(Identifiers have been changed to preserve my client’s privacy.)
Two years ago I worked with a woman who wanted to grow her holistic business. She had been working both from her home and as a contractor in an office, with the goal of building a client base large enough to be 100% independent. I love working with women who do good for others, and was excited to help grow a care organization.
During our consultation, I walked through the answers she’d provided on my Client Brief and slowly began getting a picture of where she was, and where she wanted to go. She’d been exploring the option of being an independent care professional for some time, but kept hitting a wall. She wasn’t sure how to operate around the necessary digital presence (website, social media), but knew she needed it. But what she didn’t tell me was that she didn’t have a name.
What’s in a Name
Naming your business is one of the most important things you will do on your journey as an entrepreneur. Names hold a lot of weight — they can conjure cultural and historical associations, emotion, and urgency, which is why some businesses get it so right, and some get it so, so wrong.
As you name your business, it’s not enough to simply consider the description of what the business is. It’s also important to consider the ‘feel’ you wish for anyone who comes into contact with your business to experience. Are you fastest? Cheapest? The best? Is your business warm and fuzzy, cold and efficient, or neither? Do you cater to children or adults? Of course, all of this will be even more apparent with the right brand identity, but the name is the seed that grows the rest.
Often a business will choose a name that is seemingly nonsensical. Take Etsy for example. The name was intentionally nonsensical, offering the founder the opportunity to build the brand from scratch. However, the name is short, to the point, and sounds similar to familiar words in the English Lexicon (like “easy” or “itsy bitsy spider” – linking it subconsciously to the ease of working with small craft artisans). If you choose this route, working within a ‘sounds like’ framework is still important. Too nonsensical a name will turn people off instead of inspire a “tell me more” response.
What Happened to my Client
Once I discovered that my client was stuck on naming her business, I zoned in on that problem and that problem only. Her mind had been unable to settle on a single concept because she’d been thinking about all the possibilities the business held for her. She was letting her idea be compromised by what URLs were available, by the various services she hoped to provide (including those she didn’t yet), and her competitors.
I could see a lot of passion in her for what she did, but it was dueling the logical need to position oneself in the community and make money. And so fear became the motivator, not the love of her chosen career, and our meetings were muddled. We went through many lists, and settled on several names, only to have the entire concept completely uprooted by the next time we met. We even got far enough to purchase two domain names, just to let them default. My client no longer could see her true self.
What to do if You Can’t Decide
If you’re stuck in a similar fashion to my client, step away. I mean it. Walk away and stop thinking about your business concept for a week. Totally let it go. I realize this is extremely difficult — stress makes us latch onto ideas as if our life depended on them. Recall my article about burnout and the ‘fight or flight’ affect of stress; your brain thinks it’s life or death when stress is involved.
Fortunately, your business name isn’t life or death. If you find you’re having trouble walking away, try this trick: every time the thought bubbles back up, take some deep breaths, telling your mind to let go of the thought with each breath. You could even imagine blowing the thought away, releasing it from your body.
By walking away from the stress of naming your business, you allow your brain to settle down and reprioritize back to what is truly important. Typically a week’s reprieve is enough for an entrepreneur to remember exactly why they chose to start their business in the first place. You had an idea, and it excited you for some reason. Maybe it’s passion or maybe it’s opportunity, but that root is where you’ll eventually find a comfortable business name that communicates your excitement to others.
When you return to the drawing board, start with what brought you down this path in the first place. List those reasons, and let the naming process begin after that list is complete and clear. In my experience, the name will spark from that list.
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