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4 steps to choosing a name for your small business

So how do we choose a name for our business? Of course, you can Google “brand name generator”, toss in a few keywords, and go with some automatically generated brand name. 

But where’s the personality in that?

If you want to use a company or studio name, the steps below are ideal for you. For entrepreneurs, sole traders and freelancers, using your own name as your personal and business brand is an obvious choice, and for many the only conundrum left is “What do I use for the rest of my business name? How do I choose the keywords to describe what I do?” If this is you, hopefully this article will still be helpful. 


Step 1: Build a solid base for your brand

First, it’s time to write (or revisit, if you’re relaunching) a brand strategy, a document which consists of your values, brand voice, aims and audience – everything that makes your brand uniquely yours. So what is YOUR:


What is your business about? Who are you, and what do you do? What service do you provide?


Why do you do what you do? What excites you about your work? What do you hate? What keeps you going?


What’s the aim? What do you want to achieve with your business? (“Make money” is an obvious one, leave it out.) What will give you satisfaction at the end of the day?


How are you going to achieve your vision? How will you make it happen? Time for a plan.


Who are your ideal clients? Who are the ones who are, um, less than ideal? Who do you need to reach?


What’s your niche or your focus? What makes you unique? What are your strengths? How much experience do you have in your sector?

Code of conduct?

What do you believe in? What makes you tick? What makes you mad?


How do you want to present yourself? Are you serious or quirky? New blood or mature and wise? Thinking out of the box or tried and tested?

Tone of voice?

How do you want to communicate? Joking? Casual? Professional? Straightlaced?

Core message?

What do you want to communicate - about your business, your industry and/or the world? What does your audience need to know?

Once you’ve got this down, start picking out words and concepts that resonate with you. What matters to you most about your work? Your ethos or your clients? How do you want others to see you? 


Step 2: Never underestimate the importance of a good wordcloud

Wordcloud, word map, whatever you want to call it, it’s useful to see how visually how concepts connect. Write down the words that you feel should be at the core of your brand. These are your keywords

I also found it useful to add the words that were at the core of me, so if you’re wanting to bring out your personality in your business branding, you might want to do this as well. When people say “Tell me about yourself”, what do you automatically say first? What’s important to you in your daily life? What are your personality traits – are you playful, serious, knowledgeable, eager to learn, obsessed with cats or crazy about sudoku? 

Now break out the thesaurus. I LOVE thesauruseseseses. Go on a journey of word association and you can discover amazing places. As a copywriter, I’m fascinated by obscure words or those with Latin or French roots. Take each word in your wordcloud and add synonyms, slang words, metaphors, animals, concepts, imagery, emotions, adjectives, foreign words and obscure words. 

As this point you should be able to pick out 3-5 words or concepts that you’re drawn to. You can play around with merging two words together, but bear in mind …

Step 3: Is it easy to spell and say?

Although some unusual names do become big brands (Google, Flickr, Lyft, Pinterest, Trello, etc.), as a small business, your brand name will have more longevity if it is:

  • Easy to spell (is it a difficult word, or does it have substituted letters?)
  • Easy to pronounce (is it ambiguous when written down?)
  • Easy to understand when spoken out loud (do the words run together and sound odd?)
  • Sufficiently unique in your field (do some research – are there similar businesses to yours already using the name you want?)


Step 4: Final check

Go back to the keywords you selected in Step 2. Does it match with those ideas, emotions and concepts?If yes, then you’re good to go. If not, back to the drawing board.

Then it’s time to check it’s not a registered trademark (registries will differ from country to country), and finally, the biggest hurdle of all: is the web address of your dreams is available? (That’s a whole post on its own!)

Feeling inspired?

If you'd like some advice on letting your own brand personality shine through, drop me a message - I'd love to help.

Let's go!Steady on, let me see your portfolio first