Note: We are not legal experts or tax preparation professionals. Always consult an accountant, tax prep professional, or attorney to address concerns about your freelance business name, or any other legal question. We’re writing to freelancers in the United States. Freelancers in other locations may find this information useful for determining what questions they need to ask based on their city, country, or region.
Starting a business is a big deal. And one of the first few decisions you’ll want to make is: What should my freelance business name be?
The very fact that this step feels overwhelming can be a major sign of resistance. So the first thing to remember is: keep taking action! Don’t get stuck in the waiting place while you search for The Perfect Name.
There are a few common questions people have during this process. We hope these answers will help you overcome any roadblocks and make a decision you feel good about.
Can I use my name if it’s hard to say?
Trust me. I get this one. With a last name like mine, I can certainly relate.
But here’s the thing: most clients will get to your portfolio from a link. The text in your email signature, social profiles, or any other digital space completely mitigates the risks of typos or misspellings. And even if a client is getting to your site from a business card, you’ve still spelled it out for them. They should have no problem transcribing from the paper to their browser.
Along the same lines, you will rarely have to speak the name of your business or website to someone. Instead, you’ll write it down, or simply follow up with an email.
Clients will never have to figure out how to spell or pronounce your name. And therefore, your name is a fine name for your freelance business.
Does my freelance business name have to match my URL?
Perhaps you have the opposite problem, and your name is relatively common. In that case, the URL you want might already be taken. Luckily, your website name and business name can be different.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) website says, “Your domain name doesn’t actually need to be the same as your legal business name, trademark, or DBA.”
So, if you want to officially name your business after yourself, you can still choose a different website address. In other words, clients can send payments made out to your legal name even if your portfolio site is named differently.
Should my business name be SEO-friendly?
SEO (search engine optimization) is only a concern if you are expecting people to stumble across your business via their search bar. Your time will be much better spent finding and pitching clients you’re interested in working with.
If clients do find your site because of a search, that’s a bonus! Since it’s not the bread and butter of your lead generating activities, you do not need to put too much energy into SEO.
Having said that, if you have prior experience with SEO, you might find easy opportunities to utilize it as a tool. But for the majority of us, keeping up with the ever-changing ins and outs of SEO is simply not worth the effort.
Is it necessary to register my business name?
I’ll again quote the SBA, which says: “If you conduct business as yourself using your legal name, you won’t need to register anywhere.”
But you also don’t have to use your name. If you decide to make your freelance business name something different from your legal name, you’ll need to check the rules within your state, county, or city. It’s possible you’ll have to register a “Doing Business As (DBA)”, or an “Assumed Name.”
If necessary, registration is fairly straightforward. However, you will likely have to pay a fee. (In my county, the cost is $26 as of 2021.) When you’re registering, make sure you also check whether it needs to be renewed. If it does, mark the renewal date in your calendar so you can turn in the paperwork in plenty of time.
How can I get over the hump and take the plunge?
Take a deep breath and remember: You will not be stuck with your decision forever! Especially if you are operating as a sole proprietor (most freelancers can), it’s really easy to change your mind and your business name.
If you find yourself stagnating because you haven’t found exactly the right name for your business, consider your options:
- Use your legal name—for now or forever
- Go with your nickname—for now or forever
- Choose a unique name for your business—either now or in the future
The paperwork required to create or change your business name is minimal. Do not allow this decision to stand in the way of your progress!
Your turn! What did you decide to name your business and why? Share your name in the comments below!