So You Are Thinking About Changing Your Business Name

1. Answer these questions first:a. Does my current business name properly represent what I’m offering customers & clients?b. Have my artistic services changed since I first opened my business?c. Would a new name help open more doors for my artwork and will the change be worth all the hassles in the end?d. Am I thinking of changing my business name simply because I’m bored with the current one?e. Is my current business name too generic?I will go into more depth to help you answer these questions by taking each one and going through some of the thinking process behind them.”Does my current business name properly represent what I’m offering to customers & clients?” & “Have my artistic services changed since I first opened my business?” – Say your business name is “Alex’s Pottery” and that’s all you expected to work on when you began your business but 5 years down the road you have expanded to also working on water color paintings, sculpting. In this case your original business name isn’t completely valid anymore because most people tie your name to only producing pottery so when they’re looking for a water color painting or a sculpture they don’t even consider your business as handling such work so you decide to change your business name from “Alex’s Pottery” to “Alex’s Clay & Water Colors” which gives a better idea of the sorts of services you offer to the public. When they see the word “Clay” they automatically associate your business with handling more than just pottery and “water colors” is self-explanatory.”Would a new name help open more doors for my artwork and will the change be worth all the hassles in the end?”- Unfortunately changing a business name isn’t as simple as just choosing another name, changing a sign on the door or on your website. There are a lot of changes you have to consider when thinking of changing your business name. For example, you have to find out what the laws are in your state for changing your business name, what forms you have to fill out, filing fees for those forms, who to contact at the IRS to let them know about your name change. You have to consider the cost you’ll have when changing the business cards, website, stationary, signs to reflect your business’s new name. You also have to consider the cost of changing your marketing material and strategies so you lose as little business as possible while your name change is being accepted by the public. If you have free stuff you give to customers and clients such as free mouse pads, pens, key chains, etc. you have to take into consideration the cost of having that material changed. On the plus side though, changing your business name may just lead to increased business; if the new name you plan to use is better suited to your kind of work then that may just make all the extra work worth it in the long run.Be sure to check with your state’s internal revenue department on the steps, forms & potential costs associated with changing your business name. The procedure can be quite simple if you have a sole proprietorship but can be much more costly & difficult if you have a corporation. Some states don’t require you to register a dba name (doing business as) if you’re a sole proprietorship so it’s a good thing to check first. Also you’ll want to do this so that you can be sure the name you wish to use isn’t being used already. Then you also have to inform the Federal IRS about your name change and I’d suggest contacting them directly or going to their website to find out the procedures for notifying them. In certain situations you may also have to get a new EIN number so it’s a good thing to check into this at the same time you research the steps for notifying the federal government of your name change.”Am I thinking of changing my business name simply because I’m bored with the current one?”- NEVER EVER change your business name because you’re bored with the current name. Considering the amount of work involved in changing a business name as well as the potential cost associated with such a change, it would waste a ton of time and also waste a lot of money just to change a name based on your boredom with it. A business name isn’t something you choose lightly and the last thing you want to do is create mass confusion by changing the name without having a proper valid reason for doing so.”Is my current business name too generic?”- Sometimes a name change is a good idea if your current name is too generic. For example, you own an office supply store and your current name is “Acme Paper Hut”. With such a business name I automatically think that all you sell is paper; probably a good selection of different kinds of paper but paper nonetheless so if I need, say a new office chair, I’d probably be looking at a different store that has a more all-purpose name such as “Irwin’s Office Supply Store”. There’s no tried and true method in deciding if your name is too generic but a good rule of thumb is to send out a poll to your friends, family, business associates and see what they think about it; what comes to their mind when they hear your business’ name; things like that. This kind of feedback is invaluable in determining a new name.If you are sure you want to go ahead with changing the name of your business I recommend jotting down several different names that come to mind; spend a couple of hours on making such a list of names, then you want to check to make sure such names are not already used by other businesses and isn’t copyrighted because the last thing you want is to get into a legal matter. After you’ve come up with a few name ideas check to see if such names are available for your business’ url address. You might even consider looking for short versions of the name ideas if you come up with any name that is more than 15-20 letters. For instance, say you want to name your business “Aloisha’s Paintings, Graphic Arts & Logo Studio”; you can see how using that entire name for an internet address would be a huge mistake. For one thing, who wants to type something that long into a browser? Secondly not many people would remember all of that when it came time to entering it into their browser. My final piece of advice I’d give anyone who is thinking of changing their business name is this. If you wanted that name for your business, perhaps you could see if “AloishasStudio.com” is available. Once you’ve checked if the business names and internet addresses are available that you’ve come up with, you’ll want to cross out any that are not available and then with the ones that are available, make a small poll again and send it to your friends, family, colleagues, etc. and see which ones they prefer and why. After all, just because you like your new name doesn’t mean that customers will and what they like best is what matters if you want to make a profit or increase your business.When you have enough feedback given so that you can make an informed, intelligent decision then you will want to take the most liked names on that list and let it sit for a little while; maybe a week, maybe two or more. Come back to your list and see if you still like those ideas or if the time you’ve taken away from it has changed your mind or even given you some new ideas. Then you can re-poll with the new ideas along with whichever names you decided to keep from the first poll you took. After all, a name change is a huge step and there’s no rush in doing so; take your time with it so that when you’re done you’ve chosen the best name you could for your business and website address.Once you’ve decided on a new name for your business it’s essential that you contact ALL of your current AND past clients/customers notifying them of the change in your name as well as explaining to them why you’ve done this. If your name change won’t effect the sorts of services or products you offer then you’ll want to let them know this as well so they don’t think they need to go somewhere else for the work and products you’ve been selling. Not to mention if you offer things like website design services or SEO services, etc you don’t want them to worry that you won’t be handling these areas any further. Be sure to provide your new email address, website address & if you change your phone number, of course provide that as well; basically any contact information you’re changing you’ll want to share with your clients past and present. If it will be a few months before the changes take effect be certain to state that in your notification as well and about once a month drop them a reminder letting them know that the change will be coming in X -number of weeks or months and make it upbeat; you want them to be excited about the changes coming; you might even consider giving a discount for a certain time period once the change takes effect to entice them to check out your new website and/or store if you have a brick/mortar business. This is also a good way to attract former clients/customers because who doesn’t enjoy a discount?These steps I’ve outlined apply specifically to sole proprietors but you can also apply the majority of the tips I’ve given to partnerships, corporations, etc but make no mistake about it; for other business formats such as partnerships & corporations there are other steps you have to do in order to make the name change legal so be sure to get all the information first for your type of business.In conclusion, changing your business name is a big step and should never be taken lightly or on a whim. It is going to cost you some money and the more complicated your business is the more it may cost to make all of the necessary changes. First and foremost check with your state and country’s internal revenue department to see what paperwork & fees you need to take care of when changing a business name. Be sure to do a lot of research and testing before you decide on a switch and take your time with it; it doesn’t have to be done in a rush; the more time you allow yourself to make all of the changes correctly, the fewer problems you’re likely to have to deal with once the change is completed.