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We were driving out of Red Rock Canyon, just 30 minutes outside of Vegas when the topic of my business name came up. I’m pretty sure I cowered down in the seat a little bit because I just knew what was coming. Jasmine Star had just photographed our engagement session and I was trying to take it all in. I’ll admit it, I was star struck (pun intended). I tried to act cool and collected but inside I still couldn’t believe that we had just had our pictures done by THE Jstar! So as we drove out of the state park, Jasmine asked me a very simple but daunting question… “So what made you choose “Inspired Designs By: Katelyn James” for a business name??

There it was… the moment of truth. I had been battling this same question for a while. At the time, I was only 2 years into my business and I was struggling with the identity of it all. I started as “Inspired Designs” because I thought it was “catchy” and I wanted to INSPIRE people!! So naturally, I should name my business with that in mind, right? Wrong. Very very wrong.

The BEST advice Jasmine has ever given me was to change the name of my business when I was first getting started! She’s shared countless pieces of wisdom with me over the years but I am beyond grateful that she was blatantly honest in the car that day. How was “Inspired Designs” really going to set me apart? How could I make that my own? The truth is… Inspireddesigns.com was already taken! So I had to buy “THEinspireddesign.com” and no one could ever find me online! It was a small nightmare trying to connect with people.

Are all non-name photography brands a poor decision? No. Of course not! Three Nails Photography anyone?! That’s an incredibly well known business and Hunter doesn’t use his name in his branding. I think Hunter is the exception. There are a few businesses that are the exception to this rule… but the reality is, there are only a few exceptions in anything! I’m being bold here but I think it’s safe to say that if you’re struggling with online identity and you’re not seeing organic blog traffic and online connection…. you may not be the exception to this specific rule. This isn’t a bad thing! It’s actually a GOOD thing because I have found that having a business based off of who I am is MUCH easier to manage and market when my NAME is a part of it!

Can you imagine following my work and my life and never really hearing my name? It would be quite odd. The name “Katelyn James” has value because 5 years ago, Jasmine Star told me that “Inspired Designs” would never become what “Katelyn James” could become and she was so right. There is POWER in our names.

Now, I hear all of you out there saying “Well, I don’t have a good business-y name to use”.  I’m going out on another limb here but I bet you could find a way to make it work! My friend Jill’s business is Jillian Michelle Photography! Why? Because it’s more feminine than Jill Powers and Michelle is her middle name! Perfect! The point is, her brand is still pointing her audience to HER with a name like that. Inspired Designs never pointed people towards me. It actually confused people more than it captured them and that’s a tell tale sign that something needs to change!! So if you’re on the fence about your business name, choose a name that is as close to what you go by as possible! Trust me, your life and your marketing will be SO much easier!!

I’m so thankful for Jasmine’s wisdom and that it didn’t take me 6 years to realize that “Katelyn James” was a good name for a business!!! Take a look at your business and make sure you’re CAPTURING your audience and not CONFUSING them. I hope this was helpful and since we are celebrating our anniversary and this post has something to do with our engagement pictures… how about I share a few of my favorites! :) Gosh, these were taken 5 YEARS AGO!! We’re old!

 Jasmine Star took all of these beautiful engagement pictures of us all the way back in March 2010!! If you have a free minute, check out my guest blog post on HER BLOG!! Click HERE!!

xoxo, Katelyn
29 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Mel Silva reply

    I am going to fwd this post onto my sister. She is just about to start her photography business and thinking of a name, I said she should just do “Vashti silva photography”. For the first 2 years of my business I was “silva wedding photography”, but in 2012 I decided to change it to “Mel Silva Photography” for the exact reasons you have mentioned in this post. I think I may have read something star wrote on a blog that triggered my name change :). Good read and lovely engagement photos. See you at wppi :) hoping to get a photo with you! I am sad that jasmine won’t be there :(.

  2. Mel Silva reply

    Oh and I mean Jstar not star!

  3. Melanie reply

    Thank you for this post! I am about to start a portrait photography business and was trying to decide on a business name. I had been leaning towards using my name, but now I am convinced! Thank you for this timely post and always being so transparent. I’m inspired!

  4. ashley barnett reply

    Such awesome advice! Mary gave Jen and I the same advice – we NEVER thought we would be anything but Jarnett Photography but she gave it to us straight and said that that name wasn’t getting us anywhere – and she was right! Changing to Jen + Ashley was a HUGE turning point for our business! :) And you guys look like wittle babies in these photos!!!

  5. Jasmine Star reply

    Love you. Madly. And I think Katelyn James is SOOOO much better than Inspired Design! hahaha! Love you!

  6. Heather Walter reply

    Thanks for this post. My business name has been something I have been thinking about. I also do not feel like I have a good “business name”. I choose Cardinal Rose Photography because it reminded me of my grandmother and her inspiration. But it is hard to market yourself when your real name isn’t really part of the equation. Thanks for making me think! :)

  7. Sarah (Danaher) Bradshaw reply

    I’ve wrestled with this decision SOOOOO MUCH lately!! I adore my new married name (Sarah Bradshaw), but I’ve been Ampersand Photography for over 5 years now. People send me pictures of Ampersands ALLLL THE TIME, and I’m thankful for that mental association. But I think that Sarah Bradshaw is super classy, and could be a great transition. At this point I think I’m going with “Ampersand Photography by Sarah Bradshaw,” and will perhaps transition over to Sarah Bradshaw photography in a few years, but for now… ugh. I don’t know what to do!

  8. Mary Marantz reply

    Aw, you guys!!! Love looking back at these pictures!! I got all teary! :)

  9. Emily reply

    Thank you for sharing! Some wise words and helpful tips in your post!

  10. Morgan Leigh reply

    These are so beautiful!!! I love them all! And thanks for sharing your advice :)

  11. Kalina Duck reply

    Thank you so much, for the advice. GREAT BLOG.

  12. Kalina Duck reply

    Forgot to say: you both look great.
    Great Pictures

  13. Kimber Wassenberg reply

    I love your engagement photos! Thanks so much for the advice!

  14. candi reply

    I can remember seeing your photos on her blog! I actually favorited the one of you guys leaning back to back in a inspiration folder! Love them!

  15. Tiffany Weaver reply

    This was a great blog. It definitely got me thinking. I do have a question though, I’m getting married in two months and my fiance is starting to do the video side of my photography business. Should I keep the name I have or change it. Currently it’s “Tiffany Weaver Photography” and His name is Jon McClure. I’m very on the edge about changing it because I feel like right when my business is taking off, I change the name and end up confusing people. Would love some advice!! :) Thank you Katelyn!

  16. Deanna H. reply

    Found your blog from jasmine starts site… first of all love love love your home office. i’m in the process of decorating mine and this is huge inspiration for me. second i love your site.. i love how you incorporate your personal life in with your business. i am hoping to do that more once i’m organized, ha! oh and i love love love your little doggie… i have a white malshipoo. those names are so silly… what a cute name…bokeh. anyway just wanted to show some love rather than just stalking your life ;)

  17. Starting With Why | Simply Perky Photography reply

    […] the photographer that I admire for her transparency and zest for life, Katelyn James, wrote this amazing blog post that made it very clear to me that I had made the best […]

  18. mobile development reply

    Keep onn working, great job!

  19. How Did You Do It? (Part 2) | Dear Sweetheart Events reply

    […] Events (and maybe I will one day!). But, naming your business is IMPORTANT… choose wisely! This post by Katelyn is so good; it’s not the route I took with DSE, but I love her words of […]

  20. Cristina Arce reply

    Hello Katelyn and all! :) I need your advice. I have been struggling about my business name. I am from a spanish country (Costa Rica) and I was always known as “Cristina Arce Photography” (for more than 10 years), but I’ve moved to Canada a few years ago, And my problem is: the people don’t know how to pronounce my last name. :( (The issue with this is, since they don’t know how to pronounce it, they write it in different ways and never find my website or social media).
    I’ve created a new branding called “Cristina Photo Studio” to avoid the last name issue… but now my “old” clients are confused, they keep promoting me as a “Cristina Arce Photography” and not with the new name. I did a marketing campaign promoting the new brand name, but seems that its not working. – What do you suggest me to do?

  21. This coming | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Katelyn James Photography reply

    […] I recommend WORDPRESS! Hands down! It’s the largest blogging platform and has amazing resources for photographers and ANY blogger for that matter! I have used wordpress from the beginning… well, after I had Typepad. Typepad was the platform for my FIRST blog and guess what… it’s still LIVE!! How embarrassing!!! I honestly thought that coloring my watermark to match each image was a great way to show my creativity. YIKES. You know I love you if I’m showing you this!!! You can read my OLD BLOG here! That’s where it all began folks! Whew, thank goodness for change. Ps. If you haven’t heard about “Inspired Designs” and why I changed my business name, you can read about it HERE! […]

  22. Henry Cavill reply

    Very beautiful pictures and couple is also very beautiful their chemistry in these pictures is amazing. The background in the pictures is very good and very beautiful.i Can say every one might have enjoyed this location while clicking the pictures.

  23. Erin reply

    I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately and while reading through your Ask Anything’s this morning over a bowl of cereal, this popped up! It was like a little light shone down and angels sang “ahhhhh”. :) Wonderful post and perfect for the timing in my life!

  24. Lisa Rossoni reply

    Thank you!!!!!!! I just opened my photography business in the last few months and had this same conversation with so many friends who said that my name as the business name would never be memorable enough and people wouldn’t book with me. But I also justified my choice by what I do. I am a photographer. I don’t have a store, or a physical product, or a studio. It’s just me and a camera! And that’s what clients are and they should know right away who is going to show up. Me.
    Also, my last name is super unique in this country and I am THE ONLY Lisa Rossoni in the USA. And that is something I love.
    THANK YOU!!!!!

  25. Elizabeth Ladean reply

    Yes!! I read advice from you and Jasmine both on this topic and when the time came to uncover my business after years of putting it on the back burner – I knew my name was one of the best decisions I could make!!
    I hated my middle name for years when I was younger, but the older I got the more I appreciated the unique quality of it. Now, as a photographer using my first and middle name – I know it’s different, unique, and hopefully memorable!! Thanks for always being so open and honest, Katelyn!!

  26. Ashley Durham reply

    We literally – LITERALLY – just went through this entire process … With my husband joining me full-time as a wedding photographer, we wanted to do something that reflected who WE were. We had an entirely different name picked out … but we ended up just going with what people call us – our names! Much more personal! :)

  27. Alicia reply

    You two are just babies in these pictures!!!! Loved the evolution over the years :)

  28. Jude S-R reply

    Thanks for this post. Do you have any pointers for someone named Jude Strieby-Raska? <:) The most original thing I could come up with was Jude S-R Photography. But yeah, I think that people who look it up are like "Um, Judes R Photography, right?" I swear that almost everything to do with the name Jude has already been taken. Except for stuff like "Photos by Jude" or "Jude's Photos", which I don't like the sound of. Of course the "Hey Jude" stuff is long gone, as is even stuff around my middle name, Ann.

    So what do you do when you have an iconic name that everyone else has already nabbed? <:(

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