10 Vital questions to ask yourself when naming your solo business

Creating your business name is easily one of the most difficult parts of starting (or rebranding) your business. Nothing inspires more self-doubt and creativity blocks than trying to name your own business.

Should you name your business after yourself, or invent a brand name? And if you’re already running your business under your own name, should you change?

Answer these questions to find out.

1) Do you like your given name?

It may seem an obvious place to start, but you really need to like your business name.

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Using your own name as your business name means that you’ll be even more linked to your name than ever. Some of us are grateful to our parents for choosing such a cool, likeable name…others are less sure.

So if you inwardly cringe when you hear your name called or see it written on a list, you might want to make a move away from using it.

Remember, your business name could be just your first name (Emelia Design), just your surname (Jayado Design), or, of course, both (Emelia Jayado Design). Either way, be honest with yourself and make sure you really like it before you make a decision you grow to regret…

…and have to go through the nasty business of naming your business again.

2) Is your name distinctive?

Using your own name as your business name doesn’t mean that you can ignore all the usual rules-of-thumb about company naming.

A business name should provide what branding people call ‘differentiation’, ie. it should be:

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  • distinctive
  • memorable

So if you’re thinking of using your own name as part of your company name, ask yourself if your name is too common or a little too familiar – you might want to think again if your surname is Smith or Jones, and your first name is Mike or Sarah.

3) Can you get found?

What happens if you Google your name?

Are there pages and pages of people who share your name? Are any of these namesakes high profile, or even notorious?

Many potential clients will search for you online after a brief meeting or following a referral, so having a business name that is unusual – or even unique – will help you to get found.

For example, Stephen King Design might be less than ideal.

I would suggest using Bluehost’s domain checker below to verify your domain is actually available.

4) Are there any conflicts?

Don’t forget! Your business name needs to be checked for relevant conflicts. If you just happen to share your name with a leading player in your chosen creative field, you don’t want to confuse people…or bring about copyright trouble.

5) Is it easy to say and spell?

You have a name that you love (thanks, Mum and Dad).

It’s unique, so you’re one of a kind.

All good.

But lovely as it is, it might not be so easy to remember, refer, or find online if it isn’t easily spelled or pronounced.

If you’re unsure (you’ve had it all your life, so you’re pretty used to it!) try asking a few people who don’t know you well to spell your name or read it back to you. If they struggle, it might be telling you something.

Bear in mind that any name can be misspelled:

  • Clarks often become Clarkes,
  • Catherines become Kathryns, and
  • McNeills become Macneals.

So if they get it wrong, correct them, and ask them to try again. If they still struggle, you might have issues. (Remember, there’s a narrow line between awkward and memorable – as Benedict Cumberbatch’s agent might tell you.)

6) What are your plans for the future?

If you always work alone, then an eponymous business name makes sense. But if you might sometimes get help – maybe using subcontractors or associates on larger projects – or plan to expand in the future, then you should at least consider how a business operating under your own name will work.

When you grow, will your business name grow with you?

A good test is to ask some basic, day-to-day questions:

  • How will colleagues answer the phone?
  • Will an email address of [email protected] make sense?
  • Will your business feel small, even when it’s big?

7) Does it feel authentic?

It might feel strange at first, but you should be sure that you will feel comfortable operating under a ‘corporate’ name. You’ll also want to be sure that your customers don’t feel misled – that it’s clear that you are not a cog in a larger machine.

For example, consider whether your website will describe your business as ‘me’ or ‘we’?

Your clients are unlikely to have an issue with an individual using a ‘trading name’, but they might feel deceived if that name is Acme Design International, or The Creative Corporation.

8) Does it feel right for your business?

Branding people will tell you that a business’s brand name should engage with its audience – it should make a connection with them and feel relevant.

This can still apply if your business name is your own name.

It’s a tricky area, as branding rules are there to be twisted and even broken – there can be nothing better than a surprise or double take.

However, if your name is hard-edged and macho but your business is jewellery design; or your name is light and soft but you specialise in industrial design, using your own name might not be ideal.

9) Do you want to draw a line between work and home?

When you work for yourself, the lines between ‘work’ and ‘home’ often (incessantly?) become blurred. You might find the lines more distinct if you operate under different names when you’re working and playing.

Think of your business name in the same way as you think of your business space: are you happy with a desk in your living room, or would you be more comfortable with a separate office?

An invented name might allow a demarcation between you and your business.

10) Is it too late?

So you started small – maybe took on some evening freelancing or a side project that developed into something bigger – and you did so under your own name. You have a small, but growing client base and you are beginning to get known.

Is it too late to change now? The simple answer is No.

Your loyal clients, and your wider network, will take a name change in their strides. So if the answers to the questions above lead you to think that your business would be better served under a name that isn’t your own name, look to the future and change it!

Thoughts? Questions?

Have you been struggling with a business name? Did the answers to one of these questions help pave the way to an answer? Share your stories, ideas, questions, and tips in the comments!

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  1. This article is awesome! Would you please give me an opinion about my branding name?

    My name is Idgie Pena, I do not like “Pena” but I find Idgie very distinctive and memorable. But is it to hard to spell? I have never found someone that thought my name was normal, I can’t tell if that’s good or bad.

    Also, I don’t think “design” makes a good combination (such as Idgie Design), is Idgie too short for a brand? I like to think that it sounds as a random word and not necessarily a name, but as it is my real name I’m having trouble taking a outside look.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. I had a blast choosing the name for my business. “Calliope” was a name I was instantly drawn to as it evoked feminine charm (I am a girl) and classic tradition (well duah). It also speaks to my love of literature (some don’t know Calliope was the muse of Epic Poetry). This has in-turn opened up a huge section for branding identification. I now donate some of my proceeds to a literary not for profit, my donations for charity events are in book boxes, social media content can bleed from personal interests assuming they are literary based (I do read a lot so its not too far fetched) and I often pull inspiration from literature for a unique, fresh, but vaguely familiar design quality. (They never have to know that the symbol of the Deathly Hollows was the inspiration for their logo) I added “Presence In Media” to help define what I do and also make it easy to find me online. There are loads of Calliope’s but only one CalliopePIM. (so far)

  3. Iv’e taken quite a different approach. Iv’e put a lot of meaning & symbolism into my logo. The name is Creades (People find it unique, so they ask, and pronounce it as “Creeds”) which is where it allows me to explain the name (Cree-aye-dess) (CREAtive DESign), and invites me into explaining the meaning behind my logo 🙂

  4. Thanks, Brennan. You make a good point – ‘self brand’ is still a brand; and to me, that means that it still needs to do what all brands should do – be distinctive and engaging. Not all of us have been lucky enough to have been given great brand names by our parents or spouses!

  5. Very interesting as well as helpful blog for naming a new business. In business name uniqueness is necessary and it is also beneficial.

  6. Picking a name/brand is important. It’s a self brand that you need to be proud of and willing to showcase. Personally, if your name can have depth of interpretation I think that is great. Even if not everyone understands all the suble ideas you were including in your name. I also think the point you made about being unique and memorable are important.

    Great post!

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