When planning to start a Georgia LLC, first comes your big idea, your product or service, the meat and potatoes of your business. After all, that’s how you’ll build a dream business.
But after the initial rush of deciding to take your idea to market, you have to answer an important and pressing question: “what do I call it?”
Every LLC needs a name, preferably a catchy one, and specifically one that isn’t already in use. After all, despite how clever it may be, you can’t steal someone else’s name.
“But,” you may ask, “how do I know if a name is already in use?” It’s a good question. There are a lot of businesses in Georgia, and a lot of names to check. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to go about it: performing an LLC name search.
Don’t forget to get your business’ domain name so nobody else can use it. This will protect your brand and make things much easier for you later. Secure it easily through GoDaddy.
Reasons to Perform an LLC Name Search
Checking for Georgia LLC name availability is the most common reason to perform a search, but it’s far from the only one. Here are a few other reasons you might search for a name:
1) Finding Similar Names
You don’t want potential customers confusing you with another company, especially if that company is a competitor. Your proposed name might be available, but there could also be multiple businesses out there with deceivingly similar ones. If you don’t want your LLC getting mixed up with other businesses, this might prompt you to find a new name.
2) Checking Your Business Status
Once you’ve filed the Articles of Organization and started your Georgia LLC, you can periodically check its status by searching for your existing name. This will confirm your business’ good standing with the state and provide your LLC’s Control Number, which you may need for certain filings in the future.
3) Registered Agent and Office Information
At some point, you might need to send a business service of process. Or, more positively, you might want to partner with them. In either case, you’ll need their Georgia registered agent name and office address, readily available through a name search.
4) Maintaining Current Business Information
When modifying your LLC’s information – like changing your registered agent or principal address to a member or a registered agent service – you will want to confirm the information that the Secretary of State already has on file. A name search will take care of this for you.
How to Perform a Georgia LLC Name Search
Whatever your reasons for searching for a business name, there’s only one way to go about it – using the Corporations Division Business Search. It allows you to enter a full or partial name and see all relevant matches.
Just checking a name’s availability? No problem. Simply enter your exact desired name in the “Business Name” search bar and see if anything comes up. If the search returns a business already using your name, you’ll need to come up with a different, distinguishable one. But if it yields no results, that name is likely available for use on a name reservation or the Articles of Organization. The Business Search page says that it’s not intended to provide official name availability, but it will give you a good idea of whether or not your name is unique.
When searching for a specific piece of business information, enter the full name, partial name, control number, registered agent name, or officer name for the desired business. Then click on the correct company and you’ll find:
- Business Name
- Control Number
- Business Type
- Business Status (active, dissolved, etc.)
- NAICS Code and Sub Code
- Principal Office Address
- Date of Formation/Registration
- State of Formation
- Last Annual Registration Year
- Registered Agent Name
- Registered Agent Address
None of this specific information applies if you’re only looking for name availability, but you’ll likely need it in the future – either for your own business or someone else’s – and you’ll know right where to find it.
What if My Name Is Unavailable?
So, you went to the Business Search, you plugged in your desired name, you hit search, and there it was: your precious name, already in use. What now?
If your LLC is domestic (formed in Georgia), your only option is to start brainstorming ideas for a different one. Just don’t use one that’s too similar. Then, when you’ve found an acceptable, available name, go ahead and either form your LLC or reserve the name for future use.
Foreign LLCs have different circumstances because they’ve already been operating under a particular name in other states. Still, if that name is unavailable in Georgia, they will need to come up with a different, distinguishable one. The state allows foreign LLCs to “apply for a Certificate of Authority under any name, whether or not it is the name under which it is registered in its jurisdiction of organization.”
How to Make a Georgia LLC Name Distinguishable
Keep in mind that availability isn’t the only requirement for an LLC name. The state sets out other rules too. Your LLC name:
- Must contain a business type identifier like “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.,” or “LLC”
- Cannot use any of the following terms without written consent from the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner: “insurance,” “assurance,” “surety,” “fidelity,” “reinsurance,” “reassurance,” or “indemnity”
- Cannot use any of the following terms without written consent from the Department of Banking and Finance: “bank,” “banc,” “banque,” “banker,” “banking company,” “banking house,” “bancorp,” “bankruptcy,” “credit union,” “savings & loan,” “trust,” or “trust company”
- Cannot use any of the following terms without written consent from the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission: “college” or “university”
Okay, you’ve followed all the guidelines, but if your name still isn’t available, how do you make it distinguishable? Before you start making changes, here are some alterations that will NOT distinguish it:
- Adding/removing “a,” “an,” or “the”
- Changing the entity type (LLC vs. Inc.)
- Changing “and” to “&”
- Changing punctuation
- Plural vs. singular nouns
- Adding a suffix
- Using abbreviations (if using an abbreviation is the only change)
- Using a phonetic spelling of the same word
Essentially, to create a fully distinguishable name, you must change the name itself, not just the syntax. If you need to distinguish your name, but don’t want to change the whole thing, try rearranging the words, finding synonyms, or adding/removing words. This way, you can keep a similar name while making it unique.
What you do next depends entirely on what your goal is. If you’re checking for name availability and your name is free in Georgia, you can proceed to reserve it and use it on your Articles of Organization.
Reserving a Georgia business name costs $25 but only holds your name for 30 days. Or, you can use that name on your Articles of Organization, which will automatically register it.
Need Help Starting an LLC?
Like we mentioned earlier, an LLC formation service can take care of all the paperwork for you. Using a formation service guarantees that your filings will be completed and submitted correctly. It also eliminates the stress of doing it yourself and gives you more time to develop your business plan, network, or just relax.
We invite you to take a look at our complete guide to all of the top options, but we’ll also quickly run down our top three picks right here.
- ZenBusiness ($39) – ZenBusiness offers a well-rounded LLC formation package at a great low rate. Their standard LLC package includes a full year of registered agent service and a customizable operating agreement. ZenBusiness also receives stellar customer feedback, plus it’s a public benefit corporation that gives back to the communities it serves.
- Northwest Registered Agent ($39) – Northwest offers a bit more of a premium service and we think it’s worth it. Like ZenBusiness and IncFile, Northwest also includes a year of its industry-best registered agent service with the purchase of any LLC formation package. They also offer the best customer support in this industry, with knowledgeable representatives who are familiar with the details of business formation processes in every state.
- IncFile (FREE) – That’s not a typo! IncFile really does form LLCs for free. Even better, they include 12 months of registered agent service in their free package. IncFile has a ton of experience and more than 500,000 satisfied customers, so they’re always a reliable choice. With tens of thousands of positive reviews, IncFile has an unrivaled customer feedback reputation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which words are restricted from usage for LLC names in Georgia?
The state doesn’t get into specifics in the Georgia Administrative Code regarding which words are restricted. However, it does note that restricted terms include “the name of any well-known trademark, tradename, governmental agency, educational organization or institution, charitable organization, or professional organization.” For a full list of restricted terms, contact the Secretary of State’s office.
Is it necessary to reserve my business name before forming my Georgia LLC?
No. In fact, Alabama is the only state that requires entrepreneurs to reserve a business name before forming an LLC. In Georgia and the other 48 states, this is an optional and largely unnecessary step.
How many small businesses are there in Georgia today?
The state of Georgia is home to more than 1 million small businesses. Entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and business types find that Georgia is a great place to own and operate a small business.
What are the top small business resources and websites in Georgia?
The University of Georgia chapter of the Small Business Development Center is a great place to start, as they offer a wide variety of tools and resources for Georgia LLCs. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Georgia District Office is another valuable resource, and the state’s small business resource page also has plenty of good info.
What Is the Total Expected Cost of Operating an LLC in Georgia?
The overall costs of operating a Georgia LLC can vary considerably based on the specifics of your business. However, we created a helpful guide to help you identify and plan for every expense your LLC will face in this state.
Should I Use an LLC Service, Hire an Attorney, or Form My Own LLC?
The answer to this question lies in your personal preferences, but we can give some general pointers. An attorney will cost the most by a mile, but also provides expertise you won’t find with the other options. The DIY route is free of charge, but can require quite a bit of legwork and provides no peace of mind that the process is being completed correctly.
Using an LLC service means your business will be formed by professionals who know what they’re doing, while also costing significantly less than a lawyer. This “best of both worlds” attribute is what makes LLC services our preferred option.