Naming your business is like naming your kid (sort of). It’s hard to pick a name that your company will have to live with for the rest of its life. Your business name influences your branding and the way customers perceive you; it’s a key part of your new company’s identity, and I can understand why it’s so difficult to choose a name when you’re first getting started and you don’t really know how your company will grow and evolve.
The nice part is, you don’t necessarily have to stick with one name forever. I didn’t, and it worked out great.
How I Chose My Business Name
When I started this company in 2010, my focus was more on business writing and less on strategy, and the company was called Write Ahead. Punny, right? This little play on words represented how I thought people could gain a competitive advantage in business by producing great writing that was free of mistakes and contained a clear message. I applied this philosophy to copywriting, white papers, business plans and more. But as the company grew and my focus shifted more towards what people really wanted – business plans that helped them get funded and provided a benchmark for their launch and growth – the name started to feel too clean, too corporate. People identified with my fresh, rebellious approach to planning and start-ups, and the name just didn’t fit anymore.
So I went ahead and changed it to Renegade Planner, completely rebranding the business with the help of the brilliant Lisa Temes. The result? Twice the web traffic and 20% more revenue.
How to Choose Your Business Name in 3 Easy Steps
- Just pick something. Unlike your child, you can actually change your business name pretty easily. Depending on where you operate, you can file a new proprietorship, apply for a name change or create a DBA (Doing Business As) entity. Talk to an accountant or lawyer to find out exactly how. The point is, don’t let your indecision stop you from starting your company. You can change the name later if you discover it’s not working for you. So just pick something and move on to the next step.
- Brainstorm and get feedback. Stuck between two or three cool company names? Make a poll. Ask your friends. Ask a Facebook group. Talk to your peers. Talk to your mentors. JUST TALK TO PEOPLE. You can’t create your business in a silo, so don’t try. The number one rule of business is to ask for help when you need it, and this is a damn good place to start.
- See #1.
Too easy. Right? Trust me, you have way greater obstacles ahead so if this one is holding you back, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. (luckily you’ve got me to smooth out the road).
Don’t Rely on Catchy Business Names
And for the love of whatever higher being you believe in, do not use business name generators like this one (my personal favorite). Don’t pick a name that ends in .ly or .fy or uber-whatever just because it’s the latest trend in ultra-we’re-too-cool-for-your-business-incubator business startups. If it doesn’t resonate with you, it won’t resonate with your customers. So don’t get caught up in the hype.
Once you’ve picked a name for your business, you still have to make sure no one’s using it already. Talk to the small business department of your local government offices to find out how to do a name search and ensure your chosen name is actually available. Because you don’t want to get into trademark trouble for using the same name as another business (it’s a good thing this part is also not like naming your kid. Can you imagine the battles in the school yard? “I was Jenny first! I’m one month older!”).
If you’re not even floating around ideas for your business name yet, then it’s time to start brainstorming. Think about your long-term plans. Do you want to build a national or international business? Then don’t choose a name that includes your hometown, or a local, colloquial saying – people outside the region won’t get it.
Get out some water-soluble crayons and start writing on the wall, kids. Brainstorm until you’ve got some good business names to float around for feedback. And then let’s get started on your business plan.