Should I use my name for my business, or make one up?
September 24, 2012 8:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm a proposal writer and editor who has decided to go the independent contractor route and set up my own LLC. Should I just use my own name, or come up with some other company name?

I realize there are a fair number of "help name my company" questions in the record, but that's not quite what I'm asking. I'm trying to decide if I should use my own name - Edward James Olmos, LLC* - or if I should come up with some meaningless name like Blackwater, LLC or Chapel Rock, LLC. (Or maybe something good.)

Just using my name is simple, and I have the domain. It really is just going to be me and a laptop, and this will initially be pretty obvious to clients, so I feel like using some other name may be seen as trying to puff myself up and create a poor impression.

On the other hand, it's not as though I'm well known enough in the field that my name by itself adds any value, and over time I may want to develop the company into areas of business where I would want to have something that does sound like more than one guy and a laptop.

Anybody made this decision in the past? Which way did you go and why?

* No relation.
posted by Naberius to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Make one up.

Consider this. What if your company is sued out of business or a future employee does something to tarnish the name of the company? If the name of the company is also your name, then it's your name that's tarnished, too.

Having a separate name also allows you to create an evocative name that might be more ear and eye catching than your coincidental connection to Commander Adama.

Think more about aspiration with this and not present reality.

The third option is to do both. Neither fully name, nor fully imagined, but a hybrid. Not Edward James Olmos LLC. Not Northshore Proposals LLC. But Olmos Famous LLC.
posted by inturnaround at 8:33 AM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

While I'm in Canada, not the States, when I started my small business I elected not to incorporate. Normal not-a-corporation people can claim business expenses just as well as corporations do, and it doesn't really make sense from a tax perspective until you're generating quite a bit of revenue. You don't need to incorporate (or presumably become an LLC) to just have a business with a name that's not the same as your name.

From my reading of your ask, you're approaching this from the perspective of "what impression will people have of my company", which might be dangerously naive if there are other consequences to it you don't see. It may or may not be the right thing, but you should really at least a nominal amount of legal and tax advice before making that move.
posted by mhoye at 8:37 AM on September 24, 2012

I think if you have, being Edward James Olmos LLC is a more cohesive brand. I know; you're a guy in a garage. But not to the clients.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:46 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I work with lots of writers. In my experience, it tends to be the less successful/well known who do business under grandiose names like (and I'm making these up) "Empire Editorial" or "The Word Factory" or whatever. I'm always a bit disappointed when I realize there's just one person behind the name. Save that for when you really are running a larger operation.

The exception might be if you are truly diversified and amazingly prolific. I know a guy who's a one-person operation but has published noted books and produced films and created and sold companies; even he uses a pretty straightforward Lastname Media LLC. That modest take on your own name doesn't automatically imply an army of toiling writers--but it can grow with your business. Olmos Media LLC? I like it.
posted by bassomatic at 11:38 AM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

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