Deciding on a name for your business is often a major sticking point for lots of freelancers and new business startups, mainly because this is often the first aspect of your business that people come across. But choosing the perfect name for your business doesn’t have to be all that complicated. In fact, it can be fun.
(This is Part 4 of my ’15 Days to Running Your Successful Freelance Business’ series – if you missed the last one, you can find it here).
I’ll be upfront and say that I personally agonized over what to call my first consultancy business for a few weeks before deciding on a final name.
And, to be perfectly honest, when I decided on the name of this blog, I didn’t follow many of the tips below. I chose it because I liked it, and because it could be adaptable, as I hadn’t really decided on my blogging niche.
TIP: decide on your niche before you name your business 😉
OK, so let’s imagine that you’re sitting with a blank piece of paper in front of you. How do you go about choosing that name for your freelance business that you love?
Ideally, you want to start with as long a list as possible – so get creative and think through every possible angle.
Does your name have a meaning?
The name of your business is an important marketing tool. It’s the first aspect that people will come across and you will use it in all of your literature: from your website, to your Twitter handle and your Pinterest name. In fact, pretty much all of your social media.
Avoid names that are too vague. To do this think about the key focus of your business. Often a name can come from this. Or you could name your business after you, which many consultancies or designers decide to do, as it helps to associate the business with them personally.
My consultancy business is called Activate Fundraising – because the core aim of my business is to help ambitious non-profits to activate their fundraising programmes.
But the reality is that most people don’t say that they’re working with Activate Fundraising, they say they’re working with Heather Stewart. And when I get referrals they are for me personally by name, rather than for Activate Fundraising. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t done me any harm, but it does go to show that I needn’t have spent all that time coming up with a name that illustrates my core business.
Is it unique?
For anyone who will be officially registering their company, you will need to use a business name that hasn’t been used before. However, while there’s no legal requirement if you’re running a freelance business and operating as a sole trader, it still pays to have a unique business name that no-one else uses. For a start, it means that you’ll be easier to find in Google searches, and crucially means that you will find it easier to register a domain name.
Even if you don’t have a website to start with, it makes sense to have a domain name ready to go and at the very least, you should have an email address that reflects the name of your business – and definitely NOT one that ends @gmail.com
Can you spell it?
Try to avoid unusual spellings. Most people will Google your business to find you and if you have a remotely quirky spelling, you will be more difficult to find. You also don’t want to have the business name that no-one gets quite right because they can’t figure out how to spell it – or that you have to spell out at least 3 times before anyone gets it right.
Is it easy to pronounce?
Related to spelling, it helps if you don’t come up with names that are difficult to say. By far the best method of referral is word-of-mouth – and if your name is difficult to pronounce, you’ve just put a big old stumbling block right in your own path.
Choose a name that is easy to understand and repeat. For this reason, shorter names are usually easier for people to remember.
Does it work in print?
Your name is most likely to be passed on through your website, business cards and on letterheads. How does it look written down? Try out different fonts and styles. Play around with it and doodle it out on a notepad. Sounds daft? Maybe, but the more you try it out in writing – or even say it aloud – the more you will get a sense of whether it works or not.
Can you live with it?
You want your business name to be one that will still work when you are THE leading designer in your town. Or when your business is 15 years old. If it’s too up-to-the-minute, will it have lost all meaning by 2020? Or will it be embarrassing when you are older and wiser? You want a name that you can live with and that will grow with your business.
Making sure it’s perfect
At this point, you should have whittled down your long list to around 2 or 3 names.
1. Search it
Make sure that it’s unique, but also that the domain name is available for each of your preferred names. This will help you to narrow down the list further as you are likely to discover that some of your top 3 aren’t available. Ideally, you want a .com or the domain for your country. If these aren’t available, try the other names on your shortlist rather than going for an alternative, such as .net or .org
2. Test it
Ask potential customers what they think of your name. You could try it out in forums in your niche, ask people on Twitter (provided they are in your key customer group) or even send out a survey.
If this is a totally new business – and you don’t have any customers yet, there are ways of testing out your name for free by setting up a few LeadPages landing pages with each of your different names. There’s a great walk-through from StartUpBros on how to go about this here if you’re interested in going down this route. Whatever you do to test your name, my advice is DON’T try it on family and friends. They’re too close to you and are unlikely to fit your ideal client profile.
3. Go with your instinct
If you still have a list of 2 or 3 names after this exercise, go with the one that you think will best fit your business. Which name do you love? It’s your business after all and you need to be happy to shout the name from the rooftops.Trying to think of a name for your business? Here are a few tips... Click To Tweet