I would be completely within my rights as both a tasteless writer and purveyor of dad jokes to open this post with a Shakespeare quote.
You know the one.
And just like that, I don’t even need to say it.
You did it for me.
In this episode, I’m going to give you my take on what you should name your freelancing writing brand.
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Hi guys. Welcome to Write Bites, a series of 10-minute episodes on writing, marketing and freelancing.
In this episode, I’m going to answer the question, “What should you name your freelance business?” .
There are two typical options that most writers are considering when they are going about naming their business.
The first option is to name it after their own personal name, like I have. If you look me up anywhere online, I’m under the Jacob McMillan brand.
Alternatively, you can come up with your own brand name from scratch. Some examples of this include Business Casual Copywriting, Men with Pens, Copycat, Very Good Copy—anything that you can come up with.
It doesn’t even need to have something about writing or copy in it, but if you come up with a brand from scratch, that is the other option available to you. When you’re thinking about which one of these to choose, there are some pros and cons to each one.
That’s what we’re going to cover in this video, and I’m also going to give you my personal opinion on what I think is objectively the better choice for most copywriters.
Reasons “for” using your own name
Typically, the simplest option when you’re first launching a copywriting business is to name your brand after your own personal name. There are some significant advantages to going this route.
The first one is that you are building your own personal brand. And the significance here is that any amount of time you spend building your own brand—building a brand attached to your name—is never truly going to be lost.
For example, if you choose to completely pivot down the road and go in an entirely different direction, you don’t lose all that work that you’ve put into branding yourself and building your own personal brand, because it’s your own personal brand. It’s built around you; you didn’t disappear.
You may have taken a different direction. You may be working on a different business. But the people who are connected to you are connected to you personally, regardless of the specific task or career or business that you are running.
It isn’t quite the same if you spend five years building a dedicated separate brand. For example, say you came up with Copy Team—something super generic—hopefully no one else’s name out there, so whatever I say in this example doesn’t connect to anything.
Let’s say you name yourself Copy Team and you spend five years building the Copy Team brand, and then you decide that you want to go develop an e-commerce fashion line.
All of a sudden, all this work that you’ve put into building the Copy Team—if you aren’t actively selling anything through the Copy Team anymore—most of that branding is now for nothing.
Most of the followers to that brand, most of the work you’ve put getting that brand name around the web—once you stop operating that specific brand, or alternatively once, even if you kept the same business but re-branded—you end up losing a lot on the way.
Ultimately, that’s the advantage of the personal brand: Any work you put into investing in a personal brand never disappears as long as you don’t disappear—as long as it’s still you, as long as you don’t change your name or whatever. It’s going to follow you and benefit you regardless of your pursuits for the rest of your life.
So that’s Reason Number One.
Reason Number Two, in a very similar vein, is just that it’s infinitely more flexible. If you pivot—if you change things, if you go in different directions—your personal brand can very easily adjust with you because it’s a more built around you than purely about the activity that you’re doing.
The other element to this is the concept of the name itself. Your name is your name. I don’t know anyone who regrets their name or has branded around their own name who, five years later says, “Hey, I just really regret branding around my own name.”
I meet people on a monthly basis who tell me, “Jacob, I hate the brand name that I came up with three years ago. It’s so stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
But they felt stuck to it now for the reasons we just mentioned in Number One, which is that if they do pivot … if they do try to rebrand … they have to say bye-bye to a lot of the work they’ve been doing over the previous year.
So, the two parts there is:
- it stays with you,
- but then it’s also flexible to move with you, so as you pivot, it can adjust with you.
I’ve spent the last eight years building my brand around copywriting, but if I were to pivot and change my presence? Say I wanted to go open a fashion, e-commerce retailer that was branded around Jacob McMillen, or I created a new brand around it:
I could still leverage the branding that I’ve done, the networking I’ve done, the audiences I’ve built to my personal brand—in channeling things to that new brand.
It’s just very flexible when it’s around your name; just lets you pivot more; it lets you take all that work you do and channel it in whatever direction you want.
Then the last point … and this might be the most important one … is that personal brands fit very well with the freelance business model.
Freelancing is filling this gap of providing really tailored and affordable help to businesses that maybe can’t afford a large, faceless, 50-100-1000-team agency or firm—there’s a wide range in there—but when people are looking to hire a freelancer, they’re usually looking for personalized help. They’re looking for someone who’s going to be with them on the project from the first conversation all the way through the end.
If someone wants a faceless brand to work with, and they’re okay with being passed through 10 different team members over the course of a project, there are lots of options like that for them.
They don’t need a new option that a faceless brand via a solopreneur. It’s usually when people are looking for a solopreneur, they’re looking for a freelancer, they’re wanting a more personalized experience, which fits very well with that personal brand.
Those are all the points “For [personal branding].”
I think the biggest firsthand review feedback I can provide is what I mentioned earlier:
I’ve literally never had someone come to me and say, “I really regret branding around my own personal brand,” whereas I very frequently have people tell me that they regret branding around whatever brand name they had come up with from scratch several years prior.
Reasons for going the non-personalized brand route
That said, there are some situations where you might want to go with a brand that you develop, that you create from scratch.
The first, and probably the biggest one is that if you plan to scale past one-to-one freelancing—if your goal from the beginning is to build something bigger than yourself— then that’s where the benefits of having that non-personalized brand come into play.
For example, say you want to build an agency—a larger agency with multiple professionals that’s working with multiple companies—then maybe it doesn’t make as much sense to brand around your own name because there are going to be situations where people come to your brand and never even work with you. They work with people on your staff.
Alternatively, if you’re targeting some of those bigger clients, some of those large companies want to work with a faceless large agency. They want to work with an agency that has the kind of standing and size to keep up with their needs.
You can still do that under your own brand. If you’re able to position yourself in a way that speaks to those companies, it’s not un-doable through a personal brand.
But just like people are going to associate a personal name brand with a personalized experience, people are going to tend to associate more of a company brand with more of a larger company experience.
Again, this is not black and white, but that’s just something to keep in mind.
Alternatively, say you just plan on really hitting your lead acquisition hard and getting your lead flow and your client flow to the point that it’s more than you can handle yourself. Monetizing those excess leads that you can’t work on yourself is quite hard.
It might seem like, “Hey, I can just pass those off to another freelancer for a commission of the project.” Sounds great in practice. But it’s very hard to pass off a lead that came for you specifically. It’s hard to pass them off to another person. That’s a challenge. That’s not easy to do. It’s hard to find a fit. It’s hard to find someone who’s going to close those leads at a high percentage.
Similarly, if you were to hire some writers to white label through you—you pass it to them but keep it in your name—you’re still going to be worried about how that work reflects on you. You’re probably going to spend time editing the work, and that ends up taking a lot more time than you probably anticipate.
If your plan is to scale past being a freelancer, it might just be better to create a separate, stand-alone brand name from the beginning.
In a similar vein to that, the second point is, if from the beginning, “I’m creating business to sell it—I have an exit strategy in mind from the beginning”—then same deal: it’s very hard to sell a personal name-branded business. Not impossible, but much more challenging.
And then the last reason is, if you have a really common name, where lots of people have your exact first and last name, or if you have a name where one or two really already famous people have your same name, that’s where you can start to run into some difficulties.
If Googling your name pops up three different mega-famous people that have huge online presences, it’s probably not the best choice to name-brand because you’re always going to be competing with someone who’s way ahead of you and has more name recognition.
So, in those three cases:
- if you’re looking to scale,
- if you’re looking to sell the business,
- if you have a really common or a name already owned by a famous person with a large online presence,
it might be better to create your own standalone brand name.
Otherwise, I think the objectively better choice for most people is to brand themselves and name their business after themselves.
I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, hit them in the comments, and I will catch you guys in the next episode.
Share Your Thoughts
I hope this was helpful, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Do you agree? Do you disagree with the fierce heat of a thousand suns?
Let me know in the comments below.
Plus, if you have a question you want answered on a future Write Bites episode, ask in the comments or shoot me an email, and I’ll add it to the schedule.