Business writing for freelance workers: we, he, she or me?

When you’re freelance, to write about yourself in anything other than the first person seems dishonest, as everyone knows there’s just you. On the other hand writing about how “I” do this and “I” do that can come across as very pompous and patronizing. So how do we get this right?

I’ve been freelance since shortly before the Ming Dynasty so as you can imagine I have tried various alternatives when writing promotional material about my business. Overall, I have found the third person works even though people know it’s just you, but you have to be careful to avoid any implications that your operation involves other people when it’s blatantly obvious that it’s just you, the kitchen table, a laptop and your cats as paperweights.

Let’s look at this in a bit more detail…

“He” or “she” – third person

As I mentioned just now you’ve got to avoid any hint that, as someone working freelance, you have anyone else working for you – unless you really have. You also have to avoid “bigging yourself up” because ironically, any suggestion of that when applied to an individual comes across as even more phony than it does when describing, say, an SME.

The key is to be factual. Depending on your intended audience, you can also inject a little humor. (And if you’re in the UK, self-deprecating humor usually goes over well.) Here’s a slice of my own “about” page here on HowToWriteBetter.net:

“Suze also developed useful skills as a conference and video producer, largely in emergencies caused by the actual practitioners’ bunking off through illness, drunkenness, excessive use of recreational substances, etc. It’s amazing how fast you can learn to do a job if the person who should be doing it is in la-la-land and the client expects a top job, right now…”

The fact that this is all true makes it even more painful for me to remember, but these days it makes everyone laugh. Even me.

So overall, the third person does work well for your freelance promotional writing, provided that you keep it kosher. OK.

What about the first person?

Perhaps even more than when you use the third person, when talking about what “I” do and did you need to keep to a very factual style. That avoids any hint of boasting or bragging – a cardinal sin if you’re in the UK and probably unwise even in more self-confident cultures like Australia or the USA.

There’s another way to get away with writing in the first person with promotional material for your freelance work, though:

If you talk about “me” and “I,” use testimonials to support it

Get a few of your favorite freelance clients to write what it is about your work that makes their business or other activity more successful. Nearly all of us have a few clients willing to do this. And although testimonials are almost as old as I am, provided that they can be substantiated and are shown to be provable, they still work well.

In fact, potential new clients know damned well that testimonials, these days, can be challenged and that no-one in their right mind will share a testimonial without knowing that the “testimonier” will be obliged to confirm it if asked.

This way whatever you say in the first person will be counter-balanced by obvious third party endorsements – a very valuable backup whichever way you structure your freelance promotional writing.

Here on HTWB you’ll find one of my eBooks called “How To Write About Yourself” which goes into all this in much more detail, so take a look now. It’s only $4.50!

Have you any questions about business and promotional writing for your freelance work? Stick ‘em down here as comments and I’ll answer them ASAP.

More handy help whether you’re freelance or not:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

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  1. BizSugar.com says:

    How should freelance workers write about themselves?…

    Freelance workers have to choose whether to write in the first or third person when promoting their business. Pro bizwriter Suzan St Maur shares her tips on how to do this well and maximize that word power……

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