The solo entrepreneur’s royal problem – how many is one?


Trawling the depths of the Twitter ocean (there are whales, aren’t there?) you can’t help noticing that the major part of your catch consists of individual fish. Especially if you’re following marketing people or a creative profession. True, there are companies around, but solo professionals are extremely well represented.

I’ve noticed this sometimes leads to something of an identity problem. If you’re working through your own company, are you “I” or “we”?

It’s customary for companies to refer to themselves as “we”—a collective. Rightly so. But if the company consists of one person, what do you do then?

There seem to be three basic approaches.

The first approach, perhaps the most common one, is to boldly reveal you’re operating by yourself. This, of course, doesn’t exclude having a wider network that can bring more to the table than just you alone. If you’re not famous to begin with, however, you may have a hard time proving yourself, being a relative nobody from nowhere.

The second approach, as far as I can see, is circumventing the whole problem by wording websites and other content in ways that allow talking in the third person. In a way, this is good. At least you aren’t prone to overusing the first person, a common cause for forgetting whom you should be talking to about what. Customers are more interested in getting their problems solved than you talking about how excellent you are.

The third approach is somewhat schizophrenic. The one-person company starts its talk with “we”, but sooner or later it will become clear to the audience that there’s just you. A typical example is a website telling you “we work with…” and in the next paragraph slipping into the first or third person: “I have X years’ experience…” or “NN has X years’ experience…”—NN or I simultaneously being the company figurehead and only employee. I’ve seen very few people pull this one off successfully.

Are you a freelancer or independent contractor? How have you solved the one-man-company problem? Are you yourself, a third person or the royal “we”? Feel free to add a link to your website or other material in your comment, I’d love to have a look.


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