon being the town where I live) because I wanted to draw attention to the fact that it was a small firm so I would in turn attract other small business owners who didn't want to pay the large fees of a national accountancy firm and wanted a more personal service.
b) Another way to 'advertise' a more personal service is by including your own name in the business name - so Emma Hague Cleaning Services, for example. This is also a good way to start to position yourself as an expert in your field and to get your name out there. It also lays the foundations for future expansion, should you decide to make the move from business owner to entrepreneur!
c) Do you want a traditional sounding name? Ye 'Olde Village Ale House', for example? This can imply that the business has been around a long time and, perhaps, has old-fashioned values. A more modern sounding name like 'Emma's Bar a la Mode' might convey a fresh and innovative approach selling new and experimental products.
d) Try to avoid very long names and unusual words or spellings - at best, it will take you forever to answer the phone(!), but people may not be able to find your business when searching the internet or Yellow Pages and (worst of all) they might think you have misspelled your quirky word by accident.
e) Some business owners choose names that will appear at or near the beginning of listings in the Yellow Pages and other directories - this is the reason you will see so many businesses called '123 Advertising' or 'Aadvark Accountancy' etc. They hope that they will be the first listing in their category that the customer sees and will call.
Luckily, marketing methods in the main have moved on and this is quite a dated trick. If your whole marketing strategy is dependent on the customer calling the first number they see you're in for a rough ride!
f) If you are thinking of marketing your services further afield than your immediate local area, just make sure that no words or phrases you use are inappropriate in another language or dialect. A business called 'Sandra's Baps', for example, could be advertising a bakery in one area of the UK but something completely different in another!
3. Consider Similarity to Other Business Names
If you've decided to set up a limited company, you have to make sure that the name you choose is not the same as that of another limited company. Now when I say the same as, that includes anything that is similar enough to another business name that it might cause confusion - Companies House just won't allow it.
You can check this at http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk
Sole Traders & Partnerships
Sole traders and 'ordinary' partnerships don't have to register their name with Companies House and so they aren't subject to such restrictions regarding similarity. There can be any number of sole traders using the name 'Emma's Cakes' out there, for example - and there probably are!
However, it makes sense for a number of reasons to try to make sure you choose a name that is different to other businesses in your sector.
It's also a good idea to check registered trademarks so you don't tread on anyone's toes and get yourself into hot water - you can check trademarks that have been registered or are pending registration with the Intellectual Property Office at http://www.ipo.gov.uk