So you’ve finally decided to take the plunge! You’re going to set up on your own. Now you must choose a name for your business. We’ll guide you through the process.

Choosing a name

Would you like your business name UK to communicate what your business does or be more general? Should it include your name? Would you prefer a traditional-sounding to reflect old-fashioned qualities? Or a contemporary name suggesting an on-trend approach using the latest technology?

Avoid words or phrases that could date quickly. If trading overseas, ensure the name doesn’t mean something offensive in the native language. Don’t use long names, unfamiliar words and spellings. Consider a name that will appear at or near the top of the listings if you are planning to advertise in local directories.

Think about incorporating the name of the town or city in the business name if you intend to focus on the local market. Keep your corporate name simple and straightforward. This will give you the opportunity to develop creative names for future brands and trading names.

Sole trader status

The simplest way to start a business in the UK is by becoming a sole trader, which means that you are self-employed, own the business and can work on your own or employ people. It does not mean that you have to work alone. You should:

  • Have a National Insurance (NI) number
  • Register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for self-assessment which means that you (or your accountant) calculate the amount of tax you owe
  • Choose a business name or trade under your own name.

So registering a business name UK isn’t compulsory for a sole trader. But if you do decide on a name, you should register it so that your company’s identity is protected.

Are there any other benefits in registering?

When you register a business name, you comply with laws that require you to do so, and you protect yourself. Once you have registered a name, no-one else can use it, so you protect your company from someone doing business in your name. You want to be sure that when customers look for “Dolly’s Dog Groomers”, they find you and only you.

As a matter of interest, your registered company name does not have to be the same as your trading name (business name). The same rules of naming apply, except that the words ‘limited’, “Ltd.”, ‘limited liability partnership’ (LLP), ‘plc’ or ‘public limited company’ must not be included (assuming none of these is true).

Limited company status

If you choose to set up a limited company or limited liability partnership (LLP),you must register certain details with Companies House. As the names of limited companies have to be unique, it can be advantageous to create a limited company in order to secure your business name.

If you have some idea of the name you’d like to adopt, start by doing a company name search at Companies House or engage the services of a company formation agent to ensure that the name hasn’t already been taken and that it’s not too similar to an existing company’s name.

The rules for company and LLP names

Make sure that your name:

  • Ends with ‘limited’ or (or Ltd); ‘public limited company’ (or plc); or with ‘limited liability partnership’ or LLP if you have a limited liability partnership); or with ‘Limited Partnership’ or ‘LP’ in the case of a limited partnership
  • Is not offensive or unpleasant
  • Does not match one already on the index of company names and does not include any controversial words or expressions (unless you have obtained permission to use them)
  • Is not the same or very similar to a registered trade mark.

Avoid also words that suggest a connection to government or local authorities. (You will need permission from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to use the term “accredited” in your name).

If it’s important to you that the name is exclusive to your business, you will need to register your name as a trade mark.

Find out if someone is using your proposed business name

You should choose a different name if you discover that a local business, company or national firm uses it. Check local phone and business directories and the internet to see whether your proposed name is the same as or very similar to a word or phrase that has been registered as a trade mark or has been registered by a company.

The use of sensitive words

There are certain words and phrases that must not be used without official permission, which may give a misleading impression of your business. These are known as ‘sensitive’ words and comprise five main categories that denote:

  • National importance or status, e.g. British, National, European, International
  • Special status, e.g. Association, Chartered, Council, Institute, Society
  • A particular function, e.g. Charity, Insurance, Register, Trust
  • A specialised activity, e.g. School, Academy
  • Connections with government or royalty, e.g. Parliament, Royal, Queen.

Register your domain name

Think of a suitable name for your website – numbers and letters can be used. Hyphens can separate words but not spaces, full stops or other punctuation

Check on Nominet, the official registry for UK domain names, to see if the name is available. If it is, register your name – you can do this online by choosing any one of the hundreds of registration agents on Nominet.

Decide on an official company address

Assuming the company name you want is available, you will need to register it to a UK postal address so that you can receive official notifications. The address must be in the same country where your business is registered. For example, if registered in Scotland, your address should be in Scotland.

As your company address will be available publicly, if you want to keep your home address private, you could register your company with your accountant. Or if you would like to create the impression that you operate from an office or commercial area, some company formation agents offer mail forwarding facilities.

How much does it cost to register a business name UK?

The standard fee for registering a business name UK using the Companies House web incorporation service is £30. The process takes up to 24 hours and payment can be made by credit or debit card or by PayPal.

A paper application sent in the post will cost £70 and will take 8-10 days to process. A same day service will cost £100.

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