What shall I call my business?
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Congratulations! You’ve got an idea for your new business and now you’re thinking about what to call it. You’ll want a name that will set you apart from the competition and make you credible and professional. But where to start?
In choosing a name for your business, it’s good to be creative and to seek inspiration from many different sources. But don’t overthink the search – the thing that really matters is what your name comes to mean to customers over time, not what they think about it when they first see it.
And don’t feel pressured into coming up with a name that fully explains what you do and how you do it. Sure, you can ‘say what you offer’ – like Netflix does – but that wasn’t the objective of the people who came up with Uber or Stan.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing your business name:
The best business names are catchy, memorable, different and concise. Ideally you want something that will have you and your brand stand out from the crowd, something that will set you apart from everyone else. While you can use a combination of existing words for your business name, you might like to try inventing a word from scratch.
Some of the best-known brands, such as Microsoft, Google and Instagram, weren’t even (commonly used) words before their businesses were born. Now one of them is so familiar it has become a verb!
When you choose your business name, you want something that people will find familiar and easy to pronounce. You want potential customers to ask what your business is about, rather than how to say its name – or spell it.
Slightly misspelling a word to avoid using someone else’s name or to secure a domain name might seem like a good idea, but not if it means people can’t find you (see below) or you and your staff are forever spelling it out over the phone.
People will often ask how you came up with your business name or what the story behind it is, so have a think about what is meaningful to your business purpose and how you might create a business name from this.
The story behind your business name is an opportunity to build a connection with your customers, letting them know you run your business from the heart.
Make sure you have access to an available domain name that reflects your business name idea, even if it’s not an exact match. Ideally it should be short and easy to remember, and an au.com domain name to indicate where you operate – unless you wish to trade internationally, in which case .com is the way to go. Nowadays there are many variations of those top-level domains, such as .net and .biz.
Search ‘who is’ to find sites where you can check domain name availability and purchase yours. Shop around for the best price and when you’re ready to create your website (or have someone else do it) read our how to optimise your website article.
When you choose your business name, remember it will be used when customers pay you for goods or services and may change according to how you structure your business.
If you are a sole trader, then your business bank account1 will be in your personal name and you can use ‘Trading as’ (or TA) on documents such as invoices, adding your business name. In this case, remember your business account name (your own name) is what will appear on your business credit card1, so you want to make sure you get this right.
If you are a proprietary limited company (PTY LTD), then your business bank account is likely to be in the same as your business. Therefore, this business name is what will appear on your business credit card.
Not sure what business status you’ll be yet? Read our choosing a business structure article.
Once you acquire your first customer you may ask them, via an invoice, to pay for your products or services using your business name. If you plan to issue invoices online, you may wish to read about the benefits of our Biz Invoice invoicing tool1, which incorporates an invoice template and other time-saving features.
Once you’ve chosen your business name, you need to register your business name with the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC).
Depending on your business type (whether you’re an individual, partnership or company etc.), there are different steps to register. Go to the Business.Gov website to find out the way that’s right for you.
If your business name is unique to your business, you may want to register it as a trademark with IP Australia. This protects you from other people using your business name.
Before you go ahead with the trademark application, first do a trademark search to ensure your business name is not already in use. To search availability and trademark your business name, go to the IP Australia website.
As we’ve said, don’t stress about choosing the perfect name, as your name will end up reflecting your business, not the other way around. And a final tip: if you’re planning to build up your enterprise in order to sell it, it may be best not to name the business after yourself!
1. Westpac’s products are subject to terms, conditions, fees and charges; and certain criteria may apply. Before making a decision, read the disclosure documents for your selected product or service, including the Product Disclosure Statement and T&Cs for Westpac business transaction accounts, online banking and credit cards, by clicking the above links; and consider if the product is right for you.
The information in this article is general in nature and does not take your objectives, financial situation or needs into account.