Launching a limited liability company (LLC) is easy. It requires no complicated procedures and involves filing just a few simple documents.
But, establishing your LLC starts with choosing a name. As with any other business structure, your LLC’s name shouldn’t resemble the name of other companies or violate any trademarks. You also may need to comply with additional rules when naming your LLC, depending on the state in which your business will operate.
Follow this simple guide to learn more about naming your LLC.
Conducting LLC Name Searches
Ideally, you want a business name that’s memorable and easy to pronounce. It also should stand out in search engine results. Here are three searches you should conduct before settling on your LLC name:
- LLC Name Search: Your business’s name must be unique among all existing entities in the state in which it’ll operate. Each state provides business name search databases so you can check if your preferred name is still available.
- Domain Name Search: You’ll also want to ensure your business’s name is available as a URL. You can register a domain name via website builders or domain name registrars. If someone already owns the domain name you want, make some modifications to that name until you find one that’s available.
- Social Media Search: Finally, search for business names on different social media platforms (e.g., LinkedIn®, Facebook®, Instagram®, and Twitter®) to confirm the availability of your preferred business name’s handle.
Applying LLC Naming Guidelines
LLC names must follow this format: “(Insert business name here), LLC.” Beyond complying with that format and confirming the availability of your LLC name in your state’s business name database, you’ll also want to choose a name that’ll make you feel proud about your brand every time you present yourself to a prospective client or investor.
While each state has its own statutes and regulations that cover the naming of LLCs, here are four common guidelines you must follow nationwide:
- You must use an LLC designator (e.g., “LLC,” “L.L.C.,” or “Limited Liability Company”) in your LLC’s name.
- You can’t use a designator that could confuse your LLC with another business type (e.g., “Corp,” “Inc.,” “Nonprofit,” etc.).
- Your LLC’s name can’t use words that could confuse it with a government agency (e.g., the FBI, the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury, etc.).
- You can’t use a term like “bank,” “university,” “law center,” or other restricted words in your name. Securing approval to use terms like these in an LLC name generally requires your business to hold the correct charters or have members with specific licenses, such as a lawyer or doctor.
- Your name can’t be so similar to another business name that it could confuse customers.
Choosing a name is just one of the several essential requirements involved in proper LLC formation. Always select a competent attorney or a reputable and experienced online formation service for your LLC. This will help you avoid improper or incomplete formation, which can lead to significant delays and potentially cause you to lose the limited liability and other protections afforded by an LLC.
Recommended LLC ProviderThe most common reason states reject LLC formation applications involves an issue with the business name. Remember to follow the above naming guidelines to avoid any issues. If you aren't 100 percent sure your chosen name meets all the requirements, consider working with an LLC formation service to get it right the first time. Our recommended LLC provider, ZenBusiness, charges just $39 plus the applicable state fees for this service.
Reserving Your Business Name
Once you pick a name that meets all the LLC naming guidelines in the state where you plan to establish your new business, you can reserve it by filing the appropriate paperwork with the Secretary of State. It’s a fairly simple process. You’ll then receive confirmation from your state that your business name is available for use.
Even if you don’t plan to use it right away, reserving a business name is important. Why? Doing so establishes your intent to use it in the future and prevents others from acquiring that name.
Many states limit business name reservations to a specific period so you might need to renew your reservation or risk losing your preferred business name. You can reserve a business name for 60 days in California, for example, but name reservations last 120 days in Texas. Check with your Secretary of State’s office to confirm how long a business name reservation lasts in the state where you plan to do business.
The government department responsible for overseeing LLC formation varies by state. Massachusetts, for example, has a “Secretary of the Commonwealth” instead of a “Secretary of State” so the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office manages the business formation process. In Alaska, you must file LLC formation documents with the State Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.
Avoiding Names Similar to Other Businesses
What if you find another business operating under a name similar to your chosen name in another state? Even if you can legally register that business name in your state, it still may not be a good choice for your LLC. Here are some best practices to consider:
- Don’t use a name similar to a well-known business, such as Amazon®, McDonald’s®, or Uber®. Did you know that McDonald’s sues firms that use the “Mc” prefix? Avoid future legal problems by choosing a unique name for your LLC.
- Don’t include a name similar to another LLC business that provides the same goods and services as yours. Steer clear of potential issues by searching for names of local companies within your market niche.
Creating a DBA Name
Your business entity can only have one name. But, you can apply for and use assumed or fictitious names — also known as “doing business as” (DBA) names — as long as they’re available in the state or county where you plan to do business.
Creating a DBA name is the easiest and most cost-effective way to conduct business under a different name without creating an entirely new business entity. With a DBA name, your LLC can accept payments, advertise, and otherwise present itself under that name. However, three states — Kansas, New Mexico, or South Carolina — don’t allow DBA names.
Completing Key Next Steps
After you choose a business name for your LLC, you’ll need to register a domain name and start your LLC.
Registering a Domain Name
As previously noted, you should conduct a domain name search to ensure the availability of your LLC’s name as a URL for your business website. You can do this by searching on domain name registration websites, website builders, and web hosting services you plan to use.
Even if you aren’t yet ready to build a business website for your LLC, it’s important to secure your domain name. Why? Domain registration enables you to get a personalized, business email address you can use to communicate with your customers. It also protects others from claiming your business’s URL.
Our Recommended Website BuilderWe recommend the GoDaddy Website Builder for all small businesses. It’s flexible enough to handle most types of small businesses and simple enough to actually use. Its AI-powered generation process will help you to get your site up and running in about 5 minutes. Seriously. After that you can change the text and images to match your business and that’s it; you have a fully functioning website.
Starting Your LLC
LLCs provide pass-through taxation benefits, personal asset protection, and a flexible management structure. Forming an LLC can help you establish credibility and authority in your market because customers and investors will view it as a formal commitment to your business.
By choosing a unique business name that suits your LLC, you’ll create a strong foundation for consistent and recognizable branding. The right name also can help your LLC drive customer loyalty and more effective advertising campaigns in the long run.
Using Your LLC Name Consistently
Once you choose a name (including the LLC designator), you should use it consistently to avoid confusion. If you name your company “MyBusiness, LLC,” for example, then your official correspondence, website domain name, business cards, and other company-related documents should use the name “MyBusiness, LLC.”
Can you name an LLC after yourself?
Yes. You can name an LLC after your personal name as long as no other local business uses the same name. In fact, you can use your personal name for your own business branding.
How do you research LLC names?
Each state has a searchable database of current business names. Visit your Secretary of State’s official website for more information. You also can conduct web and social media searches to see if another business already uses your potential LLC name.
What should you avoid when naming your LLC?
See the Applying LLC Naming Guidelines section above for more details.
In addition, you may want to avoid using nicknames or initials in your LLC name as well as your company’s geographic location (e.g., “California Digital Marketing Agency, LLC”). Why? Nicknames and initials may seem unprofessional and don’t provide a sense of what your business does while geographic references can limit the future growth, expansion, or direction of your business unless you plan to stay in one specific location.
How do you choose an LLC name?
If you’re ready to form your LLC, start by creating a list of potential LLC names. Then, conduct thorough research to ensure the availability of your preferred name. See the Conducting LLC Name Searches and Applying LLC Naming Guidelines sections above for more details.
Information on this page has been gathered by a multitude of sources and was most recently updated on July 2021.
Any Information on this site is not guaranteed or warranted to be correct, accurate, or up to date. StateRequirement and its members and affiliates are not responsible for any losses, monetary or otherwise. StateRequirement is not affiliated with any state, government, or licensing body. For more information, please contact your state's authority on insurance.
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