Starting Your Creative Business – Choosing Your Business Name

Your business name says a lot about you – literally!  When you are starting a new art or creative business one of the first things you will have to do is come up with a name. Your business name needs to be unique and say something about your business and your brand. You will also need the name for your marketing materials, website, bank accounts and various licenses and taxing authorities.

Things to Consider:

Is your proposed business name being used by someone else?

A good place to start is by Googling your proposed name. If you find the exact name you are thinking about then you may need to choose another. The last thing you need to do is to choose a name that is used and owned by another company and later have to change it. Changing your name takes time and can be expensive to replace printed materials, signage, brochures and website content. I may also get expensive with regard to legal council and damage awards.

Can you business name be easily confused with another company?

I gets a little gray here but you may end up having to change your name. A local graphic designer I work with has used his company name for over 10 years – for sake of this example we will call it Rocket Creative. Recently he received legal correspondence from another local company in the marketing sector named Rocket Communications asking him to stop using the Rocket Creative name.

As it happens, Rocket Communications had been using its name for 11 years. Who knows what a judge would have decided?  Rocket Creative agreed to stop using the Rocket Creative name and had to go through the time and expense of changing its materials, website (including its url) and notifying its customers – not a fun exercise!

Check your local secretary of state to see if someone else has registered your proposed name.

Your local secretary of state keeps a record of trade names registered in your state. This is a good place to check and in most states this can be done online. Keep in mind that although your proposed name may not be registered in your state that does not mean you that you can use it or keep from infringing on someone else’s property.

Do a search on Godaddy or other web hosting service.

More than likely your business name will be translated into a domain name on the web. Check to see if your proposed name is an existing domain name. I think you will quickly find out that most domain names that are combinations of common words are already taken. It is possible that you may be able to purchase an existing domain name but more likely you will have to come up with a domain name that is fresh.

Tips:

  • Think about a name that describes your business – i.e. Neil McKenzie Photography
  • Try to keep away from made up words unless you have a good reason and brand to support this choice.
  • Think about your website name when choosing a name. It can’t be too long or contain easily misspelled words if you want people to find you and enter your website name in the search bar.
  • Register your tradename with your secretary of state. And further register a trademark for your logo or logo type.
  • If you find the .com version of your proposed domain name already used I don’t think the .net, .biz or other flavors available to be a good choice.
  • Consider how your proposed name will be incorporated into your logo and abreviated as initials. One of my students decided that Antique Stencil Studios would not make a great abbreviation like IBM.
  • Come up with a list of several proposed names and test them out with your friends, advisors and others to get their reaction.

Your business name is an important part of your brand and can tell a lot or a little about you, your company and your products or services.  Choose it wisely to promote your brand and avoid future problems!

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About Neil McKenzie

Neil McKenzie is an author, educator and consultant to artists and arts organizations. He is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver. Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto