Insist that you are listed with the name you prefer

In posts on Thursday and Friday, I posed questions about your professional name: what you choose to use, the mistakes you might have made, and the problems you have encountered.

The big problem for many seems to be the decision to use three names, like these artists:

Jill Rumoshosky Werner
Sheila Mahanke Barnes

The venues showing their work seem to think they can drop the middle (maiden) name and it will be just fine. It’s not.

It’s your life, your career. You’re in charge. Insist on being treated as a professional.

  • In every contract you have, write in that your work must be shown under your complete and professional name.
  • When you ship or deliver a work, include a note that can’t be missed (on colored paper or in big red letters): "All work must be credited with my full name as follows: . . . "
  • If mistakes are made and the middle name gets left out, don’t let it slide. Send an email, follow up with a phone call, and even put it in writing that you expect that to be changed immediately–per your contract and the letter you enclosed with the delivery. Write with kindness. Say you know it was probably an oversight, but you need for them to honor their commitment to showing your work in the best possible light. Remind the venue that you are a one-person operation and you must have control over your career and your legacy. It’s almost impossible to do that if your work is shown under multiple names–especially when many people might have your same name. It’s too easy to confuse you with someone else with a simple Google search. 
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6 comments to Insist that you are listed with the name you prefer

  • Thanks, Alyson. Excellent advice. I guess it’s another case of me not being gutsy enough to stand up for myself, that “be nice” thing many of our mother’s instill in us. These are very helpful steps to follow. I particularly like your reminding us to “write with kindness.” No need to yell, but firmness is allowed, right? No more letting it slide!

  • I’m always on top of this, mostly because no one seems able to get “Lana” right. Is it so hard, really? After all, it’s just “anal” backwards! *L*

  • It’s funny, the lower end shows I do are better about this. They specifically ask for your business name (like “Kathy’s Kountry Krafts”). They can deal with any name you throw at them. The problem shows are the higher end shows. They expect a first name and a last name, period. There’s no space for anything else on their forms. They print out official booth signs for everyone and refuse to deviate from their formula. At least in my case it’s only a middle initial. But it is annoying.

  • It is so hard to get your name known, it is frustrating when you cannot get the right (full name) published. My name, Michael Adams, is one of the most common names around, at least in my region. I know three others personally and at least three more have been friends of friends. So when I started promoting myself as an artist it was an obvious choice to use my middle name, Lynn, as part of my full name. It is a bit unusual and memorable. In art circles my goal is to have my first name known as “Michael Lynn.” So now I always write “Michael Lynn” as my first name in art-related forms. Seems to work especially with online forms, much to my surprise.

  • Alyson, thank you so much for bringing attention to this problem. I’ve tried all the tricks you’ve suggested and sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Many times, I’ve only learned about the name change after the publicity has already gone out. This occurs so frequently that I always write a note on my entry forms to please use all three names, but it still doesn’t seem to have much effect. Barbara, I totally agree about high end shows being the worst name changers, particularly shows at museums. I even had a problem with this last Fall at a local art museum (one that Alyson knows quite well). In every case this has happened to me, multiple written and verbal requests to various people were required before they got the message and sometimes, that still hasn’t been enough. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person having problems with this!

  • Alyson, Thank-you for this advice! I try to be so fair and understanding of others that many times I am not firm with what is best for me and my career. Your advice is much needed, no more compromising my career!