This could be one of the most exciting or terrifying times in your business. It’s probably a bit of both. You’ve decided to go freelance despite all the worry and the warnings. Now you’ve got to decide what to call yourself.
You might think: it’s just me, it’s not a business as such. Are you selling goods or services? Then you’re a business. It doesn’t matter if you have 500 employees or if it’s just you typing away on a sofa. You can still apply the same principles to the tiniest of businesses.
Choosing the right name for your business can make all the difference. It will be the first thing people know about you. It needs to make an impression and represent what you do.
The main options here are to name the business after yourself or create a business name or some combination of the two. As a freelancer, it makes sense that the business is named after you in some way. You are the business. Your name is an important part of your brand. On the other hand, many freelancers opt for a business name for various reasons.
Pros and cons of using your own name
- Offer a more personal service
- Allows you to build a brand around your personality
- You’ll seem more affordable
- Companies may prefer to deal with one person than a large company
- Some clients might not take you seriously and think it’s just a casual job or a hobby.
- Branding yourself as a freelancer rather than a business can cause negative connotations. Some people don’t even like the word ‘freelance’, to them it sounds like another word for unemployed.
- Clients might not want to hire you for big jobs assuming you won’t be able to handle the workload.
- The personal service might backfire for you. Clients might think that they can call you at any time day or night with queries.
- If you have a common name it can be difficult to secure a domain name.
Pros and cons of choosing a business name
- Business names make you look well established and professional
- Room for expansion if you decide to hire employees
- More likely to have a SEO friendly name and rank higher in search engine results.
- A business is expected to charge more so you’re less likely to get people trying to talk down your price
- Easier to separate your personal life from your business life.
- Can look too formal and corporate. Lots of people don’t like dealing with companies
- Clients may believe that they can’t afford to hire you and will look elsewhere
- Harder to come up with an original name with an available domain as all the best ones are taken
- A business name might be less memorable
If you still have no idea what to call your business, you can try brainstorming some ideas by writing down keywords associated with your business and skills. These keywords may come in handy later on. Write down a few ideas you’d be happy to use so that you can test them.
Think you’ve found a name? Hold on! There are still more tests to do so don’t ignore your other ideas. You will need backups.
If you believe you have a great idea for a name, you need to check that someone else hasn’t had the same idea. Competition is fierce with new businesses cropping up all over the place. You need to check that the name is available for you to trade under so that you don’t end up getting taken to court.
Nowadays you need a website for your business. Sure you could try to go ahead without one but eventually you’ll realise that all your competitors have one and that you’re selling yourself short by not doing the same.
If and when you decide to get a website you need to think about domain names. Having a free website on WordPress might be a good start but having your own domain makes you look much more professional.
Check if the domain name is available before you settle on a business name. You don’t want to set up the business and then later on find out that the domain is unavailable or ridiculously expensive. In that case you would either have to rename your business, possibly causing confusion among your clients or choose a different domain name to your business name. Neither of these options will be good for you. The most important things in branding are consistency and recognisability. Unfortunately, most of the good domains are taken so you have to be a bit creative.
Once you’ve found one you could use, type it all out. Is it easy to type? Make sure that it reads well and doesn’t spell out anything weird when all the words are stuck together.
An important part of branding is owning it. Some people even buy several domains that are similar or common misspellings of their name so that they don’t lose out on potential traffic.
In order to build a strong brand, it’s a good idea to take your domain and then extend it to your email addresses and social media accounts. As well as checking whether the domain is available, you should check whether the name is free on social media accounts or at least something similar to it is.
Even big businesses have run into this problem. The retailer John Lewis ran into this problem when a man called John Lewis had already taken that Twitter name. The retailer had to call themselves @JohnLewisRetail to distinguish. Every year the man called John Lewis gets hundreds of tweets about the retailer’s sad Christmas adverts.
While a large, well known business can overcome problems like this, a freelancer needs all the help they can get to establish themselves on social media in order to get clients.
First of all, it’s a good idea to have a separate personal and business email address. It will save you a lot of confusion. Many freelancers use Gmail as their primary contact address with no problems.
However, if you want to go a bit further you might want to pay for email hosting. This way you will have a few email addresses you can set up with the address as your domain name. So it could be yourname@yourdomain rather than yourname@gmail, which looks a bit more professional.
When you’ve checked your name ideas out remember that a good name also needs to be:
- Easy to spell and pronounce
- Appropriate for the brand/industry
Ask yourself if your name, or name ideas are all of these things. To test whether the name is memorable, tell a friend or colleague, then have an unrelated conversation. After ten minutes ask if they can remember the name. Try this on a few people. If no one can remember the name then your customers will likely be the same.
Once you’ve considered all of these things, and you’ve got a good name, then you’re good to go.
Can you think of anything else to add? Should freelancers stick with their own name or choose a business name? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.