I like to joke that I’m semi-famous online, but in real life I’m known as “James’ mom.”
James is my 15-year old son and also my tech support dude. Just last week a fellow mom saw me at Back to School night and introduced me to another mom as, “This is Dianna Huff. She’s James’ mom!”
Another woman stopped me and said, “Oh! Are you James’ mom? Great kid!”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t use “James’ Mom” as a business name when I was thinking about what to name my business back in 1998.
I chose “DH Communications.” The “DH” stands for “Dianna Huff” in case you didn’t figure it out; people do ask what it stands for. I chose it because I couldn’t think of anything better.
I was pretty diligent about building my DH Communications brand. However, it didn’t stick. Everyone knew me as Dianna Huff (when they weren’t referring to me as James’ mom).
I wanted to change my business name to Dianna Huff, Inc. for years but couldn’t muster up the courage. I finally compromised in June and began branding myself “Dianna Huff” (while keeping DH Communications, Inc. as my official business name).
Freelancers and consultants often ask me what they should do with regard to their business name. Should they choose a name separate from their personal name? Or, should they use these their name?
And, people who have been in business for 10 or 15 years wonder if they should rebrand under their personal names as they’ve built a reputation. I’ve had three people call me with this question in the last month.
The answer is, of course, “it depends.” Each has its pros and cons. To decide what’s best for you, ask yourself some questions:
1. How well-known are you in your industry? Look at the number of speaking gigs you have each year, if you’re quoted in industry publications or blogs and any books/articles you’ve authored. (Bonus points if you have a Wikipedia page.)
2. Do you want to grow your business? If you plan on hiring people, you may want to choose a company name. Or, you can keep your personal name and add “and Associates,” “Enterprises,” “Consulting Group,” or “+ Partners” to it. This type of company name denotes you’re more than a company of one but the buck stops with you (which can be reassuring to some people).
3. How long have you been in business? If you’ve been in business a while and people know your business name, it may make sense to keep it (which is why I kept mine but minimized it).
4. What kind of feedback do you get? One reason I rebranded under “Dianna Huff” is because people kept telling me that “DH Communications” confused them. So listen to what people say when they visit your site or call you on the phone.
5. Is your business name also a great domain name? Let’s face it, “DH Communications” isn’t that sexy of a name, and it has zero search value.
But, someone like Jill Whalen, on the other hand, has a great business name – High Rankings. One, it’s a great search phrase, two, it describes what she does, and three, it’s a guarantee of what you’ll get when you work with her.
(If I had been smarter back in 1998, I would have used my other domain as my business name – marketingwriting.com. Alas, I did not.)
If you’re on the fence about going out on your own or you’ve been thinking about using your personal name as your business name, here’s what you should do while you’re in consideration mode:
Buy your domain name – Everyone should own their own domain name – i.e. diannahuff.com. This keeps other people from using it and, should you want to do business under your name, you own it.
If you have a common name, such as “Jane Smith,” purchase your full name – either first-middle-last or use your middle initial to differentiate yourself.
Claim your social media profiles – Open profiles on all the major platforms under your name in order to claim your vanity URLs – i.e. Pinterest.com/diannahuff or Twitter.com/diannahuff. Again, you prevent others from using them and you have them waiting should you need them.
Listen to how others refer to you – Obviously, if someone introduces you as “knucklehead,” you have some problems, but seriously, listen to how you’re introduced. Do people refer to you and your company name or just your personal name? Or, do they use your personal name with a description of what you do (this could give you some good ideas for a company name).
Have you had to deal with this issue? Let me know how you resolved it by leaving your comments below.