Be Free, Lance | Unique Names + Defining Your Business

After the launch of my new design studio Rowan Made a few weeks back, many of you expressed interest in hearing more about why I chose to kick my own name to the curb and start fresh. In all honesty, I felt that I had hit a ceiling working under the name “Breanna Rose.” Yes, it’s my name … but it didn’t allow for much growth beyond myself. Last May, I took a big step and hired a contract designer to help with incoming project overflow. But in doing so, I quickly realized that I had entered into a new weird grey area. This designer was working alongside me, but under my name. That part felt weird. I absolutely loved having her around to take on new work, but didn’t feel my personal brand was truly setup for this type of working environment. So from that moment on, the seeds of creating a new brand were planted.

I’ve always wanted to establish a design studio to grow and flourish, but didn’t necessarily think it would happen this early. It was always “future” thinking. But after continuing to work with my designer and becoming a part of even more collaborations, it became very clear that something needed to change. I was simply outgrowing myself. So I spent much of last summer dreaming, scheming, and really thinking about the direction I wanted to move forward with. To do this, I had to be completely honest with myself about the business I hoped to cultivate. Because our world is SO visual now, it’s easy to get stuck in the comparison mindset where we create a business around what we “believe” to be right and in turn, ignore what we truly want. That was my biggest hurdle.

For the longest time, I thought opening up my own studio meant having an office outside of the house, filled with working creatives and who knows what else. I would have the coolest decor and grab lunch at some hip spot down the street all the time. While there is nothing wrong with this, it’s an idealization that just isn’t me. In reality, I’m a bit of a quiet homebody who simply enjoys working at home. I get a lot done, have my own space, and don’t have to commute whatsoever. To me, it’s ideal. While my ideal may not be yours – or visa versa – that’s the point. We need to do our own thing! There are no rules. Except, well, you need to pay your taxes. You should probably do that.

Once I allowed myself to think of Rowan Made as a blank slate and something bigger than just ME, everything fell into place. This is my truth : I plan to continue working at home, in a nicely functioning office. I like it here and don’t feel a pull to go elsewhere. Some days may be spent in pajamas. Others may be completely different, spent out of the house working on fun collaborations. And eventually, I will bring talented creatives into the mix with different skill-sets to help bring RM to the next level. I’m not traditional and these people don’t have to live in my neighborhood or my state, for that matter. It’s all about the right fit because through trust, they can work from wherever. Everything else will fall into place, as long as I’m always honest with myself and the people I work with. That’s the new direction Rowan Made has given me.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, try thinking about your own truths. Where do you want to work? Who do you want to work with and how much control do you need? Remember, there are no set rules. As freelancers, we have the ability to forge our own unique path. If you want to work abroad in Europe for a year, do it! Or if you want to combine your skills into one business and have killer offerings, go for it. Nobody is stopping you. Screw commonality and create the best business you can dream up. I can’t wait to see. ;)

  1. Kat Curling says:

    Going from my name to a different name is something that I’ve pondered every now and then too. I was hired on with a different company full time 6 months ago so I’m trying not to get in over my head in freelance these days in order to save my sanity. So I guess I’ll put that off til the day I get sick of the cubicle life. lol

    Did you ever worry about losing any of your “creditability” or awareness associated with your previous name? I know it can take awhile to build that. Its amazing to see you grow and change and to follow your amazing work! It’s gotta be an amazing feeling starting with a blank slate. Good luck!

    • breanna says:

      Yeah, I worried a bit about losing credibility or disconnecting with possible inquiries … but I’ve made sure to keep all links open from all social media platforms so people know where to find me. Luckily, most readers on my blog understand that I’m a designer – – so if that’s a service they need, it’s easy to find on my pages!

  2. Chantel says:

    You really just reminded me that I still need to file my taxes…

    But in regards to this post, I completely understand where you’re coming from. I love the idea of using my name as my brand, but I’m not trying to be a one-man army, nor will I ever want it to seem like I’m taking the credit for all the work others may help me accomplish. Success in any industry comes as a result of a collective effort, so yay for Rowan Made! And yay for screwing commonality!

    Xo

  3. Anne says:

    Thank you for this post! I am going through the same thing with questioning “is this really me? is this really what I want my business to look like?” as I am really finally pushing myself to start building my own small business. It is really refreshing to hear that is a constant thing you are asking yourself as well. I am a bit of a homebody myself–as “hip” as it would be to own my own shop or studio in a cool downtown area– I would just rather work out of an office in my house or small converted outbuilding and function that way. I always love your be free, lance posts! Always thought provoking and somehow always seem to be posted at the perfect time! :) I’m so happy for you and your new studio! I can’t wait to see what you do next with all your talent!

  4. Alex says:

    Hi Breanna! So excited for you! Just wondering what tools do you use to create? I see you have an iPad (& I’m guessing a computer…ha!), but just wondering what that looks like for you? Also what is your website hosted on? Did you have someone code it for you?

    Sorry, lots of questions. I know I posted this a couple days ago…just curious. Good luck with Rowan Made, it looks awesome!

    • breanna says:

      I use the Adobe Creative Suite to design, WordPress for my blog, Blue Host for my host. I have an iPad and an iMac in my arsenal, too!

  5. I’m so happy you wrote about this! Some days when I look at the clock and realize it’s nearly 4pm and I’m still in my pajamas, I feel a little bit of guilt creeping in. Like “what a lazy bum I am.” But then I look back and it’s not true at all. Just the opposite, in fact. In addition to the massive amounts of work accomplished, the laundry is done, dinner is ready to be prepped, etc. It’s a lifestyle I don’t like living every day, but some days, it’s the perfect lifestyle for me….

    • breanna says:

      So true! There are many days where I never get out of my pajamas ( woops ), and although it feels sluggish … there is a lot of work that gets done. ;) I have found that I feel a little more awake when I actually get ready, though … so there is a trade off I suppose!

  6. Great insight, Breanna! When I started freelancing, I didn’t even THINK about the future of my business. I chose to use a DBA simply because I was struggling with branding myself. I found it much easier to design a separate brand identity for my company (which I dubbed Incandescent Creative) than creating one for myself. If you’re interested you can see the entire design process here (mistakes and all!)

  7. Therése S says:

    You really inspire and made me think of so many things. So now I’m gonna take a piece of paper and a pen and write down everything in my head. Thank you for writing such a fantastic blog!

  8. Amy Ha says:

    I would love to work and live abroad for 2 years! One year in Europe and one year in Asia, specifically Japan and Vietnam. I’d love to work with other designers and illustrators for collaboration but also to be an agent for their work – help them find gigs outside of our collaboration. Another ideal situation would be to work alone 50-75% of the time – at home or at a cafe. My goal is start freelancing in a year or two – debating what to name my business other than my name. It is a work in progress.

  9. Kelly Brito says:

    In the fashion design industry it is a very common practice to have 4 or 5 designers working under one main designer. And of course, the main designer takes all the credit for everything. I always thought this was SO unfair. So having a business name can be great in so many levels -including being able to work/manage a group where everyone can be credited for. Properly.
    Great move, Bre! :)

    • breanna says:

      For sure! I feel like everyone has their own opinions about brand names … but I always felt a bit off working under my own, once I started thinking about expanding. It would just feel weird to have 3+ people working for me, under MY name. Just my opinion!

  10. Renee Claire says:

    Thank you for this, and for all the be free, lance posts. I’m struggling with this issue right now, as a freelance copywriter and WordPress developer. Part is that the work I do is so varied: do I brand for copy-writing or web development? Do I brand for corporate (way more money) or non-profits & small businesses (more fulfilling)? And–this may seem odd–do I create a gender-neutral brand or embrace my gender? There was an article (http://www.copyblogger.com/james-chartrand-underpants/) that really shook me, about how gender bias is still incredibly pervasive, and changes both compensation and how clients treat you. Up until I read that, I’ve been willfully girly, but now I’m reconsidering. There’s a lot out there about making your brand authentic and “about you,” but I’m feeling more and more that that is only half the picture. I also find your idea of an “everybody work from home” agency so inspiring. I think LKR Social Media has the same set-up–I wish more businesses did!

    • breanna says:

      Thanks for the link! I’ll have to check that out. :) I’m all for untraditional working atmospheres, ha.

  11. Brittanny says:

    Every once in awhile I debate on the business name change. I’m a photographer and like most others, my name is my brand. But what if I get married and change my name? Or think of a completely different brand name? This is my fifth year of business and I don’t want to confuse my following by changing my name but I do think down the line it will happen.

    • breanna says:

      I thought of that too, which is why I originally went by “Breanna Rose,” Rose being my middle name. That whole getting married thing is tough!!

  12. Juliann Ford says:

    JUST what I needed today! With 5+ years of design experience in the real world, I have started my own freelance business. It took me forever to come up with a brand name for my business. I didn’t want to be confined or limited. And for me, I felt like my name was too generic and unmemorable. Plus, having a first name most can’t pronounce or spell was a factor!

    I was just interviewed for an article in a local magazine and felt somewhat embarrassed when I was asked where I work from. I don’t have a fancy office or studio. It’s hard not to feel “unprofessional” when admitting that I work from home. But like you, I am a bit of a homebody, and I feel that I can get so much more done at my house rather than Dropboxing files so I can work from both an office and my home. Thanks so much for this blog post. It makes me a little more confident in pursuing my own direction + my own structure rather than trying to imitate something I’m just not feelin’.

    • breanna says:

      I feel ya! When people ask about where I work … I’m sometimes hesitant about going into details. Because right now it’s not glamorous. Beige walls and no effort put into my new space! But it’s okay … we’ll get there. :)

  13. Brittany says:

    I love this post so much, and it was exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you, and congrats on your new brand!

  14. Well well, I definitely hear you ! Last week, around midnight, I was rolling over and over in my bed and couldn’t sleep. Over thinking about some stupid boyfriend matters and wondering if or if not I would be able to freelance now, alone, in my dark apartment, without a crazy social life considering the fact that I moved to Amsterdam 6 months ago. And then , at 1AM in the morning, I decided I was gonna go to New York for 3 months, and figure myself out, figure my love life out, my independency, get the confidence, and come back to Amsterdam with the conviction and the patience to freelance. And guess what, I’m actually doing it, it’s happening ! Everything is so much in a rush, I’m in spending my days running everywhere and stressing out, but I’m sure this experience will be incredible and life changing, I feel it.

  15. Vicky says:

    sincerely as always! Breanna good decission, thanks for share your life experience!
    xo

  16. Anna says:

    Reading this is like having my thoughts about freelancing pulled out from my head and then seeing it visually. “For the longest time, I thought opening up my own studio meant having an office outside of the house, filled with working creatives and who knows what else. I would have the coolest decor and grab lunch at some hip spot down the street all the time.” While my freelance projects are sporadic (I still keep a 9 to 5 job), I still dream of making it mine 100% of the time. And I can understand completely about taking the path that led you to Rowan Made. It seems like a great and sound decision. Good luck with this new journey of yours and I am sure you’ll be awesome about it! :)

  17. Kristin says:

    Great advice. I am currently re-writing and fixing the course that I am going as a freelancer. It’s an interesting journey. Congrats on out growing yourself and opening your studio.

  18. Marla says:

    This is my first time commenting here and I recently just started following your blog. This post spoke to me on so many levels. I went off on my own (after 5 years of working for other studios/companies) last year and I only came to terms with the fact that I don’t want a design agency now. Like you, I love working from home and by myself and I used to be so insecure of the fact that I wasn’t gunning for “bigger” dreams. But I’m going to start paying my taxes this year, heh.

    After reading all the comments, I didn’t realize that there’s a sizable number of us doing the same thing. Maybe in the long run we could work on projects together. The thought’s exciting. :)

    • breanna says:

      Thanks for commenting, Marla! Great to meet you. :) But yes, there are many of us out there that work at home and don’t prefer the agency lifestyle. I always thought I was “supposed” to when I first started out … but now I can’t imagine doing anything else! Life is crazy sometimes. In a good way. ;)

  19. Angel Y. says:

    I always think it’s awesome when creatives work under their own name. It just seems like such a brave move to make. Since I created a studio with my husband, I knew we couldn’t work under our names. We have a “unique”name so to speak but it always sparks conversations and it’s just easier to identify with creatively. We don’t have a huge studio and we’re using way too many rooms in our rental for our studio but it feels perfect.

    • breanna says:

      I feel the same way! I think unique names ARE great conversation starters and they can often speak to the aesthetics / beliefs of a brand, which is great. :)

  20. […] hardest parts about starting your own business can be deciding on a name! Breanna Rose just wrote this great post on why she changed the name of her design […]

  21. athewa says:

    it is so interesting to read this… I had been feeling like this as well and as simple an ridiculous as it may sound, the name just changes everything!
    I’ve been blogging for 10 years now… and my nickname has been the same. However I am starting to feel that I need to be more… me… so I am thinking more and more to just give my name a try.
    Same thing happened with my last blog: I had chosen a name for it… and then I felt that I was trapped by it. So one night I just -for my own health- changed my header and voilà!… felt relieved.

    It felt nice to read a story about brand names with a happy ending. :)

  22. Noor says:

    Everything about you that you like about working is also how I feel. I like being able to work at home and I really do not dream of going out and doing all of these things. I guess I have turned into a homebody as well over the years. Honestly, I cannot focus very well unless I am in my own space. I am really happy things are going well for you. I have always loved and enjoyed your blog, process and work.

  23. Laura Morris says:

    You are living my dream life, girl! I am such a homebody and I definitely hope to some day be able to work from home doing my own thing or at least work with people under my own schedule. Good luck with everything under your new business name and congrats on being able to expand! That is a really awesome thing!

  24. Shayla says:

    There seems to be a growing trend among designers right now who are renting studio spaces which I think is kind of odd because most of them left full-time positions because they wanted the ease and comfort of working from home. Now they’re back to having to get dressed up and go into work everyday and their the one paying the overhead. I think this is a good move if your business grows so much that you really need a studio space but not if it’s just because you want to design a cool space so I find it really refreshing that you are moving to the beat of your own drum. :)

    I am contemplating opening a storefront one day because I know it would be good for my stationery business but like you I am a homebody so I’m not fully ready to make that move quite yet or ever; I guess only time will tell. It’s okay to change your mind right? :)

  25. Very timely post for me…as I just quit my agency life to go out on my own and for two reasons I’m going the personal name route. 1) I can’t for the life of me think of a business name right now and I do need to keep it moving… so going my name route can suffice in the meantime… 2) I’ve gone “broader” in terms of names in the past for various personal projects and side businesses, however I’ve felt that it wasn’t personal enough some how… so in a way I feel I can be more true …by going by my name, which also happens to be a bit unusual. – But I totally get why you’ve gone down the path you have… I’m curious to go take a look now at rowan made…but I coudln’t agree more that when we have our own business, we must truly understand who we really are and what we stand for…and to follow it. No more fitting into “labels” and “titles!” Time to create your totally custom to you path/name etc…! ;)

  26. Bee says:

    Thank you for writing this post, Bre! I was one of the commenters who asked about your decision and I’m so glad you decided to share your thoughts and process. I’ve dabbled in blogging and social media and have branded myself under my blog’s name. Recently I’ve taken up freelance editing and writing and have been thinking more about business name and branding. I’m currently going the opposite direction as you since I’ve decided to just go with my name, which tends to be the industry norm. Of course all of my social media accounts are in my blog’s name! I will have to sit down and think about my truths and figure which direction I want to go and how to better align all of my social media channels.

    Thanks again, Bre! Can’t wait to see what you do with Rowan Made.

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