Even as a sole trader, you are free to trade under a business name, and choosing the name of your new Dance Fitness Instructor business can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of starting up a business. That being said, naming your venture is not to be taken lightly: there are several things you should bear in mind before making a final decision.
Making an immediate impact
Unless you have the financial muscle to launch a long-term brand awareness raising campaign, it is advisable to choose a name that leaves people in no doubt as to what you do. In the early days of advertising, companies tended to name themselves after their founder (e.g. Ford, Cadbury’s), but it has become far more common to clearly point out what you do (e.g. Homebuyer or Compare the Market). So, if you are setting up as a Dance Fitness Instructor, putting ‘dance’ somewhere in your business name is not a bad idea.
Don’t pigeon-hole yourself
While you should make it clear what you do, don’t fall into the trap of limiting your services by your name such as ‘Street Fit with Susie’ or ‘Street Dance Fitness‘ with Danielle. You could spend time and money creating a name for yourself as ‘Hip Hop Harry’, but what happens if you decide to add salsa to your repertoire?
There are certain rules that restrict what you can legally call your business. As a sole trader, you are forbidden from suggesting you are a company by using Ltd., LLP or plc after your name. You are also not permitted to use offensive terms or anything which:
• Suggests you are a royal or governmental organisation
• Suggests you are qualified to perform a specialised service for which you are not qualified
• Suggests you have national prominence (e.g. British)
• Connects you with an institution that you are not a member of
You will also need to check that any domain name you intend to use is not already taken (most domain name providers will allow you to check for free),and that your name isn’t already registered as a trademark (visit www.ipo.gov.uk).
Try the trademark trick
Once you have decided on a name for your business, there is a great way you can deter others from using it. The mark ™ is a notification of intent to register a trademark, but you do not need to actually pay to register one unless another company tries to do so, in which case you will have the right to register it first. If you do need to register a trademark, current costs are £170. Only registered trademarks are allowed to carry the ® sign.
Changing an existing business name can be costly, time-consuming and a step back in terms of brand awareness. Follow the guidelines above to get it right first time.