The Inner Struggle Of Labeling Ourselves

How do you call yourself?

One thing that few independent consultants discuss publicly is the challenge of coming up with labels that describe not only what to do, but who you are.

When you're employed, that's not a problem. "I'm a McKinsey Associate" rolls out of your mouth without reluctance. Your label is constantly reinforced by colleagues, a formal employment agreement, and a business card.

When you become independent, however, it's up to you to come up with your own label.

The interesting thing about labels is that there is both an external and internal aspect to them. The external one is about how other people see and perceive you. It includes things like your social pitch and your value proposition. They matter and will make a real difference in how well you position and market yourself.

What is rarely discussed though are our internal labels.

  • Should I call myself a consultant or advisor? Freelancer or self-employed? Entrepreneur?
  • Am I really good enough to call myself like this?
  • Do I deserve that label?

The struggle here is not related to your marketing or growth strategy. It's an inner struggle. It's about making up a label that you are comfortable with.

What's interesting about those insecurities is that their source is always the same: Our blind acceptance of societal standards of success. When you work for others and are trailing the typical career path, only your superior can change your job title. To swap your label you need other people's permission.

You, as an independent professional, don't need to earn your label. Want to call yourself CEO and managing partner as a one-man consultancy? Go for it.

But to avoid dissonance, your label needs to be aligned with your personal identity. It needs to provide you with confidence and assertiveness. Done right, your label will help you be more effective and charge more for your work.

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