The first thing most businesses do when they decide to form their business is to select a business name. Much of what you will be doing, as far as legal, tax, and financial dealings with others, will be done in the name of your business.
In this section, we’ll discuss how to select a business name and how to promote your name, possibly with a logo or on your blog.
You’ve probably been thinking about a suitable and attractive name for your writing business and your blog since the first day you decided to open your own writing business. Making a final decision on a name has many long-term financial and professional implications, so choose wisely and be sure you’re completely satisfied before you make any commitments based upon a specific name. Your business name will be on all of your tax and business documents, all advertising, and anything printed that relates to your business.
Your name also needs to be flexible as your business grows and changes. A poor choice can be costly. Some possibilities:
- Your name, if it’s suitable – easy to remember, friendly and easy to spell and say. Many authors use their own names for recognition. For example, Michael Johnsica goes by his name on his website. But you may decide to use a different name for your business and your blog.
- A descriptive name, based on your unique selling proposition, is a possibility. Particularly is you are a non-fiction writer, you may want to emphasize the benefits of your business to your clients. And a fiction writer may want to emphasize the name of a series or a particular book to his or her readers.
Some thoughts on selecting a business name:
- Does your name communicate your uniqueness?
- Do you intend to business alone or with other creative individuals? How about in the future?
- Would your name be suitable for future business situations?
- What are the names of competitors and other writers or services?
- Does your name sound like another writer’s name?
- Is another writer using the same name?
- Is your name easy to remember, easy to pronounce? How does your name look on a web site? In an advertisement?
- Does your name create false assumptions? “Guaranteed Results Copywriting,” for example, might be misleading.
- Does your name have any negative connotations?
- Does your name have powerful visual connotations, one with promotional possibilities, and one that will create excitement and interest?
- Does your name sound great in other languages? For example, when Chevrolet tried to market the Vega car in Latin America, they found that “Vega” means “no go” in Spanish!
Selling your business and your business name
I want to mention the possibility of selling your business as a consideration in selecting a business name. At some point, you may decide to sell your writing business, and the name thing can be a positive – or negative – consideration to someone buying your business.
Your business reputation is your name and the personal name recognition you have with readers or with freelance writing clients. If you attach your personal name to your business, you may have difficulty getting someone to buy your business.
Selling your business is more of an issue for freelance writers than for those who write fiction or non-fiction under their own name. For example, if your freelance writing business is called “John’s Terrific Business Writing Services” you may have a tough time convincing someone else to take on your business. They would have to change the name of the business (unless they were also named John(!)) and convince clients they could do as terrific a job as John.
For fiction writers or those who write non-fiction books, using your personal name is probably not an issue, because you wouldn’t sell your business in the same way as a freelance writer.
Researching your business name
Once you have selected a business or promotional name, you will need to do some research to make sure no one else is using this name.
- Do a domain name search to see if someone else is using your name (personal or business). If no one is using it, grab the name by registering it.
- Check with your state secretary of state to see if your business name is being used. Even if it’s your personal name, you might find that someone else in your state is using that name
- Check to see if someone else in the US has trademarked that name. (Yes, you can trademark a name. More on this below.) Go to the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (uspto.gov) and search on the Trademark Electronic Search System.
Recording your Business Name
You can register your business name in your state to protect it from being used by another business.
If you choose a corporate or LLC status, your name choice will be researched through the office of the Secretary of State in your state and the name registration becomes part of your business registration. (Here’s a link to a listing of state secretary of state websites.)
Even if you are not forming a legal business structure in your state (like an LLC or corporation), be sure to research your name in your state. You can reserve the right to use this name in your state by paying a small fee.
Attempting to register your business or personal name in your state is a good way to check to see if this name is already being used. If it’s being used, you will not be allowed to register it in your state.
Trademarking your Business Name
There is no national registry of business names in the U.S., so if you want to make sure no one else uses your business or personal name to sell products or services, you will have to trademark your business name. More on trademarks and how to register a trademark.
Getting a Domain Name
If you want to use your name on a web site, you will need a domain name that mirrors your business or personal name. It is difficult to find a “.com” name, so you might have to create a longer name or use a .net or .biz name. If someone else has the domain name you want, you may be able to buy it, or you might be able to create a variation on the name that you can use to direct people to your website.
Your Business Logo
Brand recognition is important and writers need that recognition as much as companies selling commercial products or services. James Patterson might be able to get away with not having a recognizable logo, but many writers have “branded” themselves in some way.
As difficult as it is to come up with the perfect name, it’s even more difficult for many people to choose a logo that perfectly exemplifies their business. I’ve seen business people muddle over pages of logos with subtle differences, attempting to find THE ONE. Of course, like the name, the choice of a logo is one that stays with you for a very long time. Many of the same considerations apply to logos as to business names.
Your logo must personify your Unique Selling Proposition, it must be flexible for future situations, and it must be easy to interpret. Some additional considerations:Your logo should be clean and clear and unique.
Your logo should reflect your USP in similar ways – a sports writer should have an active-looking logo; a writer for family magazines should have a “warm and fuzzy” looking logo.
The color should also be chosen carefully to reflect your style. Greens, for example, can be either warm or cool, depending upon the hue or shade. Your logo should be easy to reproduce and look good in a variety of formats. A logo that is extremely complex, with subtle elements and multi-colors, can be very costly to reproduce and can look jumbled in some advertising media.
Designing your logo
When you are starting into business, it may seem to be ridiculous to spend lots of money to pay a professional graphic designer to create your logo, but this approach may save you many headaches in the long run. One new writer “hired” her best friend, an amateur artist, to create a logo. After the designs were created, none were what she wanted, but she didn’t want to offend her friend, and ended up with something that was inappropriate. It was more costly in the long run to re-do the logo than it would have been to hire a professional in the first place.
Check out the local community college or design school for an inexpensive designer or post a job bid on the web at a professional bidding site like 99designs.com. I have found great designers on this site and I have used one designer for several book and website designs, based on what I saw in her from my first selection of her work on this site.
Before you finalize your logo, take samples to friends and associates and, most important, non-writer acquaintances, and get their opinions. Ask them: “What impression do you get from this logo?” Listen carefully to those who don’t know your USP. A logo that might seem terrific to you might portray a totally different vision than you wanted.
Once again, an IMPORTANT TIP: Your logo and your name are the visible image of your Unique Selling Proposition and your writing business image. Once chosen it is VERY DIFFICULT to change them. CHOOSE CAREFULLY!