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What’s in a (Business) Name?

Blue business sign that says My Awesome Editing Business

When launching a new business, one of the first things we often decide on is a name for our new venture. But a business name should actually be one of the last things we determine.

Like your personal name, your business name is what people will remember. It will come to represent you and your business every time it’s mentioned.

A business name is like a book title, reflecting what it is: the business’s services, its clients, its voice. With an editing business, especially the one-person shops many freelance editors run, the name should also reflect something about the editor or their editing.

And again as with your personal name, your business name will seem to fit the business as the business develops and people come to know it. The name will build an image in their minds based on your branding and marketing, your work, and your interactions with people.

In the beginning, though, your business name will bring to mind only whatever the name and any accompanying art (e.g., your logo) and text (e.g., your tagline) suggest.

Which leaves you with a problem many new parents face: how do you choose a name that you like and that the new entity will grow into?

Types of Business Names

Business names fall into three major categories:

  • Eponymous
  • Fun
  • Descriptive

You Are Your Business

Eponymous business names are a good choice if you already have a reputation or if you will be your company. If you don’t plan to hire anyone and your clients will hire your company because they’re hiring you, naming your business after yourself is a great way to go.

Many editors choose this route, planning to be the only person associated with the business. You can use just your name (Louise Harnby), you can add a description to it (Dick Margulis Creative Services), or you can play with it a little (eDitmore Editorial Services).

Taking your personal name as your company name doesn’t get you out of building an identity for your company, however. If you go this route, be sure to follow through on defining your brand and business (more on this next week).

When an Apple Isn’t Just an Apple

A second option is to choose a name that doesn’t obviously relate to your business. Maybe it describes where you live, such as Northern Editorial. It could refer to items that bring writing and editing to mind, such as Inkbot Editing or Quills and Queries Editing.

Or maybe it’s just an image you like, such as Dragonfly Editorial. It worked for Apple, didn’t it?

I see fewer fun names for editing businesses in my networks; perhaps it’s because editors focus so much on clarity that we build it into our business names. Fun names will demand that you put more energy into your brand so that you can build recognition. But it can be done.

What Makes You Special?

Finally, you can come up with a name that describes something particular about your company or service. I settled on Right Touch Editing because I envisioned customizing the edit to meet the client’s requirements. I wanted clients to understand that I wouldn’t edit for my preferences but theirs. Over time, I began specializing in marketing and business copy, which often comes with a labyrinth of guidelines, making the name even more apt.

Besides using their own names, many editors describe something about their business in their business name. PenUltimate takes a similar approach to Right Touch Editing: the name reminds the client that they have the last word on their writing, not the editor.

Some tell clients right away what type of editing the business specializes in. Tweed focuses on academic editing, while Romance Refined specializes in (you guessed it) romance novels.

Choosing a descriptive name means defining your business and clients first—and that’s a good thing. Too often, editors new to freelancing put up their shingle without any thought to what they’ll edit or who they’ll edit for. They have a difficult time finding clients because they don’t know who they’re looking for. And the clients can’t identify themselves in the new business’s description, so they move on to someone else.

How to Choose Your Business Name

Whichever category your business name falls into, you want it to reflect your business. And to do that, you need to define your business. Next week, I’ll walk you through some simple exercises to do just that.

A version of this article originally ran on August 10, 2018, on Copyediting.com.

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