One of the questions I am asked most often is, “What should I name my business?” followed by, “Should I trademark my business name?”
I always give this answer to the first question: “When you’re first starting out and so many things are up in the air, use your own name to name your LLC or S-Corp.” (Of course, if you’re a Sole Prop, you have to use your own name.)
Why name your company after yourself?
Because that gives you the most flexibility as your business grows. And, unless your name is Beyoncé, you don’t have to worry about trademarking it.
Baddaboom. 15 seconds just saved you thousands in trademark registration costs.
If you start off with a company name like, “Joe’s Social Media Services, LLC” (I know, not a great name, but for purposes of this article, it will do) you corner yourself into ‘social media services’ as a company. If he wanted to change the name of his LLC, Joe would have to go through another filing, required by law in most states, and pay the fees that go with it. Joe could save himself so much time and money if he were to just use his own name and then…
The DBA: “Doing Business As”
I would suggest that Joe name his business “Joe LastName, LLC” and then use a DBA to name his current business, “Joe’s Social Media Services.” A DBA is considered a “fictitious name” (or assumed name or trade name) that is different from your legal name (if you’re a Sole Prop), or the registered name of your LLC or S-Corp. The policy reasons for registering a DBA is so that the public (and, let’s face it, the IRS) knows who’s behind the company name.
Back to Joe. If Joe named his LLC after himself, created a DBA for his social media business, and then wanted to start selling… say… socks (because he was done(!) with social media), all he would have to do is create a new DBA, (Joe’s Socks, perhaps?) without having to change the name of his LLC. He can keep adding new companies under his LLC umbrella, using DBAs, as his business branches out.
More efficient. More cost effective.
Starting a business is exciting, but trying to decide on a name can keep you from moving forward. Using your legal name to name your company gets you started, and gives you the most flexibility in the future.
Another thing: when naming your DBA, make sure you’re not infringing on someone else’s trademark. You don’t want to spend a dime on your business without knowing this first… it’s not worth the risk.
When deciding on a business or product name (DBA), make sure the name is distinctive enough to pass muster with the trademark office. Any name you choose must pass the distinctiveness test.
Finally, the one big exception to use your name to name is your business is if you intend to sell it your business in the future or turn it into a franchise business. People won’t likely want to buy a business named after you.