Ask A Freelancer #7: Naming your Freelance Business

Why I started “Ask A Freelancer.” – From time to time I get emails asking for advice about freelance matters. I hope that by publishing these inquiries and my response I can do a better service to my blog readers than just responding one email at a time. Plus, those of you who may have input on the matter that I didn’t think of can chime in with a comment! If there’s a question you have or a subject you’d like to get an opinion on, please contact me!

Question

Liz,

I’ve been thinking about my business and branding. I plan to begin freelancing and I’m not sure what to choose as a domain name and I’m not sure how to go about designing my logo.

Right now I own a dot com for the company name I came up with, Visual Blade but should I be using my own name instead? You work by yourself and I notice you picked a creative name, what’s your opinion of what I can do to choose the right one?

– Daquan Wright

Business Name or Your Name?

It’s really up to the individual freelancer if they  are to use a company name or simply go by their own name. There are fair reasons for both, no real right or wrong answer here – but here is some stuff to think about.

Having a brand name other than your own allows for ease if you plan to expand to a larger operation in the future. If you’re goal is to someday turn your one-person operation into a huge firm with receptionists and account executives and an H.R. Department, a company name might make sense. However it’s not the rule, some of the largest firms in the country are named after their founder.

It can be beneficial to use a company name if you want to define a personal brand, that is separate from your business, should you start up something new or move on to another company. Instead of being known as “Liz Andrade Design,” I am “Liz Andrade from CMD+Shift Design,” the two are strongly linked and people recognize that CMD+Shift is MY brand, but in the future I might be Liz Andrade from some-other-thing-er-rather. Again it’s all just about how you want to be perceived and what you feel more comfortable with.

Now, Some people choose a company name to give the illusion that they are larger operations than they really are. I don’t suggest this. Be honest with your potential clients about who you are and what you offer, trying to trick businesses into hire you will not turn up good for either party!

The decision all rides of how you want to project your brand and your personal preference really. There is no right or wrong. You have a unique name and that may be something that works to your advantage. There is probably not some other web designer under the name Daquan Wright out there, so you may not have to come up with a memorable business name, you already have one!

I made a call out on Twitter and found out some great stories about Freelancers business names and why they chose them!

Where did CMD+Shift Design Come From?

I am a bit of an internet and computer nerd and I like the idea of choosing a business name that was a little nerdy. I used to be a big fan of the old Revision3 cooking show, Ctrl+Alt Chicken and at one time had the wireless in my apartment named Ctrl+Alt Liz (even though I am a Mac user, haha.)

Most designers I know love their keyboard shortcuts, most of us have a favorite keyboard short cut! So when it came time to choose a name and I saw that the domain cmdshiftdesign.com was up for grabs — I took it! It wasn’t until after buying the domain that I started to think about the name further and it’s possible double entendre, “Command Shift” could refer to my ideas that design has the power to change the way we perceive the world and ourselves and the brands around us.

Choosing A Domain Name

In this day and age it is very important that you have the website address to match your business name, it is good that you have visual-blade.com, but if you choose to use Visual Blade as your brand name, keep trying to get visualblade.com as well! In print, like on business cards, that hyphen is nice because it serves to separate the words to make it more clear what the name is, however in spoken form you will have a better chance at people understanding when you say “visual blade dot com” as appose to “visual hyphen blade dot com.” Also people may find about you via word of mouth and going off the business name itself, the first domain they are likely to try would of course not include the hyphen.

Whether you sell your company under your name or not, you SHOULD (everyone should) own yourname.com if you can get it! Being that you’re blessed with a unique name, it looks as though daquanwright.com is available, go register it!

Of course, it’s always best if you can snag a dot com instead of a  dot net or other extension, depending on your plans for the future you may want to invest in a dot tv as well, or if you’re living outside of the United States, the extension associated with your region.

Be careful, domain names can be addictive. How many of you have an arsenal of names that aren’t even being used or are all redirecting to your hub site?

Register Your Trade Name

Once you’ve settled on a name you will be doing business as, it is time to register that name! You can find the forms for this through your local Chamber of Commerce.

Creating Your Logo

As designers, you’d think this part would be easy – but it’s hard to design for yourself. I’ve seen designers who strugle with being satisfied and who are constantly changing their logos, (which makes growing brand recognition near impossible!) If logo design is not your expertise, talk with someone who is more versed in this and get their input. You may find that investing some money into bringing in an outside designer may make you more happy with the final result!

I am reminded of the design blog that Brian Hoff writes, The Design Cubicle. He has a great article on there about creating the logo for his site, and what made me think of this – even though the article is nearly a year old is because Brian opened up his process to the design community. I recall during his sketching and refinement phases he would tweet out drafts and ask for feedback from other designers! This is a great way to learn more about design and how to accept criticism! Plus you may get connected with some new people in the community!

What’s your advice?

Am I missing something? What is your advise for Daquan? Why do you use the business name that you do? Leave a comment and tell us about it!


Click. Work. Collect

11 Comments

  1. kyle says:

    Just to tie in with your “make sure the url is available” – I’d also make sure the twitter name (and possibly something like Facebook name or whathaveyou) is available too.

  2. Hey loving the article, really intriguing to know how your brand names came a light. Would love to see more of these articles! :) :D and thanks for including mines as an example! Will be sure to retweet!

    @anthonywoods

  3. Here’s one tip that’s probably obvious:

    If people already have trouble spelling or pronouncing your full name, don’t use it for your freelance business!

    I wanted to use my name but it was too long and hard to spell or pronounce correctly. Ugh

    Anyway, thanks for including my tweet! I actually had a page filled up on both sides with ideas but nothing really jumped at me. Corinspired just seemed to fit me well so I stuck with it.

  4. Bryan Beaudreault says:

    @Corinne I have the same problem with my name… :) Unfortunately, I’m not having the easiest time thinking of an alternative. Thanks for the article though, Liz, it was helpful!

    1. thanks for the comments everyone!

      Kyle, good point! On top of the Twitter account I always use, I have @lizandrade although don’t use it, but perhaps I will down the road.

      it’s funny with names, because unless yours is REALLY unique, there is going to be others out there with the same name. A few weeks ago, one of my friends told me she had Googled my name and some *other* Liz Andrade’s Myspace page was ranked #1. I checked it when she told me and it was true, although I just checked again and it has moved down – haha! I shall overcome.

  5. Thanks for featuring me Liz, I ate every word of the article. :)

    Now I have a bit more information that will help me finalize my branding decisions in the future.

  6. Hi

    There are some good online tools that can help with creativity when finding business names. Check out:
    creatingminds dot org.

    Juliet

  7. Daquan! Glad I could help! Thank YOU for being involved with the blog :)

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  9. John says:

    Hey. I just stumbled on to your blog from another site. Great information, thanks for sharing!

    So true about finding a unique name… looks like ours is somewhat similar (alt shift creative). We just started so I’m pretty sure you had yours first :)

    1. thanks for the comment, john! our names are very similar! That’s fine, there is plenty of room for nerdy keyboard command references :)

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