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You know how Nickelodeon switches over to Nick at Nite every evening (or at least it used to)? Over the weekend, I flipped a similar switch with my law firm. Everything changed from “JCV LAW” to “Indie Law.” Okay, maybe not everything—I’m still ironing out some wrinkles.

This blog post is split into two parts. In Part One, I get into why I changed the name of my law firm and why I decided on Indie Law. In Part Two, I share the lessons I’ve learned for anyone who might be in the process of choosing a business name themselves.

Let’s get into it.

Part One: The slow birth of Indie Law

How’d we get here?

In April of 2016, I left the comfort of a great law firm to try something new. I decided I was going to transition from courtroom litigation to helping startups and small businesses. To make a long story short, I created my own law firm to work “of counsel” for a terrific attorney who advises startups all over the country. The official name of my firm was (and still is) the Law Offices of Joseph C. Vitale, LLC.

I quickly realized a few things:

  • That was WAY too long of a name, and it usually left me tongue tied saying it.
  • People outside of my hometown tend to have trouble pronouncing my last name (Vie-TALE-ee).
  • The domain www.jcvlaw.com was available, and 6-letter domain names are hard to come by.

So, I went with JCV LAW. Honestly, things were fine.

Then, things started changing. Quickly.

When JCV LAW started, I counseled all kinds of small businesses. Lots of the businesses I helped would classify themselves as “startups.” They were technology-minded, entrepreneurial, and had big dreams of scaling a business that was built off a brilliant idea.

The more I worked with small business owners, the more familiar I got with a certain subgroup of them. These people weren’t in your typical “tech startup” crowd. For the most part, they weren’t chasing this idea of a four-hour work week. (Sorry, Tim Ferriss.) They weren’t hustling toward a “rich life” with passive income. They weren’t interested in investors.

No, these folks were different. Most of their businesses were accidents, afterthoughts. These people are passionate—so passionate that they couldn’t help but create a business around that passion. They had fallen in love with a certain craft, and they were brave enough to dare to make a living off of that craft.

They were creatives: artists, photographers, life coaches, event planners, handmade sellers, health and fitness experts, motivational speakers, bakers, designers, bloggers, etc. And, honestly, their legal needs weren’t that sophisticated. All they really needed was a basic, foundational layer of legal protection. And with all of the directions they were being pulled in as new business owners—marketing, sales, taxes, customer service—they needed an attorney who could give them peace of mind by being approachable, understandable, and transparent.

As I worked with more creatives, I realized there was a particular type of creative that I was being drawn toward. They could appreciate collaboration, but they preferred flying solo as a business owner. They had a habit of going against the grain, whether that meant dyeing their hair, sporting a tattoo, or just being overly generous with their use of emojis. They want to do things a different way—their way. They’ve realized that the only way for their business to become a success was to put to rest any notion of it being “side hobby.”

These creatives have a strong independent streak. They’re indie creatives.

And my law firm—the tone, the transparency, and the flat-fee and subscription-based pricing—it was all resonating with them.

By January of 2017, I decided my law firm would focus on serving this specific group, these indie creatives.

As my firm continued to niche down, it became clear that my business name was less than stellar.

“JCV LAW.” Not bad.

But as I gained more clients and contacts, I kept noticing something. People could never remember the name of my firm. They always had trouble with the ordering of the J and the C and the V. In fact, they usually just referred to me as “Joey, the attorney for creatives,” without even trying to mention my business name.

My firm recently reached a point where I had a sustainable number of clients. I had validated my assumption that there was a market out there for my services. There was a group of people confidently picking up what I was throwing down.

I was “in business.”

The name “JCV LAW” wasn’t really a hindrance. But it wasn’t an asset.

And so, over the course of a couple months, I searched for a new name. One that would resonate with my target market and intrigue people to want to learn more. When the idea of “Indie Law” surfaced, I knew I was onto something. I put some feelers out there to confirm that it had that balance of punch, meaning, and the right tone. And then I started planning the rebranding.

Part Two: What I’ve learned about naming a business

A business name won’t make or break you.

I might sound hypocritical here, so I want to clarify this point.

When you’re just starting out, having a great business name doesn’t matter. Seriously.

You’re still testing a lot, or at least you should be. You’ve got a lot bigger fish to fry than a good business name. For instance, you have to identify your target market and their pain points, you have to provide a valuable solution, and you have to go out and convince people to buy from you.

I learned that you don’t have to have a great business name to do any of those things. I learned that I needed to focus on my priorities.

Look, when you’re just starting out, your business needs to be lean. Before you hire someone to make you a fancy logo, make a pretty sweet one for free in 5 minutes. Before you fork over thousands of dollars to build a beautiful website, first focus on driving traffic to a simple, one-page website that starts a conversation with potential customers.

(Now, I’m not saying you should skimp out and cut corners on everything when you’re starting a business. If you want a strong and confident start, you should at least invest in an accountant, a lawyer (😉), and a business mentor who can keep you focused. If you’d like a recommendation in any of these departments, I’d be happy to connect you with rock stars I’ve worked with.)

Now, when your business grows and you gain a larger following, that means you’ve overcome enough hurdles and can afford to take a harder look at your business name. It’s like a business has it’s own “hierarchy of needs,” and a good business name is a couple of rungs higher on that hierarchy than your basic survival needs.

Why do I think this way? I’ve learned two things the hard way. First, you could have the best business name in the world, but if your business isn’t sustainable, then you just wasted a lot of time coming up with a great name that got you nowhere. Second, people don’t resonate with your business name nearly as much as they resonate with YOU, so it’s a better use of your time to put your genuine self out there than to brainstorm the perfect business name.

Don’t get too carried away with trying to find a perfect business name.

Okay, on this point, I’m straight-up being hypocritical. I wish I could tell you that I took my own advice and didn’t spend too much time thinking about a new business name.

But I totally did. I spent way too much time on it.

The more I thought about a new business name, the harder it was to stop thinking about it. I must have come up with over a dozen possible names. I would scratch some off my list, add them b
ack in, tweak a few things, go back to the originals, and then rinse and repeat.

If I’m being honest, this was fun for me. Yeah, it drove me crazy at times, but it also gave me this space in my business to be creative. (It turns out that running a business, even a creative one, doesn’t give you free reign to lean on your creative side as much as you might think).

I felt like I was playing while I was working. But I wasn’t really working. I was volunteering my time.

I wasn’t getting paid for any of that time. None of my clients were paying me to have these hours-long conversations with myself.

There’s something true about all business owners. And it’s particularly hard for creatives to swallow this truth. Here it is: no one cares about your business as much as you do.

Yeah, I think I can honestly say that I made this name change for the sake of my business and my clients. I also made it for myself, though. The new name makes me feel better. And for that, I’m not really proud of myself. I could have spent a lot less time volunteering versus working here.

I really do think that finding a good business name is like finding a good college, or even a good life partner. In reality, there’s no one perfect choice, no lone soulmate. There’s probably a generous handful of great business names to choose one. My advice? Put on your business owner hat, keep opportunity cost in mind, pick a name, and move on. No need to think yourself in circles.

Make sure the name is even available.

This happened to me quite a bit. I thought of a name and absolutely loved it. Then, some research revealed it was taken.

There are some legal steps you should take to make sure your new business name is available. I wrote about those steps in an earlier blog post.

Focus on your target market.

This was the real takeaway for me. When you’re thinking about a name for your business, you need to keep your target market in mind at all times.

Seriously, if you’re going to spend a lot of time to choosing a business name, you must prioritize your target market when you decide on your name. Don’t let the opinions of others distract you. If you feel the urge to ask others for feedback (been there), only ask people who are in your target market. They’re the only ones who matter. If it resonates with them, you’re good.

And that’s how we got here.

For any small business owner reading this, I’m genuinely curious about your battles with business names. Share your experiences, and your own lessons learned, in the comments!