A few years ago I saw a nutritionist connection of mine had switched the surname on her business Instagram account after getting married.
Just like working through your passport, bank accounts, library card and national insurance / PPS, this probably just felt like another thing on the list to update to reflect her new legal name.
But I couldn’t help myself but ask….
The thing is, unlike updating your gym membership, your name is part of your professional identity. And more so than working in a corporate role within a company, if you’re a solopreneur, your name is everything.
If you have been practicing for any length of time (and for this particular nutritionist this was the case, with a busy clinic and great positioning on search engines getting her found) then your reputation is going to be built on your current full name. Changing that can change how much you get booked. It’s as simple as that.
Of course it’s totally possible if you get married to change your name and for loyal customers and referrals to grow accustomed to a new name for you, I’m not going to pretend it’s impossible.
Another consideration if you want to change the professional name you’re known by is you’ll have to work hard to replace any work you’ve done on search engine optimisation (also known as SEO – you might like this podcast episode on how to do SEO for your wellness business if you want to know more).
Whether you’ve done it intentionally or not you may well be benefiting from people searching your name online (maybe a friend recommended you and they’ve tried to look you up) so they can find the links they need to book in with you.
Do you know what’s needed to reestablish that if you change your name?
For example right now if you google ‘Vicky Shilling’ you’ll get my website and social profiles on the first page of Google. If I changed to my married name then that positioning is going to be lost and I’ll have to work hard to build that trust (again!) with Google to show it who the ‘new me’ is and direct to my sites.
I’ll have a (temporary at the very least) downturn in people finding me via search engines which could affect my audience growth and income.
I know this is a really personal choice but aside from referrals and SEO, also remember your maiden name is the one thing you’ll never lose or change, no matter what happens in your marriage.
Absolutely not wishing relationship breakdown or divorce on anyone (!) but if your situation were to change in the future, how would you feel working under your married name then?
I know some people dislike their maiden surnames and for that reason alone are quite eager to shift to their new married name and embrace that as their identity as soon as possible. Hooray and all power to you if that’s the case, what a great way to reinvent yourself and get a name you love and want to shout about.
In my case though I love and feel very proud and protective of my maiden name and for that reason when I got married I decided to keep working under it, knowing that a) I already had a reputation and search positioning with it and b) I was future proofing my business brand no matter what happened for me in my personal life.
Again, it’s worth taking a pause to ask yourself these sorts of questions:
You might be wondering: do you have to change your business name if your legal name has changed?
The short answer to this is no.
Legally according to the state I have a different surname that matches my husband and children. But I can operate as I wish in my business and trade mark or register my maiden name if I so choose. No-one is forcing you to change to your legal name in your solo business if you don’t want to.
The only consideration I have seen come up is there may be issues with presenting ID matching your name if you want to eg. get verified on Instagram, where your name needs to match your paperwork. But there are usually solutions to this.
Slight (but related!) aside: if I can’t find what your name is, and I’m talking your first name and any surname, then I’m much less likely to invest in you. It’s purely an issue of trust.
Knowing your name and being completely transparent about who you are and searchable across the internet proves to me you’re a real trustworthy practitioner.
And whilst you might think ‘everyone’ knows your name and that you’ve written it in multiple places, I’d encourage you to visit your own social media and website as if you were a complete stranger.
I cannot tell you how many people reach out to me on social media and I have to trawl through their accounts and websites to find even a first name to use to address them in a reply. And I’m just a service provider! Imagine if that was an ideal customer wanting to speak to you…?
So please, double check:
Is it clear immediately from your profile and homepage what your name is? Because if not, you need to get your name up-front pronto. Otherwise you’ll be losing people and that trust factor quickly if your ideal customers have to search around just to find out what to call you, no matter how great the rest of your content and words are.
I know some people will be starting their wellness business as a side hustle or hobby initially. So I completely respect if your decision is to not include a surname at all, because this may interfere with your reputation and search ability in your current position, which may well be in a totally unrelated field.
I used to work in the music industry and didn’t want people finding my hobby food blog when I first began creating a new identity and career-path for myself, so I do get it! When I started my hobby blog I just used ‘Vicky’ across my socials and website for a long time (a year or more!) before including my surname.
You can’t hide who you are and what you’re trying to achieve forever, not even from your work colleagues and friends. In fact, as hard as it might be to believe, initially these are the people who can most help you in those first few weeks and months building a reputation with new people. Because, guess what? They trust you implicitly already! And want to see you succeed.
So by all means, operate under just a first name when you start to bravely step out and share what you love and are now knowledgable in.
But know that if you want sustainability in your business and a loyal customer base, sharing your full self (including your surname, whichever you choose) will be a vital part of the strategy to making this easier for you.
I would love to know what you think on this topic!
If business is feeling sticky and you don’t know how to shift it, take my quiz to find out what’s blocking you and receive a free mini-training to get you started again.