In my early entrepreneur days, I looked up to Amy. She owned a thriving one-person consulting business, seemed in a happy relationship, had her shit together. I needed to be like Amy.
So one day I emailed her and asked the super important question: What title do you use?
And here’s what she said back: Principal.
Amy: Yep. That’s the official name for someone who owns an LLC.
Honey, I come from an education background, so, to me, Principal means a specific person who smiles a lot but is actually judging the way you dismiss your kids to recess.
Even if I switch contexts to entreprenuerism… Principal? There’s no pride in that.
Then I remembered that dear sweet Amy also uses the word “persons” to refer to people. Like, persons of color.
Listen, in some ways, it doesn’t matter what you call yourself.
Don’t let this part stop you from moving ahead.
On the other hand, what you call yourself can bring you a sense of accomplishment and confidence. It matters.
I tried on Principal for about two months and quickly switched to Owner.
Then **Founder** cause that sounded so much cooler. And accurate. I don’t just own this company, I created it from the ground up.
But Founder started to feel too limited. It didn’t adequately describe what I do, only what I did.
I went through a cheeky phase where I switched seamlessly back and forth between a couple different titles: “The One and Only” and “Heavy Hitter.” I mean, what title could possibly encompass all that I am and all that my business does? Might as well go big.
Heavy Hitter got attention. Prospective clients would message me on LinkedIn with compliments on the chutzpah behind that title. Damn right.
Ok but then I was signing contracts with Fortune 500s with the title Heavy Hitter. I felt like I was just three 12 year olds stacked up inside a trench coat trying to pass as an adult.
Now I sign contracts with CEO right under my name. CEO. That’s what an official adult would call herself on formal paperwork.
On social, I switch up my titles from time to time. Usually, this is a strategic move to focus on whatever initiative I’m promoting at the moment. Like when I open up the Data Viz Academy twice a year. During those times, my title is “Founder, Evergreen Data Visualization Academy.”
Your title can change depending on your current marketing strategy.
You aren’t limited to one title.
I just politely request that you don’t call yourself freelancer.
So, hey, what are you calling yourself right now? Drop me an email with your current title.
So before we wrap, let’s address this too.
The positions you create in your company aren’t just for you. They’ll be fulfilled by humans who will need to know what to call themselves, too. Humans who will at some point look for other employment and will list their role in your company on their resume.
The name of the role on their resume will be a factor in the salary the next company offers to this lovely human who worked for you.
A person with “Senior Research Associate” is going to get a higher initial offer than someone with “Junior Associate” or just “Staff” (because you never gave them a title).
It’s a revolutionary act in this world to create titles that accurately reflect the skill and experience the position requires such that your staff person is on the best footing possible when they leave. Doubly important for people of color and white women who have historically been underpaid, undervalued, and underpromoted.
Everyone at Evergreen Data is a Senior something.
Titles are a big deal. And also a small deal. Change it as much as you want.