Archived entries for research

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

Weekly Roundup

So it’s going to be a brief post tonight – sorry all, fortunately I’ve got client work to do! I found a gig writing articles for a holistic website, and as I mentioned, I’ve networked with Dsngr Unlimited and they need me to do a client proposal this evening. However, here’s some stuff to read to tide you over:

12 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Have Tattooed On Their Arms - I love quotes. I especially love quotes that are about 1) writing or 2) success/working to be a success. The written part of this post is a bit boring, but skip down to the quotes. They are awesome! I sort of collect these sorts of things ….

Salesforce Rolls Out a Facebook for Businesses – I have long said that facebook is not built for businesses. Well this story is about a new social networking site that is built special, JUST for businesses. Do I think it will work? Probably not. After all, consumers prob. won’t flock to a site to learn about companies. But I suppose we’ll see… after all, what are the yellow pages, really?

Why All Entrepreneurs are Designers – this post is all about how “entrepreneurship is a branch of design thinking”. Fascinating theory, and one I think I agree with. I can def. see some of the similarities…

Lindsey’s Blog - Ok, so first off this chick has me on the blogroll – isn’t that enough proof that she’s awesome? Well, if it’s not (humf) then perhaps the title of her blog will get your interest – Use Your Words: The Business of Writing” – how cool is that as a name? You’re still on the edge? Well, take my word for it. She has some great stuff – including a post on why we should try to be more like the mango man, “do I need a copywriter,” and how to conquer work stress at home.

One final note: On Monday I guest posted on Andrea’s blog, Hello. {Work.} – check it out here!

Check these out – and if you have something to share, comment about it. Even if it’s just a writing quote. I promise, if you comment I’ll check out your blog …. (do I sound desperate enough yet? just comment, damn it!)

Registering a Small Business (Legal Mumbo-Jumbo)

Chapter 4 in Parker’s book is about becoming legit. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a topic I’ve been avoiding … but it’s time to get serious about it.

She starts out by telling us that while many freelancers set up the business half after they’ve been working for a while, that is a mistake (oops!) namely because there is a potential for “property use violations, fines, back taxes, business name lawsuits and issues of business ownership.” Albeit she allows that registering is more important for writers serving corporate clients (in case, for example, you were supposed to charge them tax and didn’t – you’ll end up paying for it).

What Kind of Business Should You Be:
The important decision is deciding what type of business you (or I) am going to have: a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation. Then, figuring out what needs to be done to dot the i and cross the t. Most freelancers probably work as a sole proprietor – you claim your income from freelancing on your personal taxes and are solely responsible for your business (including any debt you incur in its name).

A partnership would involve bringing on another person – the main difference here is when filing taxes. Partners are still liable for debt incurred in the name of the business, and either partner can be held responsible for any expenses (meaning you could end up paying for your partner’s charges). Arrangements vary greatly, and if you are interested in this for some crazy reason, I recommend doing a lot more reading. If you decide to go this route, set up your partnership agreement very very carefully and I highly recommend you consult a lawyer. Parker recommends Form a Partnership:The Complete Legal Guide from Nolo Press.

There are a couple of intermediary options – limited partnerships and LLC (limited liability company). Limited partnerships involve one of the partners being less liable. Limited liability companies are a good option if you’re worried about the risk you may be taking and its potential impact on your personal finances (in my opinion, less important for a freelance writer than, say, a food product manufacturer, where you could accidentally poison someone and get sued). A LLC works like a sole proprietorship in terms of income taxes but like a corporation when it comes to liability (essentially, it’s limited to the business’s assets).

Finally, there is the corporation, “a legal entity in itself.” The benefits include: limited liability, insurance options. Disadvantages: a LOT of paperwork – and regular paperwork at that.

My Decision #1: I’m going to have a sole proprietorship. I haven’t decided yet if I want to work under my own name or if I want to have a “company” name. If I choose to use a company name (even if I just add “editorial services after my own name) then I have to register as a DBA (doing business as).

Resources for a New Freelance Writer / Sm. Biz. Owner

At least once a week I want to share links to some of the great articles I came across that week. Check them out – there are some great pieces here!

4 Measures to Put in Place so Your Freelance Writing Clients Won’t Rip You Off
Contracts, kill fees, late fees and deposits help make sure you don’t do the work and then never see your money.

And from the same site …. Do You Know What You’re Selling? Successfully Marketing Your Online Freelance Writing
This piece talks about how important it is for a writer to define their own business – after all, if we can’t put our own company into well written words how can we expect anyone else to trust us to do that for their company?

Work Smart: Increasing Productivity & Efficiency – I would love to write for this site at some point in the future – but this is a great piece from Young, Fabulous and Self-Employed. We all have enough distractions – the key to being a successful entrepreneur (and, as a “freelance writer” that’s what I am) is to prioritize and set up systems to get things done.

Pinocchio Syndrome

Pinocchio wanted to be a real boy. I want to be a real freelance writer. Don’t I wish there was a good fairy for me…

In a recent post I discussed Making It Real – the idea that even if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s still possible not to feel like a duck. In my case, even though I’m building a client base, have begun making some money freelancing and am taking (slowly) all the right steps, I still didn’t feel like a professional freelance writer.

So, in an attempt to gain a ruler by which I could measure myself, I turned the question around and asked the members of one of my small business online networks what they saw as the first 3 steps to establishing a company’s existence. At what point does a company become “a company?”

Rachel Vincent, Vice President of Kikini, a new social matchmaking site that will launch this spring, responded with the following:

(1) formally organizing the company under state laws. Is it a corp, LLC, sole proprietorship (probably the last as a freelancer). There are lots of websites that can do this quickly if you want something simple.
(2) sit down and decide what your brand looks like (visually & verbally). What are the 2-3 most critical points you want people to know about you.
(3) a website (could as simple as adding a page to your blog). I’d say a phone can wait. You can always change the greeting on your cell.

I thought she made some really great points. I’ve been actively working on part three; part two still needs a little bit of work but I’ve gotten started on it; part one I’ve been actively avoiding. Parker talks about the legal issues of starting a home business in Chapter 4. So I’m going to continue procrastinating on that one until next week.

However she did inspire me to do a little research. I ordered two books today that I think will be helpful on several of those points. The Complete Book of Business Plans: Secrets to Writing Powerful Business Plans by Covello, Covello and Hazelgren and Start Your Own Business by Lesonsky. I’ll let you know if they are worth it.

And, while I agree those three things will help make my business become a “real” business, I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment recently where I realized I was further along than I had thought. When I was working on yesterday’s post, Creating a Press Kit, I uploaded examples of client work I’ve done, and that required going through different client projects I’ve worked on thus far. I was surprised by the number of assignments I’ve already done. Even if I don’t yet have a full-fledged and certified writing business, I am definitely a freelance writer – and now I feel like one too.

Types of Writing Jobs

Chapter 3 is both one of the most useful chapters and one of the least interesting – in it, Parker lists 60 bread-and-butter (or, as she calls them meat-and-potato) jobs for freelance writers. The idea is to think objectively about the types of jobs a new writer can get and the types of jobs that pay the bills… and to find where the two intersect for you.

One of the worksheets in chapter two asks each of us to critically analyze our skills – what we bring to the table as a writer that is unique. What we are qualified to write about and who we might know that we can work with. Chapter 3 looks at who we can work for.

Parker asks the reader to look at the jobs and decide if each job is something he or she would like to do, could do now or could learn to do …. and, if the job is something he or she has no interest in, it’s assumed that she’ll just ignore it and move on.

The jobs I could learn to do (and would like to do):
*if you are reading this and have a job in one of these areas I will offer you a discounted rate in exchange for the experience
Advertising Copy
Collateral materials (order forms, spec sheets, invitations, etc.)
Direct mail packages
Radio & TV ads & promotions
Telemarketing Scripts
Annual Reports
Policies & procedures writing
Catalogs & Product sheets
Conference & Trade show materials
Manuals
Menus
Contributing Editor Assignments

Things I can do now:
Brochures
Sales Letters
Public Relations services & materials
Resume Writing
Personal Statements (though this involves a very in-depth interview and takes up a LOT of time)
Website Content
Blogs (clearly illustrated here)
Editing
Letter writing
Newsletters
Press Releases & Press Kits
Proofreading
Proposals

This week I’ll go through some of the more common of these (things I can do now) and discuss how to do them and what differentiates a “good” piece vs. a “bad” piece.

If there are any in particular you’d like to me discuss please leave a comment.

The World Wide … What??

As much as I am a nerd and a geek (after all, I freakin’ love words), I am not a techie. As you may have noticed, if you’ve checked out my goals page, one of my goals was to talk to my friend, who is a techie, about the web this week.

I spent an hour on the phone with him on Sunday, and I think I probably said, “I don’t understand. What?” more times than I can count.

Prior to talking to him I had decided I was going to buy three web domains in the coming months.
1) Jargonwriter.com – where I would host this blog
2) mbreau.com – which would host a site about me and my writing and hopefully collect leads.
3) MelissaBreau.com which would redirect to mbreau.com (or vice-versa).

I have some (very) rudimentary web skills – I know enough HTML and PHP to make dreamweaver work. I’m planning to work on the site myself with some assistance from my friend, mr. big bad web developer, who frequently fields questions for me for free when I should probably be paying him a ridiculous amount to do consulting. Needless to say, he’s damn good at what he does (danny if you’re reading this, stop blushing).

Even before talking to him, I thought I understood the basics. You have to “buy” a domain name (ie. pay money to register it). Then you need to set up an ftp site, and pay someone to host your site. The way I understand it, when someone hosts your site you pay them to put it on their computer and they keep that computer (really, i think its called a server) online at all times, allowing visitors to your site to view it. An ftp site allows you to exchange files between your computer and their server, and shows you what is on each. Okay, so far so good. And then I called Danny.

Due to the number of search results that pop up when you google my name (3 pages), he says I need a higher bandwidth than most sites include with a basic hosting package. Ok, so add on that. Then we talked about hosting through wordpress (since I can just upgrade this) and he recommended against it for reasons that took a really long time to understand, but boil down to templates and how much memory or kb or w/e this site actually uses each time it downloads and how that translates to bandwidth usage.

That is, apparently Danny thinks I am WAY more popular than I think I am, because I think 4,000 pageviews a month sounded like a hecka lot and he thought it wasn’t enough – he says search engines crawl it regularly and hosts count those as page views …. and, since I know he knows what he’s talking about … I’m going to trust him on how that all works.

Then he recommended another site, which upon visiting I promptly told him was way beyond me. I couldn’t understand every third word on their page explaining what you get when you pay for their services. Too complicated.

So now I’m on the search for the perfect host. Danny’s helping – he’s tapping his group of resources to find out what’s worked for other people.

I, in the meantime, am supposed to try and do some independent research. The goal is to find a host where I can get close to unlimited bandwidth for under $60 / year. And that’s not including start up fees, like actually buying or registering a domain name.

Needless to say, I ended the conversation by taking a few aspirins and a break from doing work of any sort. Right now, I fully appreciate the depth of what I do not know, and am REALLY glad I have someone in my personal network who understands it a hell of a lot better than I do.



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