Tara here. Let me share with you the question that always comes up when we are branding our creative entrepreneur clients, and it’s this: “What about my business name? Should I use my own personal name, or have a separate ‘business-y’ one?”
First off, this question shouldn’t be a paralyzing one, because your business isn’t all about the name. What you do, and the style in which you share what you do with everyone else, gives your name context and meaning over time – like a child you’ve named Moonbeam who grows up to be Professor Moonbeam and no one thinks twice about it. (Ok, yep, that example may be a little extreme).
Moonbeam aside, your personal brand is about your purpose, your creative expertise, and sharing and selling yourself in a way that blends who you are into what you do. But of course the name question is going to come up. For example, it’s the difference between an interior designer’s business being named Lisa Harris Designs (her own name) versus a name like Love Life Designs (a business-y name).
So how do you decide if you use your own name as your business name, or a business-y one? It’s different for everyone. I’m typically on team “use your own name” unless you give me a good reason not to. So let’s start with those:
1. Good Reasons for Not Using Your Own Name. These reasons are pretty cut-and-dry, and we’re not going to argue you on them:
You have a business partner and don’t want to sound like the firm of Last Name & Last Name. Fair enough, that’s why we’re not called Street & Shannon Creative, but instead Braid Creative. But, we do our best to get our own names into the mix whenever we possibly can.
You plan on selling your business in the future so you don’t want your persona so tightly tied to the biz. In this case, again, you are the one who’s going to build this business that gets so much attention and success you’re able to sell it. Your greatest asset besides the actual idea, is your personal brand and creative expertise. Consider attaching your name to the business name for now, like “Business-y Name from Your Name Here.”
You already have a lot of brand recognition with your current business-y name. Usually this is when you’ve had a blog that had a great name you made up, and now it’s turned into your business. Everyone follows, likes, subscribes to and knows this blog and/or business as that name. I’d say don’t change your name, but be sure they know it’s linked to you. You are the expert behind the biz, and over time you may want to try your hand at a new business – make sure your getting your personal brand into that mix.
2. So-So Reasons For Not Using Your Own Name. These reasons are much more “go with your gut” factors, and make the decision more personal, but also not as clear:
You are single and might get married, or married and might get divorced. Kinda sucky that this is now tied to your business decision in a let’s-get-all-riled-up-about-the-patriarch way. But that aside, if you are a creative working for herself (or himself too!) your family is always going to be so tied to your business and business decisions. It’s personal that way. So… being tied or untied to your last name (if you’re not keeping, or didn’t keep your maiden name) is a legitimate reason to think over whether or not to use that Last Name in your business name.
You worry about privacy. This one has come up a very few and rare times for us, probably because 90% of creatives working for themselves (that is not a real stat, it’s a made up one by me) are all over social media, because that’s how they get work, get connections, and show up and get seen. But if you are hyper-aware of your safety or privacy because of personal circumstances or just your own comfort level with sharing yourself online, then go with the business-y name.
You don’t like the way your name sounds or think people can’t pronounce it. Okay this is where my bad cop flares up. Your name is not any weirder than anyone else’s name, except for people named Jane and John Doe (but really, even that “h” in the John is weird and no one tongue-trips over that)! But this is also where Kathleen’s good cop steps in and says, “hey, if you feel weird about your name, then don’t use it.” But like the formula I shared earlier, do this “Business Name from/or/with Your Name Here.”
3. If You Don’t Have Any of These Reasons… Use Your Name for Your Business. This is where you have the advantage over the big guys. You are a person, and people love following, reading and buying from people! It’s also part of why you don’t work for anyone else but you! And, if you are like most of the creatives we work with, your ideas change over time, in five years from now you may want to go after a completely different business dream – your name is the only thing you have to take with you!
If I haven’t convinced you, and you must use a business-y name, then give it meaning. Sometimes that’s hard to do in a couple words (that’s why I’m going to be sharing a future post on how to pair your name with a tagline). But if you can’t make a few words say everything you’re about, which a name can rarely do – make sure it sounds like you, not what you think other people expect from a name, Professor Moonbeam.
P.S. We don’t name our clients. We often get asked to name them when we’re hired to plot out their brand and business vision and then write and design their brand platforms. But it’s like naming someone else’s baby. It’s gotta come from you. We can help that baby’s name have meaning, and have a great story, and have a vision for who they can become. We can even dress that baby and teach it to walk. But the name – it comes from you.