Jump-start your business with a great name

Domains for creatives

If you’re an artist, at least naming your business is a little easier these days. And it might be the best thing you can do to jump-start your work.

Because being a professional artist is tough work. By professional, I mean someone in the arts who gets paid. Someone who makes a living doing what they love. Poets, actors, dancers, designers, illustrators, photographers, writers. If you’re in the businesses of making creative stuff that causes people to stop and think about their world a little differently, you’re an artist.

And you probably know 25 elegant ways to make ramen noodles.

See, we love to create stuff. Our stuff. Paintings, essays, street-corner monologues. That’s what we do. But, when it’s time to switch brain hemispheres and get down to the actual business-side of our work, we decide to clean our apartment or go get Indian food.

We’re good at that, too. Every artist I’ve ever met knows how to procrastinate when it comes to stuff they don’t like to do. I get it. Business plans? Marketing? Finding clients? Invoices? Paying the bills? Yuck. Who wants to handle that? But you and I both know that we’re going to have to put on our accounting visors and sleeve garters eventually.

We’re going to have to name our business, decide on a business model, find some clients, and work for a living. Lucky for us, the Internet is making things a little bit easier.

Which is nice, because the Internet is also one of those distractions that keeps us from doing actual business. You might start looking for office supplies—that’s good—but end up ordering a Wookie costume and three bars of caffeinated soap two hours later—that’s bad.

Step one: brain dump

The first step to starting a business? Name it. Now, I know that there much smarter people than me who might suggest you sit down and figure out what it is you want to do first. Create a mission document and then a vision statement and then a one-page business plan and then a 15-page business plan. That’s all well and good. This sort of stuff is important. But sometimes we need a little inspiration to get the ball rolling, and naming our business can kickstart our work.

Here’s what I suggest. Get out a blank sheet of paper and your favorite pen. If you have one of those old-school kitchen timers shaped like an egg or a tomato, grab that, too. If not, use a timer on your phone or find a song that’s about five minutes long. Set the timer, press play, and write down every naming idea you have for the next five minutes.

Your goal? Fill up that sheet of paper. Doesn’t matter how goofy or how bizarre the names get. Correct spelling is optional. Your first few ideas will be ones you’ve already thought of. Some of them will be names that are already out there. Keep going. If you get stuck, look around you. Write down ideas based on what you can see and hear during those five minutes.

Here’s what mine looked like for a photography business (I took a picture every 20 seconds during the process):

Business Name

See? It can be a mess. It doesn’t matter. You’re just looking for ideas. After you’re finished, circle the top three and get ready to make things a little more official. Need some help to get your creative juices flowing? Try our Business Name Generator.

Step two: register your domain name

A domain name, website, and email address are the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to establish credibility as a professional. For about 20 bucks, you can get all three set up in a day, and bid on your first project by week’s end.

It used to be that getting a good, memorable registered domain name was hard. All of the good .coms are taken (unless you’ve got the cash to buy an existing one from someone else). That list of ideas we just put together? Those three ideas that you circled? What are the chances that they’re available? I’d like to get something like soapboxphotography.com, but (despite the unique name) the chances are slim that it’s available.

In case you haven’t heard, the way we name websites on the Internet is changing. Over the next year, we’re releasing more than 700 new domain name extensions into the wild. That’s great news for artists. There are at least a dozen of them that are perfect for what we do. Here’s a handful of some that might work:



See what I mean? We’ve got options. Our name on the Internet can be a little shorter, a little more punchy. Life is a little easier. Try some on for size. I got excited enough to play with business cards and a logo.So instead of soapboxphotography.com I can get soapbox.photography or soapbox.ink or soapbox.media or soapbox.pictures.

Soapbox Photography

And this list? It’s just a sample of what’s out there. If you want to really explore your options, check out GoDaddy’s page that lists what’s available now and what’s coming. Chances are good you’ll find a domain name that works with one of the three names you circled during our little brainstorming exercise.

Seriously, go look. You won’t regret it. At the very least, it will get you thinking about how the Internet and websites and how we do business is going to change over the next couple of years. As artists, we like to think about stuff that’s going to change the world. It gives us ideas. We like ideas.

Step three: get to work on that business plan

See? I told you it was important.

You’ve got a name. You’ve got a domain. If you picked up an email address, you probably already have an email in your personal account from professional-you that says something clever like “This is a test of the international spaghetti monster broadcasting system. If this had been a real event, than this email would have something in it that will help me get paid.”

Good job. Now get busy on that business plan of yours. You’ve got some work to do.

Shawn Pfunder
Shawn's been working with freelancers, entrepreneurs, and business owners for more than 20 years. He's consulted companies large and small on communication, social media, and marketing strategies. At heart he's a small-business superfan. He believes that working for yourself is one of the most courageous and creative moves anyone can make. Currently, he's the Editor in Chief for The Garage. When he's not hanging out with solopreneurs, Shawn loves to write, run, and travel. He's passionate about teaching and he's convinced that a good story is the best way to do it — especially if it involves El Caminos, potato fields, and really loud music.