What's in a name?

Shakespeare wrote in Romeo & Juliet that, “that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

I hate to break it to him, but that’s not true when it comes to naming a business.

When starting a small business, choosing the right name is a big part of the process. A name needs to be memorable, have the proper connotations and be something that can grow with the company it represents.

I’ve been slaving over choosing a name for my own freelance writing business for a while now. Originally, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work under my own name (and use something like “Melissa Breau Writing & Editorial Services”) or if I wanted to established a fictitious name or DBA (Doing business as).

After carefully evaluation, I’ve decided NOT to use my own name for several reasons:
1) No one can pronounce my last name correctly; often I have to say it several times before they get it right and then they will quickly forget the pronunciation even when I use my “memory” trick – “It’s pronounced ‘Bro’ – Like ‘what up bro?’” – I don’t want to have to say that to a client… at least not any more than I can avoid it.

2) There are a lot of different spellings for “Melissa.” People frequently add an extra “L” or take out an “S.” Not to mention there are a lot of names that sound similar but are different – like Marissa.

3) I may someday get married and I’m old-fashioned enough to want to be able to take on my husband’s last name without ruining my company. Perhaps that’s silly. But it was a major contributing factor to my final decision.

Once I decided I was going to have to choose a DBA I began researching how to pick a good name. I understood the basic concept of brainstorming name ideas – creating a list of words, possible names and concepts that I liked. Evaluating the image I want to portray. Essentially, everything Yudkin recommends on her site.

So I came up with a list of words I like. I’m still building it, but here are a handful of them:
Jargon, Concepts, Scribble, Ink, Jot, Signature, Scripted, Adjective, Linguistics, Verbal

I still haven’t found a name I like a lot – I think it’s important that my name at least partially convey that I work with words and that I’m good at manipulating them. My name needs to be an example of how good I am, without being kitschy or cliché.

I was feeling very pressed to find a “perfect” name. Then I flipped through Parker’s book and took a look at the name of each of the companies the writers she profiles owned. Here are the names they used:
Kristen King Freelancing
Fehr Editorial Services, Inc.
Wordbucket Marketing communications
Franck Communications
Really Good Copy Company
Writing, Editing and Online Writing Instruction
Martha Bee Productions
Pete Williams, Author, Journalist, Sports Memorabilia expert, broadcaster, speaker
Schneider the Writer
Media Relations and Corporate communications

None of these, with the possible exception of Wordbucket, conveys an image and few of them are what I’d consider “short” as About.com insists they should be. Most of them are fairly bland. Most of them break a lot of the rules all my research turned up. But you know what? All of them are successful writers. They work full-time as freelancers and still pay their bills. Parker has gone back to most of them edition after edition, re-interviewing them about their businesses.

So while that doesn’t mean I’ll settle when looking for a name, perhaps it does mean Shakespeare wasn’t so far off.

Some other articles I found enlightening on the topic:
- The Right Name For Your Business, BusinessWeek
- How to Name Your Business, Entrepreneur
- 8 Mistakes to Avoid When Naming Your Business, Entrepreneur
- How to Get Your Business Name Right, About.com
- How Do I Pick the Best Domain Name for My Website?, Entreprenette

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