One of the earliest decisions you’ll make about your fledgling business is what to call it. It’s a huge decision as it can make or break your position in the marketplace, support or undermine your goals, and is the very first thing that people encounter that you want them to remember.
Choosing the wrong name isn’t quite like getting that bad perm in 6th grade. (I know, I had one.) That grows out. Your business name, however, for better or for worse, is around forever.
Or is it?
While I firmly believe that you should do your best to choose a name that will last right from the start, sometimes our business idea just isn’t strong enough or we don’t have enough experience to know we’re choosing something that doesn’t have lasting power.
My very first business naming experience was when I started my web development company way back in 1998. I was in high school and had already started developing websites for people I knew and had interest from people who wanted to pay me to create a web presence for them. WooHoo! I knew I needed to have a name so people would be able to recognize me and on a practical level, be able to write me checks. I’m a rule follower so I was already preparing to get my DBA and business checking account just as soon as I finalized a name.
Naming a business as a teenager means I was very susceptible to being a) very literal and b) trendy (or in my case, swayed by my own interests).
At the time, I was in love with poison dart frogs. They were cute, blue, and I loved them pretty much entirely based on their cuteness. I was doing web developing so wham bam and Dart Web was born. I also liked that it sort of implied quickness (darting) which was just icing on my naming cake.
It’s certainly not the worst name out there but it wasn’t the best either. I did learn some valuable lessons from this that I was able to apply when I started my next business as a photographer.
This time, I surveyed the competition as well as looking inward to decide on a name that represented us (it was my husband and I shooting together as a team). Most established photographers used their name but I knew I wanted something that was both traditional and modern. I opted to add “photographers” because it sounded less stuffy than “photography” and thought it more clearly represented the fact that we were a team.
I got inquiries from people wanting to know who would be their photographer-they thought we had an entire TEAM! Early on I realized that that small difference was enough to make a huge impact to prospective customers.
When my passion for photography continued buy my husbands didn’t, I knew that I had to change the name. If they were confused when we were a husband and wife team, they were really going to be confused when it was just me.
What I did next is one for the record books and goes against all my experience and knowledge because at the time, I was spending a lot of my time looking outside myself. I loved all the new photographers who had quirky names and thought “yes! That’s what I want!”. In that moment of passion, I decided to use my online handle (photojgirl) to rebrand and relaunch this next phase of my career.
What a disaster! On the surface, I did fine. My business had scaled back (remember those 60 weddings we photographed one year? Yeah. Never again!) and was now growing again on a much more manageable scale. I realized fairly early on that my naming choice was a total disaster. People weren’t referring me and when they did, they did by my personal name, not my business name.
It’s not a huge surprise that people were hesitant to say “photo j girl” out loud. After all, who wants to be sitting there with all their friends talking wedding planning and say “We hired Photo J Girl” ? Nobody! You want to say a name that sounds professional, reliable, maybe artsy, but definitely not silly or flaky.
Now I’ve developed a name test based on that idea so that it never happens again!
I went through one more name debacle before I was finally able to use my own name (Jennifer Grant) to market my photography. More than a decade in the making, JenniferGrantPhoto.com was FINALLY available as a domain. (It was previously held by another Jennifer Grant and therefore, unavailable). I felt like I’d won-the Jennifer Grant who made it more than 10 years as a photographer. I wanted to be simply “JenniferGrant.com” but alas, while it was available, it was $1800.00. Since then I’ve realized that would have been the single best investment I’ve ever made but I just didn’t have $1800 to spend on a domain name. (Or so I thought anyway).
In the end, I’m proof that you can absolutely start the game off with the wrong name.
What I can also tell you is that if I could do it all over again, I’d do it differently. Those years of changing names slowed my business growth, confused existing customers, and negatively impacted my bottom line.
It’s why I’m so passionate about helping you find the PERFECT name for your business. I want to spare you the heartache and weary path that name changing can lead to. Building a business from scratch is hard enough. You have something wonderful the world needs-you owe it to us all to choose the name that will lead us to you for years to come.
Need help crafting a business or product name? Look no further! Naming is something I’m just a little bit passionate about and I’d love to put my hard earned experience and knowledge to work for you.