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I vs We

Small vs Big Are you still struggling with “I” vs “We” when it comes to identifying yourself as an INDIECreative? Do you think your customers won’t take you seriously when you tell them that it’s just you who makes your product?

You’ll be surprised

Over the past 10 years, the US has seen a dramatic shift in small business culture. Those who feel handcraft is important in their lives vote with their wallets further supporting the craftsperson who strives to make meaningful, functional art.

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Mass vs Meaningful
After the deluge of mass consumerism at the big boxes (and who doesn’t shop for daily staples?) customers are beginning to feel the pressure of meaningful shopping when faced with toxic recalls month after month. Who wants their kids to play with lead filled toys or watch their pets tragically die after eating a bowl of their favorite food? How about that salad you’re eating -are you sure the spinach is safe?

Being an sole proprietor can be immobilizing at times, scary in fact. Just don’t allow your position as an INDIECreative paralyze your passion to build your business.

Mindful spending is becoming the norm for customers from businesses they trust. Customers want to personally know the business and trust they won’t compromise their integrity with a bait and switch program or worse, and this is where we come in…

Perceived Competence
Over the past 10 years, small businesses struggled with small vs big. Originally, the idea to say ‘we’ even if you were a sole proprietor was to elude that you could play in the same arena as the big boys, giving your potential customer confidence in your skillset. If it (your skillet) were ever questioned, one would confidently answer that some aspects of the job were outsourced (programmer, printer) to keep costs low but still bring the same quality one would expect.

Now a big shift for small business has happened. I’ve watched Seth Godin, Tom Peters, and other business gurus change their minds on this and ask that we –as INDIECreatives– embrace the fact that we’re small. I realize that being an sole proprietor can be immobilizing at times, scary in fact. Just don’t allow your position as an INDIECreative paralyze your passion to build your business.

How to Make it Meaningful
The idea is to craft a home, no matter how big or small, online or in your studio, that is welcoming to your customer. Once you’ve set the stage for your perfect customer, then your perfect customer will come to you. Not everyone is our customer and it’s imperative that we focus on the people who are.

Tip: When writing copy for your business collateral, you can rest easy promoting yourself as a sole proprietor and using ‘I’ when describing you and your business. If you occasionally use an assistant of any kind, then it’s okay to use ‘we.’

If you don’t feel good about using first person, you can avoid it. Although the current business acumen is to make conversations personal, you’ll see by these two examples why keeping first person is advantageous. For instance:

  1. It’s my goal to collaborate with you and your family to create a meaningful piece of art.
  2. Collaborating with you and your family to create a meaningful piece of art is what it’s all about.

As you can see, first example involves the family in the decisions whereas the second form elicits a dry, hands-off approach, almost a distant corporate speak. Bleck. Who would you do business with?

Small is the new big
So how do you get customers to embrace your smallness? Simply highlight past projects successes. As a artist, you can show customers how you brought unique solutions to others and how they felt after the transformation. When customers understand how this will work for them, they’ll embrace it.

Tip: When summing up your projects or outlining your process description, be sure to include the words ‘you’ and ‘together’ to pull in your reader so that she feels like she’s part of the process.

For instance:

  • “Together, we can collaborate…”
  • “With combined visions, we can create…”
  • “We would love collaborate with you…”

A note about collaboration
Collaboration is defined as a process where two or more people work together toward a common goal by sharing knowledge, learning and building. Collaborating doesn’t have to mean the family is in your studio directing your pen strokes. If you’re hired to create a pet portrait, discussion of the overall vision should include elements such as the color of the pet, favorite toys, scenes, and other objects that are meaningful.

  • “Let’s talk about the overall vision of this piece. What do you see?”
  • “Where are some of Fido’s favorite places to play?

Can you see how ‘we’ turned ‘I’ evolved into a new form of ‘we’? Getting cozy, isn’t it? These are the elements that make a successful project sing and bring meaning to your work for both you and your customer.

About Professionalism
Also, please don’t equate being small with lack of professionalism. I’ve seen far more unprofessionalism conducted within big business and it’s ugly. Being small gives us the advantage of flexibility, agility, and the opportunity to respond without a committee diluting our effectiveness. With the concept of professionalism, it’s really about your demonstrated integrity and commitment to your customer.

At times, we (as in Andrew and I) have to remind new customers that it’s ‘just us’ making these products and that at this time, we’re not outsourcing the projects. Lead times, queues, and project status are part of the small business process for craftsman.

Do you feel better about being small? Tell us!

Here’s to Cultivating Your Creative Independence


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Lisa Stewart
CREATIVEGoddess, Design Entrepreneur, Guide for; Huge Pet Advocate; Lover of Wine, Food, Travelling, Tech & Laughing. Dreamy & Practical.

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