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"We" or "I" when marketing yourself...



2:48 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi everyone,

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?



3:54 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm a freelance copywriter, and faced the same question when I opened my business a few years ago. I started out as a "we" but quickly decided that I was pretending to be something I really wasn't. I like being self-employed, have no desire to be a company, and don't feel I offer any less to my clients than copywriting companies. Clients hire me because they like the way I do business, what I deliver, my personality, whatever ... so on my website I focus on what I bring to the table, not what my "company" brings to the table (even though I do have a company name). On the rare occasions I outsource something, I mention it to the client only if it's relevant. (Usually it's not.) There are advantages to being a person rather than a company; the bottom line is people like dealing with, and respond to, individuals, not companies. Focus on those benefits in your marketing and you'll do just fine.


7:50 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

These are great points! Thanks for your reply.


8:42 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Whenever I see "we" and I *suspect* that there is just an "I" behind it, it makes me leery.

"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.


8:53 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

There is another point. If you have a formal company with limited owner liability (corp or llc) and in all your correspondence/website you use "I" -- you might have a hard time explaining that this is a company debt and not yours personally should it go sour and you need to declare a bankruptcy.

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".


10:31 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

When I first started out by myself, I felt that "I" sounded so unprofessional, so I choose to use "we". I could justify it because my wife often answered the phone and got to know some of my clients. But, because she wasn't involved in any other way, I still felt like a "me."

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:


10:39 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I use we beecause I quite often end up using others' help in the course of a project. My husband ends up removing all their viruses, I get a colleague to do the database work, I arrange hosting with someone else. It is a group effort even though "they" are not technically part of the "company". In other words, I am drawing on a pool of "vast resources". I dunno about the "empiure" thing, though.


10:48 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

How about an entity?

EG... 'TheWhippinpost recommends...'


10:53 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I do both. Depending.

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.


11:33 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

You all have given me some great food for thought! I appreciate it. I think for most of the marketing material, I will use an entity indentifier. My business name is "Passionistic" and so I will often say, "So and So hired Passionistic to create blah, blah, blah..."

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!


11:34 pm on Aug 6, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Do you out source? Do you draw on other resources besides just yourself?

Yes it implies you are more than just you - and if you outsource anything, you are telling the truth. You are only as good as thet services and products that stand with you. We, always we.

Mr Bo Jangles

12:04 am on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

'We' for me! - I even have some 'phantom' staff who reply to e-mails - it is essential to me that I do not appear to be a 'one man band' for my programming business.

Phantom staff are good by the way - low pay rates, never take sick days off *_*


1:39 am on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I use we when marketing via websites, etc - but there is also a legal company, so, it would seem weird to use "I" for an LLC. And since I can bring out outside designers, programmers, etc when needed, it seems right. Talking one on one though, I will usually say "I" as habit.


8:43 pm on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

>Many people have told me I should say "We offer the following services" Rather than "I offer the following services."

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".


8:59 pm on Aug 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

When I started my programming and design service, i also used quite a lot phantom stuff. Some of them subcontractors, some real phantoms. I even bult a site with about 20 people in my team.
But during the time it occures that my customers prefer to know me personally and to know who is doing the job. Recently i am talking about 'me'. Somethimes i need to subcontract something, usually design works, and then i just let the customers know that (usually).
I even let some of them know that my gf is doing the design, her name and email if need to contact her directly. People like that, they feel a personal care.
Althought, I should tell that i am serving mostly entrepreneurs and small businesses, doing something for a large company as 'me and my mate' or 'me and my gf' would sound unprofessional.


5:43 pm on Aug 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

A lot of people are successful through marketing their business as an "I". The "key" for these enterprises, it seems, is that they go all-out to emphasise this (over-inflated ego perhaps?!) with photo's and name-splashing everywhere.

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.


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