Without fail, the same series of stumbling blocks appear for almost all virtual assistants when trying to launch their new business. And at the very top of this list is deciding on a domain and business name. (Hint: Domain name = website URL.)
How do we know? Well, it’s a common thread in the Facebook group associated with 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success. And while polling other students (or your friends and family) for their input isn’t a bad idea, choosing your business name and URL can still be a frustrating process.
Because what if you get it wrong?
(Having been down this road more than a few times myself, I’m pretty sure I can attribute a few of my gray hairs to the process.)
Usually, the process starts out on a positive note, because you’re excited about your new business. You select a few names that naturally sound amazing. And you’re convinced that your new-found creativity will help you attract a horde of new clients.
But then you discover (thanks to Google), that someone has already started using YOUR name. Or worse yet, someone bought the domain name and has offered it up for sale at the amazingly low price of $1,999.
And head hung, it’s back to square one.
After repeating this process a few times, you begin to feel a little more than frustrated. With each “new” idea, your creative juices run lower. And before you know it, you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that VA123.business is your best option.
But before you pull the trigger on that disastrous domain name (which at the time we posted this is available for the low, low price of $3.88/yr), let’s spend a few minutes unpacking a few ideas and resources that might help you choose something a little more memorable.
If you’re still not sure what virtual assistant services you can offer, we’ve put together a list of over 150 services that webpreneurs need help with.
Qualities of a Great VA Business Name
A quick Google search will turn up a never ending list of “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to naming your business.
Some of the guidelines make sense and others are just impractical. Either way, we’ve tried to distil the list down to what we feel are the most important considerations.
Side note: There is no perfect solution. You’ll be able to find exceptions to all of these rules. Treat them as guidelines only.
1. A simple name is usually the best choice.
Yep, simpler is better, but don’t overdo it.
Sacrificing #2 on our list (being descriptive) is the wrong thing to do. If you find yourself abbreviating your name or using an acronym to the point where it only makes sense to you, you’ve gone too far.
2. Be descriptive, but not overly specific.
While it may not sound super cool, a descriptive element or keyword to your domain can make things easier in several regards.
For example, adding “virtual assistant” to the end of your domain name removes any doubt as to what you do. It can also help to improve visibility in search engines when clients decide to rely on Google to help find their next VA.
When you’re adding descriptive elements, we’d advise against adding local descriptors. For example, VancouverVirtualAssistant.ca would probably make it difficult to attract clients from around the globe.
The same thing applies to services. VirtualEmailManagement.com is specific, but leaves visitors with the impression that you don’t do anything else. Of course there are always exceptions to this rule. If your business or knowledge is specific enough that you know you’ll be sticking to one service, then go for it.
When it comes to being descriptive, your best course of action is to keep your options open in terms of both services and location. One of the things we teach in our virtual assistant training is that your business will evolve over time, so there’s no sense in limiting your options right out of the gate.
A quick example: You may not be aware that Horkey Handbook was initially launched as a way for Gina to showcase her freelance writing portfolio. Over the years is has evolved into a community of freelance writers and virtual assistants, an educational resource and in the near future, much more (hint :)).
3. Try to be memorable, but not tricky.
There’s a fine line between finding the right balance of being memorable and “easy to forget.” For example, check out these common traps one can fall into:
- Using misspellings (like lyft.com)
- Names that are difficult to spell (or too long)
- Using puns or cliches -or-
- Picking a name that has a personal hidden meaning
As a general rule, avoid all of the above. While it’s true that many of these ideas can work, they generally need to be supported by additional marketing efforts.
4. Avoid using trademarked elements.
The last thing you want to do is inadvertently violate someone else’s trademark. Want an example? Although this case was eventually won by the defendant (GoDaddy), you can bet the whole process cost a pretty penny. You can read more about it here but basically, the Academy Awards decided to sue GoDaddy for selling domain names such as academyawardbuzz.com, claiming that their intellectual property rights had been infringed upon.
Sure, you’re likely to receive a warning letter first. But what a hassle to go through the naming process, branding your business, purchasing a domain and maybe even launching a website only to receive a demand letter via registered email.
Avoid this mistake at all costs!
How to Create a List of Virtual Assistant Business Name Ideas in Less than 15 Minutes
Now that we’ve covered some general guidelines, let’s talk about how you can start putting together a list of potential ideas.
Maybe you’re one of those uber-creative people who can throw together a list of great ideas in no time flat. But that’s not me. Luckily there are a few easy-to-use name generators and other tools that work really well.
Here are a few of my favorites, that you might also find helpful:
1. Shopify Business Name Generator
This is an easy to use tool that lets you enter an initial few words. From there you’ll be presented with a long list of potential ideas or starting points. For example, plugging in “virtual assistant” returned over 4,500 potential ideas.
2. Bust A Name
This a handy website that also allows you to enter a series of words in order to generate ideas. You can specify other criteria such as .com or .net availability, combine two or three words and whether or not you’re willing to add a suffix or prefix to your name.
Sometimes you select a domain name only to discover that all of the related social media accounts have been taken. Namechk will allow you cross-check your desired domain across virtually all social accounts. Obviously, an exact match isn’t mandatory but being able to match some of the major social networks will make the branding process a whole lot easier.
Narrow Down Your Options
You’ll discover quickly that while these tools are helpful, none are perfect.
I.e. You’ll have to sort through a lot of junk in order to come up with a decent list of candidates. But since naming your virtual assistant business and choosing a URL are kind of important, they’re worth a gander.
If you’re really struggling to come up with an initial list, you can always use your name or part of your name mixed with the letters VA or virtual assistant. And while a .com is usually preferable, don’t be completely against the idea of trying out another extension.
Once you‘ve assembled a list of 3-5 names, head over to Facebook and ask for some opinions. Creating a poll is the easiest way to get that done. With any luck, one or two of your ideas will be catchy enough to grab your friend’s attention and the attention of your future clients.
Don’t Let Choosing a Name be a Stumbling Block
Coming up with 3-5 potential names and conducting a Facebook poll should do the trick. Do your best to separate your personal opinion from the winning decision, because your name is more about appealing to clients than your own personal taste.
At Horkey HandBook, we’re of the opinion that you’re better off making a decision and getting started than wasting weeks in deliberation. With hard work, a decent logo and some basic branding, almost any name can be successful. And hey, you can always make a change down the road if something better comes to mind.