A 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:
- Do you already have a brand name in mind that you really want?
Yes -> Go to 2
No -> Go to 3
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!