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Should you brand your business with your own name - or make one up?

Should you brand your business with your own name - or make one up?

Over the last couple of months, we’ve been involved in a lot of great conversations and decisions about naming a business, and I wanted to weigh in with a few thoughts of my own. It’s a question we get asked constantly - should I use my own name for my business, or create a separate identity?

Obviously, we have a lot of skin in this particular game - we spent our first year of business as Irene Farrimond Creative, and then rebranded in March as Magnoliahouse Creative. And let me tell you - there are serious pros and cons to both.

 

Using your own name

The case in favor

Using your personal name is insanely appealing for a number of reasons. First of all - and most important to me - it keeps things simple and authentic. It puts you at the center of your business, and all your efforts to build a personal brand compound with your marketing efforts for your business. Finding your brand style feels more effortless. It positions you automatically as an expert, and helps people get to know you as a founder. Plus, it’s chic and timeless. It’s typically easy to get your first choice of domain name.

The case against

Depending on your name, it might not be all that unique - and will be easy for customers and clients to confuse you with someone else. It doesn’t give customers any hint as to the subtleties and spirit of your business. It can feel (at least it did for me) egocentric, and makes naming products and packages awkward. You might experience growing pains as a business when you’ve simply named it after yourself. Even as you build a team, people will continue to assume you’re a solo practitioner, and may be confused or even put-off if a different team member reaches out via email or phone. If you’re using your full name, it can be long and cumbersome to promote, difficult for customers to spell and remember, and inelegant to abbreviate.

If you use this approach…

Consider using only your first, last or nickname to keep things shorter, easier to remember, and slightly less personal. Include a hint to your profession - i.e. ‘Photography’, ‘Events’ or ‘Financial’. When you name products and packages, use unique names - think ‘The Blush Package by Gracie Taylor Photography.’ Give your team members thoughtful position titles, and require that they include them in their email signature. Invest in strong, quality branding so that your customers take you seriously as a business - not a rinky-dink freelancer.

 

Creating a new name

The case in favor

Done right, a strong name will elevate your business and resonate with your customers. It’s a killer branding opportunity, and helps you tell your story as a business from first glance. It gives you the flexibility and freedom to create a name that works perfectly for your needs. It’s sometimes smoother to mention in conversation and it gives you a little distance from your work life (i.e. you can create separate social media profiles with ease). It feels more authentic and less egocentric when you start to add team members.

The case against

It’s a much bigger risk to create a new name for your business - there’s nothing wrong than a name that’s cheesy, clunky, dated or impossible to spell or pronounce. It’s tough stuff to come up with a name that’s perfect for your business - it takes both hard work, research and a lot of time. If you don’t start with a good one, it’s tempting to change your name frequently, diluting your brand-building efforts. It’s easy to fall into cliched patterns. It can feel silly or inauthentic if you’re a solopreneur and plan to stay that way. Domain names for shorter business names is a nightmare. You’ll constantly be answering the questions “Why did you choose that?” and “What does it mean?”. It’s harder to let your personality show.

If you use this approach…

First, make sure you’ve chosen a good one. Spend some time thinking about and developing your signature style and how it will differ from your personal style. Don’t make an impulse decision or choose the best of a bad bunch of names - the right name will reveal itself in due time. Add some personal connection by including your photo and behind-the-scenes content on social media profiles, as appropriate.

I can’t wait to hear from y’all in the comments. below - which approach did you use? Would you do it the same way all over again?

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