One of the hardest things to decide when starting out freelancing is what to call yourself. The biggest decision will be if you want to use your own name or setup a trading name. This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of each, and provide tips on finding a good domain name for your business.
Using your own name
The first and most obvious option when freelancing is to use your own name. A web presence is a necessity for almost everyone who wants to be a successful freelancer, and critical for those in the online design or development industry – so first of all check that you can get a good domain name for yourself. If your name is John Smith you should be looking for domains along the lines of johnsmith.com smith.com, jsmith.com so that you can be easily found.
If you are looking to be a bit more creative try playing around with country specific domain names – for example Matt Mullenweg (Founding developer of WordPress) uses http://ma.tt/ for his personal website. A freelance writer friend Alastaire Allday uses http://allday.cc/ for his freelance copywriting business ‘Alastaire Allday – Creative Communication’.
You could also try getting your industry name into your domain name and business title – for example a lot of photographers opt to use something along the lines of www.johnsmithphotography.com – this instantly tells your visitors what you do and will help your search engine rankings.
There are a few things to avoid when choosing a good domain name:
- Avoid hyphenation unless there is no alternative – these make saying your domain name tricky and lead to confusion.
- Avoid second-level domain extensions such as “.uk.com” – stick with the extensions your customers will be most familiar with and get the .com if available.
- Avoid hard to spell words or names – for example if you spell your first name in an unusual way it might be best to stick with your initial and surname so you don’t have to spell out your domain name
- Make sure your chosen domain name can not be mis-read – the popular experts-exchange.com could have an entirely different meaning without the hyphen! (Perhaps there is a good reason to hyphenate your domain after all!).
Remember that your will probably be using your domain name as part of your email address too – if your customers can’t easily remember or spell your domain – you could miss a new lead or upset your existing clients if you don’t receive their emails.
Before deciding to use your own name for business, have a search on Google for your own name – there may well be others with the same name as you in your industry – which could cause confusion for both your clients and theirs.
Using a trading name
Many freelancers opt to use a trading name rather than their own name, and there are some good reasons for this – It will make you look like a larger business, and some businesses prefer not to use freelancers, so you may be able to get work in from larger companies. This is specific to your area of work, so do some research within your industry. Look at what others are doing and talk to your potential customers before making a firm decision.
Another advantage of using a trading name is that you may one day want to expand the business into a Limited company, or sell the business on to peruse other ventures. While both of these are possible if you use your own name – using a trading name makes the business seem less personal to your and will make it more attractive to purchasers as they will not have to rebrand.
Consider the following when choosing a trading name for your business:
- Ensure that a good domain name is available
- Check to see if anyone else is already using the name you have chosen – a Google search would be a good place to start, or your government should have a list of registered companies (e.g. Companies House if you are in the UK)
- Although this is not so common on the internet, a lot of offline directories will list companies in alphabetical order – ‘A1 Photography’ will usually be seen before ‘ZX80 Computer Services’
- Consider appending a description of your services to your company name – look for something which will describe what you do such as ‘XZY Creative’ if you are a designer, or ‘ABC Photographic’ for you photography studio.
- Location – If your business is location specific and you want to attract clients from your area you may want to include your location in your name – e.g. ‘London Photography’ or ‘New York Design’. Think about what your clients may be searching for when looking for your business, so if you live in a small village go for the name of the nearest large town or City.
Your company name, whatever your choose it to be, will form part of your brand identity – so make sure that whenever it is used it is consistently capitalised and spaced. Also consider how it will look as part of your domain name and if it could be used to form part of your logo.
Think you’ve come up with a good name?
Post up in the comments section and let others know who you are, just make sure you’ve registered the .com before telling too many people about your new idea!