We’ve heard Romeo say it: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But I disagree with Romeo — especially when it comes to naming a web design company. There’s a lot in a name. Your name plays an important role in attracting customers and clients!

It’s a big step, forming your own “real” business as a web professional. The checklist of to-dos is fairly straightforward:

And so on …

But there’s one thing that can stop you dead in your tracks: Choosing a name for your new web design business.

Naming a web design company is a task that takes time, energy and careful thought.

You need your name before you submit your legal documents to form your business and before you build your website to select your domain.

Related: 10 tips for naming a business or startup 

Naming your web design company is a tough decision

We all know that a name, once established, can be pretty hard to change. Determining whether to choose a “business” name (Web Awesome Agency of Washington) or use your own personal name (John Doe Design) can be a tough decision.

What are the benefits to using a business name over your personal name? How do you not feel like a fraud pretending to be a bigger business than a one-man show with a fancy “web agency” name? If it’s just you, what’s the harm in using just your name in promotion of your services?

Personal brands and business names

In 2009, I went through this struggle. I was transitioning out of a career as an actress to become a website professional. If you Googled my name, you’d see all my acting credits and the positioning was all wrong if I was to become a web developer!

I had to choose a business name and decided to use my initials with the two industries I felt most of my services would arise from — KR Media & Designs.

In the beginning I still had a problem with positioning as clients still referred others to me by my name and not my business name. So I decided to set up another website for myself, with my personal name (KristinaRomero.com) to funnel these leads to the right place.

Eventually, after a few years and better positioning on my part to grow my business to a “team” rather than an “I,” clients stopped referring to my personal name and referred directly to my web business website.

However, the establishment of both sites to leverage the other helped as I grew in the web professional field.

I had other avenues that were promoting my “personal brand” of Kristina Romero. My personal brand website for Kristina Romero began to emerge as an “umbrella” for all my personal brand projects, one of which was my web agency (KR Media & Designs), among many other passions.

Because I never used my personal name as my web agency business name I’ve had an easier time building that to an actual web agency with my team and still being able to position my personal brand with other projects.

Related: Build your personal brand to grow your business

Ask yourself the following questions

You don’t need a crazy unique name for your business. In fact, using your own personal name may fit your long-term goals. It’s hard for us to predict where we want to be in 10 years, but you need to begin with a few simple questions:

Why am I starting my business and what are my revenue goals?

Believe it or not, there’s some psychology involved with those that use their own name and those that use a business name. Clients could view you more as a freelancer when using just your name and expect lower rates, versus a business name that positions to charge “agency fees.” If the intent is to eventually grow to have a team, a business name is a good choice over using your personal name.

Do I see web services as the end goal, or do I want to use them to elevate a personal brand into another field?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if web services are not your end goal, using your personal name may be great positioning for aspirations for public speaking, teaching and writing books. If you have a passion to step into the spotlight and web services merely compliment your message at the moment, leveraging your name may be the way to go.

Is this a temporary solution in order to gain experience for a full-time gig?

Believe it or not, many website professionals breaking out on their own are only doing so as an interim between employment. If you enjoy working with a company and for various reasons need to be on your own at the moment, using your own name continues to promote your availability as a freelancer.

Consider your long-term business goals to decide whether to use a business name or your personal name. Do you see yourself transitioning to an agency, or staying a freelancer and growing your personal brand?

Off of these questions, explore some reasons for using your business name (Web Awesome Agency of Washington) vs. your own personal name (John Doe Design).

In summary, here’s when to use a business name:

  • You see yourself transitioning from a single freelancer to an agency.
  • You’re switching careers and need to establish a brand name different from your personal name.
  • You are forming a legal entity like an LLC or an S-Corp (if in the U.S.) and want to protect and distance your personal identity.

And when to use your personal name:

  • You see yourself as a sole freelancer and would accept a full-time position in your skillset if offered (keeping your personal name is best for positioning).
  • You intend to grow a personal brand with your face and name to build credibility (speaking engagements, books, online courses).
  • You are leveraging your name for SEO.

Some do’s and don’ts when choosing your company name

Unless you are certain about your services, avoid putting them directly in the name of your business. Billy Bob’s SEO Agency may sound great until you realize in a couple years that most of your revenue is coming from running Facebook ads. I’m all for niching (and prefer that), but you don’t need the skill/field in your business name in order to niche. Your niche will be in your website copy, services and conversations.

Avoid broad and loose terms if you’re unsure of your goals. “Consulting” can mean so many things to so many clients. Although it’s broad enough to allow you to move in many directions, if you aren’t’ truly positioning yourself as a “consultant,” the broad term may confuse leads in determining if you are the right fit for them.

Do make a decision! Although it’s a pain to change, it’s not impossible to rebrand as life inevitably steps in and shifts the directions of your business. After 10 years with my web agency, I wanted to focus on a specific aspect of it and splintered off a new business WP Care Market. It’s different enough that KR Media & Designs remains as my web agency for the time being and WP Care Market is niche and specific enough to be under a different banner.

Take action and register your domain

Hopefully by now, you have a better understanding of the direction you want to go. Enjoy thinking up all the various names you could use and register that domain so you can move forward with your new business!

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