How to choose a business name

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When you’re deciding on a business name, it’s really important to get it right from the start. Once you have chosen a company name, you will be using it over and over and people will associate it with you.

It’s a time-consuming and expensive business changing your printed material, business cards, website copy and domain name and your social media presence if you decide a year down the line that your company name isn’t working.

Here are a few considerations to bear in mind:

1. Is the company name already in use?

First, you don’t want your company to be confused with another company. Second, even if you’re starting as a sole trader, you may move on to become a limited company. Check on the Companies House website (http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk) that your chosen name isn’t already in use, otherwise you will have to come up with another name and use the phrase “trading as” when you become a limited company. Equally important, find out which domain names are available for your website.

 

2. Is your company name repeatable?

If you’re starting a new company from scratch, it will help if your company name can be heard and understood the first time you say it, whether in person or on the phone. If you have to spell it out, then you are slowing down the conversation, especially if you are cold calling or have a limited time to explain what you do at a networking event or with a new client.

 

3. Does your company name tell people what you do?

If you’re working in a good solid trade, there’s no harm in having a good solid company name, incorporating your own name, eg Handy Andy. If location is a selling point, you could include it, for example, The Yummy Yorkshire Ice Cream Company. Or you could go for something quirky and memorable, such as Grumpy Mule Coffee. If you work in a creative industry – architecture, website design or marketing – you might choose a word or phrase that sets a mood or impression of what you do, eg Creative State. And if you’re in a business development, you might want to go for dynamic words that suggest achievement, such as Strategy to Succeed. (Incidentally, these are all real companies).

 

4. Does your company name give the right impression?

No one would call their business Amateur Carpet Cleaners or the Half-Hearted Hairdressing Company. The word “Key” in my company name was chosen because it suggests something essential. Partnered with “Words” to make Key Words, it says that words are key, but also references an SEO term, which is a beneficial association for a copywriter.

 

5. Choosing your company name, from A-Z

When I was choosing my business name, I was keen to use “Word” or “Words” in the name, because I work with words, day in, day out, and it is a good umbrella term for the various strands of my business, from copywriting to author events. But I didn’t want “Word” to be the first part of the business name as it would automatically appear near the bottom of every list or directory. Putting the word “Key” in front to make Key Words pushes it much further up the list alphabetically.

 

Getting started on choosing your company name

A good idea when thinking up a business name is to write down all the words that might be associated with your company. Taking the example of an office stationery supplier, this could include:

Nouns: paper, card, index, pen, storage

Verbs: supply, provide, stock, deliver

Adjectives: reliable, dependable, cheap, quality

This is also a useful approach when you are writing about your business, from taglines to home copy page for your website.

It’s also helpful to chat to friends and family and see if they have any suggestions. Make a shortlist of company names and think about how they might look on a logo and how they might sound when you introduce yourself. Does the name lend itself well to clever marketing phrases or newspaper headlines? Run your shortlist past friends and family and see what they think – they may come up with a really pertinent objection that you hadn’t thought of.

Finally, stand in front of a mirror and imagine you’re introducing yourself to potential clients: “Hi, I’m *state your name* from *state your company name*.” If it sounds right, you’re ready to take the next step and start telling the world about your exciting new company.

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