Friday, April 24, 2015

To change or not to change my last name??

As I'm going through all of the steps to get my drafting business up and running I'm finding I keep coming back to one question: should I change my last name now or wait until my fiancé and I actually get married.

We've already decided we're not going to get married until life isn't as hectic as it is right now with my business getting started, our new baby, getting ready to move, settling custody issues with Leo's kids, and all the other fun things life has been throwing at us. We've decided that adding a wedding on top of all of that isn't practical for us or fair to the kids, who've already had enough changes over the past 2 years. We're both ok with that, and don't mind waiting. 

The problem is that while I'm starting my career I'm also setting up my brand and establishing myself both on- and off-line as 'Jennifer Levitt'. If we get married in a year all that hard work will have to be done all over again when I re-brand myself. 

With SEO being such an important part of branding, and a persons brand being even more important to a small business owner, to change your name or not has become more complicated than simply considering traditions and attachment to your maiden name. It's become important to consider the ramifications of changing your name when it comes to people googling you and your online presence. 

Sure, I can change my name on Facebook, LinkedIn, my website, and my blog; but what about things other people write about me (I'm hoping there will be lots 😝)?

After googling my predicament I've found a few tips for making the transition a smooth one:

1. Send out an email to all of your contacts letting them know you're changing your name
This gives people the opportunity to make the change in their contact list, and it also gives you a chance to reconnect with people you haven't spoken to in a while. They will probably congratulate you and then you can continue the conversation from there, or politely thank them and move on, it's your call.

2. Change your name on all social media accounts and websites at the same time
Don't make the name change a long drawn out process, this will just confuse people and that's exactly what we're trying to avoid. Make a list of all the places you've used your maiden name and take a few hours to change them all at once. 

3. You could write your name like this for a short period of time: Sarah (Frankfurter) Smithinson
This will give people a chance to get used to your new last name before you actually change it for good. The more people associate you with your new name the easier the transition will be for everyone. You could consider doing this while your engaged or while your planning your wedding, then when you get married get rid of your maiden name all together. 

4. If you change your email address, setup an automatic message with your new name and email address
"Thank you for your message but I no longer use this email address as I have changed my name to..., and here is my new email address...". Keep this on for about 4-6 months. You may also be able to forward the email to your new email address so that you don't miss anything. 

5. Expect people to call you by your maiden name and to ask a lot of question
Everyone has an opinion and I find that they are more likely to voice them the more personal the choice is (as if it's any of their business why you chose to change your name). Answer politely, or don't, that's up to you, just be prepared for it to happen. I find that when I'm caught off gaurd with a question I don't answer it as well so for me expecting the unexpected is a matter of keeping my foot out of my mouth. 

6. Start adding as much as you can online with your new name
The more things come up when people search your new name the better so get started as soon as you can. If you had a strong online presence before your name change, or if you've been in your industry for a long time this becomes even more important because you have lots of content to make up for. 

7. Don't get destracted by your name change and forget why you changed it
You got married! Waaaahoooo! That should be in the front of your mind. Don't spend too much time concerned with who will be able to find you under your new name because chances everyone who really matters knows you were getting married, it's not the kind of thing people keep to them selves or forget. Plus, with a wedding, in-laws, and a future to plan together you don't need more things to be worrying about. 

I've chosen to continue going by my maiden name until we decide to get married. I don't wanna spoil the day by rushing out and doing it sooner, or smaller, just so I have my forever last name now, when I'm starting my career. And even though I hate having to explain to people why my son and I have different last names he's too young to remember this stuff. Beside, I'd rather the story he's told be that his mommy and daddy loved him so much that they decided to share a last name when the timing was right, not mommy didn't wanna rebrand herself so she married daddy at city hall... Where's the romance in that??