Q&A: Should I Choose a Business Name or Operate Under My Own?
I’ve been holding myself back from growing my freelance business because I haven’t been able to find the perfect business name yet. I want to present myself in a professional way and attract good clients, so I thought I should have an “official” brand. But lots of people in my industry do business under their own name. Am I holding myself back unnecessarily? Should I use a brand/business name or use my own name as a freelancer?
Unless you are operating as an agency and using a team of people to complete work for clients, it’s entirely professional and functional to operate under your own name. In fact, it may be better — in general, the more authentic and transparent you can be with clients about who you are and what you’re doing, the better.
Operating under your own name signifies to clients that you as an individual are responsible for the quality of the work you will provide. Clients will be able to trust your reputation as an individual pro when they sign up to work with you.
If you take on a brand name and make it clear in your communications that you are an individual who happens to operate under that name, then that is also sufficiently transparent. But you’ve added a layer of complication to the process of marketing yourself.
If you operate under a company name without transparency that the name is a proxy for you as an individual, the clients will be left to wonder who will be handling their work and whether that person will be what they are looking for.
There are certainly good reasons to establish a separate company name. If you’re farming your work out to subcontractors on a regular basis — as in, operating as an agency — then you probably want to brand yourself as a company so clients don’t have the wrong impression. You may want to start off freelancing with a company name if you want to keep the option to expand into an agency model at some later time.
You might use a company name if you feel the need to differentiate your freelance work from other work you currently do as an individual or have done in the past. You may simply have a name you want to use that brings you joy or provides some type of strategic advantage or direction.
However, if you don’t have a compelling reason to pick a business name then holding yourself back out of indecision on this point is delaying your progress unnecessarily.
This advice may apply more to certain industries than others, but generally if you’re the one doing the work as a freelancer, it is often best to simply advertise that fact. It’s entirely professional, and if you are a great pro you’ll be able to attract good clients by branding yourself as an individual freelancer.