Elsewhere on this blog, I encourage you to use your real name for your art business—in whatever form you choose.
It never would have occurred to me in a million years that artists would use any name other than their own for their work.
Well, apparently it's not always that easy.
There are reasons to work under a different name that I never considered. At least two artists spoke to me about their fear of being found by those who had abused them. Another didn't want to be associated in any way with his family name.
Using a different name in either of these circumstances is understandable, and you might be best served by legally changing your name so that there is no confusion.
There is also the possibility that you want to use a business name rather than the name of an individual.
Using a DBA Name
There are two primary reasons for using a business or company name besides your own. This is know as a “Doing Business As” or “DBA” name.
1. You have a service business.
The first is that you are a service business like Art Biz Success and want the benefits of the service to be evident in your business name.
But even with a service business, you should be front and center for your business since we hire services from people we trust and like. We want to know them as a person that we'd like to work with.
Artists who also provide services include muralists, wedding and portrait photographers, instructors, and so forth. But don’t think that you need a DBA just because you provide a service. It still might be to your advantage to keep your name as your business name.
2. You have a production line of art.
The second reason to use a name besides your own is that you have a production line or “less serious” body of work that you want to keep separate from the art you choose to be known for.
In this case, reserve your name for how you want to go down in the history books and use a DBA for the other work.
Moving Away from a DBA Name
If neither of the two reasons above applies and you are already known under a DBA, don’t worry. At least you’re known!
If you’re still early in your career and using a DBA, I advise the following steps to switch back to using your given name.
- Purchase the URLs for both your business name and your own name. Forward the URL for the DBA to the one with your name.
- Add your name to your business name in your marketing material. From this point forward, your business won’t be “Golden Gems” but “Golden Gems by Sue Henderson” or “Sue Henderson’s Golden Gems.” Eventually, you'll be able to drop the DBA altogether.
One final note. Just because you are incorporated or official under a legal DBA name does not mean that you have to plaster that name everywhere.
No one has to know a legal business name until they buy something from you, at which point it will show up on an invoice or credit card statement. For instance, I am incorporated under Stanfield Art Associates, so when you buy something from me, you get a receipt from Stanfield Art Associates, Inc. But my brand is Art Biz Success.
This post was originally published in 2008 and again in 2012. It has been updated with original comments intact.