Choosing a name for your limited company is a big deal – it is going to be the name that underpins everything you do in your business. It will carry your reputation and guarantee how memorable you are to future customers. It is important, therefore, that it is given plenty of thought. There are also legal considerations that need to be taken into account.
We have been providing online business advice for almost 20 years. Using our extensive experience, here are some essential tips to consider when choosing a name for your new company.
Firstly – legal restrictions on company names
Before you start, you should be aware that Companies House, the registrar of companies, has various restrictions on what you can name your company. This is to protect the identity of existing companies on the register, and to prevent businesses ‘passing off’ as something they’re not – such as implying that they have certain skills or qualifications.
Unsurprisingly, you cannot use offensive wording, use certain types of punctuation, or imply connection with any Government body. Nor can you use words which are regulated (see a full list here).
Your proposed company name cannot be the ‘same as’ an existing name, nor can it breach trademarks. For example, Richmond Developments Ltd is the ‘same as’ Richmond Developments & Company Ltd.
All companies limited by shares or guarantee (the vast majority) must end with the words ‘limited’ or ‘ltd’ (although Welsh companies may elect to use the suffices ‘cyfyngedig’ or ‘cyf’.)
Have you thought about the future?
Although you may be very set on the here and now, it’s also important that you consider how your company will pan out over time.
There may come a day when you want to sell it – if you make the name too personal or tie it into your own name, you may find it harder to sell. Or you may find yourself having to sell the business rights to your name. This could affect other work you plan to do in the future.
In the future, you may want to expand your business. If you make your name very specific to start off, for example, by calling it Pricedrop Plumbing Ltd, this could limit you should you wish to add to your services with heating or tiling, etc. The name you opt for should be broad enough that you can cover expansion and sales.
You can, of course, change your company name at any time by submitting Form NM01 to Companies House. However, as your business becomes more established, it becomes more and more disruptive to do so, which is why it’s worth spending time before incorporation deciding upon a suitable name.
Do your research
Before you settle on any particular name, do your research on Google and use the Companies House Name Checker tool.
Look to see if there are any other businesses using your proposed name – and also, if they’re in the same industry. This may be a barrier to entry (perceived or otherwise) as you might find it harder to make a name for yourself against the competition and could also confuse prospective customers.
Inadvertently it could lead to your competitor gaining some of your business when customers go to another business by accident.
If there is a business already registered at Companies House with the name (or similar name) to your proposed name, clearly you will need to think again.
Consider how your business name represents your brand and what associations it has. The word may mean different things in different industries (and countries, if you are planning on doing business abroad too).
We recommend you ask colleagues, family and friends for their views on your proposed company name and/or brand name (often they are the same).
Is your domain name also available?
It’s also worth checking if the URL is available for the business name you’re after. You should always try to secure the relevant domain name at the same time as registering your limited company name. This helps to secure your web presence online and adds credibility to your company.
Most businesses have a web presence now and people will expect to be able to type your business name into their search bar and find your business.
The .com and .co.uk remain the most popular domain name suffices, so if you’re able to secure both – this will protect your company’s identity.
Avoid use of the words ‘contractor’ or ‘freelancer’
If you provide personal services to clients, such as as a consultant, contractor or freelancer, you may be aware that successive governments have attempted to clamp down on perceived tax avoidance within the industry.
The Intermediaries Legislation (IR35) was introduced in 2000 to penalise so-called ‘disguised employees’ – people setting up limited companies to provide professional services, but acting more as traditional employees.
As a result, it may be wise not to include freelance-relating keywords in your company name. Just in case it inadvertently catches the eye of an HMRC inspector some way along the line.
This may be unlikely, but there is not point taking a chance when there are so many potential combinations of words to use in your name.