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I've been a lurker for some time and I've run into an issue I could use some help with.
I've been working as an independent contractor (web design, coding) for a long-term client for quite some years, and I recently left them to pursue freelancing full-time.
I've got three clients I've been working long-term with and I have been receiving lots of subcontracted work from a talented designer, so I am happy with my "startup" work load for now.
However, I've been operating under just my name (portfolio, domain is also my name). Now that I am branching out, I've decided to name my business and create a fresh website, portfolio, etc.
Here's the question (finally)... How should I represent my business in marketing materials? Many people have told me I should say "We offer the following services" Rather than "I offer the following services."
I do subcontract some stuff out, and will continue to do so (FLASH, some scripting, etc). Of course, these are not my employees, partners, or any other form of my business -- they are subcontractors. Still, I like to think I still use a "team approach" for some clients.
So, is it better to market your business as more than one individual (presumably to look bigger and more important), or would you consider this misleading?
How did you do it?
"We" suggests that there are vast resources, long-term presence, a mini corporate empire for the client to draw on (okay, I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea). If it were true, it is a great selling point, but when it's clearly not true, it's just a negative and casts a suspect light on all statements from "them".
On the other hand, "I" implies owner-operator. It implies that your contact person is the person doing the work, the person who will fix it if it goes wrong, the person who is responsible. Those are also selling points and, in your case, they will be true.
My lack of vast wealth suggests that I am *not* the person to ask for business advice, but that's how I look at it.
At least this is my understanding and that's the main reason I try to use "we" and "our" even though most of the time it means "I" and "my".
Then I got 2 partners and could say "we" with confidence! Now, 3 years later, both partners have stepped out of the business, and I'm back to the "me" or "we" question.
The difference today is that, during our partnership we put together a team of several people that all contributed to the end result. I'm still working with all of them, either directly (sub-contracting, hosting) or indirectly (advice, support, etc.), so I'm much more comfortable saying "we". I can say, "let me talk to my programmer," or "let me find out from the technical support people," because those people really do exist (and they aren't me).
In fact, I'll often say to a client, without even thinking, "what we'll be doing next is..." because I know there are others working on the project with me. Since I represent myself to clients this way naturally when face-to-face, I feel confident doing the same in writing.
When asked directly, I won't lie or make it seem as though I have people working as employees for me. In fact, my website says that our team is a virtual team, networked across the country. When I explain that to clients, they completely understand and are fine with it.
Here's an interesting article on the topic:
The websites I run for non-profits wind up with me in the "we" category, just because it DOES sound more businesslike - when you're dealing with people who not only have little web savvy, but are operating a non-prof service organization, it seems they usually like a team-notation ("we") better. At least that's how it comes across in this area.
For my "sure I can do that, but you have to PAY me" clients, it's "I" all the way, and that's professional too since the clients know I'm the principal. I do subcontract things I'm either not good/fast at, or can't do at all, but those folks are just that: subcontractors, not "team members" or "employees" or "partners".
As far as my LLC registration, since my husband and daughter are officers (perfectly legal here), but I'm the principal/proprietor/president/whatever, "I" is not only logical but legal.
But in the "About Passionistic area, I think I will probably say a bit about the philosophy of the business, i.e.; "Passionistic gives businesses the advantage blah, blah, blah" and then, if I decide to add past experience, I could word everything in the third person...i.e.; "Jessica Williams, owner of Passionistic, has more than 7 years experience in blah, blah, blah..."
So thank you all for your thoughts on this!
The majority is not - if not often - wrong ;)
If you are talented you don't need to hide behind we. When I began as Independant I was alone and I said "I", when later I had employees and subcontractors I said "we", and today I would say "I" again because I'm in the process of restarting a new business in another field and need to grow before I will say "We" again - although I'm wanting to stay "I" as long as possible it's less a hassle :).
Now if you are sub-contracting I know as for my experience that they may see you as a potential competitor if you use "we".
Thing is, get to a certain level and ya need the services of other people. So then "I" becomes "we"... even though Mr/Mrs "I" doesn't tell ya this.
It then gets to the absurd position of all front-facing staff assumin the proprietors identity in communications - This can get dangerous!
However you refer to your venture, just make sure all links in the chain are of equal strength.