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One of the first things I do when I come up with a new idea is to find a good name. It helps in defining the eventual project and sometimes that also means changing names halfway through.

I have a very specific routine that I use to find a name, which I thought I’d share with you. Do let me know what methods you use to find names in the comments though!

Step 1: Start with ten words

I sit down and start with ten words that I think describe my idea. So, when I have an idea for email I might write down ‘Email, Inbox, Mailbox, Reply, Forward, Message, Subject, Body, Post, Write’.

Step 2: Use the dictionary

The next thing I do is enter these words, one by one, into a dictionary. I generally use Answers.com, but any dictionary works. I then go through the page and read the descriptions, antonyms and translations. This easily gets me another 90 words.

Once this is done, I end up with a list of 100 very diverse words that help me with the next step.

Step 3: Make combinations

Then I go to a domain name registration service and start entering these 100 words to see what kind of domain names are available. After I do that I start making combinations of words from my list. I’ll enter Post+Box, Reply+Forward, Body+Reply or Email+Post. From my 100 words, there are hundreds of combinations to try.

Step 4: Don’t re-invent the wheel

If you are looking for an obvious and great domain name chances are that someone beat you to it. Too often great startups with bad names tell me they picked their name because the domain name was still available. That is a lousy excuse and very bad start for your multi-billion dollar company.

My advice: see what awesome names you can pick up for a little more than you were initially planning to spend. Seriously, you can spend a week finding a domain name that sucks, or an hour to get an awesome one for a little more money – how much is your time worth? The saving you make in time hunting for a domain name could be spent investing more in a better one.

Step 5: Look beyond .com

There are great alternatives to .com these days. For the last few ideas we launched we preferred to work with .co domains but there are plenty of other distinctive ones to choose from – .us, .tv, .cc and .me, for example.

A common trick these days is to pick a name for your business that fits the domain names available, including the top level domain. Think about Instagram’s instagr.am domain, for example. While many people have cottoned onto this trick over time, a little imagination and creativity can still go a long way.

Conclusion

Finding a good domain name takes some work, but if you do well it will be something you will base and build your company on.

You are stuck with this name for the rest of your life. Isn’t that worth some time and effort? You will be wearing shirts with your logo and name on it and one day it will be the basis for your NASDAQ ticker symbol.

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