Your company name is one of your first impressions. Even something this small can communicate a lot! The choice you make now will (hopefully) stick with you throughout your freelancing career.
Once you have a site and identity established, you don’t want to lose all of your links and presence to a rebranding or rename. So, before you order those business cards and register that domain, make sure it’s a good one.
A good business name should:
- be distinctive
- be memorable
- be easily spelled and pronounced
- suggest the products or services you offer, and
- distinguish you from your competitors.
Consider how much of a hassle it will be to say aloud; something long and unwieldy will get annoying over time. Your business name is part of your “elevator pitch”; you need to be able to say “Hi, I am [name] from [business]” and feel confident.
Some freelancers prefer to work under their own legal names. This makes registration and bank accounts a lot easier. But, a single legal name also implies that you are a one-man (or one-woman) shop. Larger companies may be wary that you can cover all of their needs.
An assumed or fictitious company name is an opportunity for more creativity, but it does come with its own set of concerns. Ask the people in your life (friends, family, significant others) about their impressions. You should consider whether your company name will appeal to your target market; is it too informal, too corporate, too complicated? Be careful of having “too many cooks in the kitchen” and trying to please everyone with the name; ultimately, the choice is yours.
In either case, adding something like “Design” or “Photography” to your name is a sure way to make it clear what your company does. That is also an easy way to avoid duplication with an existing name. If your business will be a corporation, LLC, or limited partnership, your business name can’t be the same as an existing company in your state.
After deciding but before registering
Once you have a name in mind, you should make sure that your name is eligible for use.
Is it searchable?
First step: Google your proposed company name. If there are results, skim through them to decide whether the results would be confusing for others to see, if the existing results have a negative/bad association, and whether your name is “easy” to search. For instance, a common word will be much more difficult to search for than your name or a made-up term.
Is it social-friendly?
Search for your company name on common social and professional sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Check to see if https://facebook.com/YourSuperCoolCompanyName exists, etc. If the username is taken, some services will let you reclaim a username if you have a trademark on a name. Services like NameVine will search through a few popular sites for you.
Is it already in use?
Check to make sure that your company name will not create a “likelihood of confusion” with an existing trademark. While this step is not technically required if you are not incorporating, I think it is a good practice regardless. You can perform a trademark search, and NOLO has some great resources on how to use different search tactics.