7 questions to consider when naming your editorial business

An open notebook with the words "Think of a name" and a big question mark written in red, with a red pen lying horizontally across the page.One of the most important decisions you’ll make when starting any new venture is what you should call your new business. Here are seven questions that will help you come up with the perfect name for your editorial business.

1. Should I use my own name?

If you are already well established in your editorial career, it can be helpful to use your own name in your business as it will help potential clients find you, particularly if they have worked with you previously. However, this doesn’t work if you have a more common name. If your moniker is along the lines of John Smith, you may prefer your business name to be a little more original.

2. Should I include details of what I do?

It can be helpful to outline your services as part of your business name, but be careful not to box yourself in. While ‘X Proofreading’ may be a perfect description of your business offering today, next year, after you’ve expanded into copy-editing or developmental editing, you may find that the proofreading part of your business name restricts you.

3. Is my proposed business name easy to pronounce and spell?

Picture the scene: You’ve met a really promising contact and exchanged business cards; a week later your new contact wants to get in touch. Unfortunately, they’ve mislaid your contact details, but that’s not a problem because they remember your business name. A simple internet search should yield your phone number or email address. Except when they type in what they remember as the name of your business, they spell it differently. Or maybe they have seen your business name written down and they are recommending you to a colleague, but they pronounce the name of your business as they remember hearing it, not as it is actually spelt, so they can’t find you. You’ve lost out on potentially valuable business. So keep your business name simple and avoid homonyms or puns that could confuse potential clients when they try to find you. Moreover, slightly odd spellings could be seen as detrimental when you are trading as someone who specialises in catching typos.

4. What is my story?

If you decide not to use your own name, don’t just think about the services you offer, think about your story. Is there a particularly original path you took that brought you to this career? Could your business name hint at your story? An added bonus is that this will give you something to talk about when you first introduce your business to prospective clients.

5. Is geography important to me?

Perhaps you have a local landmark or heritage that you’d like to reference in your name. Or would you rather not tie yourself to a particular region? Remember to think about the future as well as the present. If you are likely to relocate, would this impact on your business if your name is linked to a particular locale?

6. Are there any other businesses already using my proposed name?

You’ve come up with the perfect name; it’s so original no one else could have come up with it — never assume this is the case. Always search on the internet first. Google your ideal name and see what comes up. Then check the common domain name providers to see if the address is available. And don’t forget to search across social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to see if other organisations or individuals are already using your proposed name. The last thing you want is to buy your web address and then discover that someone is already using your business name on Twitter, particularly if they are in a less salubrious line of business!

7. What do friends and family think of my name?

Test out your proposed business name on friends, family, colleagues, or even the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading’s forums. What does the name say to people? Is there anything about your business name they can spot that you didn’t notice? For example, do the initials spell out an unfortunate acronym?

Are there any hints or tips you would add to this list? How did you come up with your business name?

Joanna Bowery, a light-skinned person with long brown hair and a turquoise short-sleeved top.Joanna Bowery was the CIEP’s social media manager. She offers freelance marketing, PR, writing and proofreading services as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an entry-level member of the CIEP and a Chartered Marketer. She is active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Proofread by CIEP entry-level member Alex Matthews.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the CIEP.

5 thoughts on “7 questions to consider when naming your editorial business

  1. Liz Jones

    Yes that’s a very good point, John. ‘Editorial Services’ does cover pretty much anything we are likely to do. I think there may also be an argument for being specific if you know you will want to keep a certain focus, to target particular clients, but perhaps that does need to be thought about more carefully.

  2. Louise Harnby

    Another thing to bear in mind is that different customers take different meanings from different services. To the professional freelancer, project manager and publisher, for example, the term ‘proofreader’ brings to mind a specialist service that is clearly differentiated from other types of editing. Including this in one’s business name could indeed be restrictive. But it’s not always the case: to the lay client, for example. So if you want to work with independent authors, and you can offer structural and copy-editing, it may be that those customers won’t necessarily be using the keywords of ‘structural editing’ or ‘copy-editing’ in their Google searches. Rather, they may view the term ‘proofreader’ as more of a catch-all phrase that refers to someone who can help knock their text into shape.

    In other words, we need to put ourselves in our target customers’ shoes when we think about how we are going to help them find us and identify us as someone who can solve their problems. I think it’s wise to consider this when thinking about business names, and branding more generally.

    1. Liz Jones

      Yes, that is a very a good point Louise. I think you’re absolutely right that clients other than publishers would certainly have a much broader understanding of the term ‘proofread’. And it’s always useful to consider the way we do things from the point of view of the customer.

  3. Mike Smith

    One thought is think how the name will work online. I was early enough to get bms.co.nz but being early is no guarantee as I had o eo e for a forest industry publication that started out as southernhemisphereforesty.co.nz and morphed into southem.com. Still I did learn a lesson and kept it simplewith bms.


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