Turning invisible: will changing your name impact the life of your business?
Should solopreneurs change their name when they marry or divorce? This is one business owner’s experience of the impacts of changing your name.
Funny things happen when you are in a plane when you have forgotten your trashy magazine, and your Kindle is flat. After thumbing through the well-worn copy of the in-flight magazine, I found myself staring blankly out the window trying to kill time.
It was then it happened.
Have you ever had a voice in your head tell you what to do? The voice in my head took advantage of the temporary lull in brain activity and gave me some sage words of wisdom.
I am sure that most people’s wise inner voice sounds like Morgan Freeman – with his deep bass tones and gravitas.
"Trust is the currency of the web. Changing your name devalues your currency to zero."
Mine sounds like Magda Szubanski at her snarkiest best.
And the sage words of wisdom?
“You are not a Cliff. You are a Moyle. Just get over yourself and change your name back!”
There it was. Simple. To the point. And downright terrifying.
You see, I’d been divorced for over a decade, and while I thought about changing my name way back then, the thought of battling through school with a different name to my kids was too exhausting to contemplate. Besides, I had just started my solo business, and people already knew me by my married name.
So, I left my name as it was … wrong as it felt.
But in the next few months, life became very busy. My youngest child turned 18 and went to university. I lost my beloved Pop and my mother within a fortnight of each other. And to top it all off, I caught a terrible round of pneumonia so bad that I should have spent Christmas recuperating in hospital. But there was just no time to be sick! So I busied myself organising funerals instead.
The reasons not to change seemed silly compared to going back to who I was. So, I did.
The good. The bad. And the holiday home in Russia.
Changing your name brings up a whole stack of personal and business implications. It sounds simple, but how different businesses deal with this common, everyday occurrence makes me realise how far we have to go with getting it right.
For some businesses, it is as straightforward as logging onto their site and changing your name with a simple wave of a digital magic wand. Nothing changes and life goes on as it was, with just a tiny difference.
Other sites are happy to change your name if you provide them with copies of your birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate, driver’s licence, credit card details and the soul of your firstborn child. (Sorry Rachel. I am sure you won’t need it!)
One of the toughest to change, with a more rigorous vetting process than any of my banks, was the dog microchips. Seven emails backwards and forwards and they have enough of my personal details to take out a loan to buy Azerbaiyán.
The incredible invisible woman
Still other sites have your name welded into your URL. Yes, you can change it if you ask the right person (usually the cousin of the third person you ask) and they take time out of their busy day to manually re-key their database to generate a new URL for you.
Yes, you may bring your followers with you (thanks, Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and every online magazine or blog I have written for ever), but don’t expect them to redirect your old URL to the new one.
If anyone follows an old link or types in your old name by mistake – 404 not found!
Still others don’t have any way to change your name at all. You simply need to delete your account and start again from scratch (thanks, Snapchat and Google+!)
This means that the old you (and any links and SEO goodness that this brings) simply disappears to Google. You become the incredible invisible woman with zero history. Your past no longer exists, and you are back to being a digital neophyte on their site.
Why is this a problem?
Trust is the currency of the web. Changing your name devalues your currency to zero.
Most people Google the details of companies and people they want to work with. If they turn up a whole fat lot of zero, you suddenly see clients racing for the doors faster than a mum whose teenage boys ate baked beans the night before.
So, is changing your name worth it? Well, my inner Magda voice says yes of course it does. I am now back to who I really am.
But my outer business savvy face is slightly crinkled in pain and the frustration at having over a decade of work and reputation wiped out from so many websites.
And the advice to my girls why may think of changing their name when they get married. How loudly can I yell “Hell NO!” Not until digital platforms can seamlessly manage the transition, it is simply not worth the hit to your reputation and your business.