Many creative sole traders and soletraders use their own name as their business name.
It is the easiest, and often a default option.
Sometimes they are already ‘known’ under their own name prior to leaving art school. Using your own name gives your business a more arty and personal touch. (It can get a little tricky if you use your maiden name and marry later on, but that’s another story! – see below in the comments)
Some designers use their initials or attach their discipline to add some clarity to what they do, such as Jo Jones Design, AAJewellery or Studio Dumbar.
Others prefer a business name, so that it is less personal and based around one individual. This might come across as more professional and allows the business to grow beyond the individual (or if you wish to build a business that you can sell later on).
Some people use both: their own surname for artistic one-off work, and a business name or brand name if they want to have a bit more distance, privacy or work with others. In fact, you can be self-employed (using your own name) and run a limited company (using a business name) at the same time.
Naming your business is often one of the most exciting parts of starting your business!
I have come across people who had a business name in mind years before starting their business!
But naming your business (or even just a new collection!) can be tricky, and here are some practical tips to help you on your way:
Step 1: What are your vision, values & passions?
Your business name should reflect your vision, values and passions.
What do you want to be known for?
What is your vision? What is the legacy you want to leave behind?
For advice on identifying your vision you might want to read our previous blog post What is your vision?
What are your values?
What is really important to you in your work and how you work with others? Is it about your expertise and professionalism, quality of the materials, innovative solutions, playfulness, affordability, sustainability, made by hand, working in partnership, …?
What are you passionate about? What are your recurring creative themes? Who or what inspires you?
Get into action:
Write down 8 key descriptive words about your vision, values and passions, and use this as a starting point to brainstorm your business name. To find the perfect words for your business you might need to take a little while, and you might need to dig a little deeper with the help of others.
Looking at your bigger picture as an inspiration for your business name will ensure that your business name is more likely to be future proof, as your vision, values and passions are unlikely to change dramatically over the years.
Step 2: Does it reflect you and your niche market?
A good business name reflects who you are and which ideal clients you want to attract.
Just like your own given name, it is often the introduction to your business. Before people meet you in person they will see your business name.
What do you do and for whom?
Who do you want to attract?
What image does your business name create in their head about your business?
Will it be clear to your potential clients what you do or for whom?
Or would you prefer to be a little more intriguing and not reveal too much?
Are you using words and language that will really attract your ideal clients?
Get into action:
Identify your niche market and define what you do and for whom. Identify your specialism (what you really want to be known for) and your ideal clients. You can read more about identifying your niche market and how to define what you do for whom in these blog posts.
Step 3: Get more inspiration
When I did a little research on creative business names it was really interesting to see how many people had named their creative business after their gran, pets or children! There were lots of references to favourite songs and fairy tales too.
Get into action:
Brainstorm (ideally with others) loads of names around your values, vision, passions, your specialism, your ideal clients.
Check out what business names your competitors or role models use.
Write words down but also use images. Create a mood board or mind map. Very often the creation of the business name goes hand in hand with creating a logo.
Make sure that at the end of this stage you have got around 5 potential creative business names.
Step 4: Reality check
You need to take a couple of things into consideration with naming your business:
- Is the name easy to spell? This is especially important now as people want to be able to find you quickly online or on twitter etc. Avoid quirky spellings such as ‘gr8’. Although it is the most common names that can be hard to spell like Johnson, Jonson, Johnsson! And if you use ‘and’ how will you spell that; and, & or +?
- Is the name easy to remember? People want to be able to find you easily online. If you have a memorable name that will make it far easier.
- If you work internationally (and that is everybody with a potential online business!) make sure that your name doesn’t mean something offensive in another language … There are some really funny stories in the advertising and branding world of big businesses that got this one wrong!
- Your business name should also be future proof, as it is difficult to change your name later if you have build up a profile. Naming your business is a bit like naming your kids … does it still sound right 20 years from now?
- Are there any restrictions on the business name? Certain words are not allowed or are protected. You can find a list of sensitive words on the Companies House website.
- Has anybody got a registered trademark under this business name? You can find more information about registered trade marks on the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) website. A specialist intellectual property lawyer can help you with an in depth search on trade marks.
- Is the name still available? Check out if anybody else is using the name through a google search and also check the Companies House website for a detailed business name search. Check if ‘your’ business name is still available for a web address, twitter name or Facebook account.
- How to protect your reputation? Our partners Own-It, an intellectual property support and training organisation, have created a free, really practical webinar recording about choosing your business name and how to protect your reputation.
Step 5: Making your business name legal
This is the step most creatives like to avoid, but it is essential. To register or use your business name there are a couple of legal implications.
Firstly you need to make sure that nobody else is using your proposed business name as you might be legally required to stop using or publishing the name.
In fact this happened to my sister’s business who had done some name research, then launched her business with a new website, business cards and other promotional material and within 2 days of opening received a letter from a solicitor to inform her that she had to change her business name and destroy all promotional material as the name was trade marked. This to a great financial (and at that stage also emotional) cost.
One of the easiest ways to check if the name is already in existence check the Start.Biz website, where you can conveniently check business names, trademarks and web domain names that have been taken already.
Get into action:
At last! You are now ready to register your business!
How you register your business and business name depends on which legal structure you choose. If you are a sole trader or partnership you register your business through HMRC. As a limited company in the UK you have to register your business and business name with Companies House.
Please note that this doesn’t give you any legal protection against other people using your business name. If you want to do that then you will need to trademark your name.
Also, this doesn’t give you any protection online with other people purchasing your business web address.
And … just like any child will ‘grow’ into their name, your business will have to grow into theirs!
In the end it is far more important how you use your business name consistently over time, the way your logo and corporate identity works, your branding, images and packaging etc. It is all those elements together with your work and behaviour that will make your business name recognised and remembered by the right people.