Should you name an LLC after yourself? Learn the basic pros and cons of using your personal name for your LLC.
If you’ve established a personal brand, you might be wondering: should I name my LLC after myself? Using your personal name for your LLC is possible — but it isn’t right for everyone.
Like any key business decision, using your personal name as your LLC name has some pros and cons. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using your personal name for your LLC, including the benefits and drawbacks, your other options, and more.
No matter what potential name you decide to use, you will have to check that it’s available in your state. Basically, LLC names must be distinct from all other registered business names in your state. Every state has slightly different standards about what makes a name unique, though. This is one of the most basic rules of how to name your LLC.
If you’re hoping to use your personal name for your LLC, you may or may not be able to. If your name is pretty common, such as “Emily Jones” or “John Smith,” that name might already be taken. Business owners with less common names will probably have better luck. You should also be careful not to infringe on any federally protected or state-protected trademarks, too.
Our business name search tool makes it easy to check if your name is still available. We also recommend running a trademark search through the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. Trademarks exist at the state level, too, so check with the agency in your state that handles trademarks to see if there are already any state trademarks on your name.
There are some notable benefits to using your personal name as your LLC name. For starters, if you’ve already established your own individual brand operating as a sole proprietorship, it can help maintain your brand image. For example, some creatives like photographers or graphic designers start out under their personal name and establish a very sizable brand, complete with business cards and name recognition. Forming an LLC under their name, then, leverages the brand power they’ve already established.
Customers also might feel more connected to an LLC with a personal name, but that varies from person to person and business to business.
One thing to keep in mind: some states actually require certain professions to include the name of one or more members in their LLC name. And there are some business types that can’t be LLCs without additional paperwork, such as insurance companies and financial institutions. We highly recommend consulting your state’s business naming laws to know exactly how to name your business compliantly.
There are, however, quite a few drawbacks to using your personal name as your LLC name.
If you use your name alone for your LLC name, customers won’t have any way of knowing anything about your business activity. Generally, it’s best practice to choose a business name that helps customers know what to expect from you. Creatives often remedy this by adding another word, like “John Smith Photography, LLC” or “Emily Jones Design, LLC.”
Using just your name, however, can leave customers wondering what type of business entity you’re running and why they should interact with it.
In most states, the person (or persons) who owns an LLC is a matter of public record; anyone can look up the members of a business. But they have to actually take the time to do a records search and find that information. Many people simply won’t bother. In those cases, your limited liability company gives you a limited amount of personal privacy.
However, if you use your personal name as your LLC name, you lose even that small amount of anonymity.
A big advantage of an LLC is limited personal liability thanks to an LLC’s corporate veil. But that personal asset protection only lasts when the business is operated compliantly — as a separate, distinct legal entity. That means you have to treat your LLC distinctly. That means having a separate business bank account, never mixing your personal and business funds, and more.
When your LLC’s name is the same as your own, maintaining that separation gets tricky. It’s easy to forget to sign your documents as the LLC instead of yourself. For example, Emily from our example might accidentally sign “Emily Smith” instead of “Emily Smith, LLC” or “Emily Smith on behalf of Emily Smith, LLC.” It’s a very small distinction, but it’s a very crucial one.
When you’re first starting your LLC, you’re probably only focused on one or two business goals. But down the road, a lot of small business owners find they want to expand into new areas. Using your personal name as your LLC name can make that tricky.
For example, Emily Smith might decide to expand her interior design services into a physical storefront with curated rooms for easy shopping and inspiration. If she’s operating as “Emily Smith, LLC,” she’ll probably find that her business name isn’t a great fit for her goals anymore.
It’s not uncommon for a small business owner to sell their LLC when they retire or move on to another venture. With your personal name as your LLC name, you might find that challenging. LLC buyers tend to favor businesses they can easily step into. A brand takeover is tougher when the brand in question is wrapped up in someone’s name.
This drawback is something you can remedy, but it might not be worth the hassle.
The good news about using your personal name as your LLC name is that you have the option to change it down the road. There are several methods to do so, too.
The easiest option to “change” your LLC name is actually to not change it and get a DBA instead. A DBA, or “doing business as” name, allows you to operate under another given name without actually changing your legal business name. It’s like a nickname for a business.
If you went this route, the legal name of your LLC actually wouldn’t change. But after registering your DBA, you’d have legal permission to operate under a different name of your choice.
If you’d rather change your business’s legal name, you’ll need to file more extensive paperwork: the Articles of Amendment. This document allows you to amend your business’s formation documents (usually called the Articles of Organization or Certificate of Formation), including your LLC’s name.
Filing this way is a bit trickier, and depending on state filing fees, it may be more expensive. But it does completely change your name.
If you’re really craving a fresh start — or maybe you’re looking to add someone to your business — you might find it most helpful to dissolve your LLC and start a new one. This option can be especially tricky because dissolving an LLC is a somewhat complicated, expensive process. It requires drafting and filing several important legal documents.
That said, it might be a desirable option if you’re hoping to change your business type or fundamentally change your business while you’re changing your name.
No matter how you decide to change your name, you can expect to change your name on your business bank account, your tax accounts, your branded materials, and more. You’ll need to re-check your business name availability each time, too. It’s a pretty involved process.
Starting an LLC doesn’t have to feel like you’re tangled in red tape; ZenBusiness has your back. Whether you need help starting your LLC, getting a registered agent, filing your annual report, or anything in between, we can help.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
You can name your LLC after yourself, but whether you “should” is your judgment call. It’s a legal option. And if your business reputation is already wrapped up in your personal brand, it might be a good choice. But it can hamper some of your future possibilities, so this shouldn’t be taken lightly.
What’s a “good” business choice varies from business to business. Generally, it’s best practice to create a business that’s distinct from you as a person, which might require a unique name. But for some small business owners, naming your business after yourself makes sense.
If you do go that route, you should be very, very careful to treat your LLC as a distinct entity.
It’s best practice to create an LLC name that’s specific enough to give your customers an idea of what you do. But you don’t want to be so specific that you lock yourself into something with no room to expand. It’s a balance of specificity and staying generic.
You should always put the LLC’s name on contracts and not your own because that helps prove the LLC is a separate business structure. Failing to do this can make it tough to tell between you and your business entity. It can ultimately compromise your LLC’s corporate veil.
Not for an LLC. While you could use your first and last name, every state requires you to include an entity designator that shows your business entity type. Popular choices include “LLC” or “Limited Liability Company.” At the very least, you’ll have to include one of those in your business name.
Every state has slightly different rules for business entity names, such as avoiding special characters, avoiding profanity, and not implying government affiliation. If you’re not sure what the business name restrictions are in your state, we recommend consulting your state statutes or asking a local business attorney.
Once you have your LLC name picked out, you can file a business name reservation request form. This protects your name for a period of time (usually 120 days, but it varies by state). In most states, this reservation isn’t a legal requirement, but it’s an option you have. But your name isn’t fully yours until you start your LLC under that name by filing the Articles of Organization. For additional protection even after your LLC is formed, you can file for a federal and/or state trademark for your business name.
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