When you’re already established, whether to change your business name or not when you rebrand is a big decision.
Once you’ve decided that rebranding is definitely a good move, there are a tonne of things to think about so that you can implement it all smoothly, without too much interruption for your audience (you don’t want to lose them! Especially if you’ve worked really hard to get them in the first place…).
When you’re a solopreneur, there are some extra considerations too – rebranding will take you substantial amounts of time AND money to implement it well.
Changing your business name is not a straightforward task; there are several parameters to consider. (And as many of you know, I’ve recently rebranded myself – so this is ALL very fresh in my mind – and I’ll use my own name change for reference.)
1. Should I use my own name? The advantages of using your own name when you’re a solopreneur are many. You’re irrevocably, unwaveringly YOU, and with regards to personal branding, you can’t get any better than that. Your “brand personality” is a very natural extension of who you are as a person. And even if you change the focus of what you do, or even radically alter what you offer – you don’t have to change your business name to suit.
But what if you don’t particularly like the sound of your own name? (like me – I think “Julie Gibbons” is not terrible, it’s what I was born with and I’ll still use it – but I think it’s always sounded a bit clunky) Or you think it’s too ‘ordinary’ if you had a name like Jane Smith?
(Ummm… there are actually lots of people with ‘ordinary’ names who’ve made it big. Just sayin’).
If you don’t like the sound of your own name much, or have other reasons for not using your own name (eg. you have a business partner or team, or you might want to build this business and sell it one day, or even just that you’re more of an introvert and don’t want to be front and centre…) then you need to consider these next points.
2. It has to be simple. People need to be able to remember it easily. No ten-word phrases, no difficult foreign words with unusual spellings if you can avoid them. As my good friend Sam Gemmell said, do you want a name that you need to explain or clarify constantly?
As branding pro Marty Neuemier says in The Brand Gap, “The need for good brand names originates with customers, and customers will always want convenient ways of identifying, remembering, discussing, and comparing brands.”
3. Does it sound good? This is kind of related to the previous point – no 10-word foreign phrases PLEASE.
So – the new name – does it roll off the tongue? Or is it difficult to say? Does it sound bulky and clunky, or elegant?
4. Is it meaningful? There were a few things I didn’t like about tractorgirl, and this was one of them. Wellll, yes, the short story is it does have some meaning because I live on a farm and I can drive a tractor, but was it relevant to what I do in my business?
That’s a big fat no.
Brandiwork, on the other hand, is very directly related to what I do. Being a combination of “brand” and “handiwork” it conjures ideas of handcrafted and bespoke. I’m a maker and designer from way back, and it’s perfect.
5. Does it convey your brand personality? Brandiwork is strong and clear, while still with a touch of the feminine. If you’ve seen my own Brand Style Guide, I reckon you’d agree it fits pretty darn well.
6. Does it resonate with your target audience? Do the proper research and find out!
Whatever you do, don’t trust the judgement of your mum, or your BFF, or your husband/wife/child – they are most likely NOT your target market and will not give you the answer you need!
Likewise, crowdsourcing your answers in a big Facebook group or on Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn is next to useless as well.
Do small-scale, targeted research. Ask specific people who you know are in your target market – previous customers can be useful here. Keep your eyes open and see what others in your field use, then adapt the ideas to what you need.
I’ve done the research for Brandiwork, and I’m trusting what my target audience have told me. Apparently it’s a winner!
7. Are you able to register your business name with the appropriate authorities? I know this will vary a LOT from country to country, but in Australia, it’s a really really good idea to register your business name with ASIC (The Australian Securities and Investments Commission). This stops anyone else from registering your name, and only costs around $36 for 1 year.
(Please note that Trademarking your name is different to registering your name. Trademarking gives you protection from someone using your name [and/or branding assets] and will cost substantially more – but may be worth the money depending on your business. You should get in touch with someone who is expert in this area to advise you.)
and probably most importantly,
8. Are the Domain Name and social media handles available?
Ha! When I was searching around for names, sometimes I felt like this is where I should have started. Because I’d go through everything else and come up with something scathingly brilliant – but then the name would be taken. GRRRR!!
Or, some things were available but not others. So, I’d get the .com.au, but not the .com. Or the Instagram handle was available but not the Facebook one, and so on.
But if you’re set on a particular name, there are ways around these blocks which may be worth considering.
tractorgirl was more than just OK with the .com.au, even though the .com was taken. I got plenty of traffic and people never seemed to confuse the two.
You can add in hyphens or underscores to social media handles if that works for you too. Or even extend the business name with your own name – eg. @brandiworkbyjulie could work as well (although try not to make it too long – refer to point 1 above).
I hope this has given you a lot of food for thought and helped you decide IF you need to change your name as well as HOW to go about it.