February 25, 2021 6 min read
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A friend and ex-colleague of mine recently left her full-time job and works as a freelance brand consultant. Like any freelancer looking for new business opportunities, she planned to create a website that featured her previous work and detailed her skills. But first she had to answer a critical question: should she create a new brand name to represent her company or just use her own name? Since I run a branding agency with a full-time employee (me), she asked me for advice. No matter what type of freelance work you do – from branding consultant to accountant – this is a question you need to answer. When using your personal name, you need to present yourself as an individual and focus on yourself. Branding, on the other hand, requires a thorough naming process and creates some “daylight” between you and the company. Either way can work, and choosing which one is right for you will depend on a number of personal factors. Below, I’ve listed five reasons to take the first approach: Create a new brand name for your freelance business.
A brand name suggests scalability
In the past, many companies have adopted the names of their founders. Think Lipton, Ford or Charles Schwab. However, today’s colleagues in these companies tend to develop unique brand names such as Starbucks, Tesla or Robinhood (Starbuck is a fictional character from Moby Dick, Nikola Tesla died 60 years before Tesla Motors was founded and Robin Hood is unlikely to be a real person, let alone that he looked at the financial services app.). Because of this shift, having a unique brand name instead of a founder name (i.e. yours) can create the impression of a larger organization, which implies more breadth and depth.
If you think, “But I don’t want anyone to think I am more than one person,” don’t underestimate the disadvantage solo freelancers can face in competitive situations. Remember, people you will never meet – whether they be decision makers or procurement staff – may judge by their name only. For example, imagine you had to choose one of the following brand consultancies: Catchword, Lexicon or Sally Flakowitz. The personal name creates an awkward situation between apples and oranges that you probably better avoided.
Related: Why Is Brand Name Important To Startups?
A brand name gives you room to grow
Speaking of scaling, another benefit of having a brand name is its potential to expand as your business changes. You may not plan on building a team of 15 – but plans change often. If your company is more than a sole proprietorship, a brand name offers room for growth.
This logic also applies from project to project. When you take on a large job, you may need to subcontract work or hire other freelancers as teammates. When you show up in a client’s office with a coworker, it doesn’t build confidence to introduce yourself as independent freelancers working together right now. It creates a temporary, no-obligation feeling. It’s a lot easier – and sounds more professional – to say, “Hi, I’m Rob and this is Sally. We’re coming from [BrandName]. “
A brand name offers the opportunity to express ideas
What ideas and feelings does your name evoke in those who hear it? Hopefully, at least among your family and friends, there are plenty of positive adjectives associated with your name – maybe smart, creative, and hardworking. But for those who have never met you? Never heard of you It’s just a name. Unless you choose “Sting” or “The Rock” your name doesn’t convey any real meaning. Prospects are not told that you are smart or creative. It’s not even a name that you chose.
However, when you create a brand name, there is something you can say. Some brand names are straightforward and descriptive (e.g. Best Buy) while others just suggest an idea (e.g. Zipcar). Others venture into the abstract – they have no relevant meaning, but can still convey a sense of personality, like Apple (simple) or Virgin (disrespectful). Regardless of what approach your brand name takes, it can help you tell people about yourself and your work.
Related Topics: The Pros And Cons Of Naming Your Business (Infographic)
A brand name may be easier to spell and pronounce
Some first and last names are easier to pronounce than others, but the brand name you create is likely to be shorter than your personal name (e.g. one word instead of two). And since you are creating the name from scratch, you have the opportunity to ensure that it is usable. While there are exceptions, most of the best brand names are short and sweet. Names made up of one or more real English words are more likely to be understood, pronounced, and spelled correctly than many people’s names.
If you are interested in doing business abroad, your personal name can have additional disadvantages. Names that are common in one language or culture may seem strange or unpronounceable in other parts of the world. Your name can lead people, accurate or not, to assume that you are from a particular country or region. Whether this is fair or not, this assumption can be fraught with prejudice. However, English has become the lingua franca of global business. A true English word or two is likely to be understood and pronounced by many business people who are not native English speakers.
A brand name can be more distinctive
The downside of the point above is that in some cases, personal names are so common that they don’t stand out. If your name is “Niamh Moloughney” we wish you the best of luck people spell and pronounce it correctly. However, if you’re one of the 11,000+ Ann Millers on LinkedIn, your prospects may have trouble remembering you or differentiating you from other freelancers.
Reviewing the names of competitors is a critical step in any brand name process. When creating your brand name, you can use a different style of name, choose one that is significantly shorter or longer than the competition, or find an initial letter that is unique to the category.
Ultimately, this decision depends a lot on your first and last name. How common are they? Are they difficult to spell or pronounce? Will they associate you with a particular language, country, or region – for better or for worse? Some people’s names are almost used as brand names, like Smart & Final (named after founders JS Smart and HD Final) or Fox Racing (named after founder Geoff Fox). They are short, simple, easy to remember, and have a built-in meaning or imagery. Unless you are fortunate enough to have such a distinctive, evocative name, consider creating a brand name for your freelance business.
Related: 10 Secrets To Mastering Your Personal Brand