What’s in a name?

Artists all over are struggling with their names. This inner battle usually pops up when it comes time to decide on a URL. The most frequent concerns I hear:

  • My name is too common
  • My name is too hard to spell
  • Someone else already owns the URL with my name [might add: And she’s a porno star!]
  • I sign my name as X on my paintings, but I want to be known as Y
  • Everyone already knows me as X, but I think my professional name should be Y

Let’s look at these one at a time using Jim Harris as an example. Jim contacted me recently with some of these concerns.

Sallyann Paschall

Sallyann Paschall, Patterns and Marks 1. ©The Artist

1. Your name is common.
You can either (1) change your name once and for all or (2) embrace it and add something to it to distinguish the URL–something like a middle initial, middle name, or add-on at the end. You could be

jimiharris.com
jamesiharris.com
jimharrissculpture.com
jamesharrisfineart.com

Or even look at your initials:

jiharris.com

jihsculpture.com (not as crazy about this one because the focus is on the sculpture rather than the name)

2. Your name is too hard to spell, hard to remember.
I wrote a whole post on this.

3. Somebody else already owns the URL with your name.
See responses to #1.

4. You sign your name differently than you’d like to be known.
It doesn’t matter how you sign your name. Pablo Picasso signed his work only “Picasso,” but he really did have a first name. Sign your name any way you like. Signing your name shouldn’t be a factor at all in how you want to be known. They are two different animals.

5. Everyone already knows you under a certain name.
First, I’ll ask: “Who is everyone?” If you’ve been exhibiting and selling your art under a certain name for years, it’s difficult to change your name. However, if everyone means your friends and family, that’s different. They can adjust. It’s the art-buying public that you don’t want to confuse.

Jim was concerned that James was too formal and that everyone knew him as Jim. Jim has one of those forgiving names. We all know that Jim is a shortened form of James. We aren’t surprised that someone’s professional name is James, but goes by Jim in everyday conversation. If you have one of these names (Peter/Pete, Robert/Rob, Michael/Mike, Katherine/Kate, Jessica/Jessy), you can tap into variations of your name–as long as you’re comfortable being known by that moniker.

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9 comments to What’s in a name?

  • I understand this NAME dilemma well. Way back in 1996, I set up my website. At the time, my screen name for various accounts was my nickname wizzlewolf. When I bought my domain name, I chose wizzlewolf dot com because people would always spell my real name wrong. Instead of Sheree Rensel, I would get all kinds of strange combinations like Shere Rensel, Sherry Rensel, Sherrre Rensel, Sharre Rensell, etc. Therefore, I just stuck with wizzlewolf but had my true name prominently displayed on my website and within the code of my webpages. It has worked out for me. Now if you Google either wizzlewolf or Sheree Rensel, anybody can find me. :-)

  • I disagree with your post about names that are hard to remember. It’s certainly not easier for those of us with that problem! In the past year, I’ve seen my name written correctly only TWICE. That’s a LOT of potential branding effort that’s gone out the window because people can’t spell or get my name right, even when it’s written down &/or spelled out carefully for them!
    So (for example,) while “Rob Jones” spreads his name & recognition with ease, those of us with unusual names have to struggle hard & long, just to fail repeatedly.
    I’m on the verge of changing my name, or quitting art altogether.

  • I have actually been struggling with this for a while now. Especially since I launched my website and blog last year. More so with numbers 1, 4 and 5.

    I’ve asked the opinions of different people and get many different responses of which have not really helped. I though I would give my middle name a try one because my first name, Robert, is so common and two my family suggested it. Most people use my first name and getting them and myself to use my middle name is a challenge. I’ve also thought about using all three names. Hmmm.

    Thanks a lot for this post and bringing this subject to the surface. It helps a little know I’m not the only struggling with this. I’m still open to suggestions.

  • A great post topic, thank you. Some very intriguing opinions here. I add common misspellings of my (always mispelled) name in my meta tags, whcih may or may not be helpful.

    Another thing that I always reminded my web clients of, a website is only one a part of your integrated marketing. It is necessary to do non-web marketing to drive clients your website.

    Just as a side note, some of us do not have middle names (not a family custom).

    Thanks for bringing this subject up. I look forward to following your blog.

  • One year, instead of Joseph & Sari Grove, I changed our marketing to Joseph & Mary Grove instead…I’ve got to say, it was an eye opener…Business picked up, people called me Mary alot (no one refers to me by name usually when I meet them), it was Much more marketable…A common name is really great for business, I discovered…I changed it back to Sari after a year, because I love my name & I am a moron about business decisions…
    Wow, now that I write this I am having second thoughts again…hmmm…

  • Oops, that was me, Sari, posting above , not Joseph…my bad…

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