Starting out as a freelancer copywriter is tough from the outset. Indeed the very first challenge, thinking of a name for your business, is nigh on impossible. You can go round in circles until you’re dizzy and feeling nauseous.
You could just call yourself Joe Bloggs Copywriting of course. But that’s no good because you’re supposed to be creative, right? What hope have you got of impressing clients – some of whom might want you to think of catchy names for them – if your own identity is about as interesting as a snooker blog by Steve Davis?
Most freelancers soon realise, however, that calling themselves something creative or original is almost impossible. Everything, absolutely everything, has been done before. Every good idea you have is inevitably followed by a quick Google search and intense disappointment. How many copywriters thought, for an instant, that they were the first person to think of putting ‘Ink’ (rather than Inc) after their surname? I know I did.
After eschewing the various groan-a-minute wordplays like Write Hand Man, a copywriter’s default position is to concoct something that contains a benefit. This makes perfect marketing sense. Hair products like Wash & Go might sound hackneyed, but at least they say something about the product. Although in my case I washed my hair and it literally went.
Unfortunately it doesn’t take long to realise that all these ‘benefit’ names have been taken too. What’s more, even if the world had inexplicably forgotten about phrases like The Right Words, you’ve got a cat in hell’s chance of securing the web domain.
Ah yes, getting the web domain – another exasperating obstacle. For every brilliant name idea there’s an annoying sod who buys up random domains for fun and demands £thousands for them.
So where do you turn to next? Hmmm. If you can’t be creative think of something simple, dignified and professional. My wife suggested using my initials. I thought about this but eventually decided against it. I reasoned that using one’s initials is no more creative than using one’s name – but it’s less personal and more corporate sounding. And if your name is Andrew Brian Cotton, you’re on to a loser anyway.
So what do you do? You go around in circles, that’s what, and gradually become fatigued with the whole thing. Eventually, you come to realise that your best idea was probably your first one: just call yourself Joe Bloggs Copywriting. Or Joseph Bloggs for extra gravitas. You might not stand out from the crowd, but at least you don’t look like you’re trying too hard.
As for me, I called myself Custom Copywriting. I’m not particularly in love with the name but at least it sounds relatively professional and says something about my service. The domain was available too – although I promise this wasn’t the main reason I chose it.
I added the phrase ‘Anyone for copy?’ as a strapline, and based my website around coffee e.g. espresso copy – short, punchy, direct. I tell myself this compensates for Custom Copywriting’s rather bland, corporate feel. The bottom line, however, is there’s no perfect solution when it comes to naming your business. I could have spent another week thinking of ideas and come up with nothing better.
Thinking of a name is actually harder for advertising and design companies. They’re under even more pressure to think of something funky – hence the surfeit of obscure agency names like Red Banana or Blue Cow. I can see the logic in choosing something memorable, but they all sound a little me-too in my humble opinion.
I recently set up a small advertising agency alongside my art director Martin Wells. As the copywriter in the partnership it fell to me to think of names. It was a similar process: Morgan Wells sounded too much like an accountancy firm, while every single creative sounding name was already taken.
Conceding that no name would be perfect, we eventually bit the bullet and plumped for Howitzer Advertising. It says the right things: advertising is all about making a big noise and making an impact.
But why was the name and the domain still available? There had to be a reason. And then the penny dropped. Nobody wants to be the agency that gets fired. We’ll just have to make sure it never happens.
Image credit: Jack Dorsey on Flickr