Choosing a business name is like naming your first born and probably the first big decision you’ll have to make. Your business name gives your customers a first and lasting impression of you and your brand. It reflects what you sell, your expertise, your value and the way you work. It also makes you stand out from your competitors. In this article, I’m going to share what I’ve learnt over the last 2 years of setting up an online business.
What’s in a name? Lots!
There are lots of things to consider when you’re brainstorming a name. Does it need to say what you do? Does anyone else use the same or similar name? Does it already exist on social media? Should you just use your own name?
Some people say that it doesn’t matter what you call your business. It’s what you do with it that counts, and if you’ve got the right marketing strategy any name will work. Think of all those successful companies like ‘Virgin’ or ‘Moo’ (business cards) whose names have little to do with their product or service.
That’s great if you’ve got the time, cash, energy and skills for marketing or if you’ve got a truly unique selling point, but what if you’re just getting started and maybe want a name that people will just remember easily when they’re looking for you?
When I started my online tutoring business I called it ‘English with Fiona’. I didn’t like it at all, but I’d built up a lot of contacts over the years and when I bumped into ex-students, they always remembered my first name and it was easy for them to go home and find my website. Also, in my field, there were a lot of online tutor businesses called ‘English with someone’, so I thought it obviously worked. Checking out your competitors could be a good place to start.
Then I started learning more about online businesses and I invested in a number of courses. Notice anything about their business names? No Hassle Website, Create Your Laptop Life, Proofread Anywhere, Passive Income Queen, The WordPress Chick.
Yes, I found them all by googling for solutions to my pain points. This kind of descriptive or informative name tells your customers exactly what you do, so you will be very appealing for people looking for specific solutions.
Another benefit to an ‘anonymous’ name is that it gives you a bit more privacy – maybe you don’t want your personal name popping up everywhere when you advertise, and maybe you want a clean line drawn between your business and your private life. Some people say it’s just easier for practical reasons like accounting and tax.
On the other hand, there are lots of extremely successful entrepreneurs that just use their first name – Mandie Holgate*, Nadia Finer, Amy Porterfield and Marie Forleo to name but a few. This can solve a lot of headaches such as finding a domain name that hasn’t been taken, finding a name that you actually like and can live with (!) and using it for Facebook etc. You can always differentiate from your personal page by using a middle name, and lots of people incorporate their business name into their personal page e.g. Fiona BizWiz Wattam (no I don’t do that!).
Do your research
So, if you’ve decided on a name, do a few final checks before you buy your domain name. As I mentioned before, check social media platforms – you may have to adapt the name a little e.g. by putting ‘UK.’ at the end if someone has already taken the handle that you want. Also be careful if it sounds anything like a big company e.g. I think anything with ‘R Us’ used to cause some problems with Toys R Us (!)
Run the name past a few people, just in case there are any associations that you hadn’t thought of. When I set up my ‘IELTS Exam Preparation’ website, I chose a name that I thought everyone would google – ‘ieltsexamprep.com’. But when I posted it on a Facebook group to get feedback, people said the first words they saw was ‘sex prep’! Needless to say I abandoned it!
Buying a custom domain name
- Buy your domain name separately from your host provider if you’re going down the self-hosted website route – it just gives you a bit more control
- It’s worth paying extra for the privacy option, otherwise you’ll get hassled by people who want to build your website for you! I wouldn’t pay extra (about £4 a month) for a business email address though – this is often free with your host
- Don’t worry too much about .com if it’s not available. But DO take .com if it’s available!
- Avoid the temptation of buying all the domains associated with your chosen name – they will offer you other versions (like .biz or .net) for a low price, but it will add up if you’re paying that much annually.
- Apparently Google ranks you higher the longer you’ve had your domain name, so some people say it’s worth buying a second-hand domain name that’s already well-established, though I’ve never done this as it’s more expensive. but could be worth it in the long term?
Last but not least – don’t even consider using any free domain name which includes the name of the website provider e.g. fionawattam.weebly.com. This just gives a bad impression and suggests you’re not serious about your business.
What experiences have you had with your business name so far? What influenced your decision?
*Many thanks to Mandie Holgate for her expert advice and for taking time out to share with me her super helpful thoughts on choosing a business name.