There might be nothing more cliché than “New Year, New Me” scenarios, but having spent the end of 2020, a very complicated year for all of us, considering ethical marketing and ethical business practices, I felt it was important for me to turn my eyes on to myself.
It wasn’t just that some of my clients were pushing to use any available tactic to get the numbers and sales they wanted. It wasn’t just that I was complying with these requests. It was that I was using some tactics that were not honest, and maybe even manipulative, myself.
When I started my business I was a solopreneur on the go, moving from one country to the next, living in Europe as a Latin American immigrant and fresh out of school with a handful of clients from my freelancing days. For the first time in my life in my early 20s, I was facing discrimination and aggression as all the stereotypes and slurs that come with being Latinx in Europe, where brought up to me on the semi regular. Even if it was “complimentary” by saying things like “I’m impressed with your work, it doesn’t look like it was done by someone from your country”.
I wish I could say otherwise, but sadly back then I lacked the emotional maturity to stand up to those remarks, to speak up for myself and where I’m from and to work to correct those stereotypes rather than let them mine my confidence and self worth. So when the time came to formally set up my business, I chose to use a name that would both disguise mine and validate me through the perception of being bigger than I was.
I chose the name Bird Blue Design, and operated under that business name, using all the tactics that the hundreds of listicles I read back then assured me would make me seem serious and trustworthy:
- Choose a name in English, it sounds international
- Use the royal we in your copy, that way it sounds like you have employees and a team.
- Change your invoice number to start in the triple digits, so it looks like you have a trajectory.
- Respond to emails as if you were your assistant (that one felt so ridiculous I never properly followed through).
- Get an online PBX to have your clients dial an extension number or go through the menu, even if they’re all coming to your cell phone anyway.
- Get a virtual address in a nice area of town, so people assume you have an expensive office.
Did it work? I have no idea. I think ultimately no matter how many screens you put up, the truth always shows through. Especially when you’re an oversharer like me.
Maybe all those gimmicks got some clients through the door who wouldn’t have even considered me otherwise and by getting rid of them I’m going to miss out on those opportunities. And maybe, that absolutely fine.
This is why, starting this year with a new brand and a new name and a new approach became so important to me. This is not to say that any solopreneur that chooses a brand name that is not their own is being manipulative. But for me it was an attempt to hide myself, to apologetically spare my clients the difficulty of trying to pronounce my name, to avoid the awkwardness of not being able to fit two last names into forms, to present myself differently and detach myself from where I’m from and all that comes with it.
I want to work with people who know that bigger isn’t always better, who see the fact that I’m a solopreneur as an asset, who understand the dedication and personal responsibility that I bring to every project I am involved with. Who see that I’m willing to put my name on everything I do as an asset.
This is not to say I do everything by myself, I have amazing collaborators who jump in as freelancers or partners for specific projects and whose help is pivotal to my success. Their names will also be acknowledged and shared on the projects where we collaborate.
That being said, welcome all to the new me. My new brand and my new business name. Maria Arango Kure.