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I am about to set up a website to sell my skills. I already own a domain in my name e.g. www.firstnamelastname.com but I see other businesses around my area using a made up title e.g. something like www.midlanddesigns.com. I'm wondering if it make a difference? Would setting it up under a personal name make it more personal to customers? Or would a made up title look more attractive?

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I think in the end there isn't a huge difference. Here are the things I have considered in the process myself:

  1. Are you selling a specific product(s) with your company? If you are using your name, it won't differentiate your company from others.
  2. Do you plan to grow the company to a large non-regional size? Again using your name can be a detriment in those cases.
  3. Do you plan on selling consulting/contract services associated to you or eventually a small team of people that report to you? If you do using your name has a lot of value as you essentially become a local brand.
  4. Do you ever plan on selling the company? Using your name may make people less willing to buy it as you are essentially a piece of the company and owning the company without you would probably require a name change.

One thing to consider as well, do you ever think you will have family members working at your company? I have seen a lot of marketing firms just use their initials and their last name. For example J Doe Design or CR Smith Web Development. This solves a number of issues because you name is on the company but it isn't 100% tied to you.

It gives you more room if you hire relatives or children because if you are John Doe and your daughter is Jane Doe,then J Doe covers you both. Even if the family member doesn't have the same initials people won't often question it under the assumption the other family member is using a nickname.

It also gives you the ability to sell the company and the name won't matter. Someone off the street won't know that you are the J Doe that used to own J Doe Web Development.

Adding in the Web Development, Development, Design, etc gives some clue as to what your company does so it isn't confused with a J Doe Insurance company that opens in the future.

If you look around at companies big and small most of the ones you that use a persons first and last name are built of the brand of the person because that person is a celebrity at some level.

Finally, don't get analysis paralysis about the name. If you decide in the future you don't like it your want to create a specific product you can always create another company or create a DBA (doing business as) to cover the change you want. Many companies use DBAs all the time.

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I personally did a business name, not only because then I could theme my advertising, but also because it removes confusion when I hire subject matter experts to help. If you're running as a one man show, sometimes people expect you not to sub work.

Bonus if you have a catchy name people will remember.

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That's why I'm glad my parents named me Steve Shittlemeyer –  Lèse majesté Oct 15 '10 at 23:21
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