Sometimesand perhaps especially in tough timesprofessional designers are faced with going it alone, hanging out their shingle and hoping to attract the most interesting clients (and projects) possible. And in an age when "You are your own brand," there is great temptation to, um, make yourself appear a little bigger than you are. Now, I'm not saying you should actively misrepresent yourself out there, but if you really are convinced that size matters, well, knock yourself out.
There is just something so lame about Allan Chochinov Design. Instead, consider adding "The" before your surname and "Group" after it: The Chochinov Group. Not too much better, and this trick is pretty much past its expiration date, but it sure beats the too-easy-to-suss Chochinov & Associates. (Are you really the kind of person who wants "Associates"?)
The cellphone-area-coded "office number" is beyond a dead giveaway, so for clients who care, you'll want to use a service (or console) that allows you to have an extension number. Have someone else to make the recording, of course, and you'll get that "For your name here, press 101." Tempted to gild the lily? "For accounts receivable, press 105."
Bonus tip: Put people on hold. Like during the second phone call put people on hold. "Can I put you on hold for a second? I'm so sorry but I'm the only one in the office right now." Booya!
Using "us" is just as obvious as the royal "we," but somehow you'll feel better about hearing yourself say it: "Let us take one more look at the scope and budget and then email over the proposal." Actually, that is just as bad as "we." Skip this tip.
You'll never want your client to see your office because, um, you don't actually have an office. So use this: "Well, the firm upstairs just had a horrible water leak and with the painters and contractors running around here, the place is just a wreck. Can we make it a lunch meeting at the Luxe Café instead?"
There's not much to say here, really. Copperplate will make you look bigger, but dumber. And at a certain point (or a certain age), every business card is dumb. No matter what you do (and for goodness sake don't design your own business card!), you will hate your business card the second week you use it. Sorry. Just go with letterpress, don't have the word "design" appear anywhere on the thing, and call it a day.
This is kinda where the rubber meets the road; where your deception come closest to coming unraveled. So...don't have a bio on your about page. Just describe your competencies and quickly move on to your "selected list of clients" (where you shamelessly pad your résumé with any client any of your freelancer friends has ever mentioned to you and about which you've given sage advice so have earned the right to list them.) Balls of steel? Link to each of the "client's" sites.
Make sure your credit card has a second line below your name with your company name on it. (See how dumb Allan Chochinov / Allan Chochinov Design looks right about now?) Leave the card sitting on the check face up if your mark gets suspicious as you're describing "your team."
The Direct Question:
At a certain point there will be no avoiding it. Your potential client will ask, "So how many people are you at your firm?" Chin up, chest out, and in one sentence: "We staff up when we need tobringing in the best people at the right time...akin to making a movie." Don't blink. "Right now we're really lean of course, given the economy, but I'm using a great bullpen of freelancers." Blink. (Notice the switch from "we" to "I" in there? You're leveling with them, you're honest, and you're ready to work.)
Movie-making? Bullpen? What an asshole.
Allan Chochinov is the proprietor of a grassroots association of like-minded creatives who team together to provide game-changing services and worldchanging offerings, generating and crowdsourcing new lines of business and promoting the power of power promotion. In his downtime, he is the Editor-in-chief of