Naming Your Business as a Solopreneur – to use your own name or not?
Your name or business name? Its one of the first decisions you’ll need to make when starting out as a solopreneur. Here’s some things to consider…
In setting up business as a solopreneur, you know you will be the face of the business. But what you need to decide is whether you also want to be the name of the business.
To operate under your own name or a business name – that’s the question I, as well as many other solopreneurs, struggled with when starting on our business journeys. In my case, I swung back and forth between the two options like a crazy pendulum. No sooner had I thought I’d decided on the answer, when I would come up with another “but what if…”. But what if my clients didn’t think I was professional enough if I used my own name? But what if they thought I was trying to seem like a bigger business if I didn’t? The “but what ifs” were driving me crazy and keeping me procrastinating on making a decision.
Its so easy to get stuck in the “what ifs” because its a vital decision that can affect your business for years to come.
So if you’re like me, riddled with “what ifs” and stuck in indecision, considering the following factors may help make the decision clearer for you:
In Australia, if you want to do business under anything but your legal birth name, you must register a business name, and keep renewing it as long as you are operating under that name. While this is a pretty straight-forward, inexpensive process, it does make operating under your own name the easier and cheaper option.
Ask yourself: what are the administrative and legal implications for operating under my own name vs a business name in my country/state?
2. Your Name
Some names lend themselves more readily to using for business purposes than others. A name that’s hard to spell or pronounce may end up being frustrating for both you and your clients, and a name that may have negative connotations (think “Crook” or “Bent“) might not be the best idea for inspiring professional confidence in you!
And if there’s any chance you may change your name at some point down the track (ie after marriage), then opting for a business name unrelated to your own name will mean one less thing to have to change when you reach that point.
Ask yourself: Does my name sound professional? Is it memorable? Is it easy to spell and pronounce? Am I likely to change my name in the future?
3. Your Industry
Depending on what industry your business is in, there may already be a standard for using your own name vs a business name. For example, its relatively common for coaches and photographers to use their own name. While you don’t necessarily need to follow what everyone else is doing, going against the grain can sometimes make (business) life a bit more difficult than it needs to be.
Ask yourself: What dis the norm in my industry? Do I really want to go against the grain on this, and if so, what issues might it cause?
4. Your Clients
Who you’re going to be doing business with should be a big factor when it comes to making the naming decision. If you’ll mostly be doing business 1 on 1, using your name will give more of personal touch. If you’re doing business with other businesses (B2B), particularly medium to large size businesses, then using a business name may lend you more legitimacy, helping your business seem more than just the one-person show that it actually is.
Ask yourself: What are my clients likely to trust more – a business entity or an individual?
5. Search Engines & Social Media
The “Google factor”, as well as the influence of social media, can’t be ignored when doing business in the modern world. There’s no doubt that a unique name well help potential clients find you online a whole lot easier. So if you have a relatively common name, the reality is, using it for your business is going to be more of a hindrance than benefit when it comes to search engines and social media.
You might also want to consider how you would separate your personal and business social media accounts if you choose to do business using your own name.
Ask yourself: How unique is my name? Can it easily be found on Google, Facebook, Instagram?
6. Domain Names
A business website is a must these days, so whatever name you choose to do business under should be available to register as a domain name. Ideally, you should aim to get a .com – or your country’s equivalent domain extension (eg .com.au for Australia, .co.uk for the UK) if you’ll be doing most of your business locally.
Ask yourself: Is my name available as a .com, or country equivalent, domain? Check the domain availability of your name at name.com
7. Future Plans
I know you’re only just getting started, but you should spare a thought for your future business plans. If you have any desire to expand beyond a one person business, or think you may want to sell your business one day, then using your own name for your business is likely to make this more complicated than it would be if you opted for a business name.
Ask yourself: Do I want to stay solo in business forever? Would I like to be able to sell my business if I ever decide to move on from it?
8. Your Mindset
Believe it or not, what you name your business can impact on how you see and relate to it. A name holds a lot of power, and can trigger all kinds of subconscious beliefs. For example, you may feel more connected to your business if it bears your name, or you may feel puts more pressure on you to succeed.
Ask yourself: How do I feel about being the face AND name of my business? Do I want to be seen as one with my business, or do I want to create some separation between my personal and business self?
It may be better to operate under your own name if:
- you already have a good reputation in your field (eg from previous working experience)
- you need to get operating ASAP, or just don’t want the hassle of registering a business name and keeping it renewed
- you are working in a field where using your own name is the norm (eg coaching)
- you are working 1 on 1 with clients with whom a personal connection is important
It may be better to operate under a business name if:
- you are considering a name change for any reason (eg marriage/divorce, gender re-assignment)
- you have a name that’s very common, or is difficult to spell or pronounce
- you have a name which may not invoke a positive business image
- you want to be able to grow your business beyond just you
- you want to be able to sell your business in the future
- your clients are other businesses
- you want to create a separation or distinction between you and your business
There can be plenty of upsides to doing business under your own name. It can help you build a personal brand and establish yourself as an expert in your field. It can also lend a more personal touch to your business, appealing to clients who prefer to deal with individuals rather than impersonal business entities. But, there are also potential downsides to using your own name for your business, too.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use your own name for your business is a very personal one. There are pros and cons to both options, and no real right or wrong. For me, it simply came down to this: I wanted to create the distinction between me, the woo-loving, gamer and cat-mummy, and me, the professional web designer. I needed that mental distinction between my personal and professional selves, for my own sanity!
Only you can decide what the right option is for you. Its worth taking the time to carefully consider all the repercussions before committing yourself one way or the other.
I love to know what option you choose, and why, when starting up as a solopreneur. Let me know in the comments below!
Hi, I’m Debbie
I’ve been running my own web design business for over 20 years now. During this time I’ve learned a thing or two about how to operate successfully as a solopreneur, and am still working on making it as stress-free as possible (for both myself and my clients!).
I want to help others become successful and stress-free solopreneurs too, by sharing my knowledge, experience, business trials and tribulations!