While many of us go into business with nothing more than our names, there are others who prefer to use a company name. There are many good reasons for doing this, but it’s not for everyone. You need to know what sort of name will suit you best, and this article provides you with a checklist to see if you have good reason to ditch the given name in favor of something more impersonal.
1. Your own name is hard to pronounce.
Yes, it’s true that Barack Obama overcame this problem and was elected President of the United States, but take it from someone who also has an unusual name. It can create barriers that can present problems at the worst possible moment. Like when you’re trying to sell your services.
2. You want to make your business sound more professional.
Giving it a name that isn’t your own name can help you accomplish this goal.
3. You may be a freelance writer or Web designer now, but you plan to diversify into other areas later.
Having a company name as an umbrella over your ventures will give you more credibility when you seek investor financing.
4. You’re planning to grow your freelance business into a company that hires employees, and, someday, can be sold.
Your company will be easier to sell if it doesn’t have your name on it.
Okay, those are the advantages of giving your business a name that is separate from your own. But there’s something about business names. When you’re in the process of choosing a name for yours, it’s easy to get seduced by a name that just isn’t good for you. I’ve had a few of those during my business career, and they were like lousy boyfriends. The less that’s said about them, the better.
But, having lived through the bad business name experience, I have a bit of advice, and here it is:
1. Learn what the customs are in your field.
If you’re a freelance writer or editor, you’ll probably find a lot of people marrying their last name with the word “Communications.” As in, Jones Communications. Same thing for photography. Quite often, it’s Smith Photography. Graphic designers tend to get more creative in naming their studios, and sometimes this can work quite well. This can also lead to some truly baffling names. Which leads me to my next point…
2. Be like the big companies and brainstorm names for your business.
In addition to shaking your own brain for names, ask your clients for ideas. After all, they’re supporting your creativity with their money. If you want them to continue doing so, it’s vital that they like your business name.
3. Let’s say that you decide to go with what you think is a good business name, but it turns out to be a real stinker.
The clients (and everyone else) are directing some major hatred at it. Although it may pain you to ditch those nice business cards, letterheads, and envelopes you just had designed and printed, do it. Let them go. Same goes for that logo with The Name That Just Isn’t Working. Get rid of it. You may also have to do some redesigning of your website, and, yes, that will cost you time and money as well, but do it. The longer that dysfunctional name sticks around, the more it’s going to stink up your business.
This would be a good time to send your clients an e-mail saying something like this:
“I really thought that Snapping Turtle Design would be a great name for my studio, but obviously the public disagrees. I’ve already started brainstorming some better ideas. Would you like to join in?”
For those who join you on the Journey to a Better Name, a reward might be in order. Perhaps a bottle of wine or some other favorite drink. Or a gift certificate to a wonderful local restaurant. Or a discount on your next project together.