the name’s the thing – part 1

Last week, one of our readers, Meghan, left a list of things that she wanted to learn more about when trying to balance her creative side with her business side. There were some great suggestions and we’ll try to do posts that address all of them in the future but today I’m going to start with this one…

by any other name?

Naming your business is one of the hardest, most thought provoking and, in many cases, most personal decisions you will make when launching your business. You need to think about a lot of different things and still come up with a name that you’ll be proud to stand behind for (hopefully!) many years to come.

Perhaps the easiest way to write this post is to walk through how I came up with Fine Lime Designs – Creative Media Solutions.

what do you do exactly???

I knew from Day 1 that my core business was web design. It’s what I’m trained to do, what I love and how I started out. But, I was getting asked on a regular basis by friends to do small freelance photography shoots and occasional graphic design projects. I wanted to encompass all of that under one banner and didn’t want my company name to limit the kinds of work I accepted. I was also looking ahead to a time when I might want to operate a full on design studio.

Calling my company Fine Lime Web Design would tell the world I do web design and nothing else. Fine Lime Designs implies that we handle a range of design projects. The tag-line “Creative Media Solutions” was the brainchild of one of my best friends, Laura. She knew I wanted a way to tie all three disciplines together and that my target clients were small businesses looking for visual marketing solutions. I thought her idea was pretty brilliant!

Think about what your core business will be, where you are planning to take your business over the next 5 years, 10 years etc (you do have a business plan, right? even if it’s on a cocktail napkin somewhere….), what your target market is and what you are going to offer them. When you give them a business card with your company name and logo on it, will it be obvious to them what you do?

neat name! where did you get that from?

I get that a lot. “Neat name!”, “cute name”, “how did you come up with that?” In my case, that was the reaction I wanted. We are a design (read: creative) group that like to have fun. We like our clients to have fun working with us. I wanted something creative, whimsical, fresh and lively. Now if I was opening a law office would I have chosen the same name? Not likely.

When you think about your name, think about the meanings of the words you’re using and the visual imagery they conjure up. What colour comes into your head when you hear a particular word? What’s the first thing you picture? (This is a handy exercise because at some point, you are going to have to think about a logo to compliment your name – all that imagery will be useful). What kind of image do you want to project to your potential client base? Serious? Creative? Elegance? Knowledgeable? Professional? Whimsical? Are you a lawyer, architect or other professional? Are you a photographer, designer, sculpture or other creative? Do you work with children? Animals? Start jotting down ideas and words. Brainstorm. You’ll be amazed what comes out.

now you’re getting personal…

How personal do you want the name to be? I wanted mine to be very personal to me. I could have gone with Melissa Hartfiel Designs or Hartfiel Designs or Designs by Melissa but that didn’t have the fresh, creative or whimsical tone that I wanted for this particular business. Your business might be quite different. And if you have a unique name, you might find it very easy to find an available web domain name (more on that later) or find the name available when you register with your local government (more on that later too).

In my case, I went with my nickname, which is Meli. Only people close to me would know that. An anagram of Meli is… LIME… Ta da!! Nine times out of ten nobody picks up on that, which is fine with me. But my mom got it the first time I told her the name! I knew I wanted Lime in the name. It brought to mind fresh, citrusy, tangy, juicy imagery, which was perfect. After that I just played around with other words and came up with a number of combinations that I liked.

tell me… really… be honest…

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of names to a few that you really like, run them by some trusted friends or family or other people in your network whose opinions you value.

Be careful here… you want to make sure they are people you trust.  You don’t want to find somebody else using the name that was at the top of your list before you have a chance to register it.

Be prepared to have your choices shot down.  You want HONEST feedback.  If people don’t like the names you’ve got, ask them why.  And ask them to be as specific as possible.  Don’t take their criticism personally if they’re being constructive – if you want to start your own business, you better get used to handling constructive criticism and learning from it or just stop what you’re doing right now.  They may have very valid points about why your choices are unsuitable that may not have occurred to you.

Fine Lime was my first choice and it got the most support from the people I asked – but it certainly wasn’t unanimous.  And it’s unlikely yours will be either.  It’s just like choosing baby names. (and this is going to be your baby!)

i’ve got my name… now what?

Ah, now what indeed?  Next up you need to put the wheels in motion to make your carefully chosen name yours.  Tomorrow’s post will cover your next steps!

2 Responses to the name’s the thing – part 1

  1. Elizabeth December 10, 2009 at 1:43 am #

    Your post brought up a question for me. Perhaps this is the most basic of basics–I’ve not read any literature around running a small business–but how do you come up with a business plan? What’s involved and what needs to be included?

  2. Melissa Hartfiel December 10, 2009 at 9:31 am #

    Hey Elizabeth (good to hear from you!)
    That’s a pretty big question to answer here. How involved a plan you come up with depends on you, the type of business you want to run and (probably most importantly) how you are going to fund it. There are countless books and infinite info on the web on just this subject, but I think this might be a good idea for a future post. Stay tuned!

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