How to come up with a business name
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'll set you apart from the competition and make you credible and professional. But where to start?
In considering unique business name ideas, 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 six things to consider when choosing your business name, and two things you may need to do once you've chosen one:
The best business names are catchy, memorable, different and concise. Ideally, you want something that will make 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 commonly used words before their businesses were born. Now one of them is so familiar it has become a verb!
When considering business names, try to pick one that people will find easy to remember and pronounce. You want potential customers to be thinking about what your business has to offer, rather than how to say its name – or spell it. Creative business names shouldn't be confusing business names.
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's 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. It could also make great content for when you are building a social media profile.
Make sure there's domain availability for a website address that reflects your business name idea, even if it's not an exact match. Ideally your URL should be short and easy to remember, and with a “.com.au” domain name to indicate where you operate. Unless, that is, you wish to trade internationally, in which case .com is a safe bet. Alternatively, you can see the options available with other domain extensions that match the nature of your business.
Search for ‘who is’ on your search engine to find a domain reseller of your choice where you can check domain name or IP availability and purchase yours. However, some names may appear ‘available’ but may already be in use as some companies may not make this information public. These names may still have trademarks or other registrations that would prohibit you from using them. Be careful to do your due diligence when doing a thorough check on name availability. 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 vary according to how you structure your business. If you're a sole trader, then your business bank account 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 card or business debit card so you want to make sure you get this right.
If you're a proprietary limited company (PTY LTD), then your business bank account is likely to be in the same name as your business. Therefore, this business name is what will appear on your cards.
Not sure what business status you'll be yet? Read our choosing a business structure article.
Before you think you've finally cracked a shortlist of catchy business names, it's well worth doing a comprehensive search of them to make sure they don't translate into anything inappropriate or offensive. One major floor cleaning product in the UK had to rethink its brand identity when launching into Europe, when its name turned out to be slang in Italy for a particular body part!
Another thing to watch out for is the free business name generator online. Whilst they may help you come up with ideas, their intention is generally to sell services such as domain hosting and website building tools for online business start-ups.
Once you've chosen your business name, you may need to register it 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.au website to find out the way that's right for you.
If your business name is unique to your business, you should consider registering as a trademark or service mark with IP Australia. This protects you from other people using your brand or 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. Also consider legal or professional advice to properly determine any infringement risks.
To sum up
As we've said, don't stress about choosing the perfect business name, as your branding 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 your business after the current business owner - yourself!
This information does not take into account your personal circumstances and is general. It is an overview only and should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon. Consider obtaining personalised advice from a professional financial adviser and your accountant before making any financial decisions in relation to the matters discussed in this article, including when considering tax and finance options for your business. Westpac does not endorse any of the external providers referred to in this article.