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Brand Name Problems: Should You Use Your Name or a Brand for Your Business?

Cat LeBlancA decade ago, registering your name as a .com was considered a “vanity URL” – but not any more! Many business owners are using their names for their website addresses and even the name of their business. But many of my clients who are just starting out have a hard time deciding whether to use their own name or a unique brand name for their business.

One of the biggest issues I see that my clients may not even recognise, is the emotional weight of the decision. Some are afraid of owning their “fame” and using their own name; they feel more comfortable hiding a bit behind a business name. Others are more comfortable using their name because it means it’s just them, and they’re afraid of being seen as a bigger business.

We’ll talk about how to decide on your own name in a moment, but here’s a quick tip: if your name is available as a url and you are wondering whether or not to buy it stop what you are doing right now. Get your credit card and and buy it immediately. Really, now. I’ll wait here while you do that.


Ok, great. Whether or not you actually USE it is another thing, but if your name is available as a .com I would snap that baby up right now to give you some options down the line. You never know when you might want it, and at around $10 a year, it makes no sense not to grab it while it’s available.

What’s in a name?

Whether you decide to go with your name or a brand name will depend on several factors:

  • Do you already have a brand name in mind?
  • Is your business is essentially selling YOU as a an expert of some kind?
  • How certain are you that you will always stay in the same area of business?

Here’s a great example: A biz friend of mine, Lacy Boggs, started her business two years ago and bought the domain ghostblogger.co. At the time, all she did was ghost blogging. But as her business grew, so did her offerings, and suddenly she was offering advice, products, and courses for DIY bloggers looking to improve their content – which didn’t fit under her ghostblogger umbrella. She recently rebranded her business and now uses her name as her main URL, because she really is the expert and face of her business, and she also bought TheContentDirectionAgency.com, which is what she decided to call her new business.

It can be costly to rebrand – both financially and in brand equity – so, if you can, it’s better to choose a name that will last you quite a while, and hopefully for the life of your business.
Advantages of using your name:

  • You have total flexibility as to what you want to do in your business as you are not tied to a brand outside of your name
  • You usually can get the url in some form if you get inventive, this can be harder believe it or not with brand/business names.
  • It saves you the step of having to choose another business name

Advantages of using a brand name:

  • If you don’t want to be front and centre, or it doesn’t make sense to in your business to use your name a brand name can be comforting. The attention isn’t on you directly.
  • As a newbie people don’t know who you are so in the beginning your name has no meaning to people they would likely better understand a brand name if it is a descriptive one.

How to choose a name for your business

Here’s how I step clients through the decision:

  1. Do you already have a brand name in mind that you really want?
    Yes -> Go to 2
    No -> Go to 3
  2. Is it available in a .com?
    Yes -> BUY BUY BUY
    No-> Look at other options for example .net .me or even some far out options like .ly This is used by contractual.ly. You can get clever with this if you are set on the name.
  3. So you don’t have a brand name in mind. What are you selling? Is what you are selling essentially based around you and your expertise?
    Yes -> Get either your name as a .com or .net or your name with a suffix like media or studios etc. If No -> Go to 4.
  4. So you don’t have a brand name in mind and your business is not (at least right now) centering around you and your expertise. Do you think there is a chance you’ll change niche or want to merge into a different style of business? For example maybe you are creating a social media agency now but later you may want to brand yourself as a social media expert? Here it’s really up to you. You could go with a brand name now and move to your name later or you could start with your name now – it’s a personal decision.

When I started my business, I chose to use my name because I knew my business would be centered on my expertise, and I wanted the flexibility to adjust my niche and my offerings as I grew and learned more about what my customers truly wanted.

Was it hard to put myself front and centre? YES! I felt really awkward about it, but over time I grew into it and it has really helped me to be able to do whatever I want with my business, there is no additional brand tying me down to a particular concept.

Now it’s your turn:

How did you come up with the name for your business?

Was it a struggle for you to decide between your name and a brand name?

Are you still struggling with the decision?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments below!

 

10 Responses to Brand Name Problems: Should You Use Your Name or a Brand for Your Business?

  1. It’s so sad but I’ve been struggling with naming my freelance design business for years!! I started with JK Design & Marketing… (JK are my first and middle initials) then some lovely person pointed out the JK = joking in the online world (for some reason it didn’t even click for me!) Then I quite liked Pink Pixel Creative for a while but try and say that quickly 3 times in a row… yep… Now I’m leaning towards exactly what you have said in your post… my name as my business name! Jen Mulligan… it’s a freelance based business so yep… it’s all about me but my business might change and grow so I think it’s the safest bet at the point in time. :) Thanks for the post – it really came at a good time to help my decision.

  2. Really great article and something I’ve also tossed around a lot. Personally I’ve found branded names get traction faster and an observation I’ve made over the last ten years is that those that are incredibly successful in theirownname.com all first started out under a brand… built their success and audience and then made the switch.

    The only thing I don’t like about using myname.com is that you’re building your business to revolve around you and that tends to mean people want you… there really is no sell out or exit strategy with myname.com but agreed it totally has its place.

    Great article Cat

    • Thanks for your insightful comment Kat!

      It certainly has been a trend that a lot of successful entrepreneurs in the last 10 years have switched from a brand to their name.

      I hear what you are saying with the exit strategy using your own name being more difficult. Ultimately it depends on what you are looking to get out of it. It is possible to sell the business but stay on as a figure-head, to franchise your method etc but unless you remove yourself from the brand completely you are still a large part of what makes the company valuable if the people buying intend on keeping the current business model. I think if you do end up wanting out completely you have to work consistently on building up the other elements of your brand and slowly removing yourself over an extended period of time. So, yes, much easier if you went the right way up front!

      Thanks again.

      Cat xx

  3. Hello Cat.
    Lots to consider here especially as I do not have an established business. My question is, what if the last name is quite long and from a non-English background. If people do not know how to spell it (and they don’t even after knowing me for many years) is it a good idea to use it as a business name?
    Looking forward to your response,
    Love and light, Olga

    • Hi Olga,

      In this case I would not recommend using your last name as people will have a hard time finding you. If you want to go with your name use a variation. I have a client that did this. You could potentially use your middle name or a shortened version of your last name.

      Good luck with your new business!

      Cat

  4. Hi,
    I have bought my brand name.co as the .com was already purchased in 2006… I was wondering how many domain name variants you think we should purchase, and for how long?
    E.g. . Com, .co.uk , co

    And should you buy different variants e.g. Brand coach.com, brand academy.com, brand retreats etc ? Or can you do that from one IP address?

    Many thanks, Alice

    • Hi Alice,

      Thanks for commenting! Honestly this is down to personal situation. If you are in the UK probably to do take .co.uk. The key question to ask yourself is – will I be kicking myself later if someone else buys this and I don’t? If the answer is yes, then buy it, otherwise don’t bother. In the beginning I bought probably 20 domains, now I have let most of them expire.

      Cat

      Cat

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