Why It Might Be Time (And Why It’s Not So Bad) to Change Your Business Name

If you do not change direction you may end up where you're heading

Change is hard. Most of us don’t much like it and think if something’s working okay, even if it’s not exactly what we want, that it’d take more effort to change than it would just to settle for what we got. And that’s true- change does take effort, but with that effort comes new muscles and motivation that you can use to speed you into the direction of where you really want to go.

I recently decided to change something that many people think is one of those things you just can’t (and definitely shouldn’t!) change: my business name.

After nearly 7 years of growing my audience, clientele, network, resources and precious Google juice using one name, I’ve decided to cash in all my chips and gamble away all that hard work to go by a name that will suit me and my business better now.

I’m trading in Miss Modish to go by my real name, Jena Coray.

For me, the “Modish” brand I’ve built over the last many years no longer suits or serves the direction I want to take my business in the future. To put it simply- I want to write books. Books have authors. And Miss Modish isn’t going to be the one seeking out a publisher and editor and having her own stack of paperbacks on the table at Powell’s Books, Jena Coray is (uh, hopefully!).

So, I decided it’s time to drop the pseudonym, let go of the past, and choose a business name that’s going to carry me into where I see myself going, instead of sticking with one that just doesn’t fit me anymore. Even though it seems scary to just be… me, I know it’s right for where I want to be 5 years from now.

And all that taking a huge gamble stuff above? I was going for dramatic effect, but it’s not actually something to fret about at all. The clients, customers and fans that you want to be working with will find and follow you to your new namesake. The ones who weren’t all that interested in the first place will probably fall away, but who the heck wants them, anyway?

And the robot crawler spider thingies will find and index your new website under the new business name, too- it’s their job, and they’re robots, so they’re pretty awesome at it.

What you’ll gain from shedding a business name that no longer serves you is twofold: practically, you’ll gain new customers, new fans, new followers and a new confidence in getting the word out about a business that you’re now proud to shout the name of. Energetically, you’ll feel freer, lighter and gain a new sense of enthusiasm to get to work under a new snazzy name that feels so much better on your skin.

You might need to change your business name if:

  • You wince when you say it, feeling like it’s too lame/immature/outdated/not you/the-only-username-you-could-think-of-to-join-etsy-at-the-time
  • People say, “huh? Excuse me? What was that?” every time you say it. Either it’s not great, or you don’t have confidence in saying it, which makes it not great either way, really.
  • You picked it out of a thesaurus randomly one morning ’cause it means “stylish”, and you’re stylish, and your blog needed a name, but over 7 years no one has ever known what the word meant, or how to pronounce it, except for a few people from the UK, and now they don’t even know your real name and how are you going to sell books if they don’t know your real name?
7 easy steps to changing your business name

Illustrations by Lauren Hardage.

7 easy steps to changing your business name:

1: Decide to do it. 

This is by far the hardest step (one that took me a few years!) but once you get over this hump, it’s all downhill from here.

2: Decide what to change it to.

Ok, so I lied a little, this step might actually be harder than deciding you need a change- what to change it to??? Now’s the time to brainstorm names, research for competing businesses and available domains and get some feedback.

If you find you need help coming up with something awesometastic and don’t have time, or brainpower left at the end of the day, for all that research, you’re in luck! We do business name brainstorming here at Aeolidia, including all the legwork to help you find something that will fit the present and future of your business much better.

3: Change your social media profile names. 

Once you settle upon a new name, you can easily change your username on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and even change your page name on Facebook (once only tho, so choose carefully this time!), so there’s no having to restart and gain new followers from scratch. Just Google “changing username on _______” for more how-tos than you can shake a stick at.

4: Tell people you’re changing your business name.

Using your profiles above, blog, mailing list, and any access you have to talk to your people, mention occasionally during the process, “Hey, by the way, wackytackytoo is changing our name to applesauce!” And that’s it. No “launch plan” necessary. No balloons. No obligatory free applesauce for the first 50 customers who come to your new business website. It doesn’t have to be a hubbub filled transition unless you want it to be (personally, hubbub stresses me out.) It can be gradual, casual, easy-breezy.

5: Direct people from your old website to the new one. 

If you have your own .com, it’s as simple as setting up a redirect with your host from the old site to the new one, so when people type in the old website address, they’re forwarded automagically to the new one. And for the first few weeks you might want to greet them with a message like “welcome to the new wackytackytoo, we’ve changed our name to applesauce!” to help your current customers orient themselves faster.

For an Etsy shop, vacation message it up and let them know where they can find you now. You’ll probably lose more people during the transition in this way, just because they have to manually type in your new address and that’s asking a lot of them, but then you’ll realize, for that reason and many more, you should really have your own .com shop anyway if you’re serious about this whole business thing, hmm? But that’s another blog post.

6: Register your new business name with the state. 

And whatever other steps you need to take in your state to make this shiz legal and stay right with the IRS.

7: Carry on with your new identity. 

Then it’s time to get back to business under the new name! This is a business name you’ve really thought about and have chosen for yourself for all the right reasons and now, you should be proud and excited to shout it from the rooftops! Use that enthusiasm to get yourself out there. Start pitching to blogs. Start saying yes to awesome opportunities. Start creating the business you always wanted to have because now, the only thing holding you back is yourself!

Good luck with your ch-ch-changes and transitions and don’t be afraid to change a business name that is no longer is right for you- this is all about evolution and learning as we go.

What do you think? Does your current business name fit you, and where you want to go in the future? If not, let’s talk.


P.S. Read many more posts about business names, including how to think of one, why you might not want to name a business after yourself, how to trademark, and some inspirational name change stories here in the business naming archives.

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with almost all of the points detailed in this article. I am a pastry chef who realized three years ago after I received a cease & desist certified letter claiming trade name infringement that my days running under my current business name were numbered. Thankfully, the lawsuit was amicably resolved, but it made me realize how precarious it was to exist as a business without a trademark. It took me two and a half years to come up with a new name for my business, one which suits me, my growing business, all while being trademark-able. It was not an easy task at all. My only concern with this post is that it does not once mention anything about the need to trademark your business name and logo. Registering your name with the state has more to do with banking properly according to the IRS, and offers very little protection to the name of your business. My advice is to protect your investment of time, money & mental health by making sure whatever name you choose is trademarkable.

    • Very good advice, Karen, and worth a separate post, I think!

      • Happy to write one for you, since I’ve been living it for the past two years.

  2. I was advised against changing my business name because I would lose all of the Google SEO that the site has built up. Is that correct? I would love to change the name because I tend to sell more gifts than invitations and paper products. Any advice??

    • What my marketing company told me is that it’s very easy to re-direct all customer traffic as well as SEO toward your new website/new business name. I think deciding to change your business name is as much a personal decision as it is a practical decision. There are definitely many costs involved in re-branding…just make sure to include these costs in your decision-making process. I am a firm believer that if your business is worth finding, your products memorable, then your loyal customers will continue to be loyal, regardless of your business name, and your new customers will embrace your business under the new name. What my team has decided to do to help the transition/re-brand process is to use ‘formerly know as…’ under our new name.

    • Yes, there are ways to inform Google of a URL change without losing the ranking you’ve built up!

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