Before you start registering your independent insurance agency, you want to double check that your chosen business name is even available for you to use commercially both in your state and online.
The first place you need to check if an entity name is available is at your local Secretary of State or state agency. Each state may have different rules about what your entity name can include and/or have requirements for how your name reflects the kind of business it represents. Most states also don’t allow you to register a name that’s already been registered by someone else. So, where do you start?
1. Check with your state for rules about how to register your business name. Click here for a quick way to look up your state: ________
2. Once you’ve read and understood the rules (you may want to consult an attorney here), run a quick name search while you’re still in your state’s website. For example, I ran a quick entity name search in Illinois and included visuals below.
a. I went to my Secretary of State website.
b. I searched for “corporate and LLC entity name search” in the search bar.
c. Type in your chosen entity name in the search field
i. You can usually search by name (begins with), Key words, or even partial words
ii. I typed in “insurance advisor” just for example purposes and to see what would pop up
d. I got a list of every corporation and LLC in the state of Illinois that has “insurance advisor” in its name.
3. I now know to avoid the above entity names for my insurance agency. It is bad to pick a name already used because a) your business registration application will get denied and b) your clients may get confused about which company is really yours (and you never want someone else’s bad review reflecting on your company branding).
4. I then proceeded with searching all of my top name choices to help narrow down my decision.
If you ever plan to become a national insurance agency – or want to ensure your company name isn’t too close to any national companies that may not like being mimicked – then you will want to compare your names in the official trademark database. You can check the dataset by going to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Most small independent insurance agencies can skip this step, so I won’t go into more detail. However, we strongly suggest using
common good judgment: i.e. don’t call yourself Progressive Insurance and think that Progressive Insurance may never notice. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry.
Once you have narrowed down your company name to your top three available in your state, double check that the domain name is also available online. It is the best digital marketing practice to have your entity name, website address, email address, social media, etc. under the same name. To ensure this is possible, run a quick domain name search before you register your business.
Where do I start?
1. There are a ton of website domain providers out there. Pick the one that offers you the best combination or price, service, and security. We have used GoDaddy, Network Solutions, and Google Domains. I am going to use GoDaddy for the visuals below, but the steps are pretty much the same for all three sites:
a. Go to GoDaddy.com and look for the search bar at the top
b. Type in your desired company name and click “Search Domain.” Let’s use “Lang Insurance” after my last name.
c. If your domain name is taken like mine, you will see this on your next screen.
d. Don’t fret yet, most domain service providers will offer alternatives. It looks like my alternatives are langinsure.com and lang-insurance.com.
i. Tip: You want to stick with a clean, easy to spell, easy to pronounce domain name that has a reputable ending (in other words, we strongly suggest you stick with a .com only website).
e. If I like langinsure.com as a domain name, then I would click “Add to Cart” on the right side. If not, I would hit the back button, and do another domain name search.
f. Most domain service providers are going to try and sell you everything under the sun once you go to your cart. If you are simply trying to reserve the rights to that company name online (i.e. your future URL) you can simply skip over all of the “add ons.” It is very easy to come back and add additional products and features at a later time.
Register Your Business
Now that you have selected your entity name and double checked its availability at the state level, at a trademark level (when applicable) and online for website domains, you are now ready to register your business. Read our article on How to Register Your Business + Obtain Federal & State Tax IDs by clicking here.
This article is made available by ASNOA for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law. It does not aim to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog, you understand there is no attorney-client relationship between you and ASNOA. We strongly recommend consulting a lawyer for individual needs of your business.