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How To Choose the Perfect Self-Employed Business Name

Are you planning to go self-employed this year? Possibly one of the trickiest but most important decisions you’ll need to make is what to call your business. Here’s how to choose the perfect self-employed business name and the legalities around it.

1. The Legalities of Choosing a Self-Employed Business Name

When you register as self-employed with HMRC your business will officially be your name. But if you like you can choose to use a separate name of your choice for your business – this is known as a ‘trading as’ name.

1.1 Trading As Names

A ‘trading as’ name is something you choose to call your business which is different from your own name. But it means you can create a brand for your business which doesn’t include your name. For example: Penny Black Trading As Black Marketing.

Trading as’ is often abbreviated to the letters ‘T/A’

If you choose to use a ‘trading as’ name you can show this on official documentation like your bank statements and share it with HMRC as part of filling in your tax returns.

Before you choose your business name, bear in mind that as a sole trader you need to avoid using:

  • sensitive or explicit words;
  • words connected to government or professional bodies;
  • the word Limited or LTD (it’s reserved for registered companies)
  • trademarked names like Instagram or TikTok

1.2 Can You Change Your Self-Employed Business Name?

Yes, you can change your business name and many people often do. Sometimes, they never really liked the name they chose or their business evolves into something new. As much as people say you should choose a name that is future-proofed, the reality is that this can be hard because you don’t know what the future holds.

Even though changing your self-employed business name is possible, it can impact your branding, SEO and customer expectations. There are also costs attached to changing things like logos, branding, websites and domains so it’s a good idea to try and get it right first time!

1.3 Pros and Cons Of Using Your Own Name

If you are setting up your business as self-employed or a sole trader, then you can choose to use your own name or you can come up with a completely different brand name. Using a personal name is becoming increasingly popular these days because it creates a more relatable brand. However, it is totally up to you which way you go.

If you are trying to decide between using your own name or a brand name, then here are some things to consider:


  • Relatable
  • Perfect if you are trying to build a personal brand or are an influencer or blogger
  • You can get started working for yourself quickly, without the headache of thinking of a business name
  • You can always change your business name at a later point when you think of something new or can afford to use a naming agency
  • Lets you sell a variety of products and services


  • Maybe restrictive as your business evolves
  • May make your business appear smaller
  • Can present restrictions if you ever want to sell your business
  • Doesn’t necessarily show what you do

1.4 Trademarks

As a sole trader, there’s no real way to protect your business name because you are legally trading under your own name. But getting a trademark for your name or logo is one way to protect your business name.

In the UK you can register your trademark with the intellectual property office – the fees start at £170 ad

Friendly Disclaimer: Whilst I am an accountant, I’m not your accountant. The information in this article is legally correct but it is for guidance and information purposes only. Everyone’s situation is different and unique so you’ll need to use your own best judgement when applying the advice that I give to your situation. If you are unsure or have a question be sure to contact a qualified professional because mistakes can result in penalties.

2. How to Choose The Perfect Self-Employed Business Name

Finding a business name can be tricky and time consuming. If you’ve already started looking at options you may have found that lots of names are already taken, domains aren’t available or someone has already bagged the social media handle!

Unfortunately, there is no ‘sole trader list’ to help you check which business names are being used or publically available self-employed register from HMRC.

If you have the money available, you could opt to use an agency to help you come up with the perfect business name or look on Fiverr to find a freelancer to help you.

Consider What Your Business Does

Before you choose a name make sure you are crystal clear on your business idea. Trying to choose a name before you’ve detailed exactly what your business does is a bit like putting the cart before the horse.

Keep in Mind Your Target Audience

Your business name is more than just words. It represents your brand and has the potential to resonate with your target audience. For example, choosing a playful name may attract a younger audience. Or you may want to include a word that is SEO friendly and you know is a keyword your target audience uses in their searches that way it may help them quickly identify with you or place you as an authority in your niche.

Take a Look at Your Competition

Check out your competition on Google and social media to see what names they are using. It will give you a feel for what works and what doesn’t work, what might be missing in your niche and give you an idea of what your target audience expects to see.

Brainstorm Business Name Ideas

Next, start writing down potential business names. Write everything down, even if you think there’s something not quite right with an idea you’ve had or you don’t think you’ll ever use it. It’s all part of the brainstorming process.

If you need a bit of inspiration you can try the Shopify Business Name Generator.

Create a Shortlist

Take a break after brainstorming and then start crossing names off the list to come up with a shortlist of potential options. Remember whatever you choose to put on your shortlist should appeal to you as well as your target audience – there’s no point choosing a name that you don’t feel proud of.

Check How It Will Look Written Down

Go through your shortlist and cross any off that are difficult to say, spell or have any hidden words. There are many stories of unintentionally inappropriate business and domain names registered like:

  • – IT Scrap
  • – Speed Of Art.
  • – Experts Exchange

Check the Domain Name and Social Media Handles are Available

The next few steps are really *important*. Even if you aren’t planning to set up a website straightway, you must check the domain name for your shortlisted business names are available and buy it for the future. To check if your domain is available run it through the siteground domain checker.

Ideally, you are looking for .com. Domains ending .com is considered the best for domains, especially for SEO and extensions like .biz or .net can look a bit spammy. If you’re planning to focus on the UK market then will work well for you or .co is a good alternative if you really want a particular name.

Check the Social Media Usernames Are Available

Ideally you want your social media handles to match your business name to keep your branding and marketing consistent. There are billions of social media accounts in use so don’t be disheartened if the social media name you want isn’t available. You could try adding an underscore or hyphen or choose to use your name for social media purposes.

Check the Limited Company Name is available at Companies House.

If you are a sole trader, then you could consider forming a Limited Company now to “save” the name for the future. This does have additional costs and responsibilities even if you choose not to trade through your LTD initially. You’ll need to file dormant accounts until the point you start using it.

Use the Companies House Name Availability Checker to search whether the LTD company name you want is available. You need to choose a name that has not already been taken. And if you choose something too similar to an existing registered company, the Directors could make a complaint to Companies House and request you change yours. So try to pick something fairly unique to avoid any problems.

Read => How to Form a Limited Company
Read => Dormant Company Accounts Explained

Get Registering

Once you’ve found your perfect self-employed business name, bag it! Get the social media usernames, domain and Limited Company before someone else gets there.

Want to Read More About Going Self-Employed?

If you’ve enjoyed this post you may like to read more about becoming self-employed. Here are some of my most popular blog posts on this topic…

Any Questions?

I’d love to help if you have any questions about this topic. Feel free to ask over in my group ‘The Self-Employed Club‘.

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