Since starting my own business in 2008, I’ve struggled with pinning down a name. At first I used my own name. Then I used ‘Artz Collective’, thinking that it sounded more legit. Then I slowly started going back to using my own name because I didn’t feel authentic calling myself a collective. Who is the collective anyhow?
Since launching the latest iteration of my site, I’ve finally accepted that using my own name is the right thing to do. First of all, it’s genuine. I am, primarily, a one-woman studio. I never dreamed of having an agency full of employees that I would have to manage.
My vision had always been freedom. I like working independently and bringing in partners when I need them. I like being able to create close, long-lasting relationships with clients I get along with really well. When they work with me, they work with me, not a receptionist, VA, account executive… and then me.
But it took me a long time to get to this point – to finally accepting that using my own name was ok. I thought I had to appear as something I wasn’t, in order to get the kind of clients I wanted. What I realized is that my clients don’t actually care what I call myself. What they care about is how I treat them.
How you treat your customers matters more than anything else when it comes to creating a brand. More than your name, more than your logo, more than your website. That’s because how you treat people says more about your mission, values and vision – both as a person and business – than any visual branding strategy every could.
The fact is, your name probably affects you more than it does anyone else. Think about it: you constantly see your business’ name – on your website, social media pages, printed material. You also probably say it out loud multiple times a day – talking in meetings, over the phone. And no doubt you play it over and over in your head when writing articles like this.
As much as we would like to think our clients do all of this too – and unless you’re bombarding them with ten newsletters a day, which I don’t recommend – the fact is, they don’t. (It is good to remind them your exist every once in awhile, but not enough that they get sick of hearing your name.)
So, what are some steps to figure out what name you, as a business owner, can live with for the next… 5, 10, 20 years of our lives? Here’s what I’ve come up with:
Things to ask yourself (the good):
Does it suit your ultimate vision?
Are you a one-woman shop or a 10-person start up? Does your brand rely on your personality, the expertise of a team, or the quality of a tangible product? Do you work with clients one-on-one or do you sell them something? Are you service-oriented or product-oriented? Do you see your name in lights one day or do you like being behind the scenes? Do you feel most authentic using your own name? Or not? Choose your direction with your ultimate vision in mind. Using your own name is perfectly fine if you’re the central focus of the brand.
Is it resilient?
Say the name over and over. Can you say it a hundred times with getting sick of it – or with it sounding silly? Is it easy to say? Will other people get tripped up on it? Do YOU get tripped up on it? Again, if you’re focus is personal branding, how easy is your name to say or spell? If it’s overly complicated it, play with ways you can shorten it – or consider using a special nickname that’s either memorable for your audience or meaningful to you.
Is it available as a domain?
And no, it doesn’t have to be a .com – the days are over when people only see your web address on a business card. People get to your site via other links on the web. They probably never have to type your address into the search bar.
Is it descriptive?
Does it say what your business does or is about? This isn’t a must, but if you’ve come up with a great name that happens to be descriptive too, then you know you’re on the right path. And yes – if it’s your own name, and you’re focusing on personal branding, then that counts too.
Things to ask yourself (the bad):
Is it offensive?
Seems obvious, but be careful. Sometimes we can get stuck on an idea that we think is great, but fail to recognize all the connotations that a word may have, especially in our rapidly evolving language. (i.e. Be sure to ask your teenage daughter what she thinks).
Is it trendy?
Are you stuck on a particular word and you’re just not sure why? Maybe it’s because you’ve been hearing it and seeing it all over the place without really paying much attention to it, until it becomes your idea. Words have a way of ebbing and flowing in mainstream verbiage. ‘Buzz’ words. Stay away from them.
Is it a common word, purposefully misspelled?
Tread lightly with this one. If it’s an intuitive misspelling that sticks in people’s minds, then it could work. But you better do your homework first – meaning, ask a lot of people their thoughts before using it. Not only can misspellings be confusing, they can get old really quickly. Don’t give your customers reasons to be confused or annoyed.