Frequently, entrepreneurs who are excited about their new business idea go out and spend money on a domain name, build a website, and select a Washington business name without following the proper steps.
Before starting a business, it is critical to perform a Washington business name search. The Washington Secretary of State keeps an organized list of Washington business entities that exist or have dissolved.
How to search business names in Washington
Searching for Washington businesses is done through the Washington SOS site. The Washington corporations division maintains public records of all business filings and is easy to navigate.
Business entity search page options are filtered into the following categories:
- Organization Name
- UBI Number
- Trust Search/Nonprofits
- Trademark Search
Washington business entity search
Enter the business name and select “Search” to generate businesses associated with that keyword. The business search results are broken down into the following categories:
- Business Name
- Business Type
- Principal Office Address
- Registered Agent Name
Washington Registered Agent or Trade Name search
- The Registered Agent/Trade Name registrant and Reserved Name filters generate results for individuals with filed entities in the state of Washington.
- Enter a full or last name and select “search.”
Name availability search
If a business has a name in mind, the fastest way to see if it is available is to perform an advanced business search. The advanced business search enables one to perform a corporation search on names that are inactive or dissolved.
If there is a business name that is of interest that is dissolved, double check with the Washington Secretary of State in Olympia to confirm it is available. Their phone number is: (360)-725-0377.
What's next after finding the perfect name?
1. Check if the domain name is available
After performing a Washington business search, performing a domain name search to see if the name is available is a good idea.
- Many of the .com domain names with six or fewer letters are already taken, so getting creative may be a necessity. Websites like Namechk and GoDaddy can help filter available domain names and suggest alternatives that may be a good fit.
- While a .com is the most common familiar extension used, extensions like .co, .net, and .io are becoming more commonly used as the internet ages and can be a good fit once a business name is selected.
2. Check if the social media name is available
In the digital age, it is essential to have a solid social media presence. Customers will often check sites like Yelp and Google Reviews to gauge what others think about a business. Some other tips on social media for a Washington business entity:
- Having a solid social media presence for small businesses is an excellent way to boost organic presence on the web, impress customers, and build awareness.
- Unfortunately, like domain names, social media handles are often hoarded. Make sure to check sites like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to ensure the handle is not being used.
- If the handle is available, lock the username in place to make sure it is not taken.
- Software platforms like SocialPilot can help simplify managing various social media platforms.
3. Register Washington business entity
Businesses can file a new business entity through filing articles of incorporation through the Washington Secretary of State website.
For further step-by-step instructions on how to file your LLC check out this Washington LLC guide.
4. Register TAX ID/EIN with the IRS
An EIN is a nine-digit number that identifies a business for tax purposes. Think of it as a social security number for businesses. Filing your EIN for a limited liability company (LLC) is straightforward and can be done online. Washington corporations can register for a Tax ID for $79 with Swyft Filings.
5. Create a logo
Similar to selecting a good business name, businesses with a great logo impress customers, help distinguish themselves from the competition, and create a positive visual memory of your unique business services for customers.
With the emergence of freelance marketplaces, it is easy to get a logo done on Fiverr in 24 hours or less.
6. Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan can help organize business owners’ ideas and create a pathway for businesses to follow. Having a professionally written business plan also impresses investors and helps create accountability.
Liveplan.com is a business plan software that can help make the process easy as they have over 500 sample plans to choose from.
7. Open a business bank account
Having a business bank account is required for businesses as it helps keep business and personal finances separate. It also helps build business credibility in the event business loans are needed to grow the business in the future.
We recommend Novo Bank
Plan on running your business well
Washington business structure naming considerations
One of the first decisions to make before selecting a Washington business name is understanding business naming rules for different business structures.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships
In Washington, sole proprietorships do not have to file with the Washington Secretary of State to begin business operations. Sole Proprietorships typically operate under a person’s name, so there is no need to perform a business name search in most situations.
Like Sole Proprietorships, Partnerships are relatively easy to file and generally include all partners’ last names (ex: Smith, Jones, and Lasalle).
LLCs are separate legal entities that separate owners’ business interests, debts, and liabilities from personal responsibilities. Names for LLCs are required to be filed with the Washington Secretary of State and must be unique.
A few reminders when naming LLCs:
- Washington business names must include the words “LLC, L.L.C., or the phrase limited liability company. “LLC” is most commonly used after a business name, so we recommend using that abbreviation.
- An LLC name should not include the terms Inc., Corporation, Corp, or Incorporated in the LLC name.
- The state may not approve a Washington business name if it is not clearly distinguishable from the other business.
Corporations, like LLCs, are separate legal entities that require filing with the Washington Secretary of State‘s office.Corporations are fairly complex and typically used by large companies looking to issue stock and attract investors.
Corporation naming considerations:
- Corporations must include “corp”, “corporation”, “Inc”, “limited”, or “company” in the business name to indicate that it is a corporation.
- S Corporations are subject to the same naming requirements as traditional corporations.
- Professional Corporations must indicate that they are one by using “professional corporation” by using the letters “PC” instead of typical corporate designation.
There is a fair amount of confusion over whether it is possible to have a Washington Business name similar to an existing business name in another state. As long as a business name isn’t filed by someone else in Washington, registering a business name is a possibility.
- There is one caveat that could cause issues. Businesses often overlook checking to see if a company has a trademark for the intended entity name.
- Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a service mark on goods or services that can create confusion for consumers.
To avoid headaches down the line, perform a trademark search before completing the Washington business formation.
Businesses can search for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office through the Trademark Electronic Search System.
Is a registered agent required to file an LLC in the state of Washington?
A registered agent is someone that is designated to receive official papers for your LLC, LLP, or corporation. individuals are able to act as their own registered agent as long as a physical address (p.o. box is not allowed) is used in the state where your business entity is formed.
One of the main benefits of using a third-party registered agent company is that it adds a layer of privacy between the business and the general population. The registered agent company receives all documents on a business’s behalf and can mail them to you privately.
Northwest Registered Agent offers free mail forwarding and has a great reputation in the industry.
Starting a business? Our number one pick for registered agent services is Northwest Registered Agent.
Are their annual report requirements in Washington?
Washington requires an annual report to be filed through the Secretary of State website.
Where can I find information on Washington business licensing?
Business license information can be found on the Washington Department of Revenue site.
Can Washington business reserve a business name?
It is easy to reserve a business name through the Washington Secretary of State site for a $25 dollar filing fee with the state of Washington.. The name reservation will lock your name in place for a 180-day period.
Why should I file a trademark? How do I file?
A trademark gives entrepreneurs legal protections over their brand. As your Washington business grows, competitors tend to pop up to try and compete against you in the marketplace.
A trademark sends a message to competitors that may be looking into your niche that you mean business.
Trademarks also can appreciate in value as businesses grow. If you are ever hoping to sell your business down the line, having a solid trademark can add to your valuation.
If your business has a physical product that you are looking to sell on sites like Amazon, there are special features businesses can access with a registered trademark, which helps prevent infringement on your products.
- Because the database is very complex to navigate, some people prefer to pay companies like LegalZoom to do the work for them.
- Check out the LegalZoom Trademark options to see if it makes sense for your limited liability company once you have zeroed in on an entity name.
How are business licenses managed in Washington?
Business licenses are managed by the Washington Department of Revenue site.
Should I file a DBA?
A DBA (doing business as), or trade name, is a fictitious business name that companies operate under for business outside of the formal LLC name.
Here are a couple of benefits of DBAs:
- Expansion possibilities: having a DBA enables businesses to expand past their original business and without starting a new business entity. Simply creating a new DBA and operating under the existing LLC is all that would be needed.
- Privacy: One of the best benefits of having a DBA is that it gives businesses the ability to operate under a fictitious business name and not have owners’ personal names revealed publicly.