Pile of letter tiles

One of the main things that I see that holds many creative business owners back when starting a business is the process to choose a business name. There’s a lot in those words that you eventually decide on. Over time, your business name becomes a part of you and people start to remember your business – not you.

When I set off to choose my first business name, I was plagued by the joys of becoming a new mother.  There is a certain fog in the first few months of motherhood.  Admittedly, I can’t say that this is the best time to name your business (or even start one).

Alas, though, I ended up choosing my child’s name and what turned out in the end to be a made up word.  Katarina’s Paperie.

The next eight years were plagued with many problems that I couldn’t have foreseen the day I decided “Katarina’s Paperie” was a good idea.  It turns out that “Katarina” is really hard to most people to spell.  Okay, in truth as much as I love her name, it can be hard for her to spell too.  “Paperie” isn’t much easier.  So when you combine the two, it wasn’t that simple for returning customers to remember what to type in the search bar.

Also, I am not “Katarina”.  This became very confusing to customers after awhile.  It seemed most of them believed that I should be “Katarina”.  The name of my business made it sound like it was my paperie.

And it turns out that my back story was a bit too confusing.  I was addressed as “Katarina” in most interactions with customers and this confusion made it difficult to establish professional relationships with them.

One of the other things that I learned is that a “paperie” isn’t actually a real thing.  This is something I never bothered to research and just learned recently.  Actually, it’s a made up word.  And this made up word has experienced some push back on it’s legitimacy.  It doesn’t even have a rightful place in the dictionary.

How to choose a business name

Oh, the joy of hindsight vision.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know all of these things when I opened my stationery shop.  I thought it was a sweet idea to name my business after my first born.  She was my inspiration and world at the time.  And paperie made sense since I sold handcrafted invitations.

Over time, though, my business transformed.  I got into the digital space and shifted to more digital designs.  I had another child who started to wonder why the business didn’t have his name in the title.  And, over time, I started to realize the spelling complications and name recognition was hurting my growth.  It’s hard to be you when your business doesn’t seem to represent you at the forefront.  And on the Internet, if no one can spell your chosen name, your business is doomed.

So, after a lot of thinking, I realized that it was time for a business name change.

The Internet doesn’t take name changes lightly.  When you choose a new business name, especially after 8 years of link building, you need to redirect everything.  Also, after you choose a new name, you need to register with Google again.  They have to identify your brand as the new website and add you back to the search engines.

All of these things take time.  It isn’t easy to build a shop from scratch.  But it can be even harder to feel like you are starting over after you’ve spent so many hours of your life creating the first version.

But having watched other shop owners go through similar transitions, I know choosing a better business name is worth it.  Ashlee Marie from ashleemarie.com went through a similar name crisis a few years ago.  Her old blog was a fantastic source for recipes, crafts and parties.  But, she really wanted to make a shift.  So, she changed her website to using her name and her blog has taken off even more since.

When you choose a business name, though, there are a lot of things to consider.  Especially for a business that is completely based on the Internet.  Here are some things to think about as you choose a name for your business.

Keep It Simple

I belong to a number of mom business groups and I will admit that I always cringe when someone suggests a name for their business and it’s a word (or two) that are really hard to spell.  Or no one has ever even heard of.

Been there.  Done that.

Don’t make the same mistake that I did.  Choose words that are easy to spell, simple to remember and can be combined to make sense.

Not sure you are on the right track?  When I was deciding on my new business name, I found the feedback from Go Daddy invaluable.  After I discovered if a potential name had a website available, it would then provide me with feedback on the word choice.  The search engine listed reasons why the name was a good pick.  Or didn’t list anything at all.  These all served as clues about the direction I should go in.

Skip the Variations

Yes, there are a lot of people who are famous online these days.  And there are a number of Etsy shops that are killing it with sales every day.

When I discover that an Etsy shop is doing really well, I look up their name in the Etsy shop search bank.  And every time I discover other shop owners who thought the name was such a great idea, they created a variation of it.

You know.  When someone takes a name of a popular shop and then creates a variation on Etsy.

For example, one of the most popular stationery shops on Etsy is “Little Prints Parties”.  Due to her popularity, other shop owners have created variations of her name.  Some examples include “Little Prints Party” or “Little Print Store 1”.

Although these variations are perfectly allowed and might even help you make sales on Etsy, I don’t recommend them if you plan on growing your shop beyond Etsy.  It is hard to establish a brand that has a funny spelling or a number at the end.

When you choose your business name, try to make it as unique as possible.  It’s important that your brand stands out.

Although that is getting harder as more and more online businesses are opening up.  But the more memorable and “you” that you can be, the better chances you have to growing into something great down the road.

Leave Geography Behind

At least for an online business.  Although geography can be important if you are opening a brick and mortar business in the future, when you choose a business name for an Internet based shop, leave your geography out of it.

The cool thing about running an online business is that your customers will come from all over the world.  I remember when I made my first international sale.  I felt like I had truly made it in the business world.

Choose a business name that doesn’t attribute your shop to any particular location.  More customers will feel like they can relate to you and it won’t limit where your clientele is coming from.

Connect with your Story

Everyone has a story.  Whether we like it or not.

Turns out your new business name could be located deep in that story.  Your job is to find it.

Write down your business’ back story in your journal.  Think about the following questions:

How you got to this stage in your life?

Why are you starting your business?  What is your purpose?  Who are you trying to help?

What other experiences have you had related to your business?

Now, review some of the things that you wrote down. 

Are there any words that repeat themselves?  Or overarching themes that are present?

These are clues to your potential business name.  Use them.

Put Words Together

Some of the most successful business names combine common words.  The benefit of using common words in an online business is that it makes your business easier to remember. It is also simpler to spell.

If there are some common words that you want to use, discover how you can combine them together.  For example, I added “One” to the front of “Simple Party”. Other ideas are to add “Designs”, “Studio”, “Art”, “Cookies”, “Bake Shop” or “Crafts” to the end of a name idea.

You can also add a word to the front.  “The”, “A”, “One” or “My” are great common words to use to distinguish your brand and make your name a little more unique.  The only concern is if potential customers forget to add that word in front.  So, consider the words you choose to combine carefully.

Think about What you Do

When thinking about a business name, consider what service or product you are offering to your customers.  Brainstorm words to describe your job and what you do.

If you struggle with thinking about your own synonyms, research some ideas.  You can use thesaurus.com or Google to find word lists of related words and phrases.

For example, if you want to use the word “pretty” in your business name that’s a common word choice.  Instead, think about other words that are similar to “pretty”.  Just typing in “pretty synonyms” in Google results in about 25 other word choices.

As I learned from my first adventure choosing a business name, making sure that what you do is apparent in your name is very important.  You want customers to have a general idea why they would visit your shop.  It will help them remember your brand in the long run.

Consider Who You Are

If you aren’t sure who you are (many people aren’t and that’s okay), then think about who you want to become.  Your creative business is going to be a journey and you will grow along the way.  Consider the person you want to grow into down the road.

Make sure that the business name you choose represents you.  If you want a strong brand that shows your independence, then choose a strong name.  Or if you are really creative, then choose a name that helps represent your creativity.

The more your name speaks to you, the more likely you will be to stick with it for the long term.  Believe me.  It’s not very fun waking up eight years into your creative business only to realize that you have been using the wrong name for years.

When in Doubt, Stick with your Name

You are an important part of your business.  Sometimes, the best name turns out to be your own name.  Marie Forleo discovered that when choosing her business name.  And so did my friend Ashlee Marie.  Even Martha Stewart built her brand around her name and look how successful she became.

Sometimes when choosing a business name, we make the process too complicated when it doesn’t need to be.  Your name might work great and be a wonderful starting point for your brand.

Just make sure it’s available on the interwebs.  Many times common names have already been purchased (and build out as a brand) for website names. 

If your name isn’t available – which mine isn’t – try a variation.  You could add your middle name.  Or a word such as “studio”, “designs” or “illustrations”.  Even “cookies” depending on what you make.

Also, make sure it’s easy to spell and simple to remember.  If you have a name that has a complicated spelling, you could try a nickname or shortening it.  Being memorable is key when choosing a business name for your online shop.  If your customers can’t remember it, they won’t have anything to type into their browser to find you again.

Check Trademark and State Business Registration

Even if your shop name is available as a website domain, you still need to do your homework on whether the name combination is available.  It is surprising the types of word combinations that the Patent and Trade Office allows to be trademarked.

You can search for trademark usage on their website here.  When reading the results, keep in mind that trademarks are many times not maintained.  You can tell this via “Active” or “Dead” on the right hand column.

For your state, you will also need to make sure that your business name isn’t already registered.  Although every state is different, you can usually check the business registration on your state’s business website.

Make sure you do all of your research BEFORE falling in love with your business name.  Nothing can be more crushing than coming up with a business name only to discover that it already is taken.

Social Media Options

Just like checking whether your business name is available as a domain and not trademarked, you need to see if it can be used as a social media handle.

For consistency sake, you really want your social media handles to all be uniform.  It’s hard when your customers have to look up different names on different platforms.

So check that your name is available on social media before committing to it.  If it isn’t, try to come up with something that is similar.  I’ve seen a lot of social media accounts use their initials, add “studio” or “photo” or even switch out “for” for “4”.  Experiment with some ideas.  You never know what will stick.

Final Thoughts…

The truth is that it’s never easy to choose a business name.  And you might not do it perfectly the first time.  Which is why Etsy is such a great platform to start your handmade business on.  If you want to try something for awhile and get to know your business, Etsy gives you the space to do it.

They even let you change your business name one time.  So, if after a couple of months you aren’t in love with the name you chose or you’ve decided to change you niche, you can choose a different business name.

Once you have settled on the name, though, be sure to purchase your website domain.  You don’t have to even build the website yet.  It’s okay to wait until your business has a better financial footing before investing in a full blown website.

But you don’t want anyone else snatching up your prized business name on the Internet first.  I see lots of successful Etsy shops and when I go to check out their main domains I find nothing.  Or something completely unrelated to their shop.

And also remember that we live in a time of Internet trolls.  They love to watch the popular Etsy shops grow and then snatch up domain names.  It’s almost a sport.

When you are ready to buy it, these domain dealers will try to sell it to you for thousands of dollars.  If you buy it right now, your domain will cost you about $15 for the first year.  A much better investment.

So, remember to reserve your business name early.  Then, you can set up the website for your online business when you are ready to grow in the future.

In the end, I settled upon One Simple Party for my new business name.  It represents my love of keeping celebrating simple and my shop where I sell unique party designs.  Most importantly, the new name is easy to spell and remember.  I feel better about it – even though rebuilding from scratch will be a lot of work.

Are you having trouble figuring out your own business name?  Post your ideas in comments or on our Facebook Page.  We are all happy to give our feedback.

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