I had an opportunity to meet with an actor the other day whose real name was really simple. When she joined SAG-AFTRA, she had to add a couple of initials to it to make it unique.
It got me thinking that there are some other extremely important considerations you need to think about besides whether or not anyone already uses that name in SAG-AFTRA.
It used to be simple, before the Internet came along and changed everything.
Now, there’s a lot more to think about.
First off, awesome that you got into the union. Let’s make the most of your most obvious brand: your name.
When you join, the SAG-AFTRA rep will ask a simple question: what would you like to use as your official stage name? What you tell them will have a huge impact on your voice over career, how you’re listed in credits, and so much more.
There’s only one requirement: that your chosen name is unique among all of the other SAG-AFTRA names already taken.
Your given name might just be fine, unless your name is something like John Smith. That’s probably going to be taken. You’ll have to come up with something different from your given name.
You might want to simply include your middle name. If that makes your stage name unique, like John Dale Smith, that might be all you need.
But we’re not finished yet. Both confusion and the Internet have to be dealt with.
One thing to avoid is homophony: having your name sound like someone else’s. You don’t want to pick Jo Sipriani, Jorge Dell Hoyu or Junie Forre as your union name. Chances are SAG-AFTRA wouldn’t allow that anyway, but even if they would, imagine the joy of having to say, “But not that [name goes here]” every time. John Dale Smith passes this test.
Next: is your desired name available as a domain name? You’ll want to have yourname.com as your main web site. If available as a URL (a simple search on GoDaddy can help you determine that), that’s great. But if it’s not available, simply spelled with no additional punctuation, as in johndalesmith.com (as opposed to john-dale-smith.com), my advice? Choose another name. Avoid more explanation to people that they need to type hyphens between all the words to get to your website.
Next, check to see if your name is available as a Gmail email address, as in firstname.lastname@example.org, as this is an all too common query – how to email you. You’ll most likely have email@example.com, but having the same email address with the giant Gmail is an advantage.
And finally, is that name available as a user name on facebook, twitter, google+, linkedin, pinterest, and other social networks? @johndalesmith is short enough for twitter, so go as short as possible with your name for these social networks and others.
Follow these tips and you’ll be looking at a much more effective name every time you take your union card out of its holder.
Hope this helps.