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How to choose between a personal brand or brand name for your business

So, you’re starting a business. Should you use your name or a business name? 

 

I get asked this all the time, like ALL the time. Every friend I have who started a company where they’re central to it has asked me this question. I also had to navigate it myself. So trust me, I have a lot of experience with this issue, and it is a really common question. 

If you don’t want to read this whole blog, no biggie because I’ve got the answer for you right here: 

 

It doesn’t really matter that much! So, stop being afraid and go start your fucking business. 😉 

 

Now that that’s out of the way let’s actually talk about it. I’ll share how I made this decision for myself and a few key questions to ask yourself to help find the right answer for you.

 

First things first, let’s all get on the same page:

FIRST: What’s the difference between a personal brand and a business?

Your personal brand is basically your reputation! It’s what you’re known for. So if you’re trying to build a business, the easiest option is to just use your very own name. Your business will benefit from the reputation you already have as a human being! 

 

A brand or business name is basically any other name that you could choose for your business. It may be similar or completely unrelated to your personal name. For example, if your name is Jameela Jones, you could name your business JJ Enterprises or Moonstruck Entertainment or absolutely anything in between (For more on how to name your business, check out this article)

 

So how do you decide which approach is right for you? Here are 6 questions to ask yourself:

Question #1: Is your name unique, ownable, and easy to pronounce and understand?

Bonus question: Do you like it? You gotta like your name if it’s going to be the name of your business. This came into play for me because my name is Liz Marie – first name Liz, last name Marie. Initially, I wanted to use my name, but there was already a super popular blogger with the same name. So, that wasn’t an option as she owned all of the SEO, domains, and all that good stuff. I decided to do a modified version where I used my name but added “strategy” at the end. It ended up working out and kinda being a little best of both worlds, but it came out of not being able to use my name.

 

If you can own your name, if it’s unique enough, easy enough to find if someone searched for it, easy enough to pronounce, and if you like it, then that’s an excellent option for you. If not, maybe find something else. 

Question #2: Do you want to build out a team, a bigger company, or be perceived as more than you are?

If so, you probably want to go with a business name, a company name. For me, I didn’t know the answer. I thought maybe one day I would bring on a team, but I wasn’t sure. So I just figured I’d start with my own name and figure that out later. 

 

And that’s an important point: you can always figure it out later. You can always change it. You can always expand. 

 

You can always use your name and have people working behind the scenes. But if you want to be perceived as a big company, like you have a lot of manpower behind you, it’s easier to do that with a brand name.

Question #3: Do you want to share your personal life?

You don’t have to do this regardless, but some people want their personality, bits of their personal life, and who they are to be present in their branding, messaging, and content. If so, it might be a good idea to go with a personal brand and build that up.

 

For me, I knew that I was probably going right in the center of it all. I had built out a couple of brands before where I was the central point of the content, and it was well-received, so I knew that’s how I wanted to go with this brand, too. 

 

In my experience, you have a lot of flexibility when you’re using your name, more than you might expect. I can be Liz Marie, the individual, or I can present myself as a company and be and act more “corporate” if I want to. It’s up to me.  

Question #4: Do you like the spotlight, or do you want anonymity?

If you like the spotlight, you want the spotlight on you; obviously, go with the personal brand. Make sense – use your own name – it will be all about you. 

 

If you don’t like that, you can still use your own name; it just might be more challenging. You might want the kind of protection of a brand name to hide behind so that it’s not all about you. You’re not at the forefront. You don’t have to be the centerpiece of everything.

Question #5: Do you want to be the authority on something?

Are you a thought leader? Do you personally are known for this thing? Do you want to be presented as THE expert? If so, absolutely use a personal brand; use your own name. Then, YOU will become known for it. 

 

That’s not to say that you can’t build up a company under another name and still have a reputation and be known for what you do. But it’s just harder; it’s not the most efficient way to do that. It’d be like, you know, “Sharon Smith, founder of x company, that’s famous.” It still works, but you would still be building up the business brand and your personal brand simultaneously — and that’s just more work. So if you want to be the expert in something, if you want to be known for it, do yourself a favor and just use your name.

Question #6: Do you do other things?

This is an interesting one because it can go either way. Sometimes you may have your hand in a lot of different businesses, and you don’t necessarily want to be defined by any one of them. Maybe you have an Etsy shop over here, invest in real estate over here, and you have some service-based business over here, but they’re not connected at all. In that scenario, it’s probably a good idea to keep them separate with separate brand names. 

 

Sometimes the opposite is the case. Let’s say there’s some unifying thread: They could even be totally different industries, but your approach, methodology, or some aspect could be consistent. They’re all a part of you and what you do. That would be a good reason to use a personal brand and use your own name because you are the common thread that connects all these different businesses. Kind of just depends on how you want things to work. That’s called a brand architecture exercise — let me know if you want to learn more on that.

Below is a photo of a mural I painted on my first investment property (Glimmer 29) and reno projecct that I rent out for Air BnB.

Should you use your name or a business name
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Key Takeaway: Consistency

Those are the six questions to ask yourself. Of course, it’s not always black and white, but I’m hoping it helps you in your journey.

 

When it comes to naming your band, here’s the most important thing: whatever you do, be consistent. Use the same name – whatever it is – on your Instagram, website, in your logo, email address, URL, everywhere! Wherever you’re building the brand, putting energy and putting content out, marketing, sales, whatever, should all be the same name. What you don’t want is, let’s say, your platform blows up on Tik Tok. On that platform, your name has a ton of credibility to it: people trust you and love you. But then they go to buy something from you, and it’s another company name. It’s not that that can’t work – it’s just an unnecessary step of friction in the process. Why would you introduce this moment where someone could be skeptical? Like, “Huh, well, I trust this person, but what’s this other name?” There’s no need for that. 

 

If your brand already exists and has this problem, you can manage around it. But if you’re going to start from scratch, let’s skip that whole issue altogether. Just be consistent; use the same name everywhere.

Remember: You can always change it.

Always! Is it annoying? Sure. I’ve changed my real name a few times (that’s a story for another time) and trust me, it is annoying, but it can be done. So for example, while my company right now is called Liz Marie Strategy, and it’s just me, One day, I might want to build out a full agency and have a whole team of people. I could still call that Liz Marie Strategy, or I could “rebrand” and introduce some other name and that’s fine. It might be a little bit of work to just get that name out there, but it’s totally doable. You’re not set in stone.

In the words of Nike: Just Do It!

Just pick one. It’s not that big of a deal either way. You can always change it. Any bit of hesitation or resistance is just fear and perfectionism, and you can’t build a business until you have a name. So just do it. Just get started, and let’s fucking go! 

 

Hopefully, this helped navigate this very specific issue of personal brand vs. brand name. If you want more on picking a brand name or how to come up with a name, check out my video on naming.

 

Until next time, stay badass!

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