There are different rules for different types of business, so as a sole trader do you need a business name? The quick answer is no, although it can be beneficial to have a separate business name.

How to Choose a Name

A study by Vistaprint in July 2017 found that 60% of consumers prefer a creative business name over a more traditional one, while 40% are more likely to make a purchase from a shop with a quirky title.

Before you start branding, you must check that your chosen name is not already being used by someone else and does not infringe any registered trademarks.

Trading As

When you’re a sole trader, you can use a ‘trading as’ name different from your own name.

If you do choose to use a different name, you will need to use ‘trading as’ on official documentation like invoices and business bank statements. You can also enter it in your tax return, sharing it with HMRC as part of Self-Assessment.

Restrictions

As a sole trader there are some limitations to the business name you can use. Sole trader names must not:

  • Include 'limited', 'Ltd', 'limited liability partnership', 'LLP', 'public limited company' or 'plc'
  • Be offensive
  • Be the same as an existing trademark
  • Your name also can't contain a 'sensitive' word or expression, or suggest a connection with government or local authorities

You'll also need to register your name as a trademark with the Intellectual Property Office if you want to stop people from trading under your business name.

There are also some words that you cannot use in your business name without permission. Thankfully, UK gov provides a full list of words with the restrictions and permissions.

Protect Your Name

You may also choose to register your company with the National Business Register (NBR). This affords you more protection against legal challenges to your name, as the NBR will perform all necessary checks on your behalf and will inform you if there are any issues.

Registration also prevents others from using your name in the future. Full business name searches, protection, and registration for one-year costs around £100.

Consider SEO

When you’re relying on Google and other search engines for people to find your business, then picking a name that works well for search engines can be helpful. You can use Google Trends to test search terms.

Benefits of Registering a Business Name

Some larger companies would prefer to work with a registered business rather than a sole trader so having a business name can project a more professional image.

A business name can make it easier for customers to find you online, particularly if your personal name has a lot of results on search engines.

Need help?

We have several services that could be essential to having your own successful business, from business banking to finding a company name.

You can find out more information on our Services page.

* All timescales are dependent on how busy Companies House are and if their system is operating normally.

* All prices are plus VAT