A Quick Guide on How to Choose a Business Name

In most cases, your business name is required to be unique in the state of formation. Even in states that allow multiple businesses to go by the same name, it's beneficial to your business to stand out, avoiding confusion with existing companies. You must also follow the rules and best practices to get the most from your branding.

If you're wondering how to choose a business name, we've compiled this quick guide to prevent state rejection and other delays.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Business Name

The first thing to consider when creating company name ideas is that they must reflect who you are as a brand. Think about what makes you stand out from your competitors. It could be your values, location, expertise or any other factors that make you unique.

Your business name should also convey meaning, encouraging people to connect emotionally with your brand. It should be short and simple, as research shows that business names that are easy to understand can positively affect your return expectations.

Your business name is the first thing customers see — it should encapsulate everything about your brand. Simultaneously, it should differentiate you from the competition. Think about what type of business name you want. It can be descriptive, outlining your product or service. It can be suggestive and evoke emotions. It can be based on another language, or it can be an acronym that rolls off the tongue.

All Business Structures

Some business naming rules apply to all business types and structures, including:

  • Be straightforward:You may not use a business name that is intentionally misleading. For instance, you may not name your plumbing business "Smith Chiropractic."
  • Choose a unique name:Using initials and a generic industry term will often conflict with another business. "TJ Trucking," for example, is likely not available, but "Jenkins Trucking and Transportation" might well be. The word 'And' and the ampersand (&) are often considered the same thing in regard to uniqueness.
  • Understand the details:Separating initials with an ampersand (&) will not make it unique. In most instances, that symbol is ignored. Using the example above, "T&J Trucking" will be treated the same as "TJ Trucking" when determining uniqueness.
  • Avoid punctuation:Do not use punctuation other than hyphens (-) or ampersands (&). The IRS does not recognize any other punctuation, and even if the state does allow it, the discrepancy may cause problems when opening a bank account. You can still use punctuation in your marketing and advertising. For instance, "Jims Burgers" would be theregistered name, but using "Jim's Burgers" on your sign, online ads, or business cards is acceptable.
  • Limit plurals:Adding an 'S' to make something plural will not suffice to make the name unique.
  • Bring it back to you:Using your own name in the business name, or the city in which you are based will often differentiate your business name from others.
  • Stand out:When considering uniqueness, the state looks for a business to be easily differentiable from any other business.

Limited Liability Companies

LLC names must be unique within the state of registration, not only from other LLCs, but also from any corporation registered in the state. Some states will not allow LLCs to be named the same as existing trade names either.

ALL LLCs require a designator alerting anyone doing business with the entity that it is registered as a limited liability company. Designators can be any of the following for an LLC:

  • “Limited Liability Company”
  • “Limited”
  • “Ltd.”
  • "LLC"


Corporation names must be unique within the state of registration, not only from other corporations, but also from any LLCs registered in the state. Some states will not allow a corporation to be named the same as existing trade names either.

Corporations require a designator to alert anyone doing business with the entity that it is registered as a corporation. Designators can be any of the following for a corporation:

  • “Incorporated”
  • “Corporation”
  • “Inc”
  • "Corp"


Nonprofit names must be unique within the state of registration, not only from other corporations, but also from any LLCs registered in the state. Some states will not allow a nonprofit to be named the same as existing trade names either.

Nonprofit rules vary by state but generally do not require any designator like standard corporations or LLCs.

Trade Names

Trade names can not have designators like "LLC", "Inc" "Corp" or "Ltd", nor can they have those words spelled out, "Limited", "Incorporated", "Corporation". Those designators have a specific meaning.

A trade name does not "protect" the name or prevent anyone else from using the name. Although some states will not allow another business to register a name that is already in use, it does not mean that someone won't use it anyway. Your protections for a business name are only held in civil courts, and even then, generally only if someone is actually infringing on your notoriety (pretending to be you to get business they didn't earn).

Registration Requirements

The requirements for registering your business vary from state to state. Each structure requires separate documentation and processes, so it's best to look into these thoroughly to avoid delays in the registration process.

To ensure your business name is available in your state, considering using a professional filing service like Firstep Business Solutions to avoid any complications with business name availability.


Testing and Feedback

Identify a few potential business names and get feedback to narrow your options. Ask friends, family and colleagues for their opinions and impressions. Reach out to your target audience. Double-check that your business name is free of negative connotations or cultural insensitivity. For example, your name might sound fantastic in English but translate poorly in other languages. Consider sensitive topics affecting your industry and avoid any business names that might alienate potential customers.

Online Presence

A good business name is web-friendly in today's digital age. You'll likely have a strong social media presence alongside your business website. Ideally, your domain name and social media handles should be the same or fairly close to your business name.


Your business name will be with you for a long time, and you want it to stay relevant as your business grows. For example, running an online clothing business called "Clothing Online" limits you to just clothes. Getting too specific could mean your carefully chosen name is inappropriate in a few years. Ensure your chosen name lets your business grow and change.

Register Your New Business Name With Firstep Business Solutions


Choosing your business name is an exciting new beginning. While it's the start of a new and profitable journey, maintaining compliance and navigating the red tape can be challenging and time-consuming. Firstep Business Solutions is here to streamline your business maintenance practices, from turning your new business name into a registered entity to updating your records.

As a privately owned small business, we understand the importance of having trusted support so that you can focus on connecting with your clients and growing your business. Form your business in minutes with us, starting with our simple registration availability checker. Get started with us today, and we'll navigate the paperwork so you can make an impact in your industry.