Are You a One-Man Show or the Man Behind the Curtain?

If you are a solo worker, you can either present yourself as such to current and potential clients, or you can present an image of being a larger company with expandable resources. One of the best examples of this is seen in marketing copy. Many one-person businesses use “we” and “our,” instead of “I” and “my” to accomplish this.

Why You Might Want to Present a Bigger Image

This isn’t done to mislead the client or present a false impression of who you are to your clients. In fact, there are clear benefits to making your business seem bigger than a one-man show, including:

  • You may find it easier to get the consideration of larger companies when submitting proposals.
  • You can show that you have more to offer when exploring partnership opportunities with other companies.
  • You can put yourself in the same league as bigger companies who offer similar services.
  • You can avoid the stereotype of being a one-person business who can’t handle multiple projects.
  • You may find it easier to assure new clients that you can handle the work they need done quickly and efficiently.

How To Do It

Aside from altering your use of pronouns in your marketing copy, here are some other ways you can shed the solo worker stereotype and present an image of a larger, more capable and potentially more professional firm:

  • Be consistent in your business activities and how you communicate with clients, focusing on being professional at all times.
  • Create impressive marketing materials, including a portfolio, to make it easier to sell your business as fully capable of meeting the clients’ needs.
  • Get a business phone line and consider a PBX phone service that allows you to set extensions and forward calls.
  • Establish relationships with other companies that are based on collaboration and help to support your “big” image.
  • Hire a virtual assistant to handle support tasks, such as scheduling and customer service.
  • Build a team of subcontractors so you have a solid team behind you.
  • Send out regular newsletters and company updates to announce accomplishments, events and new service offerings.

But Be Careful…

While many small businesses are able to do this successfully without any negative repercussions, make sure you are not misrepresenting your experience, skills and ability. If a client asks who makes up your firm, it’s important that you’re completely honest.

The bottom line is making yourself look bigger than you are can be great for marketing and attracting the type of clients you want, but if it leads you to deceitful or unethical practices, you could be in for a disaster. Plus, some clients will prefer a one-man shop over a larger company, so consider all of the potential benefits and drawbacks before putting up the curtain and settling in.

Do you embrace and publicize that you work alone, or do you try to present a larger image?

Image credit: weatherbox

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  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    I’m upfront about being a one-man operation on both my site and in dealings with people. Although I don’t believe it’s necessary for me to tell clients that I don’t always do 100% of the work done on a project, ie, if I outsource a particular component to someone else.

  • Sai Bharadwaj

    Actually, it depends. I usually keep this in mind when dealing with clients. When required, I start using the “we” tag depending on how I read the clients.

    But, the points you have mentioned are absolutely true. Whether, its individual / company, its the delivery that matters. If we end up taking in projects that we can’t handle (or) lazy to delivery (generally one man show is lazy at times from personal experience), it might end up in losing a potential client.

  • saibharadwaj.com

    Actually, it depends. I usually keep this in mind when dealing with clients. When required, I start using the “we” tag depending on how I read the clients.

    But, the points you have mentioned are absolutely true. Whether, its individual / company, its the delivery that matters. If we end up taking in projects that we can’t handle (or) lazy to delivery (generally one man show is lazy at times from personal experience), it might end up in losing a potential client.

  • http://www.heyraena.com raena

    When I was freelancing, I think my clients would have been a bit surprised if I presented myself as a one man company… ;)

    …I don’t believe it’s necessary for me to tell clients that I don’t always do 100% of the work done on a project, ie, if I outsource a particular component to someone else.

    See, I guess it depends how you present it. I’ve seen a few lone operators’ sites discuss the fact that they might call on colleagues in a reasonably tidy manner. To be honest, when I see a site for a freelancer who says they can do absolutely everything I want, I’m a but concerned. They can’t all do everything well.

  • http://www.mikehealy.com.au cranial-bore

    My pet hate is reading “we” coming from a “me”. It’s phony, and prone to making you look dumb if the client ever asks about staff or coworkers.

  • http://halbrooktech.com mhalbrook

    I use we, but at the same time, my Wife will proof layouts, content, etc for me, and often times I have to contract out some of the work to others, so it’s not just a one man band for me most of the time.

  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    To be honest, when I see a site for a freelancer who says they can do absolutely everything I want, I’m a but concerned. They can’t all do everything well.

    Yes, but depending on the client, there’s no reason for them to know exactly which bits you can and can’t do well. If it’s someone outside the web development field, they just want a good job and probably don’t care how the result is achieved as long as it’s satisfactory for them.

    It would be a different case if you were pitching outsourcing work to another agency.

  • dougydoe

    Good tips on building ones corporate image. Yes, I agree that inspite of trying to present a ‘big’ image, It’s absolutely important to be honest about the composition of your staff when confronted at any stage by a prospective client. Remember, Integrity will take you very far.

  • Neil

    This isn’t done to mislead the client or present a false impression of who you are to your clients.

    Um…actually it is. That’s how you get clients you wouldn’t normally get as a sole trader.

    I did it for years to the point where I had a multi-national convinced they weren’t one of my biggest clients. When they visited I just didn’t enlighten them that I was sharing the slick warehouse I was in and the 20 people working there weren’t my employees. No direct lies were ever told but they just never asked.

    I was also working 80+ hours per week even while outsourcing. The money was great but the workload was horrendous. After a month in hospital when my health finally failed I took a tree change and never looked back. Beware what you wish for when playing that game…you might get it.

  • http://www.anistock.com anistock

    It depends on your customers and product, I have held small business courses for over 10 years, I get asked this question lots of times, – my reply, if the shoe fits. In some industries like software then portraying a larger [ within reason] image can be a deciding factor in award business. I worked for Dell and Apple, we never dealt with sole traders but I bet we did!!!

  • jphilapy

    The only problem I see with this strategy is that sometimes, clients will draw their own assumptions about what a big business should be doing and then have those expectations of you. I had an experience before, don’t recall the details, but the client ended up saying, ‘I thought you were a larger company’. Obviously I managed to give him that impression, but I was not prepared to deal with his assumptions about my company as he perceived it. So I suggest that if you do this, be very careful.

    Jeff

  • http://www.seowebconsultant.com spinball

    Even while working for a larger company, I was the guy that did most of the production. The client liked knowing they were dealing with a larger company that probably won’t vanish tomorrow, but they liked the fact that they were dealing with me. Even knowing they were dealing with a company that probably had a back-up plan, they would often ask “what if Mike got hit by a bus tomorrow?”. It is possible to walk that line. Clients like the security of a larger company along with the idea of one person to be their go-to guy. As was stated, have a network of people that can help you out in a pinch, but still be the only person they need to speak to.

  • Marlene

    I prefer to be clear that my business is run by one person. I find it’s in my best interest to attract clients that *want* to work with a single freelancer. But I totally agree about being sure to present a professional image in marketing materials and in how I operate.