If you’re thinking of starting a new business or reinventing your old one this year, you’re probably wondering whether you should operate under a personal brand or with a separate business name.
There’s no doubt the concept of operating a business under your own name has taken off in recent years. This is likely due to the massive shift to a freelance economy. But is this whole personal branding thing a trend or is it the right move for your business?
By answering a few questions posed in this article, you should have a good idea of what makes the most sense for you.
Are you your business?
The first question you need to ask yourself is whether your business is actually you, just for hire. This doesn’t mean you’ll never hire anyone to help with the extra work. It means what people are paying you for is something only you create. A service or a product that requires your special touch or oversight.
Personal branding and reputation
Are you willing to personally vouch for your products or services with your own reputation? We should all stand behind our products or services, but when you operate under a personal brand there is a much more linear connection between who you are and what you do.
Personal branding and your career
If you plan to operate under a unique business name, do you still need to maintain a personal brand inside of your business to elevate your career? You never know when a new career or business opportunity may present itself. Making sure people know your actual name and what you do instead of ‘that person who runs xyz’ can make a big difference in how people connect with you. If you do interviews or publish content, you will forever be letting people know both your name and your business. This isn’t necessarily a big deal, but it’s worth considering.
Your personal brand is efforts might include writing thought leadership pieces, attending conferences and networking events, and keeping up on your personal social media. This may mean twice the work, especially for a solopreneur who is marketing a business and themselves.
What is your vision for the future?
Do you plan to build a business you will sell in the future? If so, would you be OK with someone else running a business in your name? Keep in mind you can always create branded products or services with your business that you could sell as assets, so wanting to create a business you sell is not mutually exclusive with personal branding.
How big do you intend to grow? Will you have a team across multiple cities or keep it small? Just because you’re starting out on your own now doesn’t mean you may not choose to expand in the future.
If you’re working with a unique business name, does the name describe what you do or does it allow you more flexibility? One of the benefits of a personal brand is it allows you to pivot your products and services. Descriptive names do not.
Quick story: I’m officially on my third personal brand. I started out with descriptive words at the end of my name. First, I was Jessica Wicks Graphic & Web Design, then Jessica Wicks Communication, and finally Jessica Wicks Consulting. I’m much happier now, because while I offer graphic, web and communication services, I continue to grow and develop my skillset outside of those confines. I’m also available for hire on longer contract engagements, and the consultant title comes in handy for those projects.
Will people be able to find you?
This is a more technical detail, but still worth considering during the decision process. How available or popular is your name online? Are there a lot of other people operating businesses with your name, or are you able to dominate the space?
Search engine and social media optimization
You can search any domain registry to see if your name is available as a website. Personal names can also be tricky with social media unless you add a middle name or initials. One of the benefits to choosing a unique business name is you can make sure the domains and social media handles are available before you register it.
How difficult is your name to spell. I love unique names, but if people don’t know what to type into a search engine, you might have a rough time overcoming that.
Is the decision reversible?
I can’t make your decision for you. As an entrepreneur, choosing a name for your business is just one of the many decisions you will need to make. The good news is no matter what you choose, you can always rebrand later if it no longer fits. The bad news is changing your business name can be tricky, time-consuming, and expensive.
Make a choice
The truth is, regardless of what you choose you will have moments of doubt and frustration. After all, no one has ever said entrepreneurship is supposed to be easy. You could spend months trying to decide which path is right for you, or you could weigh the options, make a decision, and move forward. I vote for the informed decision.