Alright, one of the first things people get hung up about when launching a business is the name. I’ve seen many times that biz owners stop everything until they hit the perfect name.
But I’d argue that you need to figure out what you’ll be doing before focusing on the name. Why? Because you want something that’s A) clear and B) related (even if abstractly) to what you’ll do.
Logistically, there are many reasons why you want to stay away from overly complicated names when you’re starting out. First, people don’t know you, so they won’t be googling your name – they’ll google “best __ near me” or something similar. This applies to social media as well. I invite you to give this a try: Type “Sushi restaurant” in the search bar and see what shows up.
A simple name can help you show up in search results. It also makes it easy for people to remember you. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun though; try puns, play with your name, and experiment with different combinations before settling down.
5 factors to consider before you commit to a business name
Should you use your name as a brand name?
If you’re spending too much time thinking about a name, I’d say just use yours. Especially in the beginning, if you’re unsure of what you’ll be doing, using your name and an extra word or two can be enough. For example, Jane Doe Creative Studio can work well for an illustrator, a graphic designer, a brand strategist, you name it.
Another pro of using your name is that you’ll be building a personal brand that can last longer than a specific product name which, if you decide to pivot in another direction, you’ll have to rebrand. For example, Marie Forleo is known for her signature program, but she’s still known as Marie Forleo. If she were to launch an entirely new service, she could do it in a beat because her Marie Forleo brand is an umbrella term. But that wouldn’t be the case if her business was only known as B School – she’d have to build a platform for any new ventures.
Let’s say you launch under a super-specific name like Pin It Social Marketing Services – and you end up hating social media marketing. What would you do?
On the flip side, using your name makes it tough to separate yourself from your services. After all, you are your brand. It can be tricky to navigate your personal and professional online presence. And it can be even harder to grow your team and present them to your audience once you’ve built it.
What shows up when you search the business name you want?
Whether we like it or not, business exists online now. This means that anyone could have used your name before you even thought about it.
You want to make sure that nothing crazy shows up when you search your name. Check the hashtags and topics in social media, review the first few pages of Google search results, and double-check any weird links that could tarnish your brand. Sometimes, even the most seemingly innocent hashtags can have an entire subculture’s meaning behind them – and you don’t want to get caught there.
Are the social media handles available?
Look up your desired name on Instagram, Tiktok, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Clubhouse, Pinterest, and any other platform you can think of that’d be relevant to your business. Search your name and possible variations that could confuse people. For example, add underscores, “co,” or different spellings (like the UK and US versions) to make sure there’s nothing that’d clash with your brand.
I’ve worked with a client who went down a long road with their name without doing this and ended up with the same name as another company doing something totally similar in another country. You can miss out on traffic and being discovered by something like this.
Is the domain available?
Similar to your social media presence, even if you don’t want a website right now, you should check the domains. Whether you want a traditional .com or something more special (like .marketing or .co?), check early on.
You can simply go to yourname.com and see what shows up. Or do a Google search to find search results with different endings. Again, using a name that’s very similar to another business can result in confusion and hurt your chances of ranking organically, so be mindful and buy your domain name (consider buying its variations as well) as soon as you can.
Protect your business name legally
Now, no need to get intimidated. You can get to this step once all it’s said and done. Give yourself time to settle well into your business before committing to it. After a few months, you’ll probably start to really understand your business goals and who you love serving. You don’t need to worry about the legality of things at the very beginning if you’ve done your due diligence and there isn’t something else with the same name in the same sphere. It’s just something to think about once you’re ready to register a business.
But once you settle on a business name, find a lawyer that’s an expert in your jurisdiction and take the legal steps to own your name. I’m no lawyer and this can look very different depending on your local laws, but most places will require you to conduct a formal search (your lawyer should help with this) before filing a trademark. This search will show you any businesses with a name similar to yours and can protect you from legal problems down the road.
Ready to discover your brand personality?
One of the first steps in setting up shop is figuring out your brand personality – your overall vibe & how you want customers to feel.