OK, you’ve graduated from design school or decided to step out on your own and become a legitimate freelance designer. You’ve come up with a catchy name for you company and are excited about the new opportunities you’ll encounter and clients that you’ll attract. But before making up those business cards and sending out those promotional items, you want to register your business name.
A major part of being legitimate is registering your business name with the state. This is important for filing your taxes, going into contractual agreements and starting bank accounts. Think about your business in the long term. You might one day acquire employees, which means creating a payroll. You could one day rent or own an office space. Whatever you do with your business, your business name is going to be involved somehow. Making sure that it is officially listed as a registered business with your Secretary of State’s office is a necessary step toward being a legitimate business owner.
The first step is to go to your Secretary of State’s office. A quick Google search will direct you to their website. I live in Ohio, so I would do a Google search for “Ohio Secretary of State”. After finding the website, you want to look for the section of the site that focuses on businesses. A business filing or name registration tab is normally on the home page. During the process, you’ll be able to do a search for your business name to see if anyone else is using the name you’ve chosen. This is why it’s important to do this step before purchasing those business cards!
After verifying that no other business has your name, you want to fill out a registration form. Remember, just because the name you’ve chosen doesn’t come up (or does come up) doesn’t mean that it’s available (or not available). There are regulations on having a business name, but if someone’s chosen the same name in a different industry, it may still be available for you. The same goes for a business name showing as available. Someone might be in the process of registering the same name in the same industry, so filling out the form and applying is the only way to know if the name you’ve chosen can be registered by you.
The form is normally one that you’ll have to print off and mail back to your Secretary of State. It involves signatures and a filing fee. The fee for Ohio is $125, but you should check your specific state to see how much they charge. If your application is approved, you will receive a certificate showing your official registration with your state. Your Secretary of State’s office will also notify you if there is a problem with your application, or if your business name is not available.