Over the years the use of the generic personal pronoun “we” has been commonly used to make small businesses appear bigger than they actually are. In fact, it may just one person freelancing from home in slippers and a bathrobe. I find it a bit odd when freelancers I know use “we” on their website while the truth is that they are an “I” working from home. “Request a review from us”, “See our reviews”… I wonder “who is we?”. It’s sometimes taken that the “we” makes the company sound more serious, and hence more trustworthy. But does it?
I use “I” and “me”. I enjoy working with small (or start up) businesses, and I have no desire to misrepresent myself as a corporate entity. Besides, if a client calls me and hears my dog barking in the background, or meets me in a public place because I don’t have clients come to my home office, I figure the jig’s up anyway! I am more interested in achieving a good “fit” with a prospective client.
The most important things about what you choose is that it suits your identity and your audience responds well to it. Since starting i4design I have only had good experiences with my “I-business” and that is exactly what I’m aiming for.
The case for “We”
Referring to your business using the plural pronoun “we” gives your business a more corporate, established feel.
If you work with subcontractors or partners you aren’t misrepresenting your business, and clients may find comfort in that it doesn’t sound like your personal life is going to interfere with your business.
“We” helps dispel the stereotype of you at a desk in your pyjamas in your mom’s basement. By creating a professional persona, you may convert clients who prefer business-like relations with a company, over an individual who may turn out to be less reliable.
The case for “Me”
Referring to your business using the singular pronoun “I” makes your business sound more personable, more flexible, and more accessible.
You can create that personal connection with your clients so they know their money is benefiting someone whom they care about and trust, and you can take their occasional calls at 7pm when most firms are closed.
“Me” might help you gain clients who are looking for a person rather than a company. They may feel they can’t afford a group of designers, or prefer to support a fellow entrepreneur.
Why I decided to go with “I” on my website
I tried, for a short while, writing a lot of my copy using the “we” pronoun, but it felt fake so I switched back to the singular pronoun. I think it better defines what I offer to my clients, and the type of business relationship I look for.
I use “I” because I want people to know they’ll be dealing with me and me alone, with the particular skills that I have (on the assumption that’s why they want to work with me). It’s me doing the work, it’s me building the relationships, and me asking my clients “what can I do for you?” People come to me for that personal touch and to know they are dealing with a real person who cares – someone who will go the extra mile, can work outside of normal business hours, and who really cares about the success of their business.
Clients need to feel secure and special. It’s important to give them a lot for their money, or at least point them to better options. I also don’t always run the clock for every single revision, and I know everyone loves a freebie. Because I’m a one woman operation I can do this.
Generally I only use “we” when I’m referring to my client and I as a partnership. “To promote your new line of products, we can…” because we’re in it together – we’re a team.
I don’t need people to believe that I’m bigger than one person, especially when I run a services business where they’d only be dealing with me anyway. I think for my purposes, the more personal, singular approach works well. I wouldn’t want people to think they’re hiring a team of designers when they’re “only” getting one. If my business grows to a partnership or a group of designers, I can always change it up.
My clients know that I am an “I” and it’s my work (I hope), not the size of my business that matters.