Changing the name you have used to promote and sell your art isn’t something to undertake lightly, but with a few key considerations, it can not only refresh your enthusiasm but open up potential new markets as well.
For 10 years I’d used a creative business name, which customers came to know, along with a vague idea of what I did. But by the time the web came along, opening up more opportunities to market myself, my business brand had become so obscure that even I wasn’t sure exactly what I offered—and if I didn’t know, there was little chance potential customers would know, either.
So, after weighing the pros and cons, I finally made the tough decision to change my business name, beginning with a great deal of reading and then even more time deliberating over my desk full of potential names and variations.
Much is available in the way of opinion and advice on the internet, but here are the items that I consider most pertinent from an artist/creator point of view:
1. If you’re leaning towards choosing your own name as your business name, make sure to consider the type of art you create, and how that could affect your family just by association. Consider your 17 year old, or your 5 year old—local galleries may well have an appreciation of your Reclining Nude In Shade, but do your daughter’s Facebook friends want to run into it on the web?
2. Is your art targeted towards a particular audience which may be more receptive to an artist of the same gender? The dreamy, English rose femininity of artist “Sara Moon” (who is, in reality, a male Persian artist named Bijan) is just one good example of gender-aware naming. In the literary world, “J K Rowling” is another example, where initials were apparently used so as to not deter boys who may have been less interested in a wizard book written by a female.
3. Would choosing a pseudonym, or a creative name, allow you greater artistic expression, allowing you to market yourself more freely without the constraints of personal judgement at work or in your current social circle?
Perhaps you are not ready for your co-workers to know that you paint. . . simply by using a pseudonym you would be able to keep total separation between your professional social media profiles and your personal ones.
4. Does your art require a certain image or coolness to attract a particular audience? Graffiti-style decal art will probably fare better with a slick “street” name than something more traditional like “Michael Jones Imagery.” Similarly, a business name like “Happening Portraits” would be a tough sell for high-end clientele, even if your surname IS actually “Happening.”
5. Are there any words you could place within your business name to help people instantly connect with what you do, and to maximise SEO? For example, I added “illustration” to my name despite having a lengthy surname and the word “illustration” being lengthy too. I felt “images” and “imagery” were perhaps more associated with photography; “art” seemed too fine-art based for a coloured pencilist; and shortening illustration to something like “illos” was a bit gimmicky for my taste.
If you’re stuck, open a thesaurus and you’ll find all manner of inspiration. Try to steer clear of gimmicks or current catchphrases—think in the long term and think how big your business could grow. You may be forever branded with something that seemed good at the time, so for the same reason don’t choose something that’s too “now.”
6. Does your art rely on a certain location, and can you use that to your advantage? If you are successful in painting local landscapes then you may want a locally related name. If you paint the grasslands of Africa, perhaps a better choice would be something more globally appealing.
For instance, I knew a non-UK art agent who adopted a more British-sounding company name to suit his stable of established, traditional British artists and their traditional and discerning clientele. (If i works why not, right?)
Personally, changing my own business name was a good decision, despite initial reservations which held me back for some time. It wasn’t an easy decision and I doubt it is for anyone. But coming up with a newly-defined brand for my art business gave me a chance to strip down the various aspects of my services and redefine what I was offering.
(The name change also enabled me to adopt a specific tagline in order to connect with potential customers in new markets.)
Obviously re-assessing and re-focusing your business offerings can be done without changing the name you operate under, and in many cases that is a better choice.
But if it comes time to change your name, the most important thing is to not rush in. . . carefully consider the points mentioned above, along with your own situation, and from that I’m confident that the right name will appear.