How To Create A Compelling Name For Your One-Person Business

Mar 11, 2021 | by Scott
rogue-mogul-business-naming

Coming up with a name for your business can either be a lot of fun or a total pain.

I can tell you that coming up with Rogue Mogul was a pain.

It started off as “Business by Design” until I stumbled across James Wedmore’s site. He’s since rebranded but “Business by Design” is the original name.

So it was back to the drawing board.

Coming up with a name that makes sense and fits your concept is hard enough.

Finding available names, including a suitable domain name and social handles can feel impossible.

What follows is the process I went through to come to “Rogue Mogul.” It’s not a rigid process, but more of a collection of things I do to spark ideas or find inspiration.

The Psychology Of Naming Your Business

Before you dig in, I’d recommend watching this 11min video with Eben Pagan, “The Psychology Of Creating A Name Your Customers Can’t Forget”.

He has some great tips that will get you thinking about creating a name that sticks.

You’ll notice his tip about repetitive sounds and rhythm happens in “Rogue Mogul.” That’s not by accident!

Recognize The Different Kinds Of Names

If you look at all the businesses out there you’ll notice most of their names fall into one of 4 categories. There are variations of course and each has pros and cons.

Descriptive names tell you what the business does. They tend to use clear, simple terms to describe the nature of the business.

Descriptive names include examples like:

  • American Airlines (U.S. based airline)
  • Lifestyle Frisco (lifestyle information for Frisco, TX)
  • Duct Tape Marketing (marketing systems for small business)
  • Digital Photography School (learning digital photography)

Descriptive names are sometimes condensed into acronyms.

For example: International Business Machines is better known as IBM.

Pros:

  • Descriptive names will often contain keywords that can help with SEO.
  • There’s little ambiguity. It’s clear what your business does.

Cons:

  • Their basic nature can make finding available domain names and social handles challenging. Modifiers can help (more on that below).
  • If the name is too vague, it may be difficult to trademark.

Real names are, as you might expect, the names of people, usually the founders. Real names are common for professional services firms and fashion brands but aren’t limited to them.

Real names include examples like:

  • Nieman-Marcus (High-end department store)
  • Ralph Lauren (fashion brand)
  • Peters, Johnson, Staley, & Co. (certified public accountants)
  • Newman’s Own (food products by actor Paul Newman)

Pros:

  • Good for personal branding.
  • Are often distinct, especially if combined with a modifier or partners name.

Cons:

  • Associates the brand with the owner so much that it may be challenging if you try to sell the business.
  • Once established may be difficult to separate you from the business.
  • May not scale well as your business grows or pivots.

Side Note: My business name and website URL, is VSEllis.com (my first two initials and last name). I chose that back in 2001, long before I was thinking about starting a business, SEO, or any of the things that matter in a modern business name.

By the time I was starting my business the domain had authority and content so I ran with it.

I don’t recommend this for a lot of reasons. I’ll spare you the long description but in my case it’s not easy for people to understand or read. I will be changing it at some point.

Compound names get a little more creative by mashing two words together.

Compound name examples include:

  • DoorDash (food delivery)
  • Netflix (streaming movies and tv)
  • Snapchat (mobile social platform)
  • YouTube (online, user-generated video)

Pros:

  • Compound names can be fun and memorable.
  • There are a ton of creative options leaving open more domains and social handles.

Cons:

  • The easy ones are often already taken. Be prepared to do a lot of brainstorming.

Abstract names are conceptual in nature and speak to the business is a less obvious way or have no literal meaning in the business’s context.

Abstract business names include:

  • Amazon (the largest online retailer on the planet named after the largest jungle)
  • Twitter (social media)
  • Zapier (no-code API based automation software)
  • Uber (transportation-related businesses)

Pros:

  • You can get as creative as you like.
  • You and your customers create the meaning of the name.
  • If you really knock it out of the park, your name represents a whole class of something. The way every bathroom tissue is called a “Kleenex.”

Cons:

  • Not at all obvious what you do from the name.
  • Takes time to build the association with what you do.

Start With Brainstorming

When naming a new business I start with a brainstorming session. I try to come up with words that have some meaning or association with the business as a starting point.

I’ve noticed that brainstorming is difficult for some people. The key is not to worry about being too literal or refined. Get anything that pops into your head down on paper (digital or otherwise) and let your mind wander.

Once you have a list and nothing else is popping into your head, assess what you have.

Are there any words that make sense to you as a business name already?

Are there any words that in combination make sense to you?

If so, you’re off and running. If not, don’t worry.

Expanding Your List (a.k.a. The Rabbit Hole)

Next, I like to use Thesaurus.com to find related words or words with the same meaning.

I spend a LOT of time in Thesaurus.com and find it helps to expand the word list but also my conceptual ideas.

When coming up with the name “Rogue Mogul” both words came from spending time in Thesaurus.com.

Since Rogue Mogul is about building a one-person $1M business, I started with related terms.

For the “one-person” part I was searching for terms related to: solo, individual, loner, entrepreneur, etc…. which led me “Rogue.” I also liked the slightly edgy nature of the word.

For the “business” part I was searching on terms like: owner, founder, boss, manager, enterprise, business, etc… which led me to “Mogul.”

Neither word came up fast. I spent hours searching terms from my initial brainstorm and other words I was finding as I was searching.

Go down the rabbit hole and see where it leads you.

There are also name generator tools that can help. I’m not a big fan of them for finding an actual name but some of them do a good job of sparking new ideas and concepts. Here are a few I’ve found helpful:

Domain Names and Social Handles

This is where things get difficult. Domain names and social handles are often taken. If it’s another active business, you’ll want to rethink the name.

Even if that’s not the case, those domains and handles will often be owned by hobbyists or squatters. To combat that situation, prepare to use modifiers on your name to help grab relevant resources.

Examples of modifiers:

  • Your
  • Get
  • The
  • Go
  • My
  • Pro
  • DIY
  • … the list goes on.

Example: Better Back founder Katherine Krug chose the modifier “get” allowing her to have consistency across her domain name and social media properties. Everywhere you find her business it’s “getBetterBack.”

Where To Go From Here

Block out some time, do the brainstorming and research, and prepare for it to take a while.

I’ve had names come to me right out of the gate. Rogue Mogul was a work in progress that took months while I was preparing the site, planning the content, etc… I hope it doesn’t take you that long.

If you ever want to bounce ideas off of someone feel free to DM me on Twitter or reply to this email and I’ll give you my honest feedback.

Business Examples To Inspire You:

While working around the clock for a startup, Katherine Krug started having back problems, specifically sciatica. While researching ways to deal with the pain she stumbled across her $1 million idea.

The more she mentioned her “back strap” idea to people the more she realized she was onto something but she didn’t want to go back to the intensity of the start-up grind that led her here in the first place.

So she designed her new business around the lifestyle she wanted. Katherine used Kickstarter to test the viability of her idea, contracted out work, and was off and running. Given how much time we all spend sitting, it’s no surprise she found success.

Read the full story on Katherine and Better Back.

Current Experiment:

Newsletter Growth: 61 – 66

It’s been a slow week for subscriber growth but signups are still happening.

  • Improving SEO of existing content. Traffic was flat this week with a nominal improvement in traffic from organic search.
  • Social promotion. Twitter continues to be the main source of social activity and sign-ups. I’m trying to get more engaged in Reddit but not finding a lot of targeted activity there. Rogue Mogul has its own Instagram now if you want to join me there. I haven’t dropped any content yet but will starting next week.
  • Building a dedicated landing page for the newsletter. I have a simple placeholder and am reworking the copy and formatting. That will also go live next week (or this weekend).
  • Better CTA on all sign-up boxes. Based on this tweet from Brain Clark I rethought the button (it wasn’t “Subscribe” but was equally generic.) Not sure if this one will stick but going to try it for a while. The new button says “Join The Movement.” I’m also going to update the bullets and make the sign-up box on the homepage a little more aesthetically appealing.

Tools & Resources

I mentioned Namemesh above but I want to plug it again. When I’m exploring new business ideas and need to search for domain name variants and business names it’s my go-to.

Namemesh is free and generates variations based on:

  • New and extra top-level domain extensions (e.g. .io, .co, .email, .blog, etc…)
  • SEO friendly options
  • Common names
  • Similar names (using a thesaurus)
  • Short names
  • Fun names
  • Mix names (mixing words and popular suffixes)

As always, if you found this helpful, please feel free to forward it to a friend or colleague.

And questions or comments are always welcome.

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About the Author

Founder of Rogue Mogul, obsessing over 1-Person businesses.