Five reasons not to be a ‘we’

It’s a question as old as time:

Should freelancers try to look bigger than they actually are?

No, I’m not talking about platform shoes. I’m referring to the debate about whether freelancers should refer to themselves as an ‘I’ or a ‘we’.

When I first started out, I went down the ‘we’ route. There may even be a couple of them still lurking on older pages…But since then, I’ve switched to being an ‘I’.

vanellope wreck it ralph royal we

Of course, there’s no right or wrong answer. Mind you, that didn’t stop me thinking long and hard about it before I made the switch. Here are five of the reasons I came up with not to be a ‘we’:

1. Big companies

First things first, why is ‘I vs We’ such a hot button issue anyway? For most people, it’s because they have some version of the following in their head:

  • Some huge brand is looking for a freelance copywriter/designer/developer
  • Huge brand stumbles onto my site
  • Huge brand sees I’m just a one man band and leaves my site forever
  • I cry myself to sleep over the missed opportunity

Let’s be real for a moment. How likely is it that the BBC or Apple are going to come across your site? Unless you’re an SEO whiz, the odds are stacked against you.

For every one big company that you might attract some day, you risk putting off many more smaller businesses looking for freelancers. Why? Because of…

2. Personality

Startups and small business owners are generally looking for people with personality. It’s hard to get any across when everything is ‘we do this’ and ‘we make that’.

The best freelance websites do more than just showcase a freelancer’s work, they also give an impression of what it’s like to work with them as a person. It’s very hard to do that as a ‘we’.

3. Turnaround time

If you need a logistical reason not to make yourself sound like a huge agency, I can’t think of one better than this. Your client emails you on Thursday afternoon asking whether ‘you guys’, since he assumes there are a few of you, can get 10,000 words together by the end of the week.

If you say no, you risk making yourself look bad – if you make it look like you have several employees, you need to be able to match that output rate singlehandedly. If you say yes, you’re probably in for a late night…

4. Fees

In the same way that trying to appear more corporate messes with turnaround time, it also impacts your fee structure. Let’s say a client wants you to write 40,000 words for their help centre. You estimate it’ll take you 20 workdays to do that. If your day rate is £200, they’re looking at £4,000 for a 4 week job. While that might be in line with a client’s expectation of copywriting rates, it feels slow.

Now imagine a small agency that has two junior copywriters. They get paid £80 per day and can write 5,000 words per day between them. That’s about £1280 for a week and a half of work. Even if the MD charges £800 to cast his eyes over it, they can still charge roughly half of what you do and get it done in less than half the time.

Sorry for the maths lesson. Hopefully you can see why trying to appear like a small agency but only having the bandwidth of one person can cause a disconnect when it comes to fees.

5. Dishonesty

Ok, you’ve made yourself look like an agency online. How far do you go to keep up the charade? Do you install a dedicated business phone line? Get a green screen to project a bustling office behind you for Skype calls? Hire a secretary to answer your phone, or hold your nose and put on a funny voice before putting the call through to…yourself?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time or energy for that. I have some pretty great clients. I’m even in a fantasy football league with one! I don’t think I could get to that stage if our entire working relationship was built on deception.

 

One last thing. There’s been a marked change in the email enquiries I’ve received since I changed to an ‘I’. The tone is more relaxed and conversational. Neither of us are standing on ceremony. It feels like a much better way to start a project together.

Anyway, that’s just our my two cents.