How to pick a name and make it legal

As military spouses, we often end up putting our career dreams on hold to follow our serving partner. With deployments, frequent moves and growing families, it can be difficult to keep great jobs or pursue careers that won’t move with us. In 2018, the MOD’s UK Tri-Service Families Continuous Attitude Survey (a survey of over 5,000 spouses and civil partners of regular trained Service Personnel) found that 50% of respondents said their family life was disadvantaged compared to the general public, especially when it comes to employment.

What if we could build a business that was posting proof? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a business that moves when you do regardless of when that posting notice arrives? It’s time to stop dreaming about working from anywhere and actually do it! But how do you start?

When deciding whether to go into business you need to have a good idea about what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it and make sure you’re passionate about it. No doubt you’ve probably got an idea if you’re reading this, and you may have even started researching what you need to do. If you answer ‘yes’ to the above you’re probably ready to start.

Over the next few articles, I’ll be sharing tips for developing a successful business that you can take anywhere before you even launch.

Last time I spoke about your business idea and how to start researching if it could work for you. Today it’s all about naming your business and making it legal.

Pick a name

Picking the name of your business can be really fun! And if you’ve researched the idea or dreamt of running your business you might have even thought of a name.

My business name is pretty simple – Design Jessica. It does exactly what you’d expect, I am called Jessica and I am a designer! Not very imaginative I’m afraid but it helps at networking groups when people need to remember me.

A good name is memorable, interesting and most importantly obvious.

Most people I talk to get stuck in thinking of a name because they’re trying to be clever, or trying to make it rhyme or alliterative. If it’s not immediately obvious to your clients what you’re selling or what you can do for them then choose a different name. If you’re having trouble coming up with a name then why not use your own? You can launch unique products or services that have unique names while still staying under the umbrella of your own personal name.

Here’s the process I went through to find that name, along with the name of The InDependent Spouse.

Grab a dictionary or the Thesaurus in Word, online versions work too. Make a list of words that describe your business and see what alternative words are linked to them. Write down the words you like and see if any of them sit together well. Then put those through a little test.

  1. Is it easy to pronounce and is it easy to spell and when people try to find you using your website address and will it be easy for them to enter in the search field? For example, the reason Design Jessica is not called Jess Sands’ Studio is because that’s WAY too many ‘S’s for anyone to get their head around in a website address!
  1. Is it too specific to one product and might stunt your growth? Perhaps if you’re selling homemade jam and use ‘Jam’ in your name, you might need to re-brand when your business grows and you want to add sweets or cake to your business.
  1. Is it already trademarked or a limited company? You can check on the government websites for both of these. I’d also recommend Googling your new name to see if it already exists as a business in the same industry as you’re planning to start in. You don’t want to launch your business, build a following and then find out that someone’s already using it and has recently registered it.
  1. Do you like it? You will be the one using it on a day-to-day basis so you really have to like it. Do you feel proud when you say it?

Make it legal

It’s not as frightening as it sounds. It’s a very simple process to register with HMRC and you can find a very good step by step instructions on the gov.uk website.

There are three main kinds of company; sole trader, limited company and partnership. To decide what suits you best it’s advisable to speak to an accountant. There is a whole load of military spouse accountant and bookkeepers that I can recommend.

Depending on what you pick there are a few people you need to inform:

  • Companies House – To register your business
  • HMRC – To tell the taxman that you’re trading. The HMRC Government website is really easy to use
  • Amey, your Landlord or Mortgage Company – If you’re in married quarters or in rented private accommodation you’ll also need to ask for permission from (Carillion) Amey, potentially from your partners’ chain of command or your landlord.
  • Local Authority – If you’re changing the purpose of your home or finding premises you might need to look into planning permissions, or if you’re producing food you’ll need to research any certificates you’ll need to say your kitchen is safe for food preparation.
  • An Insurance Company – Good business insurance is vital to run your company. Public liability and professional indemnity are the ones you should be looking for but talk through your requirements with the provider.
  • The Bank – It’s definitely worth opening a separate bank account for all of your business dealings. Most banks offer business banking for free in the first year, and some also come with business advisers that can help you along your start-up journey.

You might also want to start thinking about your legal contracts and the terms and conditions for people accessing your services, products, and websites. There is a huge amount of online resources that can help you with this. I cannot stress the importance of getting some legal help early, it’ll save you a whole heap of headaches in the future. The information I have provided here is by no means legal advice, nor am I a lawyer, or your lawyer so I would suggest getting some qualified advice with this.

The secret here, like most things in business, is to ask questions. There’s a whole community of military spouses that have done this who’d be more than happy to share their experiences with you.

With the proper planning, you can run a business around many of the demands service and family life makes on us. Don’t be disheartened. As long as you’ve researched, planned ahead and checked through the proper channels you should be able to keep your business running no matter where you’re posted.

Running your own business can be very hard work but so very rewarding, especially if you’re a military spouse who has chosen to follow their serving spouses’ job. If you are considering starting a business then think seriously about what you want to do and get researching. It’s not something to be entered into half-heartedly, but it is something that can give you an amazing buzz and let you experience some great things.

If you want to hear the stories of others that are running their own businesses then why not listen along to the podcast series