How to Choose the Right Domain for a Freelancer’s Website

by Nate Hoffelder

After a decade of running The Digital Reader, Nate is a veteran web publisher with experience in design, maintenance, recovery, and troubleshooting. What little he doesn't know, he can learn.

October 14, 2020

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an editor in possession of a contract must be in want of a website. They need a home on the web to call their own, one safe from the fickle whims of Twitter’s bots.

That home will need a name – but what to call it?

*  * *

The above 3 sentences were used (in a slightly different form) for the intro of a post I wrote on choosing a name for an author website. I was all set to simply copy that article here, change a few words, and republish it, but then i realized that about half of the advice does not apply to freelance writers and editors.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that post was great, but the fact is authors can get away with having a whimsical or creative name for their website. Editors and other freelancers, on the other hand, need to be more business-like. After all, a freelancer’s intended audience is other businesses, while an author’s website is usually built for readers.

With that in mind, I have updated this post to focus on professional websites. I’ve trimmed the irreverent sections, and also added a couple lessons I learned in the years since I wrote that older post.

* * *

Like the Chinese word for crisis, which is erroneously described as consisting of the words “danger” and “opportunity”, choosing the domain for a freelancer’s website comes with both great risks and high potential rewards. It is a way for freelancers to brand themselves online.

So what are the options?

Actually, they are quite limited. Freelance writers and editors needs to choose a name for their website that matches their audience, which means that the name needs to be as equally stodgy as the industry they work in.

A shorter name is better than a longer one, and it should be easy to say, spell, and read.  Also, the website’s name will very likely end up being the freelancer’s brand, so they need to make sure no one is using a similar name, that the brand has a obvious connection to what the freelancer does, and that they like the brand.

The Mundane

For starters, they could go for the obvious and staid choice such as their name plus the service they provide (or their profession). This usually works well because it immediately conveys who owns  the site and what they do.

Putting the profession or service in the website name can also add a small boost to SEO.

When I launched my blog in 2010, the first name I chose for it was Nate’s eBook News. I only kept the name for a few months before changing it to The Digital Reader, but I could have kept it because it did cover all the bases.

The Topical

If a freelancer doesn’t want an obvious title, they could go for a more topical title. Rather than use a domain that explicitly references their profession or services, they might choose a domain that is in some oblique way connected to their work.

For example, when I considered launching a site that reviewed the Chinese takeout places in my area, a friend recommended that I use the name TheOysterPail.com. This domain references a little known fact that the little white boxes that Chinese food comes in were originally created to hold shucked oysters, and were called Oyster Pails.

I ended up using the domain for my humor blog after I was told that NO, I could not buy and review that much Chinese food, but it was still a good name for a food blog.

Freelance writers and editors could do something similar by choosing a website name that references one of the following

  • books,
  • libraries,
  • publishing, or
  • writing.

For example, I know a number of editing services that reference owls (so much so that I would recommend avoiding the word – it feels overused at this point).

You will of course want to make sure the name is not already in use, and that you want to make it your brand.

The Whimsical

You might be thinking that you don’t have to go for the topical or staid but instead go for the whimsical.

That would be a mistake, in my experience.

If there is no clear connection between a name and what you do, you will likely spend years telling people the name while making very little progress growing your business.

I used to think that any name that inspired questions was a great name because it was a conversation starter, but after spending 3 plus years trying to grow the wrong brand, I have since learned my lesson.

When I first started getting hired to work on other people’s websites,  I came up with the name Valiant Chicken Digital. There’s a really fun story behind that name, and I love telling that story, but the simple truth was the name was a mistake.

It never brought me business, and no one who heard it twice could remember what I did. (In fact, most people who heard it thought it was a food truck.)

It took me three plus years to realize I had made a mistake. I had been told that I should get rid of the Valiant Chicken brand because it had no connection to services I provide, and everyone who told me that was right.

Please learn from my mistake.

Don’t choose a name just because it was fun; instead, choose a name that is easy to remember and has an obvious connection to what you do. While that sounds boring, boring is good so long as it is memorable and on-brand.

Remember, you don’t want to make people work to remember you. That is how you miss out on work.

* * *

P.S. If I might give a couple last bits of advice:

When registering your website’s domain, be sure to also register any similar names. For example, if your website domain includes the word “writer”, you might also register “writing” as well.

You should also consider whether the website’s domain is easy to read. You might find that adding dashes between words will make the domain easier to read when printed on your business card or flyer. (This is contrary to what most experts will tell you, but it’s true nonetheless.)

Hi, I'm Nate.

I build and fix websites for authors, and I am also a tech VA. I can build you a website that looks great and turns visitors into fans, and I can also fix your tech when it breaks. Let me fight with tech support so you don’t have to.

My blog has everything you need to know about websites and online services. Don’t see what you need. or want personalized help? Reach out.

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