Daniel Nisbet

Episode 56  |  July 17, 2018

What's in a name for your freelance business?

One of the most exciting parts of starting a freelance business is naming. Conversely, one of the most nerve wracking parts of starting a small business is naming it.

About eight or nine years ago, I started my own freelance business. At the time I was in a rushed state, because I just had lost my job. I didn't have much in the way of job prospects. Very quickly and without much thought, I simply used my name and began my freelance business.

A few years later, I decided that I was going to start growing my business and hiring employees. With that new goal in mind, I decided to switch from my own name to a company name. The idea was that I would eventually grow into it.

As luck would have it, I ended up not growing into my new name. About two years ago, I ended up reverting back to only using my name.

So what was the advantages and disadvantages of doing that?

If you're staying small, sticking with your name, might be more beneficial.

When I was using my name, I noticed that it was easier to build a connection between me and the clients I was doing work for. They weren't expecting to work with a large studio—it was only me. They knew who they were working with and felt comfortable with the arrangement.

Using a business name came with a different feel. Leading up to this, I wasn't charging a lot for the projects I was working on. When I decided to change into a business name, I also took on a price increase with it.

I got the impression that clients began expecting that there was more to my company than just me. They were looking for a team. To help this as I started, I partnered with other freelancers (who also used business names.) We were able to pitch projects as a team. Websites were easy to include design, development, writing, SEO—the whole nine yards. Clients loved this, because we were effectively a one stop shop.

I tried doing this with my own name and got a little more pushback. It felt like we were piecemealed together. Under a company name, we could present one proposal and contract to the client. Under our own names, we did separate ones. It was more work that our clients had to deal with.

No matter what though, don't let your name be too confusing for your clients. This is especially true if you're using a business name while intending to stay small.

I had an awkward time when I stepped back on growing my business but still using my business name. The dynamic I got from my clients felt like a let-down when they realized I was the only own showing up.

On the flip side though, if you have a complicated name to spell or remember, there's still an advantage here for you. You can consider using a nickname or shorter name that resonates with your potential clients. It might be easier to pick you out in a crowd or not confuse clients if you share your name with other people.

So those are my takes on business versus freelance. You can honestly take either option. While I did point out a lot of differences between the two, ultimately, the level of service I provided mattered most, instead of what I named my company.