After doing your research, speaking with an attorney or business specialist, and discussing it with any other involved parties, you have finally decided to classify your new business as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). You just aren't sure how the LLC classification will factor into your business name, logo, and business cards.
Is "LLC" a Requirement in My Business Name?
Whether or not you must have LLC in your business name depends on the state in which you are licensed. Some states do not require it, while most do. Check your state here.
If you choose not to include it, your state may require that you register a fictitious business name or a DBA ("Doing Business As"). This allows you to operate as something other than the legal name.
When to Use "LLC" for Your Business Name
Whether it's required by law or not, including LLC in your business name provides protection, credibility, and legitimacy.
- An LLC protects you (as an individual) from being sued by your customers. Having it in your name allows clients to see that they are dealing with a legal entity and would be suing a business rather than you personally.
- Having LLC in your business name lets potential customers know that you have taken the time and followed the appropriate steps to make your business legitimate and legal.
Do I Need to Use "LLC" in My Logo?
While your LLC affords you some benefits, it's not necessarily something that you want to have on your logo. To see proof of this, look to larger companies like Chrysler or Nike. Can you imagine the Nike Swoosh logo with LLC next to it? Your logo is a visual cue meant to help individuals recognize and remember your product. If it doesn't fit with your branding, it's okay to leave the LLC off.
Do I Need to Put "LLC" on My Business Cards?
Not just a visual representation of your brand, your business cards tell potential clients more about your business, and this should include the fact that you are an LLC. Having your full business name on the card helps potential clients to feel more comfortable that they are dealing with a "real" business and also reminds them that if they ever have reason to sue you, they will be dealing with an entity and will most likely be unable to touch your personal assets.
What If I Don't Like How "LLC" Looks in My Business Name?
You chose to register your business as an LLC for the protection and legitimacy it affords you, so why wouldn't you want to include it?
If you truly do not want to have LLC as part of your business name, registering a DBA (or fictitious business name) will allow you to use a separate name as an extension of your legal name. If you choose to go this route, first make sure that you are happy with the name and will keep it for the long haul. Changing the name after a period of time not only creates frustration with paperwork, but it also forgoes the brand recognition that you have built up to that point.
In some states, DBAs are filed at the county level as opposed to the state level. Make sure that you check to see your state’s requirements for filing instructions, necessary paperwork, and acceptable names. You'll also want to come up with a list of several potential names as the one you want may be taken. Check the state or county databases to ensure that the name you want is available.
While ultimately the decision to use LLC in your business name and supporting marketing materials is up to (except as required by law), including it offers you the credibility and protection that you were looking for. Consider using it and enjoying all the benefits it has to offer.