It’s a classic conundrum.
You’re writing your website copy, and you don’t know how to talk about yourself.
Should you use “We” and talk as if you’re an established company?
Or should you use “I” and be more personal—but perhaps too unprofessional?
You’re afraid of misleading clients. But this I/We/Us/Them thing is a nasty gray area that’s holding you back from getting your freakin’ website launched already.
After several years of writing website copy and over 6 years publishing stuff online, I’ve seen a lot of different approaches to this problem—some good, some… not so good. So let me break it down for you, give you the 4-1-1, so you can make an informed decision and not look like an inexperienced service provider to your clients.
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Option 1: “We”
The classic! “We’re here to help.” “We’d love to work with you.” “We think that dress looks great on you.”
There’s just something so comforting about We. It’s warm and personal, but also super professional, because it’s not just some random talking. It’s a we. A group of people. It automatically sounds more established.
“We” is a great option for companies that have actual teams. But I’ll warn you now—if you’re a one-person show, this can easily come off as fake and #tryingtoohard.
It’s like my sister. My little sister got into the blog game before I did. At 13, she had a DIY lifestyle blog that had a ton of monthly readers and even had one of her tutorials picked up by The Huffington Post. Seriously. And as a fledgling marketer myself, I was… mildly annoyed.
But on her media page (because of COURSE she had a media page), she referred to herself as “we.” Did anyone believe that she was a 13-year-old blog tycoon with her own team? …Probably not. (Sorry to throw you under the bus, sis.)
You don’t have to be 13 to feel like you need to spice up how clients perceive you, though. A LOT of freelancers, creative entrepreneurs, and the like feel like “we” is a cozy safety blanket. It makes you sound like a pro. Trustworthy. Like you’ve got your shit together.
But the bottom line here? If you don’t have a team, and you don’t plan on having a team, don’t use “we.” It’s not worth the awkwardness and feeling you always have to hide the fact that you don’t, in fact, have a team. (With one exception—more on that later.)
Option 2: “I”
Using “I” is an obvious option if you’re a one-person deal. Do people hire you? Then use I.
A lot of folks, though, feel uncomfortable using “I.” Maybe you’ve experienced the corporate world, where “I” is considered unprofessional in certain documents. Or maybe you just have constant flashbacks to your high school English teacher who told you to never ever use I in your writing.
Luckily, you’re not in a corporate office anymore—nor are you in your high school English class. (Goodness, can you imagine?) You’re on my blog, and I’m here to tell you that YOU CAN USE I.
“I” is personal. It’s human. It can build trust quickly with your reader because they feel like they can get to know you. At the end of the day, people don’t hire companies—they hire other people. You have a MASSIVE advantage by being able to talk about yourself in the first person.
Option 3: Avoid it all together
So there is technically a third option that some people like to gravitate to. Instead of having to choose between “I” vs “We,” some folks just try to write their copy in a way that they never have to use either. Instead, they refer to themselves in the third person. “[Company Name] would love to work with you.”
Um, okay. Can I be real? This is just weird.
Third person can work in small doses. But at some point, you’ve gotta choose. Are you an “I” or a “We”? Referring to yourself as “they” is extremely impersonal, and it makes the reader feel like they’re speaking to someone who isn’t actually there.
Just don’t do it.
And now, the exceptions
There are some weird situations that business owners get themselves into where the gray line between “I” and “We” gets even fuzzier. Here’s how you should deal with them.
What if your company is named after you—but you have a team?
Ah, you’re in a beautiful position where you get to CHOOSE. How do you want to be perceived?
Do you want to come off as more personal? Are you still the face of the company? Use I.
Do you want to emphasize the capabilities of your team? Do you want to take more of a back-seat role these days? Use we.
(Or, use both. You could create a personal connection with “I” on your home page, then introduce your team on your about page as “we.” This is trickier, but totally doable.)
What if your company name ISN’T your personal name—but you’re the only person running the show?
So you registered your LLC or DBA with an official business name. But even with the fancy name, it’s still just little ol’ you.
Some folks gravitate toward using a company name because they feel it makes them look more professional. And it definitely can! But it can also be an excuse to hide behind your business and never create a personal connection in your copy.
So the general answer? Use “I.” Everyone knows it’s still just you.
Unless you fall into one of the following exceptions…
What if you have a virtual assistant? Does that count as a team?
A VA could count as a team. If you want them to.
The question is, what kind of business are you building? Are you hiring a VA as your assistant, to help you work faster? OR are you hiring a VA as your first subcontractor—and you plan on operating as an agency one day?
Again—if you want to keep that personal feel, use “I.” If you want to highlight the fact that you’re truly a team, use “we.”
What if you’re PLANNING on having a team soon?
Eek! The worst gray area of all. You plan on operating as a team. You want to start hiring. You want to run your business as a “we,” but right now you’re just an “I.” Is it wrong to pretend you’re larger than you are?
This comes down to personal preference and what you’re comfortable with. But my personal rule of thumb is this:
If it’s realistic for you to hire someone in the next 6 months, go ahead and use “we.” When you write your copy (or hire someone to write it), you want your copy to last a while. So if you’re getting it done now, go ahead and future-proof your work by using “we.”
If hiring is still a total pipe dream and you don’t think you can make it happen that soon, use “I.” Using “we” will just make you feel awkward, and your clients WILL catch on that you’re not actually a team. Be real about where you are. If you’re doing good work, it won’t matter anyway.
And at the end of the day, remember that it’s not about you at all
We can argue “We” vs “I” all day long. But when it gets down to it, you have to remember that it’s actually all about the “You.”
Not you, like you reading this article. I mean your readers. The people you’re writing to.
You should focus on writing in second person (“you”) much more than you write about yourself. Doing this well comes down to knowing your customer well enough to reflect to them the pain points they’re experiencing and the desires they have.
So make a choice about how to talk about yourself. Go with something already. Then let all the me-me-me talk fall to the back, and let your reader be the star of the show.