Want to register a company name? This guide covers all the steps from picking a name to proving it’s yours!
Do I have to register my company name?
Registering your company name isn’t compulsory for sole traders, though you will have to register yourself with HM Revenue and Customs. You’ll have to do this in your first 3 months of trading, otherwise you might face a fine.
You’ll have to register your company name if you set up as a limited company. Limited company names have to be unique, so some small business owners choose to set up as a dormant limited company (meaning they don’t pay Corporation Tax) to secure their business name.
Registering a company name in 8 steps
Want to register your company name? Here’s how to do it.
- Make sure your company name isn’t already taken.
You can use the Companies House availability search to check if the name you have in mind is similar to any existing company names. They have unique, so make sure someone else didn’t beat you to it!
Note that your registered company name doesn’t need to be the one you trade under (your business name). In some instances, limited companies run several businesses – each under a different trading name.
- Decide on a company address.
If the name you’ve chosen is available, then you can register it with Companies House. To do this you’ll need to provide a company address that official notifications can be sent to. This address needs to be in the same country you registered your business in (e.g. both in Scotland or Wales, or England).
As your company address will be publicly available through searches on Companies House, you may prefer to use a token address rather than your home address. This could be the address of your accountant, or a registered office address. Remember that using a formal, registered address may also appear more professional.
- Choose an SIC code.
Standard Industrial Codes (SICs) identify what your business does and allow Companies House to categorise it accordingly. You choose an SIC code from dropdown menus when you register.
You can add up to four codes, and change them at a later date via a confirmation statement. If you’re setting up a dormant business to claim your company name, use the SIC code 99999.
- Appoint a company director
Your limited company will need a director – the person legally responsible for running the business and ensuring all the reports and accounts are prepared. This can be you, and most likely will be if you’re a sole trader or small business.
In addition to the official service address mentioned above, you’ll need to provide a residential address for the director. This residential address won’t be publicly available, but it needs to be different from the service address – so again consider using a registered address if needed.
- Outline your share structure
Limited companies are made up of shares. As you register your business, you’ll need to set out the number of shares you’ve issued, their type, and their value. You can apply any value to your shares, and establish whether they come with any voting rights or dividends. This information will be included in a “statement of capital”.
- Choose your shareholders
You’ll need at least one shareholder. If you’re the sole shareholder, then you’ll own 100% of the shares in the company. You’ll need to register the name, address and some personal information in lieu of a signature for each shareholder. If anyone holds more than 25% of the shares in the company, then they’ll also need to be registered as a Person with Significant Control.
You can learn more about the types of share, and more about registering shareholders, in our guide to moving from a sole trader to a limited company.
- Sign a statement of compliance
As incorporating your company is a legal process, you’ll need to confirm you’ve met the Companies Act’s requirements, and that you’ve viewed and accepted the Memorandum of Association (which is the rules of running a business).
- Pay your formation fee
For the final step of registering your business, you’ll need to pay your registration fee to Companies House. If you’ve registered online, it’ll cost you £12. Registering by post will cost you £40, or £100 for same-day registration (just make sure it gets to Companies House before 3pm).
With that, your business is registered as a dormant limited company and your company name is officially yours!
Registering your name with Companies House doesn’t mean that your company name is trademarked – it just means no-one else register with Companies House using that name.
You can register a trademark with the Patent Office. This’ll cost £200 and cover the UK. If you trade internationally then you can apply for local national registrations in relevant countries, or an International Registration that covers multiple companies. If you trade across the EU, you can currently apply for a Community Trade Mark that covers EU countries.
Once you’ve registered your trademark, it’ll last for 10 years. After this, you’ll pay renewal fees for as long as you wish to hold your trademark.
Things to consider when picking a name…
Try to think of your target audience when choosing a name. Will they understand what your business does? Will it appeal to them?
Keep your name short and simple, as anything too confusing will put people off.
If you can, try and make an emotional connection with potential customers by using comforting or familiar words, or a name with positive memories associated to it. This could be a local place name, or something that reflects your community or values.
- British / English
- Her Majesty’s
You’ll have to get specific permission to use these words and provide supporting documents that prove you can use these words. You can find a full list of sensitive words here.
What’re the best business names you’ve come across? Are there any you wish you could use for your own business, if you had the chance to name it again? Let us know in the comments or on social media!