Deciding on a trading name

Deciding on your business name can be tricky. Should you use your own name or come up with a brand? What are you allowed to called yourself?

If you’re a sole trader, says:

You can trade under your own name, or you can choose another name for your business. You do not need to register your name.

Trading names are also available to limited companies:

You can also trade using a different name to your registered name. This is known as a ‘business name’ or ‘trading name’.

How to decide

As for what the name should be, should you come up with a business name or use your own name?

It’s not uncommon for freelancers to operate under their own name, whether they’re a sole trader or a limited company. This gives them a personal edge: something that most brand or ‘business’ names lack.

Using your own name is also a good idea if the business is just you.

If you plan to grow your business by taking on employees/contractors or have a goal to sell the company in the future, a brand/business name might be a better approach.

A third option is a brand name that references the freelancer’s name. For instance, my surname is Smyth and my business is called Websmyth.

This brings some personality to the name without being intrinsically linked to one person. It also references what I do – and it’s a terrible play on the word website – I could just as easily run my business under my name.


You’ll want to check whether your chosen name is available for as a domain name (for websites) and social media, too. There are services that check this automatically, but these tend to be quite blunt instruments.

In the somewhat likely chance your preferred domain name or social media handles aren’t available, hyphens and underscores can be useful. For instance, Work Notes’ Twitter account is @_worknotes.

It’s good to check these things early in the naming process: it might reveal companies already using your name, which might prevent you using it.